Hit Pa­rade

Singers & Songs from the Six­ties & Sev­en­ties

Evergreen - - Contents - Bill Bax­ter

Dur­ing the 1960s a num­ber of pop acts en­joyed hits with songs writ­ten by John Len­non and Paul McCartney that The Bea­tles them­selves didn’t re­lease as sin­gles. They in­clude “Do You Want to Know a Se­cret?”, “Bad to Me” ( Billy J. Kramer and The Dako­tas), “It’s For You” ( Cilla Black), “Hello Lit­tle Girl” ( The Four­most) and “Like Dream­ers Do” ( The Ap­ple­jacks), although per­haps the best of the lot — and cer­tainly the most suc­cess­ful — was the song recorded by an Everly Broth­ers- type duo that topped the charts in both the UK and USA in April 1964: “A World With­out Love” by Peter and Gordon. Such was the dom­i­nance of the Fab Four at the time, it’s hardly sur­pris­ing that the song “A World With­out Love” re­placed at num­ber one in the United King­dom was… “Can’t Buy Me Love” by The Bea­tles!

Peter Asher, the older of the two, was born on 22nd June 1944 in London. His fa­ther, Richard Asher, was a highly re­garded physi­cian, de­scribed as “one of the fore­most med­i­cal thinkers of our times”, while his mother, Mar­garet Au­gusta ( née Eliot), was a tal­ented mu­si­cian and a pro­fes­sor at the Guild­hall School of Mu­sic and Drama. Peter had two younger sis­ters, Jane and Claire, and with Jane en­joyed an early ca­reer as a child ac­tor in a num­ber of plays, films and tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tions: the two of them ap­peared to­gether in The Ad­ven­tures of Robin Hood ( 1955- 1959) in which Richard Greene played the hero of Sher­wood For­est.

Peter at­tended the pres­ti­gious West­min­ster School, and it was there that he met and be­came close friends with Gordon Waller. Born on 4th June 1945 ( in Brae­mar, Aberdeen­shire), Gordon was also the

Peter and Gordon

son of a lead­ing light in the med­i­cal pro­fes­sion — an em­i­nent sur­geon — and he too had a cou­ple of younger sis­ters: Diana and Anne.

At first Peter was more of a jazz and folk mu­sic fan, but un­der Gordon’s in­flu­ence and the in­escapable na­tion­wide boom in pop mu­sic and beat groups, he soon came to share his friend’s en­thu­si­asm for rock and roll. This led to the boys pur­chas­ing their first guitars and sneak­ing out at night ( a se­ri­ous vi­o­la­tion of school rules!) to earn pocket money play­ing in pubs and clubs.

It was in 1964, after they had left school and were per­form­ing at the Pick­wick Club in London, that they were spot­ted by a record pro­ducer who signed them to EMI. By a happy co­in­ci­dence, it was around this time that Paul McCartney started dat­ing Peter’s sis­ter Jane and the duo were soon thrust into the ex­cit­ing mu­sic scene of 1960s London.

McCartney sub­se­quently moved into the Ash­ers’ el­e­gant town house in Wim­pole Street, and it was at a party there that Peter and Gordon first heard Paul singing “A World With­out Love”, a song the pre­co­ciously tal­ented Bea­tle had writ­ten when he was just 16.

Re­leased on the Columbia la­bel, not only did Peter and Gordon’s record­ing of the song go to num­ber one, but it sold over a mil­lion copies. Com­plete with acous­tic guitars, Bea­tle- style hair­cuts ( and Peter wear­ing a pair of spec­ta­cles sim­i­lar to those that John Len­non would adopt), the duo toured with The Bea­tles and The Rolling Stones, and be­came part of the so­called “Bri­tish in­va­sion” of the USA, with ap­pear­ances on the Ed Sul­li­van Show ( with the in­evitable scream­ing girls in the au­di­ence!) and at nu­mer­ous other venues across the coun­try.

Although Peter and Gordon didn’t top the charts again, fur­ther hits fol­lowed on both sides of the At­lantic: three more McCartney songs — “No­body I Know” ( 1964: UK num­ber 10; USA num­ber 12), “I Don’t Want To See You Again” ( 1964: USA num­ber 16), “Woman” ( 1966: UK num­ber 28; USA num­ber 14) — as well as “True Love Ways” ( 1965: UK num­ber 2; USA num­ber 14), “I Go To Pieces” ( 1965: USA num­ber 9), “To Know You Is To Love You” ( 1965: UK num­ber 5; USA num­ber 24), “Baby I’m Yours” ( 1965: UK num­ber 19). The duo’s last hit in Bri­tain was “Lady Go­diva” which reached num­ber 16 in the charts in September 1966 ( num­ber 6 in the USA), although they en­tered the Bill­board Hot 100 in the United States on two more oc­ca­sions, in 1967 with “Knight in Rusty Ar­mour” and “Sun­day for Tea”.

The pair parted am­i­ca­bly in 1968. Gordon went on to pur­sue a solo ca­reer ( in­clud­ing an al­bum Gordon), and in the 1970s played the part of Pharaoh in Joseph and the Amaz­ing Tech­ni­color Dream­coat be­fore run­ning his own mu­sic pub­lish­ing busi­ness. He also, for a time, had a mar­ket gar­den­ing busi­ness in Northamp­ton­shire, and, as a life­long rail­way en­thu­si­ast, when­ever he could he en­joyed reg­u­lar trips on board The Fly­ing Scots­man!

Peter Asher em­barked on a highly suc­cess­ful ca­reer as a record­ing ex­ec­u­tive, man­ager and pro­ducer, first with The Bea­tles’ Ap­ple la­bel, where he signed Amer­i­can singer­song­writer, James Tay­lor, be­fore be­com­ing Tay­lor’s man­ager in the United States and pro­duc­ing records for, among oth­ers, Linda Ron­stadt, An­drew Gold, Neil Di­a­mond, Diana Ross, Bon­nie Raitt and Cher.

In Au­gust 2005 Peter and Gordon re­united for the first time as part of a trib­ute con­cert in New York to a mem­ber of the Dave Clark Five. Over the next cou­ple of years sev­eral other per­for­mances fol­lowed ( when they re­ceived a mes­sage of con­grat­u­la­tions from Paul McCartney) in Florida, San Diego, Santa Mon­ica, Chicago and Las Ve­gas. Sadly, it was only a cou­ple of weeks after one such con­cert, on 17th July 2009, that Gordon Waller suf­fered a heart at­tack and died. He was just 64.

Peter was shocked by his long- time part­ner’s sud­den death, and paid a lav­ish trib­ute: “Gordon re­mains one of my very favourite singers of all time, and I am still so proud of the work that we did to­gether. I am just a har­mony guy, and Gordon was the heart and soul of our duo.”

He was sur­vived by his sec­ond wife, Jen, two daugh­ters from his pre­vi­ous mar­riage, and a grand­daugh­ter.

Peter, who in 1983 mar­ried his sec­ond wife Wendy Worth ( their daugh­ter Vic­to­ria is a mu­si­cian with punk band Co­bra Star­ship) has won nu­mer­ous Grammy awards and in the 2015 New Year’s Hon­ours List was awarded a CBE. He con­tin­ues to pro­duce and per­form, and re­cent projects have in­cluded a suc­cess­ful one- man show, “A Mu­si­cal Mem­oir of the 60s and Be­yond”, two al­bums with Steve Martin and Edie Brick­ell which led to a stage mu­si­cal, Bright Star, for which Peter was mu­sic su­per­vi­sor, and an ex­ten­sive acous­tic tour of the United States with fel­low mu­sic le­gend Al­bert Lee.

“Please lock me away…” Half a cen­tury after the duo made their heart­felt plea at the be­gin­ning of their chart- top­ping hit, there seems to be lit­tle chance of Peter Asher al­low­ing any­one to do that!

Fur­ther In­for­ma­tion

pe­terash­er­mu­sic. com

The singers pic­tured at the height of their fame in the mid- 1960s. When they started out they were known as… Gordon and Peter.

The duo were fre­quent guests on pop- mu­sic shows.

Peter in re­cent years, an award- win­ning pro­ducer who con­tin­ues to per­form.

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