STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For Digital First Media
An integral member of the British Invasion, pop duo Peter and Gordon, attained international prominence in 1964 with their million-selling number one single “A World Without Love.”
“I was a student at a University, reading philosophy, and suddenly we come up with a number one record all over the world,” recalled Peter Asher, of Peter and Gordon, from his home in Connecticut. “I got a one year absence from the university to pursue this aim that we assumed would be short term, and, of course, I’m still on that one year leave of absence. I never went back and got my degree.”
Between 1964 and 1967, Peter and Gordon released 11 albums yielding an impressive string of hit records, including “Nobody I Know” (1964), “I Don’t Want To See You Again” (1964), “I Go To Pieces” (1964), Buddy Holly’s “True Love Ways” (1965), “To Know You Is To Love You” (1965), “Baby I’m Yours” (1965), “Woman” (1965) and “Lady Godiva” (1966), their last charting song in Britain.
Their success spilled over into America in 1967 with the singles “Knight in Rusty Armor” and “Sunday for Tea,” which both made Billboard’s Hot 100.
“What was exciting for us was getting to go to America for the first time,” Asher said. “The key thing people forget now is that Britain and America were really far apart then. Nobody had been to America until the Beatles. You never got to go. That was the land of dreams. That was the land where the music we loved came from, so to get to go there was thrilling.”
“Being greeted by screaming girls trying to tear your clothes off was even better,” he added. “It was just a whirlwind of fun. We just had a great time.”
Following his days as a member of Peter and Gordon, Asher became head of A&R for the Beatles’ Apple Records.
“I was in charge of who we signed and what records they did,” Asher said. “I had my weekly A&R meeting with the Beatles. We signed a few very good acts, and then I found a very good act myself that I brought in and I signed. That was James Taylor. That began the next leg of my career when we left Apple.“
Asher ended up in California as a record producer and manager for James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt. Throughout the 70’s and 80’s he added Joni Mitchell and Carole King to his stable of stars.
“When I met James, I started producing his records,” Asher said. “I’d always wanted to be a record producer. I loved the process in the studio. So, given the opportunity, that was something that I knew that I wanted to do. By then I was his manager and there was no one else attracted to do it. We gradually moved to America, and once that took off, that made me a genuine manager.”
In 2005, Peter and Gordon reunited for the first time in decades as a part of a pair of tribute concerts for The Dave Clark Five’s Mike Smith in New York City. Appearances at Beatle conventions transpired the following year.
Peter and Gordon performed at the Love-In: A Musical Celebration, a tribute to the music of the 1960s, and the Flower Power concert series at Disney’s EPCOT in Florida, both in 2007.
Their last performance was at the 50 Winters Later celebration in February 2009, which commemorated the 50th anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. This was held in Clear Lake, Iowa, at the Surf Ballroom. Months later, Gordon Waller died of a heart attack at the age of 64.
“I knew he wasn’t very well,” Asher recalled. “It was very sad. I miss him, of course. He was a wonderful musician and a good friend. He was someone I really admired and really liked, so I was profoundly sad when he died.”
Recently, Asher, who continues to work tirelessly in the music business, has been given the opportunity to participate both as MC and a performer in this year’s British Invasion concert tour. Featuring Billy J. Kramer, Chad and Jeremy, The Searchers, Denny Laine, Terry Sylvester and, of course, Peter Asher, the concert delves back into one of the most profound periods in rock history.
“This is a show that’s a combination of various surviving British Invasion leftovers, like me,” Asher said. “It’s the old songs done by the real people who were in those bands. We just have a real good time.“
“I don’t think anyone is officially the headliner,” he added. “There have been no arguments about who opens or closes. It’s just not that kind of venture. It’s very collaborative by nature, and that’s what makes it fun. It’s a walk down memory lane. It’s a joyful one. We were all very happy that we were part of that. If you are of a certain age, then that era, as it does for me, reminds us of all kinds of great stuff- the songs of your life and how much fun you were having. That’s why I think there is a certain appeal to just hearing these songs again and doing them by the people who were actually there and the bands that sang them. People are re-living their youth through the music.”
Reflecting back on more than 50 years in the music business, Asher takes nothing for granted while continuing to work toward what may be his crowning achievement.
“I’ve enjoyed so much of what I’ve experienced,” Asher reflected. “I couldn’t pick a favorite. So many moments! My greatest excitement may be in my future, who knows? I try to grab every opportunity that comes my way and do my best. I’ve been very lucky that I’ve been successful at it.”
IF YOU GO: The British Invasion concert tour comes to the American Music Theatre, 2425 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster, PA 17605, on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at www.amtshows.com or by calling
800-648-4102 or 717-397-7700.