Gary James' Interview With Peter Asher of
Peter and Gordon
His legendary career began in 1964 as one-half of the singing duo Peter and Gordon, who amassed nine Top 20 records (three of them Gold) during their career. Peter and Gordon were often called the "Everly Brothers of the British Invasion". In fact, they were the first British Invasion act other than The Beatles to have a single (45) record go to number one.
The duo traveled extensively all over the world and appeared on the top television shows of the day, including Thank Your Lucky Stars, Top Of The Pops, Shindig and Hullabaloo. In 1968, Peter Asher became head of A&R for The Beatles newly formed record label, Apple Records, where he signed and produced James Taylor. In 1971, Peter moved to the U.S. and founded Peter Asher Management, representing James Taylor and beginning in 1973, the management and production of Linda Ronstadt as well. Peter Asher Management became one of the most successful artist management companies in the U.S., handling artists such as Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman and Carole King as well as James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt.
As a producer, Mr. Asher has worked with such artists as James Taylor, 10,000 Maniacs, Diana Ross, Neil Diamond, Ringo Starr, Linda Ronstadt, Cher, Morrissey, Robin Williams, Robbie Williams, Elvis Costello, Jane Monheit, Kenny Loggins, Dan Fogelberg, Heart, The Dixie Chicks, Billy Joel and the list goes on and on. He has been awarded 37 RIAA certified Gold albums and 22 Platinum albums in the U.S. and many more internationally. Mr. Asher has produced nine Grammy Award winning recordings and in 1977 and 1989 was honored with the Grammy Award for Producer Of The Year.
In February, 1995, Peter Asher was named Senior Vice President of Sony Music Entertainment. In early 2002, Peter became co-President of Sanctuary Artist management. In January, 2005, he was named President of Sanctuary Artist Management, a position he currently holds.
Q - I should probably start off by asking you what your job entails as President of the Sanctuary Group.
A - Well, working with various clients of the management company and helping to run the whole company. It's been through various transitional events lately, but mostly still just advising and managing artists as I have been before.
Q - You actually left your position at Sony for this job, didn't you?
A - I did, yes. Sony was undergoing a number of substantial changes at the time.
Q - This is obviously a better position for you?
A - Well, they're different. Sony was changing a lot, so it seemed like the right time to move on. I liked working at Sony very much. It's a great company and there were great people there, but most of the people I know there have all gone by now. It's very much a new world over there.
Q - Of late, the best thing that's happened to the record business seems to be Simon Cowell and American Idol, because they've sparked a real interest in Pop music again. Would you agree?
A - I don't know if it's the best thing that's ever happened in the record business, but I think over all it's been a positive thing, yes. I think it's a good thing.
Q - How difficult of a transition was it to go from being a singer / songwriter to a personal manager?
A - It wasn't really that hard. I mean, I found James Taylor and I really believed in him. I didn't know who else we would trust to do it. So, we decided that I should do it. I knew I had a lot of learning to do, hands on learning on the way, but I knew some people I trusted in the business to ask and I believed so strongly in James' ability and talent, it was actually not that hard. I think the trick is to admit when you don't know something and go to the trouble of finding out how to do it properly.
Q - How did studying philosophy at London University prepare you for the position you now hold?
A - That's an interesting one. (laughs) Only slightly I would say. Philosophy isn't directly relevant to the music business, but as an intellectual exercise, I suppose anything that encourages you to think logically and clearly and to analyze the situation with some degree of logic and tenacity can only be helpful.
Q - We were given this impression in America, that in the late 50s, early 60s, every kid in England was in a band. What's the explanation for that. Was it the influence of Elvis? Buddy Holly?
A - I think a number of people were Buddy Holly and Elvis fans, yes. A lot of kids wanted to play. It wasn't universal. I think the reason Gordon and I started playing together was that when we were at school together, we were the only two kids who played and sang, so, it wasn't that universal. But, yes, rock 'n' roll had arrived. Rock 'n' Roll from the moment it arrived, one of its appeals were that everyone could identify with and everyone could enjoy. But it was also music that wasn't very hard to play, so people could jump in and try doing it themselves...and they did.
Q - You told Edward Kiersh, the author of the book Where Are You Now Bo Diddley? that "When we came over to the U.S. in '64, the road trips were a nightmare of inefficiency and confusion."
A - Yeah it was.
Q - You went on to say, "Our manager was never around and there were times we didn't get to sing." Where was your manager and why didn't you get to sing? Did you get paid?
A - I don't remember the latter. I'm not sure which gig I was referring to, but our manager was back in London. He didn't show up. We later found out he was terrified of flying, which is OK if he had appointed somebody competent to run things, but it was badly organized. I don't remember the particular occasion I'm referring to. But, I imagine if we didn't sing, we probably didn't get paid.
Q - Why didn't you ever get Brian Epstein as your manager?
A - Because we were a London group...met in London. The manager was recommended to us by E.M.I. Records when we were signing with them and Brian was pretty much exclusively dealing with all Liverpool people. And, I didn't know Brian anyway. I had no reason to know him.
Q - You probably could've gotten an introduction pretty easily.
A - I would imagine so.
Q - Did you like being famous in 1964, 1965?
A - Oh, yes. It was fun. I don't think I'd necessarily like it long term, but the kind of moderate fame we enjoyed and occasionally the full army of girls chasing you was fun. I enjoyed it.
Q - To have been a singer / songwriter / musician in 1964 from England, with a sister dating Paul McCartney and a hit song written for you by Paul McCartney, life couldn't have been much better could it?
A - It was good. We were having a very good time, no question about it.
Q - So why then did you two go your separate ways?
A - Nothing specific happened. We were enjoying it less. It all got rather trying, because the fact things weren't very together and we were getting on each other's nerves. Gordon wanted to sing on his own anyway. He had always harbored some ambition to be a solo singer as well. So, we just kind of drifted. There was never any particular cataclysmic type of event. And then I drifted into doing other things obviously, so it became less relevant.
Q - Of your Apple Records days, you said, "It was a disaster. There was no organization what so ever. I didn't know who I was supposed to sign, who they (The Beatles) were signing." Who hired you for the job?
A - That's a mis-quote. It's not correct. I never said it was a disaster. Indeed one of the misperceptions about Apple is that it was a disaster. It was a muddle. That's for sure. I could describe it as a muddle, but it actually accomplished quit a lot with the muddle. I had as A&R meeting once a week with as many Beatles that could bother to attend. We eventually got there. We did sign some acts. We made some records. We put them out. They did quite well. It was confusing for sure, but it wasn't a disaster. It may have ended as a disaster, but that's another story.
Q - So, you answered to all four Beatles and not one Beatle in particular?
A - Yes. The Beatles were the boss. The boss within the company would have been Ron Kass, who we collectively brought in to be the actual head of the label. In the corporate sense, I reported to Ron Kass. But in fact, we were all very much aware The Beatles were the boss of the company. The final decision was theirs.
Q - You talked about Brian Epstein in the book Off The Record by Joe Smith. You said "Brian ran things a certain way. It later dawned on The Beatles that Brian didn't know much more than they knew, but he was so well-meaning, so honorable." What does that mean?
A - I think Brian was learning as they were, as he went along. But, I think his intentions were wholly good I think whatever people have accused Brian of being - not a very good manager or making business mistakes, I've always felt that his belief in the band and his own sense of commitment and honesty and straightforwardness made him an invaluable asset to the band and a good manager.