In part one of our interview with Herman’s Hermits bassist Karl Green, he talked about the band’s genesis and rise out of the Manchester, England, clubs, their relationship with producer Mickie Most, and his near-massacre at the hands of a zealous fan. These days, Green is wrapped up in a new musical project — the Karl Green Band — and preparing to release a new album later this year. Still, questions linger about his previous musical outfit, with rumors of vicious lawsuits and a feud that makes any hope of a reunion look bleak. But, as Green points out in the last half of our chat, there’s always hope.
REBEAT: Like some of the other British Invasion acts, Herman’s Hermits were bigger here in America than they were in your native England. Was going home a bit of like a respite from the madness?
KARL GREEN: Yeah. We were never that big [at home]. We had hit records in England, but the English didn’t really go as crazy as the Americans about all the English bands. We would go home and get well received, but we especially were a lot more popular in the states than we were in England. We had a lot more credibility in the States; in England, they saw us as a joke because our music was very lightweight for England at the time. I’ve always been a rocker, but I quite enjoyed what we did, so we got by and had a good time.
I think one of the things people are surprised to learn about Herman’s Hermits is that you guys had quite a reputation on the road for being rowdy.
[Laughs] Yeah, we had this clean cut image that we tried our best to destroy, because we all used to like a little bit of alcohol, and we used to drink quite a lot. We toured with the Who and Keith Moon as well. We had quite a few parties that tour. Ripped up a few hotels.
I’ve heard some stories about televisions flying places they shouldn’t have been flying.
We used to do stupid things like ride motorbikes up and down the hotel corridors and things like that. Just all the stupid things that crazy kids are doing now. We say stupid boys now, now that we’re all grown up, but when we were doing it, we thought it was great fun. It was hilarious. The hotel owners didn’t think so because their hotels got ripped up. But we had to pay for all the damage anyway.
We got banned from the Holiday Inn for years because we threw a party for Keith Moon’s 21st birthday and the poor hotel just got wrecked, absolutely wrecked, and it cost a lot of money to put it all right. Then they banned us, and only in the late-’70s did they let us stay at the Holiday Inns again. Which is good, because you stay in the same room every night — it seems like the same room no matter what town you’re in. Every room is just the same.
Of course, Herman’s Hermits also made a couple of movies which are a lot of fun. Was making those a chore or was it a good experience?
Great fun! I mean, we weren’t actors. We were thrown at the deep end. None of us could act, and the director seemed to think that if you’re a band in a film, they just give you something to carry and say run somewhere. It was all quite manic, but it was fun to do. A great experience.
Did you ever want to pursue a career in acting?
No, I’ve really just wanted to play music all my life. From the age of 10, that’s all I’ve wanted to do — just sort of get down and play and have fun doing it. I probably could act. It’s a craft that you’ve got to learn; it’s not something that you can just walk into and do. Most really good actors work at what they do, you know. They treat it as a job, and they do it properly. Nothing comes easy to anyone. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. You can’t just walk into something and get away with it. You have to be good at what you do to have longevity. And to do something proper, you’ve got to mean it.
Right. So, tell me a little bit about how Herman’s Hermits disbanded. You worked through the ’70s a little bit, and then reunited and broke up again, but when did it start to go bad or break apart?
Well, the band was very happy until 1970, ’71, I think, when Peter [Noone] decided that he didn’t want anything to do with Herman’s Hermits. He thought the name of the band was holding him back. He wanted to be a solo artist, so he went out as Peter Noone, left the band, and we carried on as Herman’s Hermits. We did an album that was sort of country rock and changed our name to Sour Mash for that album. We got back together with Peter in ’74 to do a reunion thing in the States, but it was Herman’s Hermits featuring Peter Noone. Then, he went on his own again, and we realized that there was still call for us over here in the States; we thought it had died over here, but the tour was so successful that we decided to come back here in ’74 with me fronting the band instead of Peter.
From ’74 until 1980, we toured a lot over here quite successfully, had a lot of fun, and then I decided that I wanted children before I was too old. And I’ve always said that if I was a father, I wouldn’t go on the road. I’d want to stay home and bring up my kids. So in 1980, I left the band and went home and started a family. I’ve got three grown daughters now. They’ve all left home, have their own houses, so now I’m free to come back and do it again and have some fun doing the old songs as well as rock.
And Barry Whitwam tours as Herman’s Hermits.
Barry still tours the world, yeah. He tours Australia and England and Europe, but I think he and Peter had a battle in the courts, and Barry can’t work [in the US] apparently. Even though Lek [Derek Leckenby], Barry, and myself won the name “Herman’s Hermits” back in the ’70s, I think Peter has now tried to reclaim the name or something. I don’t know what the legalities are, but I don’t want to go out as Herman’s Hermits. They only use [the name] because that’s the only way they can earn money, that’s the only way they can earn a living.
Herman’s Hermits is in the past; it’s part of my past and I’m proud of it, but I don’t want to ride the wave on just that name, you know. I mean it would help to get work hopefully, but I wouldn’t go out as “Herman’s Hermits” because there’s only one Herman’s Hermits, and that’s with Lek, me, Barry, Keith [Hopwood], and Peter.
Playing live is probably a much different experience now, but is it more enjoyable just because its less manic? Do you like being onstage more now?
I enjoy it more now because I can play exactly what I want to play, and the places I’ve been appearing are really small where you can actually see people’s faces and see how much they enjoy it. It’s lovely. And after the show, you can talk to these people, ’cause that’s what it’s all about. That’s where it all started at grassroots levels at the pubs and the clubs and the bars. I’m enjoying doing that and actually meeting real people instead of sitting in dressing rooms and being introduced to people that have no real interest in music, they’re just coming by because they’re friends of someone, if you know what I mean. I’m actually meeting real fans, people that have loved the band all these years, and they’re coming to listen to the music. It’s nice to chat to them.
What’s the Karl Green Band like?
There are two guitarists called Mike Bruccoleri and Bobby Abrams, and they’ve got like a duo called Brock and Abrams, and if I’m in town, I’ll just turn up and sing a few songs with them for a bit of fun. We’ve got a female drummer called Gina Knight, who’s another fantastic musician from around this area, and when I get my visa, we’ll go out and play properly.
With the band I’ve got now, we do some Herman’s Hermits stuff a lot harder than the original versions; me singing is not Peter Noone. I don’t sound anything like Peter Noone, I don’t even want to sound anything like Peter Noone. It’s just me singing, and I’ve got a lot harder, rougher voice than him. He sings very sweetly; it’s beautiful, but I can’t sing like that. I’m a rocker at heart. We just cut a new album of rock stuff which will be hopefully released in the summer, and that’s when I want to come back and tour and promote the album.
Did coming to the US and sitting in with these players inspire you to make an album? Or was it vice versa? Had you been thinking about making a record anyway?
No, they’re sort of what inspired me to get an album written. It’s a lot harder music than we used to do with the Hermits, but there are some nice, softer songs that Gina sings, as well as some bluesy stuff. Mike has a much sweeter voice than me, so he sings the more melodic stuff, and I sing the rocky stuff. We cover a lot of genres, and I think the album’s pretty good. It’s all originals, all written by me and a guy I write with back in England.
There’s a demo I made years ago on the road which actually has Lek on it, who’s now dead. We did it in a hotel room, and he put lead guitar on it, so I may just put that on as a bonus track for any fans that want to hear Lek play something they’ve never heard before. It’s just me and Lek in a hotel room doing a rock demo sort of thing on a four-track, and it’s never seen the light of day since, so I thought it’d be a good idea to stick it on the album if I can get a decent copy of it.
I’m sure fans will love hearing that. Very cool. Do you ever keep in touch with Peter, Barry, or Keith these days?
Barry and I don’t see eye to eye, so I don’t see much of him. He fell out with us. I think it’s all about the name again. Everyone wants the money. He and Peter had a major falling out; they don’t speak to each other. I speak to Peter now and again, but I mainly stay in touch with Keith. In fact, I’m going to see Keith when I get home. I speak to him every week, and I think he and I are the only two that regularly speak to each other. But there’s no major — you know, if Barry phoned me, I’d be very nice to him, and I’d speak to him, I’d go out to dinner with him or whatever. I don’t have a problem with any of them. They’re all my old mates as far as I’m concerned, but money turns people in strange ways.
There’s probably no hope for a surviving Hermits reunion, right?
I’ve put it on record many times that I would be up for it, definitely. I would go out and play in the same band as Pete or Barry any day. I don’t think Keith would be up for it, but if he did it, it would be great. I would do it tomorrow, but I’m sure Peter and Barry would never agree to that sort of thing. I think Pete would actually not mind me playing in a band with him — not permanently, obviously — but we’d get together for, like, a reunion tour or something. I think that the fans deserve it, myself. I think the fans deserve to have the whole band together for at least one tour because they’ve stuck with the various versions of Herman’s Hermits. It’d be nice for them to have the real thing at least one time before we all die, you know.
I imagine you have no plans to retire. You’re kind of experiencing your renaissance right now, really.
I think people who retire tend to get old very quickly, and I think the music business is keeping me young — working hard, traveling around. You don’t get time to sleep, you don’t get time to get tired. I just love it. I went out the other night to a club to watch a new band, a young band, they were all [in their] 20s, and they asked me to go sing a song with them, and I did, and it was fantastic. I loved it. The energy was unbelievable from these young guys playing, and it gave me a real thrill. It pumped energy into me; it was fabulous. So, I’m not thinking of quitting yet, no. I’ll stop playing when I die.
For more on Karl Green, his upcoming album, or to find out when he might be playing in your area, check out his official Facebook page.