Just when you think there are no more books that need to be written about The Beatles, there’s one with new personal insights. Peter Asher became friends with The Beatles early on in their recording career, and he’s still friends with Paul and Ringo.
In the book, The Beatles From A to Zed, Asher takes us on an alphabetical journey through many songs and events associated with The Beatles. The important part is that Asher adds his own impressions and first-hand knowledge. You’ll learn a lot about The Beatles, and about Peter Asher.
For a time, starting in 1963, the Asher family had Paul McCartney as a live-in guest, and he had a room next to Peter’s. In the book, Peter tells the story of how John Lennon came over to do some songwriting with Paul. Instead of grabbing their guitars, the two went downstairs to use the Asher’s piano. After a while, they yelled for Peter to come down and listen to a song they had just written. Peter says John and Paul played the piano together and sang “I Want To Hold Your Hand”. Asher says… “I told them how brilliant I thought it was, and begged them to play it again, which they gladly did”. And we all wish we were there.
Having a songwriter staying in the house certainly was fortunate. Paul provided several songs, including “A World Without Love” and “Woman”, to greatly help Peter and Gordon (Waller) with their musical career.
Asher provides more details of the experience, including John Lennon’s reluctance to record “A World Without Love” with The Beatles. John stopped Paul singing it as soon as he heard the opening line…”Please lock me away”. However, music fans liked the the song all the way to #1 in the U.K. and U.S. It was the worldwide breakthrough hit for Peter and Gordon.
When you examine the lyrics, they’re actually quite good:
”Please lock me away, and don’t allow the day, here inside, where I hide with my loneliness. I don’t care what they say I won’t stay in a world without love.”
They’re somewhat reminiscent of the feeling John would write about in “Help” the following year.
When The Beatles started Apple Records, they hired Peter Asher to run their A&R Department. So, the book includes inside information about what happened as The Beatles were winding down their time together near the end of the sixties.
The Beatles From A to Zed goes beyond The Beatle years to include their solo work and information about artists Peter produced, like James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt.
The book is filled with Peter Asher’s perspective as a producer and musician. For example, when he gets to the “R” chapter, he analyzes Ringo’s drum part on “Rain”. He explains the many ways a drum can be set for various sounds, how it can be miked & equalized, and of course the drummer makes all the choices regarding the playing.
Ringo’s drumming on “Rain” has been universally praised. When Asher asked Ringo about it, he said he came up with the drum pattern specifically for that song, and has never used it in any other recording.
Peter Asher was an insider with The Beatles and many of the music artists of the sixties, seventies and beyond. If you enjoy getting extra details about the era, The Beatles From A to Zed is definitely a good read.
By the way, Zed is the way the British pronounce the letter “Z”. It’s pronounced that same way in the majority of English speaking nations.
This is the final photo in the book. Peter Asher might be saying…”There you have it”, or maybe he’s simply happy after looking back at the life he’s led.