Friday, February 07, 2020

Almost Hits: Herman's Hermits - No Milk Today (1967)

The English version of the 45 RPM outer sleeve
Today Bloggerhythms begins an occasional series entitled Almost Hits that originally appeared on a popular rock, pop, and jazz music blog, Something Else, back in 2014. The series featured songs that failed to reach the top #20 on the American Billboard Hot 100 but became popular nonetheless. Many have become classics. The first entry is below.

Even though "No Milk Today" (#35, Hot 100 in 1967) was released in the USA by Herman's Hermits as the B-side to "There’s a Kind of Hush" (#4, Hot 100) it was the better song of the two and it received much deserved radio airplay on its own merit. Graham Gouldman, later a founding member of 10cc, wrote the tune that reached #7 when it was released in England as an A-side the previous year. The UK single had a different flip side.

I’ve always enjoyed fast moving, power pop ditties with good vocals and on these two counts the track delivers. It was also the first Hermits' song to employ a string section.

Despite its bright, uptempo production and arrangement "No Milk Today" is a very sad breakup song. To understand its meaning it helps if you're old enough to remember a time when milk was delivered daily to your front door. The lyrics use the empty bottle sitting outside the protagonist's house as a symbol of a recently broken up romance and, to him, it's only a reminder of what the relationship used to be.

It was common in England to leave a note telling the milkman "No milk today" if your standing order was not needed and because the singer's character was now the only person living in the house his usage declined. Referring to the note left for the delivery man, Herman (Peter Noone) sang, "No milk today, it seems a common sight, but people passing by don't know the reason why."

Many people believed that Noone was too cute and cuddly to be taken seriously as a rock star. The Hermits didn't compose their own music and many of their songs were thought to be too light and fluffy for them to be ranked among the British Invasion's more respected heavyweights. However, the quintet was usually a lot of fun, Noone was the perfect frontman for what the group was trying to accomplish, and, as this song proved, the group and their producers often selected good ones to record.

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