Quick stats: Peter Noone, lead singer, Herman’s Hermits
Daily driver: 2020 BMW 740i (Peter’s rating: 10 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Other cars: see below
Favorite road trip: Santa Barbara to Las Vegas
Car he learned to drive in: 1950s Vauxhall Victor
First car bought: 1964 Jaguar S-Type
Peter Noone has always loved driving to each gig alone, logging long distances at night after each show. He’s always enjoyed being under the radar, since becoming known around the world at 15 as the lead singer for Herman’s Hermits during the British Invasion in the 1960s.
“I was famous and had money before I had a driver’s license, so a car was perfect. I had total independence,” Noone tells MotorTrend. “I love that independent feeling of being in the car and choosing my own radio station and who I talk to on my phone is private. It’s perfect. Sometimes I drive all night. I’ve got trips I do where I go from Lansing, Michigan, to Cincinnati airport overnight, a 390-mile drive and I love it. I’m on my own and I call all my friends in England when I’m in America because they’re all up when I’m driving.”
No one especially likes playing Las Vegas, so he can be back in his Santa Barbara home by 5 a.m., these days in his 2020 BMW 740i.
“I’ve had other BMWs and this one’s probably one of the best ones. I had the 740e before it,” he says. “I was very disappointed with the performance. It seemed like a waste of all the trunk space for the load of batteries to get 23 extra miles and gas is cheap in America. I don’t like to waste energy, but I didn’t think it was a good idea and my airport here has spaces for people for electric cars, but no plugs. It’s a Santa Barbara mystery.”
He also had an issue with the gas tank on the BMW 740e plug-in hybrid. “You’d be up a mountain somewhere showing one mile of gas left and you couldn’t open the gas tank. I used Twitter, ‘Has anybody else got this 740e that you can’t put gas in?’ The next day the dealer called me and said, ‘We can get you out of that, we just got a new 740i, it’s the color you like,’ we call it ‘goose poop.’ It’s an absolutely beautiful car. It performs magnificently.”
He rates his BMW a perfect 10. “There’s nothing I dislike about it. I think it’s got fantastic seats. I’ve had maybe 20 BMWs and this was the best one. I had a 750i once which I liked. But it attracted too much attention, because it was two-door and once in my history I had a Ferrari and it was a purple one, a Dino and I had to get rid of it because the police wanted to have a look at it and I would get stopped going under the speed limit just because they wanted to see the car,” Noone says. “I like to wander around the world under the radar because I’m a pop star. All the attention I need, I can get on stage. I don’t need any attention off stage like modern pop stars.”
2019 Audi Q5
“We’ve got a German car showroom in our garden right now,” he says. Noone has different needs for different cars and this Audi is his “run around one,” but it’s also like a race car if he wants it to be.
“It’s safe. I like safe, I want to feel safe in cars now. When I’m on the road I rent Chrysler 300s, because it feels like a grandpa car,” Noone says, “I don’t need speed. I need safety and good seating and not a car that attracts attention. I’m like Chuck Berry; I like to rent a car when I go on the road and be on my own. I never let anybody else sit in the car with me when I go anywhere. My wife, when we go shopping and stuff like that, but if I’m on the road on tour, I get in the car on my own and I show up at the theater on my own and I leave when I want to. It just gives me this freedom.”
He bought the Audi for when he has to go to LAX. “We had the BMW 740e and it had no room in the trunk and we needed a car to go to LAX and put four or five cases in it, so we go this Audi just to go to LAX and things like that.”
2019 Audi A6
Noone acquired this beautiful blue Audi because he wanted a car for making smaller trips around Santa Barbara. “I go to Starbucks and go to meet my friends for lunch in the city. So I got a car I can just take and not worry about,” he says. “What I dislike about it, there’s some acceleration problem. When you put on gas, it has a stall feeling. So you have to really put your foot hard on the gas to get going. I don’t want to be that guy screeching away from traffic lights.”
Car he learned to drive in
When Noone was 15, he went to live at his grandmother’s in a sparsely populated area in Wales and he’d drive her 1950s Vauxhall Victor around private roads at night.
“My parents were at university so I lived with my grandmother and she was very easy because she was in bed every night at 9 and both my grandparents were deaf, so I could do anything I want. I could bring girls back there and have a rock and roll party and they never knew. As long as everything was cleaned up when they woke up in the morning it was ok,” he recalls. “She lived on a private road, there was a lot of private stuff in England in those days and Wales was even more private.”
He did get caught by local cops, though. “The police were watching me, and I got caught for crossing the public road. I got a ticket for no license and insurance, but I was just a kid and it was a very desolate area,” he recounts.
Noone learned to drive by watching his dad, so when he lived at his grandmother’s he figured out how to drive her car pretty quickly. “Every English boy learned to drive like their dad. I sat next to my dad and my mother and my sister sat in the back seat and me and my dad were the navigator and the driver. And I drive exactly like him,” he says.
With no formal teacher, he did a lot of figuring out by failure. “You fail on the clutch thing. Remember, no cars had auto transmission in those days. So there was lot of failure in learning to drive at the beginning. You think ‘I’ll never be able to do this.’ And even though they’re deaf, you can’t accelerate more than a certain amount and release the clutch because it will make too much noise and even deaf people hear that,” Noone says. “So me and my friend who was the drummer in the band would coast it out of her house down the street and start it by letting the clutch out. So they would think it was someone’s car and there were no other cars around.”
First car bought
Besides driving his grandmother’s car surreptitiously at 15, he was also in Herman’s Hermits with a hit record that year, so he bought a 1964 Jaguar S-Type. “I had records and money, but I couldn’t drive a car because I wasn’t old enough to get a driver’s license,” he says.
Noone hired a guy who played professional soccer and was just a little older than he was to be his driver. “I bought this Jaguar for cash. I walked in like a big shot and he became my driver. And then when I was 17 I got to be in the driver’s seat,” he says.
Everywhere in England and Scotland that Noone had to go to, he would drive and his driver would be the passenger. “There were no motorways basically then. There was the M1 which I wasn’t supposed to drive on but I would give it a go and learned to drive in it,” he says.
At 17, when he had to take his driver’s test, Noone took lessons the week before to learn properly. “You had to stick your arms out in the window and make signs, which nobody did, but you had to do that in the driving test and you had to be able to parallel park. So I took driving lessons. I was a normal kid when I was in a car,” Noone says.
To this day, Noone loves driving when he’s back home doing shows. “In England you can rent really beautiful cars. I did a 38-day tour and I drove 13,400 miles on a rental car. I like to go back to London every night, or my friend’s house in Manchester. So wherever I played, I would do the concert and then drive all night to his house or London,” he says. “I like driving, and the crew with the equipment from the tour, it takes them an hour to pack up the equipment and as they drive along the road, they pass me, because I’m enjoying the driving.”
Noone once got stopped by a cop there asking why he was driving slowly. “‘Are you buzzed?’ I said, ‘No I’m just enjoying driving here.’ And the crew pass me and they say to each other, ‘Look, there’s grandpa!’” Noone says, laughing. “Because I’ve got the racing BMW or the Mercedes 300 series. I’m not in a hurry. I love it. I love England so much, I look out the window and I go, ‘Oh, look at this!’ I was in Elkart Indiana, I enjoyed that. And flying into Lansing and going to Fort Wayne and the next day to Mount Pleasant and the next day to Cincinnati. I drive it all, like 1,000 miles in three days. I think I must’ve been a truck driver in a previous life.”
Favorite road trip
Though he loves driving anywhere, Noone’s favorite road trip is hands down Santa Barbara to Las Vegas, taking the roads no one else takes. “I go over the back way. I go through Santa Clarita and across to the 14 and I take the back roads. There are different ways through Palmdale and Victorville and different ways up through Mohave,” he says.
He always looks forward to this drive. “I know all the places to stop. It’s my home trip,” he says. “When you get to the 15, there are two Starbucks in Barstow and there’s one in Victorville, so you can use the bathroom, have a coffee and read The Wall Street Journal and then get back in your car. If you’re not in a hurry you’ve got all that time to do that. At night I don’t want to stop, of course. I leave at 10:00 in the morning and I get to Las Vegas at 4:00. I leave the concert at 11:00 and I come home. It’s a nice way to live. If you travel and you spend 200 nights a year in hotels, being home is like a holiday.”
He loves this road trip for the freedom it gives, and the lack of cars on the road, except for the occasional FedEx truck. “You want a truck on that back road there, and stick behind him because he’s watching out for deer,” he says.
Noone thinks the car is “magnificent.” “Once some guru said to me, ‘You know what Peter? There are much worse places for you to be than on your own.’ And in a car, it’s a massive freedom space for me. I’m in control of the whole thing. You get on a plane, you’re not in control at all.” He added, “I know famous racing drivers. I’ve met Jackie Stewart and told him he’s my hero. I don’t want to be a Formula 1 racing driver—I want to be a grandpa.”
When Noone leaves the casino, they always ask which roads he’ll take back home. “I say, I’m going the across on the 28 or 58 depending what the traffic’s like. And they go, ‘Ooh, watch out, that’s where Sam Kinison.’ I said ‘I’m always watching out for that, been in plenty of accidents, I don’t want another one.’ People underestimate the power of the automobile. When I was at a school in Manchester, I came out of my school and a kid stepped in the road and got hit by a car and the kid was badly injured, but the car was also destroyed.”
Herman’s Hermits and SiriusXM
When asked what he’d like to promote, Noone humbly says, “Just that I’m alive, really.” But he does admit that the success of Herman’s Hermits allowed the band to go from driving around in a van to everyone having their own car.
“We looked at the Beatles, and John Lennon had this massive Rolls-Royce with a design all over it, and I said, ‘I want to make people think I’m a bank manager driving home in the middle of the night. I didn’t want a cop magnet,’” he says, although he tested his Jaguar and it went up to 140 miles an hour. “But it didn’t look like a rock star’s car. I was always under the radar with the police driving at night, and when I did get stopped, they were always kind and pleasant because I was famous for being a kind and pleasant person who lived with his grandparents.”
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Noone, now in his 70s, is proud that after all these years, he recently won an Entertainer of the Year Award in Vegas, which gave him another reason to take that favorite drive with his family.
“All this happened when I was 15 and I’m still going. 1965 we did 360 concerts. This year I’m doing 150, next year I’ll do 160. Good to still be going on the strength of my songs. And it’s everywhere in the world. I just choose to work more in America because I like it here,” he says. “I’ve got 18 songs that were hits in the top 20 in America, but the one I recorded when I was 15, ‘I’m Into Something Good,’ I open every show with it. It’s a fantastic song. I woke up this morning feeling fine—that’s the story of my life. I’m a very grateful person, but I still want to be under the radar.”
Noone also hosts a show on SiriusXM Channel ‘60s on 6 each Saturday at 5 p.m. EST. For more information, please visit PeterNoone.com
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