Living with…Herman’s Hermits…for a week

“I gladly rearrange my life
If you want me to”

Sometime in the mid 70s somewhere in a cupboard in some corridor I found a box that changed my life.

Gosh, that sounds a bit dramatic.

But the box guided me on a journey through music.  In that box were the singles that my mum and dad had accumulated all the way back to 1959.  And with the box I also discovered an all-in-one record player where you could stack and play the singles six or seven at a time.  And I did, playing them for hours – A sides, B sides,  double A sides.  Again and again.

And after I’d got tired of the obvious kiddy ones – Yummy Yummy Yummy, Simon Says, Babysitter Boogie, Lily the Pink – I moved on to others.  Freddy Cannon’s Tallahassie Lassie, The Marcel’s Blue Moon, Gene Chandler’s Duke of Earl, The Bee Gees Massachusetts, Neil Diamond’s Song Sung Blue.

I could still sing off by heart all the A sides in that box, and probably quite a few of the Bs.

But two groups went on to become Christmas tree requests and sure enough that year the shape of two albums lay there under the tree.  The first album was The Beatles Live at The Hollywood Bowl (which never stuck, too many screaming girls in the background  drowned out the music) and the second was – K Tel’s Herman’s Hermits 20 Greatest Hits.

ktel hh 20 greatest

“Rushed down to your house with wings on my feet
Loved you like I’d never loved your my sweet”

And so began a love affair with the music of Herman’s Hermits that lasted all the way through to my late teens.  It started with those two singles in the box – Sunshine Girl and Lady Barbara and then extended to all 20 songs.

Three reasons really.  One, they are totally brilliant tunes – for the most part simple, but with the catchiest of lyrics.  Two, we were too young to realise that actually liking Herman’s Hermits wasn’t really that cool.  And three, they made an excellent backdrop to playing table tennis.

Table tennis was one of our favourite things – we had a unique setup constructed by my grandad who had fixed in his mind that the table should be painted in high gloss creating several blindspot zones on the table from the overhead lights.  Once you’d worked that out, navigating the table became a matter of dipping your head to avoid the glare as you played the shot.  It took visitors a while to work that out, always gaining us an advantage for the first half hour or so.

And so the K Tel album was spun up for years and years, a backdrop to the clack clack of table tennis balls.  This Door Swings Both Ways.  A Kind of Hush.  No Milk Today.  Bet Yer Life I Do.  I know every word. Off by heart.

“Everyone’s life is bittersweet
It’s a door that opens wide”

Sadly, the K Tel album doesn’t work any more – it is so badly scratched and worn that you’ll struggle to get through any track now without a rude interruption.  But I’ve let it retire gracefully in the garage.  It’s work is done.  It can now rest.

“But all that’s left is a place dark and lonely
A terraced house in a mean street back of town
Becomes a shrine when I think of you only
Just two up two down”

The musical backdrop for the week therefore was provided from a double EMI collection 1964-66 and 1967-71 and happily all of those 20 songs were there and it felt like all the others were intruders!  Especially the horrible American-marketed hits I’m Henery the Eighth I Am and Dandy.

At the end of the week I struggled to choose a favourite – many years back it would have been My Sentimental Friend or Sunshine Girl.  But now it seems churlish to pick one, I’ll just embrace them all as lovely, nostalgic companions for the week.  And I’m glad to say that this week’s clip below is definitely a live performance, warts and all.  Particularly love the dancing Silhouettes girls adding special effects at the back!

“We’ve been so long apart
Make it go right to the heart
Of my sentimental friend over there.”

After they split up in 1971, their lead singer Peter Noone went on to release several solo singles one of which was a reasonable success, and for some reason featured on the K Tel compilation.  It was called Oh You Pretty Things and was written by and featured on piano a certain young David Bowie.  Which does lead quite nicely in to next week…funny that.

For the record those twenty songs were:

1 I’m Into Something Good
2 Silhouettes
3 Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat
4 (What A) Wonderful World
5 Just A Little Bit Better
6 A Must To Avoid
7 You Won’t Be Leaving
8 This Door Swings Both Ways
9 No Milk Today
10 There’s A Kind Of Hush (All Over The World)
11 I Can Take Or Leave Your Loving
12 Sleepy Joe
13 Sunshine Girl
14 Something’s Happening
15 Mrs Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter
16 My Sentimental Friend
17 Years May Come Years May Go
18 Bet Yer Life I Do
19 Lady Barbara
20 Oh You Pretty Things

K Tel never marketed a better album.

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