February 28, 2009
Herman’s Hermits | “I’m Henry the VIII, I Am”
HATE TO ADMIT IT, BUT…
“I’m Henry the VIII, I Am”
Herman’s Hermits On Tour
1965 | MGM
Herman’s Hermits seem to me to be the ultimate faceless British band, sent across the ocean to capitalize on “Beatlemania.” Sort of the Candlebox of the mid 1960’s: the group’s manager, Mickie Most (again, predating svengalis like Colonel Tom Parker and Malcolm Mclaren) sought to create a clean-cut and non-threatening image for the band. This career pattern garnered Herman’s Hermits a pair of US #1 hits, before the changing musical climate of the 1960’s rendered the group redundant, a novelty. Just like the Beach Boys!
Actually, there’s quite a few distinct parallels between the Beach Boys and Herman’s Hermits. Both bands were bigger on their respective opposite coasts: the Beach Boys were “bigger” than the Beatles in the UK (and it’s important to remember that the Beatles took a cue from the Boys’ masterpiece Pet Sounds for their own Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band). Herman’s Hermits topped the UK charts only once (with their debut, the Goffin/King-penned, “I’m Into Something Good”), but had considerably greater chart success in the US, with the #1 hits “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” and “I’m Henry the VIII, I Am,” as well as several lesser-known Top 10 hits. According to Billboard charts, Herman’s Hermits were the top selling pop act in the US in 1965, besting even the mighty Beatles. Their last chart placement came in 1966 (“Dandy”) and, much the same as the non-Brian Wilson Beach Boys failure to capitalize on their new psychedelic sound, Herman’s Hermits entered the 1970’s a nostalgia act, joining other also-rans like Davy Jones on “teen idol” tours.
But, man. “I’m Henry the VIII, I Am” is a goddamn awesome pop tune. I just now subjected my roommates to multiple plays of the song and, even at a don’t-or-you’ll-miss-it minute and fifty-two seconds, they were hollering at me to stop. I can’t get enough of that four-on-the-floor beat, that Chuck Berry-lite guitar lead. The lyrics, from a 1910 British music hall song of the same name, are complete drivel. The same simple verse over and again, with it’s call and response of, “And everyone was an Henery! (Henery!)” predates the boneheaded fun of the first four Ramones albums. I would wager a guess that the Velvet Underground’s Moe Tucker took a cue from Hermits’ drummer Barry Whitwam: that simple beat does the job that fancy drum fills never could.
This is what pop music is supposed to sound like. “Pop” is short for “Popular,” which is a naughty word in rock snob circles, but it could just as easily be short for “Popcorn.” You know what a “Popcorn” movie is? A movie that’s a good distraction to take a date to, to eat popcorn to. I have taken dates to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Saw, and Fahrenheit 9/11. None of those dates went well. If we’d gone and seen Armageddon, Spiderman 2, and Ocean’s Twelve, those dates would probably have gone better. You see? Popcorn movies fill an important role in our culture, and so do popcorn songs. Throw Sir Richard Bishop’s While My Guitar Violently Bleeds on at the next kegger you hold, and watch the party disappear faster than you can say “esoteric.” If you’re gonna have a good party, you’ve gotta have some good, fun music. “I’m Henry the VII, I Am” is great party music, the sound of a tight band playing tight, fun rock and roll. Throw it on and have a good, dumb time.
by Brook Pridemore