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Peter Asher's Multimedia Extravaganza

Legendary musical jack-of-all-trades brings his traveling memoir to Sportsmen’s Tavern

In 1964, a the heighth of Beatlemania, an English folk duo enjoyed a million-selling smash hit that soared to number one on both sides of the pond. Written by Paul McCartney, “A World Without Love” featured the tight harmonies of Peter Asher and Gordon Waller—known as Peter and Gordon—and the earnest, sentimental lyrics proved irresistible to American pop music fans that were giddily surrendering to the British Invasion. At the time, McCartney was dating Asher’s sister, British actress Jane Asher. The duo would go on to record other McCartney-penned songs, as well as covers of Buddy Holly and Del Shannon tunes before disbanding in 1968.

Asher then made the leap from behind the microphone into a role as music executive for the Beatles’ Apple Records, where he was responsible for signing James Taylor, whose career he would eventually go on to manage as it took off in the 1970s. As a producer, he’s been awarded 37 RIAA-certified gold albums and 22 platinum. He’s twice been named Producer of the Year at the Grammy Awards, and twelve records he’s produced have received Grammys. Artists he’s worked with include Diana Ross, Neil Diamond, Ringo Starr, Linda Ronstadt, Cher, Morrissey, Elvis Costello, Kenny Loggins, the Dixie Chicks, and Billy Joel, among many others. He also produced the breakthrough album In My Tribe by Jamestown band 10,000 Maniacs. Asher is, as they say, very well connected in the music biz.

On Saturday, he brings his live show, “Peter Asher: A Musical Memoir of the ’60s and Beyond,” to the Sportsmen’s Tavern Music Hall. Artvoice caught up with the jovial Mr. Asher from his Los Angeles home, where he explained how he got back into live performance after a 38-year hiatus.

“Peter and Gordon got back together in 2005, at the instigation of [Late Show with David Letterman band leader] Paul Shaffer for a benefit in New York at B. .B. King’s to benefit Mike Smith of the Dave Clark Five, who’d had a terrible accident. I said yes because of Mike Smith and because of Paul Shaffer and for all these good reasons it seemed like the right time to do it after a 38-year gap,” he explains. “We then found that we still sounded like ourselves—after a lot of rehearsing, I have to say—and it was fun to do.” They performed a few more such reunions on request. “I noticed people enjoyed the stories that I was telling about what happened when, and why—as much as they did the music,” Asher recalls.

These reunions turned out to be short-lived, when Waller passed away suddenly due to a heart attack in 2009.

“When I realized there weren’t going to be any more proper Peter and Gordon shows, this idea occurred to me—because I’d done a number of speeches and key note addresses and stuff like that—this whole thing combined in my brain, that maybe there’s a way that I can sing some songs, tell some stories, show some photographs, show some old videos—and try to give people a sense of that time,” he says.

“It turned into a sort of retrospective of my career, from the time I was a child actor at the age of eight, up to the present. That’s how it came to be, and that’s kind of what it is. My whole career has been a series of fortunate coincidences.”

Asher’s career is more than just a walk down memory lane, however. He continues to be involved in a number of projects, and talks with great enthusiasm about his recent involvement with a Buddy Holly tribute project called “Listen to Me: The Ultimate Buddy Party,” which has been airing on PBS since December. He also co-wrote (with Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics) and sings “Love Always Comes as a Surprise” from the movie Madagascar 3. He’s worked on the production of music for a number of recent Hollywood films, and collaborated with composer Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams on the musical elements of the 2012 Academy Awards show.

He’s currently producing a new record by actor/musician Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. How did that come about?

“Well, Steve is a friend of mine, and I was having dinner at his house. And he and Edie are friends—probably because Steve is friends with Edie’s husband [Paul Simon]. And Steve had played Edie some of these great banjo tunes he was working on—not finished, but in progress—and she joined in, and now there are these great songs that they wrote between them, with these cool melodies and elaborate banjo arrangements. You know, Steve is a really extraordinarily good banjo player, and Edie, who I didn’t really know before, although I know Paul—I honestly didn’t realize what a fantastically great singer she is. Boy, is she good. Came in and nailed everything in one take,” he raves.

Peter Asher performs more songs and stories from his past and present, complete with full band and multi-media backdrop at the Sportsmen’s Tavern Music Hall this Saturday, January 19, at 8pm. Visit sportsmenstavern.com for more info.

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