- - Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Music Legend Peter Asher has done it all. As the bespectacled half of British Invasion rockers Peter and Gordon, Mr. Asher released a ton of hits on a legion of screaming girls that included “I Got to Pieces” and “World Without Love.” A friendship with his sister’s former boyfriend — some guy named Paul McCartney — led to Mr. Asher doing A&R for The Beatles record label, Apple. While there he discovered and signed an unknown singer named James Taylor.

As a manger and producer he guided the careers of everyone from Linda Ronstadt to Robin Williams to Bonnie Raitt to Billy Joel, The Dixie Chicks, Neil Diamond, Ed Sheeran and more. Mr. Asher is now producing the Broadway play “Bright Star” and touring with fellow ‘60s survivor Albert Lee. In advance of the duo’s Tuesday evening gig at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, I spoke with Mr. Asher about his astonishing career in music.

Question: When Peter and Gordon started, was there competition between you guys and the other British Invasion artists like Chad & Jeremy?

Answer: There was. But more than competition, we were mistaken for each other. They would do “The Patty Duke Show” or “Batman,” and people would congratulate us the next day. We would do the big shows like “Ed Sullivan.”

If you think about it, it is quite extraordinary that there were two English duos that were successful in America. Both featured the tall handsome one that sang the low part and the short nerdy one with glasses who sang the high part. I’m not surprised people got confused.

Q: What was it like to be part of the “British Invasion”?

A: The key part of it to us was that was how we got to come to America. The British Invasion was bands that all fell in love with American music, then learned it all, copied it and sold it back to you.

We dreamt of going there when they told us we had a No. 1 record in America, or when they told The Beatles they had a No 1., our reactions were the same. We said, “Now we get to go. They have to take us.”

I still believe that the British Invasion was 90 percent the genius of The Beatles and 10 [percent] of the rest of us all put together.

Q: You had a special connection to the Fab Four early on.

A: My sister Jane is an actress who was quite well known at the time. She was on the show “Jukebox Jury,” which was a show where they rated the new records. Because of that she was asked to write for “The Radio Times.” She went to see this new band, thought they were great, wrote a review. She liked them, they liked her.

One of them named Paul McCartney asked her out. They ended up dating. Our parents took pity on him and gave him the guest room. Paul McCartney and I shared the top floor of my family’s home in London. Before things broke.

Q: How did you make the transition to producer?

A: From the first time I was in the studio, I knew it was something I wanted to do. I loved the process. During our Peter and Gordon recordings, I became more and more involved with the producer. Once I was there and watched what a producer does, it was thrilling. I decided I wanted to be a record producer. Then I started to produce things for Apple and found James [Taylor].

Q: How did you discover James Taylor?

A: I was hired as head of A&R for Apple. I found James through Danny Kortchmar, who was in a band with James called The Flying Machine. When Flying Machine broke up, James came to London to see his girlfriend. Danny gave him my phone number, unaware of my new job.

He came over to my place and picked up a guitar and played me a few songs. I was completely blown away. I said, “Look, it so happens I just got this new job doing A&R for a record company. I can sign people. Would you like a record deal?” He said, “Yes please.” I said, “Come in the office tomorrow and meet the owners of the label,” who happened to be The Beatles.

Q: Are there any artists today you think of as a modern James Taylor?

A: I said that [about] Ed Sheeran. First time I heard him, I wrote him a letter. Then we met and got on great. When we are in public, people think I’m his dad.

Q: How did you come to team up and tour with Albert Lee?

A: We’ve run into each other on various occasions. There was a benefit we were both doing, so we worked out a couple songs together. I have been a fan of his forever. I met him years back through Emmylou [Harris], who I met through Linda [Ronstadt]. It was suggested that we try and figure out a show thatwe should do of some songs and stories in a very informal, living room-type nature.

Q: What songs are you playing?

A: We do some Peter and Gordon songs, Everly Brothers songs. Gordon and I based ourselves on The Everly Brothers. Albert has a history of working with them. The Peter and Gordon hits sound great with Albert singing them. Not that I don’t miss Gordon.

Q: When you look back on your career, do you have favorite moments?

A: Hearing James [Taylor]for the first time. A&R meetings once a week with The Beatles. Finishing “You’re No Good” with Linda [Ronstadt] and saying, “If this isn’t a hit … “

I’m as excited now. Did two albums with Steve Martin and Edie Brickell that turned into the stage show “Bright Star.” I was nominated for four Tony Awards. I also work with Hans Zimmer on movie stuff. We have a project for Dreamworks coming up with Tim Minchin.

Peter Asher & Albert Lee play Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club Tuesday. Tickets are $35 by going to InstantTickets.com.


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