A long-time pal of Sir Paul McCartney, half of British Invasion duo Peter & Gordon and producer of soon-to-be-inducted Linda Ronstadt's best albums, Peter Asher is a living legend in his own right. When we had him on the phone to discuss the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' arrival in the U.S. and the anniversary of Peter & Gordon's Beatles-penned transatlantic chart-topper "A World Without Love," we asked Asher to play along with a PopSessions questionnaire. Here are the results.
What is the first album you bought with your own money, and where did you buy it from?
In London from probably HMV, which was the nearest one to us and it was "Rock With the Caveman" by Tommy Steele. It's a toss-up between that and "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley, but I think bought "Rock With the Caveman" first.
What was the first concert you attended, and where?
It was a classical music concert. My mother was a professional oboe player, so at an extremely young age I went to concerts. My mother used to carry me around to concerts when she was playing in orchestras entertaining troops. The first rock 'n' roll concert was Bill Haley at the Dominion on Tottenham Court Road (in the late '50s). My sister Jane and I insisted on going and our parents took us.
What was the artist/song/video/album/concert that made you go, "Wow, making music is what I want to do too"?
The first time I thought that was when we (Peter & Gordon) first recorded because I loved the recording studio so much. On this Jan. 21 (1964) when Gordon and I went into the real recording for the first time to do "A World Without Love," I was enthralled. I loved the technology and there were these great musicians that you could actually make suggestions to and they'd try stuff for you. I thought, 'This is great. I hope I can do this some more.'"
What song by another artist makes you go, "Darn, I really wish I'd written or recorded that"?
Recently, I would say the Nate Ruess-Pink song ("Just Give Me a Reason"). It's totally modern, but it's also a great old-fashioned excellent song. Really good melody, good changes, everything. I would be very proud to have written that.
If you could duet with any recording artist, living or dead, who would your dream duet partner be?
I'm tempted to say Don Everly, because I'm such an Everly Brothers fan, but it wouldn't sound nearly as good as he and Phil did.
What has been your unfortunate onstage mishap?
In the old days, the worst thing was that you couldn't hear anything and that was the mishap. You couldn't hear anything, because monitor system hadn't been invented, the girls were all screaming, so you'd basically run around and wave and hope for the best.
What's the weirdest thing a fan has ever done for you or said to you?
When Beatlemania spread to all of us involved in the British Invasion, I remember jumping off stage at an outdoor gig and my glasses fell off and fell on the ground. We were playing a baseball field or something. I picked them up, put them back on and ran onwards and I noticed that one of the girls had knelt down and started pulling up the grass where my glasses had landed and was eating it, like the grass blades themselves had some sort of magic powers because of my glasses.
What's the one genre of music you'd never try to do yourself, and why not?
Jazz. I'm a huge jazz fan and I know I'm nowhere near a good enough musician to ever play it.
Do you do karaoke? If so, what's your go-to karaoke song?
I did go to a karaoke bar once with my daughter and they had "A World Without Love" on their oldies list, so I did sing it.
What's the most surprising song/artist on your iPod or phone?
I suppose in a way the fact that I've got a bunch of classical stuff on there. The Hilary Hahn Bach Violin Concertos are amazing.
What's the most recent album you've purchased?
Sarah Jarosz's "Bulid Me Up from Bones."
Most recent concert you attended?
Albert Lee's 70th (birthday show at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, Calif.)
The Beatles or Rolling Stones?
Beatles, but I love them both. I used to see the Stones once a week when they were playing an R&B club before they even made a record.
Elvis Presley or Buddy Holly?
Buddy Holly, because I love songwriters.
Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera?
Oh gosh. I guess Christina Aguilera. She's a better singer.
The Notorious B.I.G. or Tupac Shakur?
Tupac. I'm more familiar with his work, based on no expertise whatsoever.