Submitted by Sandy Graham
When 22-year-old accountant Harvey Lisberg heard the Beatles’ ‘Please Please Me’, he had an epiphany: he could be Manchester’s answer to Brian Epstein. He had a musical ear, a knack for numbers and a gambler’s instinct for taking a punt. Within a year he had taken local group, Herman’s Hermits, to number one with ‘I’m Into Something Good’.
Soon, Hermania was a global phenomenon. Harvey had found his vocation. In this uproarious, frank and moving autobiography, he reveals the excesses of life on the road with Herman’s Hermits; the frustration of championing unknowns Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber; the highs and lows of managing the brilliant 10cc; the utter madness of looking after snooker bad boys Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins and Jimmy ‘Whirlwind’ White and much, much more. Many other artists benefitted from Harvey’s guidance during this time, including Tony Christie, Barclay James Harvest, Sad Café and the Chameleons.
A few book snippets from Harvey on how it all began:
”I ’m three years old and I’m standing in front of a huge, wooden record player. It has large speakers at its base, out of which a tune is emerging, along with the words, ‘Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition and we’ll all stay free’. I don’t understand what it’s about, I just like the tune. I’ve heard my family singing it as well. They say it’s something to do with ‘the war’. And that’s my first memory. The record player belonged to my grandmother Gerty. She was born Gertrude Brown, the eldest daughter of Lewis and Selena Brown. That wasn’t their real name. They had emigrated from Romania and, like a lot of Jews who came over, they wanted to fit in, so they just picked a colour; green, brown, black, white, whatever. They chose brown. (I like to imagine that when Lewis and Selena were walking through the streets of Manchester with young Gerty, people stopped them and said, ‘Mrs Brown, you’ve got a lovely daughter’ – the title of the Herman’s Hermits song that was to bring us ‘into something good.’ When I was about 14 my father got into financial difficulties. He had problems with the taxman, historical debts that hadn’t been paid, and that really took a toll on the business. We had some rough times for the next few years. At least we didn’t have to sell the house, because it was a tight family and everybody helped out, so we survived, but subconsciously I think that probably affected me more than I realized. Around the same time, music started to become a serious passion in my life. Rock ‘n’ roll arrived in the mid-50s and like virtually everyone of my age I fell for it big time.
My favourites were Bill Haley and the Comets, Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly and especially The Everly Brothers, whose harmonies I loved. Even more important to me than rock ‘n’ roll, though, was skiffle. Lonnie Donegan had a string of hits which I still know to this day: Midnight Special, Bring a Little Water Sylvie, Cumberland Gap, Gamblin’ Man, My Old Man’s a Dustman and the one that started it all off, Rock Island Line. I learned how to play guitar because of him. My friends and I used to go to a club called The Bodega where there was a guy who was in a skiffle group. His name was Paul Beatty and one night he came to a party at our house and taught me some chords – I’d got hold of one of those crappy old acoustic guitars. From those few chords I was able to teach myself songs like Peggy Sue and Everyday, which only have two or three chords. It was also the era of Harry Belafonte, who had had big success with tunes like The Banana Boat Song. I knew every one of his songs on the guitar and I was very good at calypso. I didn’t have a very good voice, to put it mildly, but that style of singing seemed to suit me. Every time I went to a party I would take my guitar and play. I made up lyrics, just to make it contemporary. I became the party entertainer.”
“And then along came the Beatles. And everything changed.”
Manchester vs Liverpool: They tended to view their near-neighbours as somewhat inferior. Liverpudlians were regarded as a bit backward and primitive. This was the culture that I was born into. Personally, however, I had nothing against the people of Liverpool. I actually liked the city because I was into comedy and all the best comedians were from there. I loved the Scouse accent too. So when the Beatles came along, it didn’t matter to me that they were from Liverpool. I just thought they were sensational. They combined all the things that I liked: humour, melodies, harmonies and lyrics. From the moment I heard From Me to You, in the spring of 1963, I just became a mad fan. I wouldn’t miss a Beatles record. I had to get it the first day it was out. I played the albums until they were worn out. The Beatles had a charm that most Americans, for all their professionalism, couldn’t match. It was partly due to their image; they looked different. But the music, that was the key. The songs they wrote were unlike anything else around – and it was mind-blowing. The Beatles just kept coming up with their own amazing tunes with really unusual chord changes, while their harmonies were out of this world, unique and very distinctive. As for their lyrics, they were more down to earth, more English, than their American counterparts. They spoke our language, whereas on American records, it was all ‘working on a chain gang, going downtown’ which meant nothing to us. The Beatles’ stuff had the local vernacular and a bit of humour in it. They enabled British songwriters to write about British things. We’d all grown up assuming that America was entertainment. British singers had to sound like Americans if they wanted to make it. Then along came John and Paul, sounding unapologetically like what they were, working class lads from Liverpool.”
The book tells how he met a young singer he met named ‘Herman’ who of course was Peter Noone where the story gets really interesting, and some harrowing live show experiences that also included 10cc and others.
“I’m Into Something Good “is his account of a life that started in Salford and ended up in Palm Springs; a life in which he travelled the world, met heroes and villains, fulfilled his dreams, spent a fortune on good living, family and friends, and never took himself or his achievements too seriously.
I could write so much more here but honestly, buy the book. If you are fan of music history, rock ‘n’ roll and so much more, this book NEEDS to be in your library.
Purchase it on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Im-Into-Something-Good-Managing/dp/1913172880