BLAZE

The Hermits' new album "Blaze" was released in America in October 67 and was obviously a result of some careful thoughts from the group. It was an excellent album and seemed to illustrate a lot of the changes that were occuring within the group at the time. The lyrics were more introspective than anything they had done prior to that and according to Leckenby the album was deliberately done with subtle satire in mind.
Many of the songs revolved around the concept of drinking, for instance "Moonshine Man" written by Leckenby-Hopwood-Green and "I Call Out Her Name" written by Hopwood-Leckenby. It was a fact that Peter Noone was on the brink of alcoholism at the time, but according to Leckenby they wrote those songs about each other, since they were quite the drinkers themselves!

"Busy Line" was another self-composed song credited to Hopwood-Leckenby-Green. It was a very pleasant little tune, easily remembered without sporting a repetitive chorus, and would have made a fine A-side on a 45. Peter Cowap, who would later become a member, wrote "Last Bus Home" and co-wrote "Ace, King, Queen, Jack" with Moore. Both tracks were representative of the new more aggressive Hermits sound.
"Ace, King, Queen, Jack" is a fantastic recording which really shows the group at it's best. Karl Green plays his left-handed bass dexterously (which brings to mind another great left-handed bassist: Paul McCartney) and his bass solo in there is one of the best anywhere!
The lyrics of the song seem to illustrate quite well the growing friction between the frontman and the rest of the group, as if Peter Noone regards the four other Hermits as a hand in a card game he is about to lose by default.
The "My Old Man's A Dustman" spoof in the ending was a result of weariness brought about by 3 AM recording sessions. Tiredness combined with a lot of drinking caused Green and Leckenby to spout off about things that irritated them, all done in falsetto voices. Again Graham Gouldman contributed with one song, "Upstairs, Downstairs", and Geoff Stephens of the New Vaudeville Band wrote "Green Street Green" as well as co-writing "One Little Packet of Cigarettes" with John Carter of the Ivy League. The album also contained their last two singles, "Don't Go Out Into The Rain" and "Museum".

THE END OF AN ERA

The "Blaze" album seems to be the aesthetic high point of all their recordings in the Sixties, but sadly it also more or less marked the end of an era for Herman's Hermits in America, where they had arrived on the music scene in a time of relative uneasyness and innocence 3 years earlier. What had popularized them and made them unique as opposed to other British groups (who often based their sound on R&B), was a smooth rhythm, soft harmonies and intelligible lyrics with no deep message. Their aim was primarily to entertain people and with their "middle of the road" sound they managed well in bridging the so-called generation gap. However, by mid 1967 there was a complete change in the music scene - The Vietnam war had reached a frightening level and the public was to react with protest marches and peace demonstrations. The "flower power" thing came in big - everybody was going to San Francisco and it was all peace, love and good will. The use of drugs flourished within the "hippie" culture - and new music styles like "acid-rock", "psychedelic" and "head music" emerged. Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe and The Fish, The Doors and Jimi Hendrix were all exponents of the new trends in rock music, and soon Jim Morrison of the Doors and Jimi Hendrix along with Janis Joplin were elevated to superstar status. Nobody seemed to be content just to make rock and roll records anymore. Rock music became progressive and heavy, very heavy. Record companies spent most of their promotion efforts pushing so-called serious performers, and critics were demonstrating their hipness by reviewing records on the basis of length - the longer the better ...
Herman's Hermits record company in the States, MGM, had signed the Cowsills by the end of 1967. They threw all their promotion behind them and completely ignored all the established artists like Sam the Sham, Herman's Hermits and The Animals. The Hermits were still having hit records then, but all of a sudden MGM seemed to let it slip. When the group went to the States to do a new tour they found that MGM's promostion had been drastically reduced and the distribution didn't work at all. Their latest record wasn't even in the shops and hadn't been delivered to the radio stations. MGM had even put a full page ad in some magazines for the wrong single. If MGM had put out some effort, Herman's Hermits' popularity would probably have lasted much longer in the States, in spite of the onslaught of heavy-rock at the time. However, even though they released a new album of hits in March '68, "The Best of Herman's Hermits Vol. 3", of which the most interesting tracks were never-before-released "Wings of Love", "Mum and Dad" and "Big Man", as well as a new major motion picture: "Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter" later that year, Herman's Hermits seemed to lose their grip on the American public and they dropped from the Stateside charts.

A NEW LEASE OF LIFE

For 3 years they had proved far more successful in the States than in their native Britain, but now the situation seemed to have reversed. Their first charts entry in Britain since "There's A Kind of Hush" in early 1967, was a great rendition of a perfect poptune "I Can Take or Leave Your Loving", written by able songsmith Rich Jones. The B-side, "Marcel's", was composed by Hopwood-Gouldman-Noone and Lisberg. The single entered the charts in January 68 and reached no. 11.
This was swiftly followed by the thumping commerciality of "Sleepy Joe", a song written by John Carter and Russell Alquist, which was released in May '68 with "Just One Girl" written by Love-Jones, on the flip. "Sleepy Joe" became a big summertime hit in Europe, reaching no. 12 in Britain - whereas its highest position in America was a modest no. 61. The following single was also a typical summer song aptly titled "Sunshine Girl" and written by Carter-Stephens who had previously given them "One Little Packet of Cigarettes". "Sunshine Girl" had a pulsating beat, nice harmonies and a very catchy chorus - it simply had to become a big hit, reaching no. 8 in Britain and remaining in the charts for 14 weeks! The B-side was a gentle, self composed song titled "Nobody Needs to Know" written by Leckenby and Hopwood in collaboration with Brook.
Another interesting track from the same period was the Graham Gouldman written "London Look" which only appeared on a promo EP sponsored by a cosmetic firm called Yardley. However, "London Look" is not as rare as one might think it is. In some countries like Germany, France and Italy, it was an official single release.

MRS. BROWN MOTION PICTURE

Herman's Hermits third major motion picture for MGM had been shot in and around Manchester and London in 1967 and was released in the summer of 68. The Hermits play an aspiring pop group who moonlight as owners of a racing dog, and the plot is spun loosely around racing contests, love affairs and pop music. The film was produced by Allen Klein and directed by Saul Swimmer and in addition to Herman's Hermits also featured British music hall and cinema veteran Stanley Holloway as well as Marjorie Rhodes, Sheila White and Sarah Caldwell - the latter playing Mrs. Brown's lovely daughter. The overbearing British nature of the film was indicative of the abrupt change which had come upon the group at the end of 67. Graham Gouldman had been called upon to originate 4 new songs for the film and came up with "It's Nice To Be Out In the Morning", "ooh She's Done It Again", "The World is For The Young" and "Lemon and Lime" - the latter a solid music hall number performed by Stanley Holloway and the group. Kenny Young wrote "The Most Beautiful Thing In My Life", Stephens-Carter wrote "Holiday Inn" and the instrumentals "Daisy Chain Parts I & II" had been written by Noone-Hopwood-Leckenby-Green. Also included on the soundtrack album was their hit "There's A Kind of Hush" plus a new 1968 version of the title track "Mrs. Brown ..."

RUMOURS

The "Mrs. Brown" album was arranged by John Paul Jones who did a lot of work for Mickie Most in the sixties. Jones arranged and played sessions for many of Most's artists, including Donovan, Lulu, The Animals and Herman's Hermits, which misled people to believe that the Hermits didn't play on the majority of their records. That's not true, even though well-known session musicians like Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Big Jim Sullivan had played on some of their early recordings it was definitely not because the Hermits weren't up to the task. The group's busy tour schedule made the use of session musicians a necessity in order to keep up with Mickie Most's recording plans, but according to Leckenby they all played on 90% of their records and Green and Hopwood sang on all of them. On some they didn't play their usual instruments.
While on the subject of partaking and credits, Peter Noone was credited as co-producer of Graham Gouldman's rare 1968 album "The Graham Gouldman Thing", though Gouldman claims he never came near the studio once!

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