Sex with groupies, boozing with the Stones — and in AA by 19. As he tours the UK, Peter Noone on being . . . Hardly a hermit!
00:04 GMT, 9 March 2012
Peter Noone was a hearthrob in the 1960s, despite being very shy
He was the Justin Bieber of his time with his thick flop of hair, bee-sting lips and an obvious boyish charm. But a kind of hush descends on Peter Noone – formerly of Sixties band Herman’s Hermits – at the comparison.
Both Bieber and Noone sold truckloads of albums while still in their teens, but Noone says: ‘Herman’s Hermits sold millions of records before anyone even saw us, which just doesn’t happen now.
‘I didn’t know what I was doing: my stage persona was a shy little boy, which is basically what I was.’
The shy little boy’s millions of records included I’m Into Something Good, No Milk Today and There’s A Kind of Hush (All Over the World).
Noone and his fellow Hermits racked up more than 20 hit records, cracking the States and outselling the Beatles in 1965.
/03/08/article-0-00D41CD200000190-953_468x357.jpg” width=”468″ height=”357″ alt=”Herman's Hermits in their heyday in the 1960s sold millions of records” class=”blkBorder” />
Herman's Hermits in their heyday in the 1960s sold millions of records
‘You never get tired of the buzz of touring,’ says Noone, who has lived in California since the Seventies, ‘and it’s good to know we can still pull an audience. People come up to me and sing all the old songs to my face, although I’m never really sure how to respond to that.’
Noone has whole-heartedly embraced the healthy-living culture of his adopted home.
‘Not many people survived the debauchery of the Sixties,’ he says, ‘so I feel very lucky and try to look after myself.
‘When I went to Mickie Most’s funeral nine years ago [Most was the band’s producer and a panelist on TV talent show New Faces], there weren’t many people left. It does make you stop and think.’
Peter Noone and fiancee Mireille Strasser married in November 1968
The band secured their first UK No 1 in 1964 with I’m Into Something Good and hit the States a year later where they were the top-selling pop act in 1965. The cherubic looking Noone wasn’t so clean-living back then.
‘I remember going to the house of one of the Moody Blues and it was considered this real den of iniquity,’ he says. ‘None of the girls smoked dope, so I used to hang out with them. I was a fly on the wall.
‘I did like to drink — I used to go out with Richard Harris and try to drink more than him,’ he laughs.
‘I used to love the Beatles and the Stones and I’d always want to hang out with them, even though they were about seven years older.
‘We’d go to the Ad Lib club in London, and John Lennon would buy my drinks because he knew I was only 16 and I wouldn’t get drunk and try to beat someone up.’
Noone – who grew up in Manchester and had played Len Fairclough’s son Stanley in Coronation Street before joining the Hermits – admits part of his reason for drinking was ‘to fit in, because I wanted to be liked and didn’t feel that interesting’.
Then, at 19, he attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting with his accountant father, who was also a heavy drinker — and decided to stop. ‘I wouldn’t have classed myself as an alcoholic, but you have to be sensitive to people’s feelings and be able to do the job on stage, so after that I decided to cut down. I needed to do it for my own sake and haven’t touched a drop for about 16 years.
‘I insist that my wife still drinks if she wants to — I wouldn’t stop other people around me doing it.’
He has been married to Mireille for 43 years, ‘and if there’s any secret to our marriage it’s that we like each other and still make each other laugh . . even if it’s my body she laughs at!’
Peter and wife Mireille have been married for 43 years
They met when Noone was 20, though he admits to ‘gallivanting about’ beforehand — including a chaste liaison with the singer Lulu. He said: ‘She was a nice girl and I wasn’t into nice girls then so we were never lovers.’
But meeting Mireille was a turning point. ‘I think it was probably lust at first sight with Mireille,’ he admits. ‘Then I found out how nice she was and it turned to love.
‘She kept turning me down, but she was holidaying on Ibiza with her mum, so I rented the apartment next to them. Her mother liked me because I was respectful. I wore Mireille down.’
They married in 1968 (and have a daughter, Natalie, 25), and he left the band in 1971, aged just 24. ‘Even though all of us in the band were close in the beginning, by the end, we’d been together so long and wanted to do different things.’
After the Hermits, Noone’s solo career stalled until the Eighties when he appeared on Broadway with a production of The Pirates Of Penzance, and a stint as host of the hit U.S. music show My Generation introduced him to new fans in the Nineties. Then he appeared as a mentor on American Idol five years ago and told his charges: ‘Remember, it’s a voting competition not a singing competition.’
He says: ‘If the Beatles had entered a TV competition, they’d probably have lost. Simon Cowell seems like a very nice guy, but I think he’s a secondhand Mickie Most to be honest.’
Noone is full of beans about the tour, saying: ‘I was probably going to be a clerk at the local NatWest. How lucky am I to still be doing this at 64 I know what I’m doing now, too. I’m not that shy little kid any more.’
Then he spoils his image, by adding: ‘I’m more like Norman Wisdom.’