This past January we decided on the spur of the moment to head over to the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis for the first of Peter Asher’s two nights at the club. Arriving with no expectations, we loved Asher’s show. Asher returns to the Dakota for two shows, next Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. This year we’re bringing along several friends for Tuesday night’s show; we hope they will enjoy the show half as much as we did last year.
Asher was one of the principals in the sixties British Invasion duo Peter and Gordon. His show is titled A Musical Memoir of the 60s and Beyond. Previewing last year’s show, the Star Tribune’s Jon Bream called Asher the Forrest Gump of rock. Wrong! Al Kooper is the Forrest Gump of rock, as a reader of Kooper’s memoir Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards will readily conclude. Even so, the appellation gives short shrift to the talent that led to long and varied careers for both Kooper and Asher.
Asher’s show recaps his career in a sort of VH1 Storytellers format while drawing on the resources of an excellent multimedia presentation displayed on monitors around the room. The presentation includes video clips of Asher’s late partner, Gordon Waller, allowing for re-creation of several of the duo’s hits with Peter and band performing live.
Asher recalls that Gordon had the looks, the voice, and the taste for rock that helped launch them as a team, but it was Paul McCartney who gave them their first hit, a worldwide number one: “World Without Love.” McCartney was rooming across the hall from Asher on the third floor of the Asher family home at 57 Wimpole Street, the Asher family putting him up while Paul was dating Asher’s sister Jane and the Beatles were in the first flush of their success in the United Kingdom.
This year Asher has added a newly discovered treasure to the show: a tape of Paul McCartney teaching him how to sing “World Without Love.” (David Browne writes about it for Rolling Stone here.) I happened to catch it on Sirius-XM’s ’60s channel courtesy of Cousin Brucie earlier this week. What a kick.
The first half of Asher’s show covers the birth of Peter and Gordon from the time the two were high school students to the time they went their separate ways. After a brief intermission, Peter picks up the story with his hiring by the Beatles to head up A & R for Apple Records, in which capacity he signed James Taylor. Seeing the signs of disintegration at Apple, Asher left to manage Taylor’s career and go into record production — a second career that brought him his two Grammy Awards.
Peter reunited with Gordon in 2005 at the request of Paul Shaffer for a benefit concert in New York. Seeing the effect of the performance on their old fans, Asher modestly relates, he discovered that there was “nothing wrong” with revisiting the old songs. The show is a totally satisfying walk down memory lane performed with style and wit. Backed by a four-piece band, Asher himself is a generous and engaging performer.
We stayed around after the show last year to chat with a couple of old friends who were in attendance. They enjoyed the show too. Asher graciously took a spot at a table in the back of the room to sign posters and discs for fans. I took the opportunity to get a picture with him. He stayed until the room emptied. I think he would have turned out the lights and locked the door if Dakota proprietor Lowell Pickett had asked.
When I wrote about the show last year (and this post draws on what I wrote then), John posted the video below of Peter and Gordon lip-syncing “World Without Love.” During the show Asher recalls how John Lennon had mocked McCartney’s lyrics at the start of the song (“Please lock me away…”), with the result that the song was locked away from the Beatles. A good melody, however, comes to the rescue. Thanks to Peter and Gordon, the world is not without “World Without Love”!