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Peter Asher - Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago, 27/1/2013

  by Lisa Torem

published: 24 / 1 / 2013

Peter Asher - Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago, 27/1/2013


Lisa Torem finds Peter Asher's multi-media show of his memoirs of the 1960s both evocative and riveting at a show at The Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago

It is one thing to have lived through the legendary 1960s, but it is another to recreate the phenomenal artistry and spirit that informed pop culture across both sides of the pond – tonight Peter Asher accomplished both. In his concert hall appearance at Chicago’s Old Town School, the triple-threat performer/producer/label executive presented his retrospective on the 60s, featuring a one-off band and a multi-media slide show. Admittedly, Asher is not the only artist actively documenting pop culture history, but unlike some of his colleagues he really had first hand experience and really did his homework, though he admitted to the full house, “I know it’s not very clear what you’ve come to…” True, his chronology of the events that shaped this golden era might have been scattershot, but Asher’s enthusiasm for story telling never waned. In 1964, the British singer became half of the duo, Peter and Gordon. Their tools of the trade were evocative, but simple: Gordon Waller’s (who died in 2009) booming baritone, softened by Asher’s choirboy tenor, created Everly Brothers’ inspired harmonies. Guitar arrangements strikingly supported the bittersweet melodies they made famous. Their material included chestnuts supplied by Del Shannon and Paul McCartney – Asher’s sister, Jane, had been engaged to McCartney, so the family offered the then Beatle the use of their home in London. During this time, McCartney and Asher forged a deep friendship and cultivated their mutual love of pop music. Onstage, the musicians were dressed formally. Cleverly, Asher backtracked to post war Britain in the 1950s as the slide show began. He explained that he and his youthful British pals were enamoured with all things American: movie stars, home appliances and the country’s curious musical textures. Asher exclaimed, “We all admired America tremendously. Everyone had perfect teeth and huge cars with giant beautiful fins.” The screen jammed with vintage black and white shots of songwriters Chuck Berry, Leiber and Stoller and Smokey Robinson. Asher humbly admitted that he had loved the American bebop style, but “I knew I could never play that music.” Early folk/rock and roll, however, only required a simple knowledge of chords. It was a perfect fit. In addition, Asher fell under the spell of Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly. Gordon Waller, however, was more of a rocker. Their rendition of ‘Crying in the Rain’ was a great example of a simple arrangement with a touching rhyme scheme. The folk idiom continued with their version of ‘500 Miles.’ The relationship with McCartney benefitted both parties when ‘A World Without Love’ was presented to the duo. McCartney’s original lyric and chord sheet appeared on the screen, inspiring some “aahs” from the balcony. Asher discussed their first number one song in America with glee. He relied on some more vintage shots as the band played ‘I Don’t Want to See You Again.’ Some comical moments occurred when Asher showed clips of popular American TV shows, in which they had been asked to perform in hokey skits and dance routines. After performing another McCartney tune, ‘Nobody I Know,’ he let the characters onscreen introduce famous pop star events; John Lennon, for example, explained how he fell in love with Yoko Ono’s performance art piece at Asher’s co-owned Indica Gallery. Eventually Peter and Gordon’s act fell by the wayside, while each took on other pursuits, but 38 years later at a benefit for Dave Clark Five singer, Mike Smith, who suffered paralysis after a spinal injury, they appeared once again to enthusiastic audiences. An actual clip of Buddy Holly on film enhanced Asher’s ‘True Love Ways’. After a brief intermission, the band returned and Asher performed the tongue and cheek ‘Lady Godiva,’ a tune he once dismissed as a silly novelty song. That song became another hit for the duo. Jeffrey Alan Ross, who serves as Asher’s musical director, was part of the 1986-87 Badfinger tour. Ross manned the keys and sang lead vocals on ‘Day After Day.’ Asher warmly underscored his relationship with singer-songwriter James Taylor, whom he managed and brought to America. After hearing the young songwriter’s demos, he was “completely blown away.” Asher also discussed the many albums he produced for Linda Ronstadt and Diana Ross, while serving as vice president at Sony Records as well as the ‘Live at the Troubadour’ album project, which brought back together his clients, Carole King and James Taylor, who had played at the popular LA club. His other production projects were also well supported by anecdotes and lively visuals, especially when he performed the song, ‘Woman,’ which McCartney penned using a pseudonym. Though the encore was short, it was satisfying. After all, the show was a good two hours long and his story had been well told. Plus, Asher had done such an excellent job of keeping this treasure at bay that when the audience finally got to sing along to ‘A World Without Love’, the intimate hall felt cozy and warm despite the icy temperatures outside on this bitter cold January night. Afterwards, Asher invited the fans to chat while he signed a room full of CDs and photographs. It was an educational and heartwarming concert and one that this all ages’ audience could relate well to. Despite the occasional eerie feeling that many of Asher’s friends (and our own cultural icons) are no longer with us, it was a joyful night governed by Asher’s keen insights and brilliant balladry. The photographs that accompany this article were taken by Philamonjaro at www.philamonjaro.com.

Picture Gallery:-
Peter Asher - Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago, 27/1/2013

Peter Asher - Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago, 27/1/2013

Peter Asher - Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago, 27/1/2013

Peter Asher - Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago, 27/1/2013

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Interview (2011)
Peter Asher - Interview
Peter Asher from 60's duo Peter and Gordon speaks to Lisa Torem about his long career as both a musician and a producer, and his new two part memoirs show

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