Paul McCartney and Peter Asher. Credit: Courtesy of Peter Asher
Paul McCartney's masterpiece is my pension pot reveals Peter Asher
PETER ASHER may no longer be topping the charts but the 1960s pop star-turned-producer isn't unduly worried. And the reason is that stashed secretly away in a vault is the original handwritten music and lyrics of a Paul McCartney song, which Peter admits is his rainy day fund should he ever need it.
By KATHRYN SPENCER
PUBLISHED: Tue, May 8, 2018
Peter Asher has revealed he is ready to run to Sotheby's with the music at a moments notice
The number is World Without Love, a discarded Beatles track written by Macca which he kindly donated to the then unknown Peter and his music partner Gordon Waller, aka harmonising, cut glassaccented British folk rock duo Peter and Gordon.
The mournful but catchy ditty became a number one smash hit for them on both sides of the Atlantic in 1964 as part of the "British pop invasion" led by The Beatles and made university student Peter - older brother of McCartney's teenage actress girlfriend Jane Asher - an overnight star.
"Paul wrote out the words and the chords of the song for me on a piece of paper," recalls Peter.
"You'd better believe I've locked it away in a safe for the time when the music business goes completely to hell and I can run to Sotheby's like the wind," chortles the delightfully humorous and self-deprecating Peter, 73.
Indica Gallery opening 1965: Miles, Dunbar, Faithfull, Asher, McCartney
But with an estimated £35million fortune from his work as a Grammywinning international music producer he is probably never likely to need the money.
Still, McCartney living as a guest for two years at the Asher parents' home in London's Wimpole Street - Asher Snr was an eminent medical consultant - certainly had its advantages for aspiring musician Peter.
"Paul moved into our family house, although he was often away a lot on tour. We became friends and he mentioned to me an unfinished song of his, World Without Love.
"He explained it was unfinished because John Lennon didn't think it was right for The Beatles. Then Gordon and I got a record deal after being spotted in the clubs and signed by Norman Newell of EMI records."
Peter and Gordon as a young duo
Newell asked the duo if they had any songs they'd like to record. "I went back to Paul and said 'Is that song still on offer?' and he said 'yes' and that was our first hit. I owe Paul a huge debt of gratitude and it changed my life for ever."
It certainly did. Suddenly the Ashers' upper-middle-class and academic family house (Peter's mother was a music professor) became the home of not just one but two chart-topping pop stars - and a shrine for adoring female fans.
Recalls ex-Westminster public schoolboy Peter: "People inevitably found out who lived there and we'd have all these girls on the doorstep which undoubtedly stretched the patience of my father. Some of the girls were there for me as well as Paul. We both had fans, no question. Yes, it was fun that era."
Peter, an unlikely-looking pop idol - small, ginger and a selfconfessed "nerdy guy in glasses" - found himself feted here and in the USA. And as more hits came (some also written by Macca) he quit being a philosophy student at King's College, London.
As he recalls with still-boyish enthusiasm: "I enjoyed being a pop star. It was fantastic. All the music I fell in love with, such as Buddy Holly's, was American. To then arrive in a place you'd been idolising and be number one and see the New York skyline and the jazz clubs..."
"And then to be chased by screaming girls who wanted to rip your clothes off. Life doesn't get much better than that!" Peter and Gordon also visited Los Angeles where Peter now lives happily "by the ocean in Malibu" with second wife Wendy.
Recalling those early heady days of fame he muses in his - now transatlantic - tones: "It was great. A year earlier I'd been cycling off to school in the rain and suddenly I'm driving a Mustang Convertible down Sunset Boulevard in the sun being recognised by beautiful Californian blondes."
Peter's appearance later proved the visual model for retro comedy movie spy Austin Powers, which he takes with typical good grace. "There is a very evident comparison from old photos - the Buddy Holly glasses, the hairdo and the bad teeth - all of which I possessed," he laughs.
But gentlemanly and cerebral Peter was never a playboy like Austin. "No not at all, I don't see myself as that. I was only mildly 'shagadelic'. But I enjoyed the 1960s!"
Not that Peter was a stranger to showbusiness. Both he and sister Jane were child actors. "In my first film my mother was played by Claudette Colbert and my father by Jack Hawkins. I remember kissing Claudette very enthusiastically aged eight."
Later he played young Prince Arthur in the popular TV series Robin Hood starring Richard Greene. " I had to have archery lessons and riding lessons. I must have had a princely air," he jokes.
Paul McCartney briefly stayed with Peter at his family home on Wimpole street
"Jane of course is the one who stuck with acting and has made a successful career."
In 1965 Paul moved out of the Ashers' house to a St John's Wood "mansion" but in 1968 he and Jane broke up after she discovered him in bed with another girl.
Does Peter wish his friend and his sister had stayed together? (Jane famously refuses to discuss her ex-romance.) "I don't indulge in any such speculation. I stay completely out of that," he says diplomatically. By that time Peter and Gordon's star had faded and he was working as chief A&R man at The Beatles' company Apple.
"He and Jane did break up but I still had my job at Apple and Paul wanted me there." Was it an awkward time? "I don't really remember but I guess it all appeared as separate matters to me.
"Paul and I don't see each other very often but when we do it's very friendly." The last time they met, he recalls, "I said to him 'Do you realise it's 50 years since you gave us World Without Love? If I've forgotten to thank you in the interim, let me thank you now. Who knows what my career would be were it not for that song?'" Peter discovered US soft rock troubadour James Taylor in the late 1960s and relocated to America to become his manager and producer of several hit albums.
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He also launched the career of Linda Ronstadt and has produced many big names including Diana Ross, Neil Diamond and most recently Elton John and Ed Sheeran. He presents a Beatlesthemed radio show.
Peter first revived his performing career in 2005 when he and Gordon were invited to reunite for a benefit concert in the USA. "It was fun. And I'm so glad I did it as Gordon died a few years later."
Since then he's continued to perform, now with guitarist Albert Lee. They play Peter and Gordon, Buddy Holly and Everly Brothers numbers interspersed with Peter's autobiographical reminiscences.
"I enjoy the storytelling and the singing and audiences seem to enjoy it too. It's fun," he says.
"I guess I'm just a bit of a ham but I've always thrown myself into all my opportunities in life."
• Peter Asher is appearing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxfordshire, July 13-15. For info go to cornburyfestival.com
Beatles Files 1969 Paul McCartney with Peter Asher leaving Apples offices February 1969