Peter and Jeremy To Recall The British Invasion’s Impact on America in Two Area Shows
The two duos Peter and Gordon and Chad and Jeremy were so often confused with one another during the British Invasion in 1964 that Chad and Jeremy’s label mistakenly put a photo of Peter and Gordon on the back cover of a Chad and Jeremy compilation album. Now 56 years later, Gordon Waller is 11 years gone, and Peter Asher has teamed up to tour with the other member of Peter’s former competitive duo, Jeremy Clyde of Chad and Jeremy to play two dates in our area, Hudson Falls on Friday, March 5th, and The Egg in Albany the next day.
Peter has spent the intervening half century as a guitarist, singer, record producer, actor, and manager. He has played on and/or produced albums by artists as disparate as Bonnie Raitt, Cher, Robin Williams, Randy Newman, Neil Diamond, Tony Joe White, Diana Ross, Kenny Loggins, and posthumous releases by Buddy Holly. He was a record executive for The Beatles’ Apple Records, was senior vice president of Sony Records Entertainment and is credited with being pivotal in the development of the California sound. He was James Taylor’s manager and producer and has managed Linda Ronstadt. So, fasten your seat belts. This tour promises a lot more than a rehash of old hits by the two duos.
Steve Smith of the Los Angeles Daily News described the evening: “The duo oozed a refreshing abundance of natural English good humor and charm as they told tale after tale from their fabled careers…their voices blended seamlessly…(they) sound virtually identical even 50 years later.”
“(The show) has to be quite organized because there’s video in it and things in it,” explains Peter, “so obviously things do have to be in a certain order, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a stream of consciousness element. Nothing is ever quite the same in any live show, but there are certain elements that it contains, so it’s a bit of a makeshift. But within that structure we allow ourselves a degree of freedom.”
Perhaps the most interesting element in Peter Asher’s background is his early friendship with Paul McCartney. Peter’s sister Jane dated Paul early in The Beatles’ short career. McCartney gave three Lennon/McCartney songs to Peter and Gordon, all of which went top 20 in 1964: “A World Without Love,” “Nobody I Know,” and “I Don’t Want to See You Again.” Peter published a book in 2019 The Beatles “From Me to You” named after his SiriusXM radio show of the same name on The Beatles channel.
“An import that came in like a bomb”
I asked him what the British Invasion was like from the inside looking out before the Beatles hit the states in 1964. “It was different in England because the folk thing wasn’t as big. We had our own version of it, the skiffle craze, but it wasn’t quite as alien to us because we were all British, and we were there already, so it may have seemed like more of an organic growth in England whereas in America it was an import that came in like a bomb.
“The cultural impact may not have been as extreme in the same way that we didn’t look at Beatle haircuts and go, “How revolutionary and weird.” America, where everyone had a ’50s crewcut, did. In England, we’d see students with (that) haircut, so it didn’t seem as radical. So, I suppose in America the contrast was greater.”
“We were in love with American music. I mean that was the key. What seemed revolutionary was actually we were in love with American music. We appreciated it even more than you did. I mean (The United States) was a really far away country, and you had to really search to find the cool blues records (in England). I was a big bee-bop fan, and all of that music was so far away in this magical land of America across the sea that none of us had ever been to, and we only knew from movies and television, and from its extraordinary music. One of the things that Jeremy and I (talk) about in our show is that, that we’re all emulating and idolizing American music. It’s a miracle we were able to tweak it ever so slightly and sell it all back to you. It’s astonishing.”
British artists often tell me that we Americans didn’t appreciate our own heritage until they sold it back to us. I explained to Peter that the best music of the pre-Beatles era came from African American artists and that prior to the 1964 civil rights laws it was difficult to come by the lesser known black musicians who were being covered by The Beatles, but more so the Stones, Animals, Clapton, and The Yardbirds from the U.K. The cruel joke was that because of our racial inequality and lack of civil rights I as a white student at Tufts University had a hard time finding a B.B. King album. I had to go down to the Combat Zone to Skippy White’s Record Store in the black section, not an advisable trip for an 18-year-old white kid.
“Exactly,” he responded. “In England, we were used to searching for records, you know, and it was different. Americans didn’t take it very seriously. It was music from the other side of the tracks and no question.”
Peter was not surprised by the bomb-like effect The Beatles had in America. “Not really a surprise, no, because it was very clear how inventive and how ambitious in every sense of the word musically and artistically (they were) as well as show business-wise. They were ambitious in every sense, and so nothing they did came as a surprise. It was impressive, but I wouldn’t say surprising.”
In retrospect, does Peter think Peter and Gordon would have made it out of the English coffee shops and onto the pop charts had the Beatles not opened the flood gates? “No idea. Impossible to know. I get an awful lot of what-ifs. What if John hadn’t died? What if this happened? I don’t know. When they signed us, they imagined us being folky. We might be Peter Paul and Mary or the Kingston Trio as it were, a British version thereof. One of the songs they wanted us to record was our version of (Peter, Paul and Mary’s) “500 Miles.” Whether it would have made it or not in (any sense) a number one record? Probably not. Would we have had a career? Probably yes, I would say.”
Peter Asher and Jeremy Clyde perform two area shows:
Thursday, March 5th, 7:30 p.m. The Strand, 210 Main St., in Hudson Falls.
Friday, March 6th, 8:00 p.m., The Egg, in Albany.