Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Gordon Waller of Peter & Gordon R.I.P.

Gordon Waller, who with Peter Asher formed the Sixties rock duo Peter and Gordon, passed on July 17, 2009 at the age of 64. The cause of a severe heart attack. In 1964 Peter and Gordon had a hit with the Paul McCartney penned "A World Without Love," which went to #1 on both American and British singles charts. Including "A World Without Love," they had a total of nine top twenty hits in the United States.

Gordon Waller was born June 4, 1945 in Braemar, Scotland. It was while attending Westminster School in London that he met one time child actor Peter Asher. Both had an interest in music, although Gordon was more into rock 'n' roll while Peter was more into jazz. Eventually Gordon turned Peter into a rock 'n' roll fan, and the two of them both got guitars. It was not long before they were performing in pubs, coffeehouses, and smaller clubs as Gordon and Peter. It was while they were performing at the Pickwick Club in London that they were spotted by Norman Newell of EMI Records. They were signed to EMI right away.

Peter and Gordon sounded like a British version of the Everly Brothers and had a style that combined rock, blues, folk, and pop. It seems like that they would be successful no matter what. Peter and Gordon had an advantage that other, similar groups did not have in that starting in 1963 Paul McCartney was dating Peter's sister, Jane Asher. It was when they went in for their first recording session that they asked McCartney to finish a song fragment upon which he had been working. That song became "A World Without Love," which went to #1 on both sides of the Atlantic in early 1964. With success in both the United Kingdom and the United States, Peter and Gordon became part of the first wave of the British Invasion which swept the States in the wake of The Beatles. They toured the United Kingdom and appeared on Ready, Steady, Go, Top of the Pops, and Thank Your Lucky Stars. They also toured the United States and appeared on such shows as The Ed Sullivan Show and Where the Action Is. At the peak of their success they toured with The Beatles, Del Shannon, The Rolling Stones, and others.

Following "A World Without Love" Peter and Gordon had several hits on both sides of the Pond. In the United States they hit the top twenty with "Nobody I Know (1964--written by Paul McCartney)," "I Don't Want To See You Again (1964--written by Paul McCartney)," "I Go To Pieces (1964)," "True Love Ways (1965)," "Woman (1966--written by Paul McCartney)," "Lady Godiva (1966)," and "Knight In Rusty Armour (1966). In the United Kingdom they hit the top twenty with "Nobody I Know," "True Love Ways," "To Know You Is To Love You (1965)," "Baby I'm Yours (1965)," and "Lady Godiva."

Sadly by 1967 Peter and Gordon ceased having hits. After "Lady Godiva," none of their singles charted on either side of the Atlantic. In 1968 they parted ways. Peter Asher took over The Beatles' Apple Records A&R department. He signed James Taylor to the label and produced his first album. He would go onto produce albums for artists as diverse as Linda Rondstadt and 10,000 Maniacs. Gordon Waller played the role of Pharoah in a production of Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at the Edinburgh Festival in 1971. He would go onto appear in the play in both London and Australia, as well as performing for the soundtrack album. Following his success Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Gordon performed regularly in musical theatre. In 1972 he released a solo album and Gordon. Gordon later formed his own music publishing company. He also scored the television movie James Dean: Race with Destiny, which debuted in 1997.

It was in 2005 that Peter and Gordon reunited for a benefit for ailing Dave Clark Five drummer Mike Smith. They had continued to perform together since that time. Gordon would record the solo album Plays The Beatles in 2007 and Rebel Rider in 2008.

Although largely forgotten today or remembered only as a footnote in Beatles history, Peter and Gordon were not only successful in their day, but one of the best acts to emerge from the British Invasion. Their harmonies recalled The Everly Brothers, but they had a style all their own. It was a blend of rock, blues, and folk that seemed wholly unique to them. Peter Asher himself attributed Gordon Waller with most of their success, stating, "...Gordon was the heart and soul of our duo." While forgotten by many, there is every reason that both Peter Asher and Gordon Waller should be remembered. As for myself, "A World Without Love" and "Lady Godiva" will remain two of my favourite songs from the Sixties.


Christopher Newton said...

Thanks, Mercurie, for this invaluable wrapup on a guy who deserves to be remembered. Peter and he carried the spirit of the British Invasion.

Holte Ender said...

I saw Peter and Gordon about the time of World With Love, we had booked them at a club I belonged to, months before their big hit. Good for them they honored their commitment to us, we paid about 25 pounds for the pleasure, we had about 500 people at the club that night and I was one of dressing room guards, keeping teenage girls away. Good times.