Music History Notes: Herman’s Hermits vs. The Rolling Stones for No.1

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On this day in 1965, Herman’s Hermits’ release “I’m Henry VIII, I Am,” knocked The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” out of the No. 1 spot on US charts. While obviously songs replace each other on charts all the time, what is interesting in this instance is the contrasting style of each.

“I’m Henry VIII, I Am” is a repetitive, arguably fun song, with its roots in the early 1900s. With a 1960’s rock beat, Herman’s Hermits developed a song that created a party atmosphere every time it is played.

“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” features a buzzy guitar with a complete with a bluesy rhythm section, and the lyrics are decidedly more gritty than Herman’s Hermits’ hit.

Perhaps for those who lived through the changing of the No. 1 spot, examining the competition between the two songs might not seem like a worthwhile pursuit.

But for those of us who have had to study classic rock from a temporal distance, the two bands and their respective styles are worth considering. For that group of people, it is important to remember both the Rolling Stones and Herman’s Hermits existed at the same time. It wasn’t as though blues-based rock music started and stopped, or fell out of fashion until the 1970s

Even though the Rolling Stones had a rougher reputation, and were more popular, Herman’s Hermits song with its rattling drums and enthusiastic singing, managed to have found an audience, even with not only the Rolling Stones, but the Beatles (and other notables) putting out singles at the time.

If nothing else, the battle for the top spot on this day in 1965, shows that the listening public was ready for something a little different. For each band, though, the song they had on the chart this week in 1965 was by no means the only songs in their histories.

“I Am Henry VIII, I Am” by Herman’s Hermits

According to a few different sources, “I Am Henry VIII, I Am,” is based on a British music hall song. The song then, as in Herman’s Hermits’ version, was sung with a cockney accent. In fact, the song’s title name was sometimes written as “Henery” to indicate the dialect.

The humor of the song is that it has nothing to do with the infamous English king of the same title. The “Henry” of the song is simply the eighth husband of a woman who won’t marry a man with any other name. Thus, the song is ridiculous and funny, especially with the shouty backing vocals (“No Sam!”). The song actually sounds like it has been derived from the music hall tradition.

It should be noted that “I Am Henry VIII, I Am,” was not Herman’s Hermits’ first US hit. “I’m Into Something Good” was the group’s first.

“I Am Henry VIII, I Am” stayed on the US charts for only one week. In retrospect, some critics find the song repetitive and not very charming. Because of this, for some people, the tune has not stood the test of time.

Still, other Herman’s Hermits hits, such as “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter” have less kitsch, and thus, more staying power, at least among some critics and fans.

“(I Can’t get No) Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones

The guitar riff is unmistakable. The lyrics of “Satisfaction” detail the things in a young English rocker’s life that he doesn’t like, or that cause him consternation. From a girl he is trying to talk to, to a man on television who can’t be trusted because he smokes the wrong brand of cigarettes, the people and things that prevent the narrator from being satisfied are myriad.

The lyrics are brash, the instrumentation is cutting-edge for its time, and the song remains a favorite among critics and fans. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” remained at No. 1 for four weeks.

 

 

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