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Peter Asher first to hear demo of I Want to Hold Your Hand
by Katie Hickox
Grammy award record producer Peter Asher, formerly of the British-invasion singing duo Peter and Gordon, played hit songs from the sixties with a highly talented backup band and entertained the audience with stories mixed in with personal photos and short film excerpts in his hit show, "A Musical Memoir of the 60s and Beyond" that closed Sunday night at the Razz Room in San Francisco after a successful 5 night run.
Beatles fans will be delighted to know that Peter Asher was the very first person to hear John Lennon and Paul McCartney perform their brand new song "I Want to Hold Your Hand" after John asked Peter to come listen to their newly composed song which they wrote and played on Asher family upright piano in the Asher family home basement music room. Peter said if ever he was at the right place at the right time, it was when he got to hear the Beatles new song played for the first time, with John sitting next to Paul at the upright piano. Peter said he "it was a fantastic song" and liked it so much he asked them to play it again for them and was taken aback by the magic of being around when these great hit songs were being written.
Peter showed pictures of the Asher home and pointed out where his room was on the top floor and that Paul McCartney's room was opposite his room and told the story of how his eldest sister Jane Asher, an established actress who was on the British TV show, "Jukebox Jury", had been asked by a local magazine "Radio Times" to go see the Beatles play and to write a review. He says Jane absolutely loved the Beatles performance and says they were great. She met them after their concert and Peter says Paul "took a liking to Jane."
Paul McCartney wrote several songs for the Peter and Gordon singing duo, including their number 1 hit A World Without Love, Nobody I Know, I Don't Want To See You Again, and Woman.
Peter Asher shared stories of how he first got to hear the Rolling Stones when they were still a house band that played Thursday nights at The Ken Coyler Jazz Club in London and became friends with Mick Jagger and confessed he was to blame for introducing Marianne Faithful to Mick Jagger which resulted in Marianne leaving her husband for Mick.
Peter showed photos of himself in his signature 60s Buddy Holly square black glasses which actor Mike Meyers immortalized as Austin Powers, the nerdy rockstar with bad teeth that women found irresistible during the height of the swinging sixties in London made famous in the Austin Powers film series. While Peter described himself as a 'Folk Jazz Nerd', he called Gordon Waller as a "Elvis Presley Rock n' Roller", both idolized the Everly Brothers, and modeled their singing duo after them in the beginning.
Peter joked that he was responsible for the Beatles breakup because along with Barry Miles and John Dunbar, as one of the three co-owners of the Indica Gallery and Bookstore, John Lennon met Yoko Ono at an art exhibit held on November 9th, 1966 at the Indica Gallery and showed a film clip of John talking about his experience that day going through one of the art exhibits. None other than Paul McCartney helped put up the book shelves for the bookstore and he also made a street map of the Indica Gallery/Bookstore that ended up being used as artwork; lastly a photo of Peter with his sister Jane Asher are shown behind the counter of the Indica Bookstore which was styled after San Francisco's City Lights bookstore and even hosted famous Beat authors like Allen Ginsberg.
Peter dropped out of King's College in London where he was a philosophy major to tour the United States since he had a number one album "World Without Love" and says he never returned back to college and has no regrets. EMI's A&R Manager Norman Newell recruited Peter and Gordon and signed them to a record contract after hearing them play at the Pickwick club in 1964 and were managed by Richard Armitage. It was at Abbey Road while producing their hit singles and albums that Peter discovered his true love: "producing records is my favorite thing".
When the Beatles formed Apple Records in 1968, Peter Asher became head of A&R who recruited James Taylor as his first new artist. Peter then goes on to describe how Paul McCartney discovered, signed Mary Hopkins and helped with her first big hit "Those were the Days", George Harrison signed up and helped produce Jackie Lomax's first album with Eric Clapton playing guitar solo and Ringo playing drums, and it was none other than Beatles roadie Mal Evans who discovered The Iveys who changed their name to BadFinger and went on to have several hit singles. Jeff Alan Ross, who is the keyboardist for Peter Asher's backup band, and was also the keyboardist for BadFinger in the early 80s and played one of BadFinger's hit songs.
After Allen Klein came on board at Apple, Peter left Apple and moved to Los Angeles where he signed James Taylor as his first performing artist for his new management company based in Los Angeles where he became a highly successful record producer and produced Linda Ronstadt and Carole King in addition to James Taylor, and went on to become a two time Grammy Award winner for Producer of the Year.
Among the highlights of Peter's show were the two songs that Peter performed live with filmed clips of his late partner Gordon using Gordon playing at some concerts taken a few years before his death. Peter reunited with Gordon in 2005 for a benefit concert and went on to do a series of concerts over the years before Gordon died in 2009.
Peter continues to be a successful record producer and most recently has been involved with a Buddy Holly tribute, and produces songs for various film projects, most recently "Pirates of the Caribbean 4" and "Madagascar 3".
Peter Asher returns to Los Angeles and then opens in New York City on June 19th. For more information, go to http://feinsteinsattheregency.com/performance.php?id=620. To hear a 2 hour interview recently recorded on Berkeley based KPFA radio, go to http://www.kpfa.org/archive/id/80655.
Published May 21, 2012