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THE BEATLES IN THE USA: As one-half of the '60s duo Peter And Gordon (whose first hit, A World Without Love, was written by Paul McCartney), and later as the head of A&R for Apple Records, Peter Asher witnessed firsthand the phenomenon of Beatlemania, which hit the UK like a bolt from the blue in 1963 and exploded globally after the band's historic appearance in America on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9th, 1964.
“I was in Britain when The Beatles played Ed Sullivan, so at the time I, like everybody else, could only see it through the eyes of the UK press," Asher says. "The Brits love that kind of thing. Whenever a British star wins an Oscar, it’s like ‘Brits Sweep Oscars!’ So we’re always ready to celebrate and be patriotic. But The Beatles going to the States seemed a little different; it was a very big deal to us in England."
In addition to his professional relationship with The Beatles, Asher enjoyed a close friendship with the band – McCartney, in particular, who began dating Peter's actress sister, Jane, in 1963. “I was there when the band was told that I Want To Hold Your Hand had hit No. 1 in America," he says. "That was seismic. It’s inconceivable nowadays how unachievable that was at the time. Before then, the only British records to hit No. 1 in the States were things like Acker Bilk – novelty-ish songs."
As momentous as the achievement seemed, Asher says that nobody in the Beatles' camp anticipated the enormity of what lay ahead for the four mop-topped musicians in the US. "Suddenly in America you had radio stations giving the weather in ‘Beatle degrees' and things like that," he says. "Everything became The Beatles so fast. The whole country just fell in love with the band in the matter of a couple weeks. It was all quite stunning, really."
Once Peter And Gordon called it a day in 1967, Asher went to work for Apple Records. His keen eye for talent led him to sign a young singer-songwriter from America named James Taylor to the label. Several years later, he relocated to the States, where he managed and produced Taylor, along with Linda Ronstadt and a host of other successful artists. “It’s a tricky thing, trying to figure out how and why some artists hit and some don’t,” Asher says. “In the case of The Beatles, they were really one of those ‘perfect storm’ situations – the right songwriters, the right singers, the right musicians, the right characters. It all fit together into one perfectly amazing band. If any one aspect had outshone the others, it wouldn’t have worked. They got everything just right.”
Peter Asher will be participating in The Fest For Beatles Fans, which runs February 7 thru 9, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City. For tickets and more information, click here. (The night before The Fest For Beatles Fans, Asher and others will participate in an intimate conversation with "Friends of the Beatles" at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. Click here for tickets.)
On the following pages, Asher discusses his five favorite Beatles songs of all time, along with one bonus pick.