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PETER ASHER INTERVIEW: ALBERT LEE & PETER ASHER AUSTRALIAN TOUR

For the first time together in Australia, music legends Peter Asher and Albert Lee will kick off their Songs & Stories tour this week, performing the hits of Peter & Gordon, Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers and many others.

We came to know Peter Asher via his 10 Top 40 hits with Peter & Gordon, whose #1 hit debut single A World Without Love was gifted to them by Paul McCartney. Peter & Gordon toured Australia in 1964, and scored further hits here as a result. Peter’s subsequent days as A&R Director for the Beatles’ Apple Records also made history, and he became a legend as producer and manager of James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt and a host of others after moving to California at the end of the ‘60s. He remains the only Artist Manager to be featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, and his studio work has led to 2 Grammy Awards for “Producer of the Year”.

Master guitarist, Albert Lee first toured Australia with Joe Cocker in 1974, and most recently in 2018 performing to much acclaim at shows including the Sydney & Adelaide Guitar Festivals, Melbourne Guitar Show and the Gympie Muster. Peter Asher & Albert Lee’s history is one of song, and these duo storyteller shows will reflect that history and feature those songs… the songs that influenced them along with songs they influenced.

Jonathan Bowen recently had the pleasure of sitting down and chatting with the legendary singer and producer Peter Asher before his upcoming tour of Australia with Albert Lee.

Peter thank you for making the time to catch with me and welcome back to Australia.
It’s my pleasure. It has been a while since I was last in Australia, I think the last time I was here I was running Sony Music and was working with Silverchair and Tina Arena.

Does it surprise you that there is still a demand from people to hear the music that you sang with Gordan almost 50 years ago?
Yes, I am surprised, it is nice that people still remember the music that I did with Gordan. One question I used to get asked back in the day, which was the same question The Beatles was asked constantly … how long do you see your career lasting? Given a career in music was only supposed to last 2 years or so, I am grateful that I have been able to make a career and a living from music.

Yourself and Gordan experienced success at a period of time when music was at its creative best. Looking back at that period do you wish you had written more music yourself or collaborated with other song writers of the time such as Cat Stevens?
Well Cat Stevens didn’t collaborate with other song writers, I was his manager while he was in America during the 70s but to answer your questions, yes I wish we had written more songs and I wish I had written all the hits but Gordan and myself were not as good as songwriters as the writers who were allowing us to record their songs. Given Gordan and I recorded songs written by Paul McCartney, Del Shannon and Carol King, one of the skills I had looking back over my career was the ability to choose great songs. So, if I couldn’t write them, it was good to be able to choose them.

You are famously known as the A&R man with the Beatles record company Apple records and the guy who signed James Taylor to the label. What was it that you saw in James at the time that gave you that feeling he may be something special?
Finding James Taylor had nothing to do with Apple, it was a coincidence that I was working there at the time. James was introduced to me by a mutual friend we had at the time. James had an immediate impact on me. It wasn’t just one thing that struck me about him, he was charming, shy and mysterious. You must remember he had a serious drug dependency at the time but musically he was brilliant. His guitar playing was extraordinary. The precision he played with was something I had never seen before. It was clear to me he had been influenced by classical guitar and guitarists like Julian Segovia. James had a rich baritone singing voice and was more likened to a Sam Cooke or Ray Charles than a traditional folk singer. The songs he wrote were extraordinary. The first song he sang for me when he came over to my apartment was “Something in the way she moves” it just blew me away. I was surprised no one else has snapped him up already!

Do you feel some sort of pride or vindication about that the fact you found James Taylor and take pride in just how successful he became?
Yes, I do unequivocally. I mean Mickie Most heard him and passed him up. Mickie had a great ear for talent, but he may have been looking for more of a pop singer.

Linda Ronstadt was another artist you had huge success with as a producer. My favourite song you produced for her was a hit she did with James Ingram called “Somewhere out there”. What was it like to work with her during that period of time when she was at the peak of her success?
Yes, that song was written by James Horner, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. It was a great song and Steven Spielberg asked Linda to do it. It was very complicated process because I did a version with Peabo Bryson and Linda originally because Quincy Jones said that James couldn’t do it. James then became available, however we had to record his parts of the song in a different location, which back then was difficult, not so difficult these days. Linda sang it beautifully but funny enough she prefers the version done by the mouse in the movie.

I met with Mike Nesmith a couple of months ago and he said that song writing and producing is like tapping into something spiritual, you can’t quite rush or push the process, it is something that evolves and with patience. Do you agree with his thoughts?
Well that is one view, then there is the Carole King way which is of course you can push it. If someone needs a song by noon for The Shirelles well, you go up to your little room in the Brill Building and you deliver it. Some songwriters say songs come through them and they are just a vehicle for it. I don’t agree with that way of thinking. I believe that songwriters who believe that are not giving themselves enough credit.

You sit alongside George Martin as one of the greatest producers of all time, is it fate given that your mother was his teacher at school that the two of you would be ironically linked together.
It is a pleasant coincidence that it happened that way, I don’t believe in fate and I don’t compare myself to George, George was incredible.

Given that you were at the forefront of a great musical era, do you see anything today other than Ed Sheeran that can compete with the quality of songwriting and production that occurred during the 60s, 70s and 80s?
Absolutely yes! Someone like Billie Eilish is a real talent. I also like Alessia Cara, she is a really good writer and very smart. I like Charles Dereeper’s new album even though all the rap fans think it is crap, so it makes me like it even more. Miguel is another amazing talent; I think he is a real genius. I talk to a lot of people who think that modern music isn’t as good as the music they grew up with. I think the they forget that the music of the 60s was riddled with plenty of crap songs we just choose not to remember them.

Written by Jonathan Bowen

PETER ASHER & ALBERT LEE TOUR DATES

MELBOURNE  Flemington Bowls  Wednesday August 14
MELBOURNE Thornbury  Friday August 16
MELBOURNE  Caravan Saturday August 17
MELBOURNE  Caravan  Sunday August 18 (Matinee)
BENDIGO    Capitol Theatre Tuesday August 20
NEWCASTLE  Lizottes Wednesday August 21
SYDNEY  Chatswood Concourse Thursday August 22
BLUE MOUNTAINS  Blue Mountains Theatre, Springwood  Friday August 23
SYDNEY Brass Monkey, Cronulla Saturday August 24
PERTH   Astor Theatre  Sunday August 25
ADELAIDE   Trinity Sessions Wednesday August 28
BRISBANE The Triffid Thursday August 29

Booking:  http://davidroywilliams.com/tours/peteralbert/
 


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