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How the Beatles' Leftover 'A World Without Love' Became a Huge Hit for Peter and Gordon 50 Years Ago

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Peter and Gordon

When we recently got Peter Asher on the phone to share his memories about the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' arrival in America, Asher reminded us that his duo, Peter and Gordon, is also celebrating a 50th anniversary, which he humbly called "a footnote" in the story of the British Invasion.

Jan. 21, the same day the Capitol Records releases the 13-CD career-spanning Beatles boxed set "The U.S. Albums," also marks the 50th anniversary of the recording of "A World Without Love," the Lennon-McCartney song that became the first hit for Asher and his partner, Gordon Waller.

At the time, Asher's actress sister, Jane, was dating Paul McCartney, and for a while, McCartney and Peter Asher were roommates on the top floor of the Asher family home when McCartney wasn't on the road with the Beatles.

Like the Beatles, Peter and Gordon auditioned for and were signed by EMI. "At the time we were doing mostly folk songs, Everly Brothers songs and stuff like that acoustic, so I think maybe when they signed us they were imagining us more in the folk mode, perhaps the British rivals to the Kingston Trio as it were; or Peter, Paul, and Mary without Mary; but they did say, if there's any other songs you'd like to record in your first recording session, please suggest them," Asher recalls.

That's when knowing McCartney came in handy for the aspiring young star. "It just so happens that some months earlier I had heard Paul singing this unfinished and kind of orphaned song called 'A World Without Love,' which had no bridge and John didn't want to record with the Beatles. ... So once we had a record deal in place, I went back to Paul and said, 'If that song is still homeless, could we record it?' And he said, Yes.'"

McCartney finished the bridge and handed the song off to Peter and Gordon. "So, yes, we owe them huge debt, Paul a huge debt for the song, but it wasn't as if he came and said, 'Here's this song,' it was more that I remembered this orphaned song and asked if we could have it."

 

Peter and Gordon's recording topped the U.K. singles chart in April 1964 and went onto similar success in the U.S. in June, but unlike their Fab friends, they didn't make their debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show" until several months later. American singer Bobby Rydell had covered "A World Without Love" soon after the Peter and Gordon version came out and scored a regional hit with the song in Philadelphia.

"He was an Ed Sullivan regular, so he went on the show and did the song," Asher says. "So when our agent tried to get us on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' when we came to America, they said no because they didn't want somebody singing the same song that had been sung a few weeks earlier Bobby Rydell. So we actually got on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' a couple of singles later doing a song called 'I Don't Want to See You Again,'" Asher continues. "We were actually done out of our first Ed Sullivan appearance by Mr. Rydell, but luckily our record zoomed up the charts and his didn't , so boo to Bobby Rydell."

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