Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Peter Noone (1971-1976)

If anyone ever deserved to record a solo album in the nineteen seventies then it has to be Peter Noone. One consolation though is that he recorded a string of fab pop singles between 1971 to 1976 and if you're a pop geek like me, you've probably already made your own DIY Peter Noone solo album out of the best of those songs.

Peter Blair Denis Bernard Noone (I bet he loves being called that!) split from Herman's Hermits around the end of 1970 shortly after being signed to RAK Records and releasing the "Lady Barbara" b/w "Don't Just Stand There" single as Peter Noone & Herman's Hermits. April 1971 saw the release of the first Noone solo single, "Oh You Pretty Things" penned by David Bowie who also plays piano on the song. The single made it to number 12 in the UK charts despite being unfairly criticized by the NME who stated it to be "one of rock & roll's most outstanding example of a singer failing to achieve any degree of empathy whatsoever with the mood and content of a lyric", they may have a point but it's a decent enough version, a little funkier and Beatlesy than the version that would appear on Bowie's Hunky Dory LP later that year. The b-side, "Together Forever" is pure pop, let down slightly by a Eurovsion Song Contest Style brass arrangement. It's got a sort of late sixties Donovan vibe to it and some ace Giorgio Moroder-esque Moog work too which makes this single a cool double sider and still cheap and easy to get hold of thanks to it's chart success.

Next single "Walnut Whirl" was written by Herbie Flowers and Sandie Tatham Banks (aka Sandie Shaw) and is popsike perfection. They don't come much better than this. The song is about an overweight girl (Noone's favourite type apparently!) who after a hard day of munching sweets goes to bed and makes love to a Walnut Whirl. They don't write them like this anymore! Check out the lyrics...

Peter Noone - Walnut Whirl (Lyrics)
(Flowers, Tatham-Banks)

She took the cream coated coconut candy coloured chocolate nut whirl
Honey pot and sugar snacks, she was just a very fat girl
But nice and warm and round

Jelly roll and toffee ice, coffee cup and fluffy ice flops
Marshmallow marmalade, Lime and barley lemonade drops
Work off another pound

Newspapers, magazines say that her chances seem slim
Keep a count of calories if you still want to be trim.
Take off another stone

Cause nothing quite seems to fit, lets out her skirt a bit more
Vows she'll never eat again then hears her hungry tum roar
Can't live on bread alone

Cause all she wants is one, someone to love and hold her tight 
but no one seems to care for a big girl
Takes her box of dairy chocs back to her bed
And sadly makes love to a Walnut Whirl

Disregard the slimming books cause I think cuddly women are fine
Stay as a welterweight, you will have a double great time
Get some outsize fun

I like my girls on the bigger side, if only all the other guys knew
Skinny girls are never fun, like their meat overdone too
You're twice as good as one

All she wanted was someone to love and hold her tight 
And now she knows I care for a big girl
Fill my box with dairy chocs and eat me up
I'll gladly try to be your Walnut Whirl

David Bowie lends a helping hand again, this time for the b-side "Right On Mother" which is very similar to "Oh You Pretty Things" with it's Martha My Dear piano and hand claps, a style that suits Noone down to the ground. An album full of songs of this standard would have been killer but never happened. The single failed to chart, the public failed to hear the masterpiece once again!

For Noone's next release, songwriters Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn provided another non-hit with "Shoo Be Doo Ah". Not the glam rock stomper you'd expect from Chinnichap but instead a softly sang ballad.  Noone tries his best on what is basically a weak tune from such great songwriters who barely put a foot wrong in the seventies. The single flip "Because You're There" is much better, composed by Noone with help from Graham Gouldman. Another acoustic ballad with some electric piano, reminiscent of his work with Herman's Hermits.

July 1972 saw the release of the fourth Peter Noone single and the last to be release on RAK. "Should I?" a nice acoustic guitar based tune, again sounding quite like Donovan's "There Is A Mountain" which may be down the Mickie Most production. B-side "Each & Every Minute" is reminiscent of Demis Roussos, bordering on sentimental slush, saved only by Noone's ace pop vocals. Another non-charter. Where's Bowie when you need him?

Peter Blair Denis Bernard Noone
There was an unissued single from RAK in 1973. "Green Green Rocky Road" an uptempo brassed up rocker b/w "I Do Believe (In Music)" a light orchestrated song with some cool double bass. This was the last time Mickey Most would produce for Noone and I can't imagine it being a hit had it been released.

Noone moved to Philips records for one single, released in November 1973. "(I Think I'm Over) Getting Over You" was a return to form. Written by Tony Hazzard, who amongst others, provided Herman's Hermits with their 1966 hit record "You Won't Be Leaving" and produced by Tony Atkins (mentioned in the Gerry Morris post last year), this Bee Gees style, orchestrated epic had hit record written all over it, Kenny Everett was a fan and plugged it on his breakfast show but again, no one cared. "All Sing Together", the flip,  is another pop winner and has that distinctive Gerry Morris songwriting vibe to it. It would fit nicely on side two of Moriss's own LP, "Only The Beginning" in fact. The composers credit is to G. Morris and M. Starr. Anyone know who M. Starr is? Google is giving me nothing again.

Next single "Meet Me On The Corner Down At Joe's Cafe" b/w "Blame It On The Pony Express" another one-off released by Casablanca records in November 1974 provided Noone with his first minor hit in the US since his time with Herman's Hermits. Not surprisingly the a-side has a Hermits flavour to it. Imagine "Mrs Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter" a decade on with over the top production and big band. Doesn't sound too great does it? It's not. "Pony Express" is better though. Written by Tony Macaulay and Roger Greenaway it had been a hit for Johnny Johnson and the Bandwagon four year previous in 1970.

The last single I'll mention is Noone's first of three for the Bus Stop record label. "We Don't Need The Money" b/w "Love Don't Change" both written and produced Mitch Murray and Pete Callendar who had scored hits for the Tremeloes, Vanity Fare and Cliff Richard to name a few. The a-side is okay enough, maybe owing a debt to Paper Lace, but the b-side is the superior track on this release. If seventies bubblegum, pop, soul is your bag then you'd better track down this little known obscurity.

Two more singles for Bus Stop records followed before Noone formed the New Wave act The Tremblers, whose sole album "Twice Nightly" sounds like a cross between Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and Cheap Trick but nowhere near as good of course. A solo album eventually appeared in 1983 entitled "One Of The Glory Boys" which I've not heard but I've read contains some slick West Coast AOR with Noone on the album cover looking like he's just walked off the set of Miami Vice. He then went on to host a show on VH1 and DJing on a radio station in the US. Most recently he has been touring with Herman's Hermits and mentoring singers on American Idol.

But back to the good stuff. Here's Peter Blair Denis Bernard Noone with the pure killer "Walnut Whirl". Diggg!!!


  1. Great post! Didn't know he released so many singles after the demise of the Hermits. I guess an official compilation of them would be unlikely with all the assorted labels. Guess I'll have to find them one song at a time :) Ion

  2. Hi there. I don't think any of the singles are particularly hard to come by. I heard the single by the Hermits (sans Noone) a couple of days ago and its really ace. The Man b/w Effen Curly. Very Band inspired. Also worth checking out.

  3. Hmmmm. Sounds like a possible candidate for a for a future Bite It Deep post. I have heard a few of Noone's solo recordings -- "Let Us All Sing Together" in particular. Shoulda been a worldwide hit with its optimistic lyrics and sing-a-long chorus.

  4. "Meet Me on the Corner" was included on the December 1974 K-tel release "Dynamite". That's where I first encountered and fell in love with the song. I was later able to track down a Canadian promo single version, then the track on CD on a compilation, "Definitive 70s (& 80s) Volume 2" issued by BR Music in the Netherlands (despite the fact that it erroneously lists the song as being 2:28, it is in fact the complete 2:58 version).