I KNOW within a few minutes of conversation with Peter Noone that I’m into something good.

In fact the one-time leader of 1960s pop sensations Herman’s Hermits, who had 80 million hits with the likes of My Sentimental Friend and Silhouettes, almost single-handedly defines an era.

The blond Mancunian is a living example of how you can last 55 years in the business, without, as he says, any real outstanding talent.

But how is that possible? Noone, whose mother’s family were from Glasgow, tells a story of tough survival.

Having already been sent to Manchester’s College of Music and Drama by his parents, Noone landed some acting roles, including that of Len Fairclough’s son in Coronation Street.

But he took his fees and bought a van to transport his band the Heartbeats around.

And got stuck into the fighting. “We used to go into these motorway cafes on the A5 or wherever,” Noone recalls, “and there would be guys resenting these Cuban-heeled, long-haired, crew-necked, ‘Are you a boy or a girl?’ types.

“We were little lightweight guys but we learned they would beat us up just as quickly as the bigger blokes.”

In the cafes, Noone met up with future friend and bass legend Jack Bruce, who was astonished at what little Peter would do to defend himself.

“We used to screw the legs off our mothers’ coffee tables and keep them under our leather jackets,” he recalls.

“Jack, who was with his Steamrollers band at the time, was totally taken aback. He said, ‘What are they for?’ And I said, ‘If we don’t hit someone with them they’ll take them off us and hit us with them’.”

Noone’s use of his “dobber” suggests a young man who’d battle to make it to the top.

Even if he wasn’t the most talented teenager to come out of the north-west of England.

“I did lots of acting but was never really that good outside of Herman’s Hermits.”

Noone’s dad was an accountant but the teenager didn’t believe life was advantaged.

“We grew up in council houses. We were hard little boys. We were not artists. But the early 60s was all about possibility. You didn’t have to go in the Army. There were lots of jobs.”

As a young boy, Noone had been an obsessive stamp collector. He later became an obsessive record collector. Now he knew he desperately wanted pop success.

“My life was this group. Even more than girls,” he recalls.

That’s not to say young women were not on the agenda. When Noone’s parents moved to Liverpool to work, he remained in Manchester with his grandparents. “They would be asleep at night and I’d bring girls back – and they didn’t know.”

By 1963 the Heartbeats had evolved into Herman’s Hermits but it took time to become decent.

“When we turned up at the Cavern we were so crap that by the next gig we’d changed our name,” he admits. “We were atrocious.”

Yet they practised, changed. And landed local management, which led to legendary pop producer Mickie Most being invited to check out the band.

The producer then landed the band a Gerry Goffin-Carole King song and in September 1964 they had a No1 with I’m into Something Good.

The next few years were the stuff of fantasy, meeting the likes of The Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

“I once walked into a bar and The Beatles and the Stones and Mary Quant were there. And I couldn’t get a drink because I was still under age and so John Lennon ordered up two Bacardis and two Cokes and we split them.

“It was a strange friendship with John. He was always rude to me but I was always rude back. He would always say, ‘Hello, Hermit, that’s a nice suit, do they make it in your size?’ I wanted him to like me and thankfully he did.

“But the great thing is none of us bands were in competition.” He grins: “I think The Beatles and the Stones maybe even thought a couple of our singles weren’t bad.”

And there was Lulu. Noone once had a fling with the teen Scots star. “I used to drive all the way up from Manchester to Glasgow just to have a look at her,” he recalls, smiling at the powers of the teenage heart. “We had a little bit of a thing and I was really enamoured with her.

“But the reality was driving all the way up and meeting her dad, who worked in an abattoir. And I remember I had to sit there in a room with her little sister and have a cup of tea while all the time I was trying to pull Lulu.”

Peter Noone met his French wife Mireille in New York and has lived in California ever since.

He still tours and made $2m last year, singing Hermit’s songs.

“I’ve got 181 concerts this year. But this isn’t just a career. I need to do it. I’m like Mick [Jagger] in this sense.”

He breaks into a loud laugh. “And we’re more like Morecambe and Wise than we’d care to admit.”

Peter Noone appears in the Solid Gold, Sixties Show, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, March 29