Look back with Asher

Six­ties chart-top­per turned mu­sic-biz big cheese Peter asher re­calls the ef­fects of Beatle­ma­nia-by-proxy

UNCUT - - Instant Karma - Peter Watts

“It was weird liv­ing with Paul [McCart­ney], but it was weirder for my fa­ther’s pa­tients” PETER ASHER

It is 6am in Hawaii, but Peter Asher is al­ready wide awake to take Uncut’s call. Has he even gone to bed? “things aren’t quite that rock’n’roll th­ese days,” laughs the singer, man­ager, pro­ducer and la­bel ex­ec­u­tive, who par­tied with the Bea­tles through­out the ’60s.

this month, Asher will per­form a set at the Port Eliot fes­ti­val, at­tempt­ing to sum­marise in word and song a life that’s in­cluded hit sin­gles with Peter And Gor­don, liv­ing with Paul McCart­ney, run­ning Ap­ple and manag­ing James tay­lor. “I per­form some Peter & Gor­don hits and use video and pho­to­graphs to tell my story,” he says. “the show can be two hours long – there’s a lot to choose from.”

the au­di­ence-pleasers, he ad­mits, are sto­ries about the Bea­tles. He met the band when Paul McCart­ney be­gan see­ing Asher’s sis­ter Jane and moved in to the parental home on Wim­pole Street, London. Asher’s fa­ther was a physi­cian and the fam­ily lived above the prac­tice, with McCart­ney and Asher shar­ing a top floor. “It was weird liv­ing with Paul, but it was weirder for my fa­ther’s pa­tients,” says Asher. “they would have to wade through a crowd of girls at the front door. As we were English, no­body ever asked or ex­plained what was go­ing on. When I be­gan per­form­ing, Paul didn’t give me ad­vice but he did give me an un­fin­ished song that John didn’t like.”

Peter & Gor­don took “A World With­out Love” to No 1 in the UK and US in 1964, and then recorded fur­ther Len­non-McCart­ney songs, in­clud­ing “No­body I Know”, “I Don’t Want to See You Again” and 1966’s “Woman”, which McCart­ney wrote un­der a pseu­do­nym to see if it would af­fect its suc­cess. Asher didn’t need to call in any favours to get hold of th­ese, though: “When you have a No 1, the song­writ­ers al­ways want the fol­low-up, other­wise some­body else will make some money on your coat­tails. Len­non and McCart­ney were no ex­cep­tion. their he­roes weren’t just Elvis and Chuck Berry, they were Gof­fin and King.”

Af­ter top­ping the charts, Asher co-founded avant-garde book­shop/ gallery Indica – where John first met Yoko – be­fore tak­ing the reins at Ap­ple. the lat­ter, he says, wasn’t as chaotic as of­ten claimed. “We put out hit records and it was a work­ing la­bel, so I spent a lot of my time do­ing fairly con­struc­tive, nor­mal record la­bel stuff,” he says. “then at the end of the day you’d drift down to Derek tay­lor’s of­fice, where there was a full bar and in­ter­est­ing things in the draw­ers, and the rest of the day could get a bit hazy.”

It was at Ap­ple that Asher came across James tay­lor, who he would man­age with great suc­cess, mov­ing from London to LA’s Lau­rel Canyon just as the creative ba­ton passed from one city to the next. Asher went to work as a pro­ducer be­fore ris­ing to the po­si­tion of vice-pres­i­dent of Sony. But in 2005 he de­cided go back to his roots when Peter & Gor­don re­formed for a ben­e­fit show for Mike Smith of the Dave Clark Five.

“I had my doubts: was it a cool thing to do, to get to­gether and do songs from decades ago? But we re­alised peo­ple were in­ter­ested, so we did it when­ever we could and I was glad we did. I then had to de­cide what I would do when Gor­don died

[in 2009], and I fig­ured out this way to put sto­ries and songs to­gether for a new kind of show.”

Asher has also con­tin­ued to pro­duce, work­ing with El­ton John on his re­cent Re­vamp trib­ute al­bum as well as Steve Martin’s blue­grass pro­jects. Af­ter a pe­riod of de­cline, he’s con­vinced that the mu­sic in­dus­try is back on an up­ward curve. Does he ever wish he was start­ing out again? “I imag­ine it’s just as much fun to be a star as it was for me,” he says, “but I’m not sure old men should sit around wish­ing they were young.” Peter Asher ap­pears at the Port Eliot fes­ti­val, Corn­wall, July 26-29

Peter Asher leav­ing Ap­ple’s London of­fices with Paul McCart­ney, Fe­bru­ary 1969

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