Capping a big year for the legendary British Invasion artist and manager/producer, Peter Asher has jut been named to the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List as a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. His citation reads, “Musician, manager and record producer. For services to the British music industry.”
“It’s very exciting,” says Asher, at his desk in Los Angeles. “I got called a month ago and was sworn to secrecy, though it’s interesting: I’ve dealt with the British Consulate a lot here, so I wasn’t surprised when the guy called, until he said, ‘Are you alone? Can you speak freely?’ I thought he was going to ask me to spy or something! It was all very James Bond—I didn’t have a clue why he was calling!”
Told of the “confidential nature” of the call, Asher was then asked if he would accept the Queen’s honor.
“I thought it was fantastic, and said yes immediately,” Asher says. “Like all awards, we can talk about how silly they are. But at the same time, this is a longstanding anachronistic British tradition in the finest tradition of anachronistic traditions—and I love it, and always thought it would be cool to get official royal recognition. In that sense I’m entirely uncynical about it.”
Asher, of course, first found fame with the late Gordon Waller in Peter & Gordon. The duo scored such classic mid-1960s British Invasion hits as “A World Without Love,” which was penned by The Beatles. In 1968, Asher became head of A&R for the Beatles’ newly formed label Apple Records, where he discovered, signed and produced James Taylor before leaving Apple to manage and produce the likes of Taylor and Linda Ronstadt. He’s been in demand as a producer, consultant and lecturer ever since, and has recently put it all together in his touring show, A Musical Memoir of the ‘60s and Beyond.
In 2014 Asher produced (in association with Elton John) performances by contemporary artists including Ed Sheeran and Fall Out Boy for the 40th anniversary celebration of John’s album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. He directed the live concert of frequent film music collaborator Hans Zimmer (Hans Zimmer Revealed) in London, and won a Grammy for Best American Roots Song for his production of “Love Has Come For You,” the title track to the album by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell; additionally, he acted as musical supervisor for Bright Star, the Steve Martin-Edie Brickell musical.
At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction gala, Asher inducted fellow manager greats Brian Epstein and Andrew Loog Oldham. He performed with artists including Graham Nash and Don Everly at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 19th Annual Music Masters event celebrating the Everly Brothers, and debuted Peter Asher/Chad & Jeremy, a multimedia show that is a direct offshoot of Musical Memoir. He also celebrated the 50th anniversary of “World Without Love,” which went to No. 1 in over 30 countries, including the U.S.
Asher is currently producing the music for the forthcoming Barry Levinson movie, Rock the Kasbah, and is readying performances for the forthcoming British Invasion Tour.
“On balance I feel more lucky than anything else,” Asher says. “It’s not that I don’t give myself credit: I’m a pretty good record producer and manager–and quite clever! But at the same time, above all, it’s about being lucky in making the right decisions at the right times, meeting the right people and taking opportunities. With any luck, that will continue to be the case.”
“The surprising part to me is that I’m 70-years-od and still working in a business that’s collapsing!” Asher adds. “It’s quite impressive, actually. Who is this guy?”