Peter Asher: Malibu’s Music Maker

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Legendary musician and producer Peter Asher is teaming up with Elton John for a 40th anniversary edition John’s classic album “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” 

Peter Asher might be about to enter his 7th decade, but you wouldn’t know it from his work schedule. The man who was instrumental in bringing the music of artists like James Taylor, Carole King and Joni Mitchell to audiences makes his home in Malibu, but judging from his recent timetable he probably doesn’t have too much time to relax by the beach. 

Asher, who was once one half of the ’60s British pop duo Peter and Gordon and headed the A & R Department of the Beatles’ nascent Apple Records, is currently producing a new CD for pop icon Elton John that celebrates the 40th anniversary of John’s colossal hit album, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” The new release will feature new young artists such as Ed Sheeran, Imelda May and R&B sensation Miguel singing new arrangements of some of John’s most memorable songs. 

“You know, I tend to think of “Yellow Brick Road’ as one of Elton’s later albums,” Asher said from the Village Recorder studios, where he was mixing. “But it is 40 years ago. Elton asked me to help him redo this album, but with all new people.” 

John is currently playing his show, “The Million Dollar Piano” at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, and has left production of the new CD in the hands of Asher, whom he has known for years. 

If there is one person you’d want producing your album, it might be Peter Asher. The British-born musician has produced 12 Grammy Award winners and twice received the Grammy Award for Producer of the Year, working with artists such as Cher, Randy Newman, Linda Rondstadt, Neil Diamond and Diana Ross. 

He got his start in music 50 years ago, gigging pubs in London with his partner Gordon Waller. His sister Jane was dating Paul McCartney, who would sometimes give Asher unrecorded Lennon-McCartney songs, including their eventual smash hit “A World Without Love.” Peter and Gordon were part of the early ’60s British Invasion, which included The Beatles, Dusty Springfield, The Animals and The Rolling Stones. 

“There was no rivalry with The Beatles,” Asher said in a 2009 interview with The Malibu Times. “We did knock them off the number one position on the U.S. charts, briefly, but it was with a McCartney song. Paul’s a genius. We would never even have made a record if it weren’t for him giving us ‘World Without Love.’” 

Today, Asher is just coming off production of the well-received album “Love Has Come For You,” which combines the banjo-playing talents of Renaissance Man Steve Martin and folk singer Edie Brickell. The unlikely pairing of Martin and Brickell in an album came about after he had dinner at Martin’s house, where a couple of his tracks were played. 

“I’m a big bluegrass fan,” Asher said. “But the songs on this album are not necessarily bluegrass. I suggested to Steve that he record using non-bluegrass instruments. He called me the next day and asked me to produce an album and we deliberately took it in a different direction.” 

The album has received such enthusiastic reviews that Martin, Brickell and Asher are turning it into a musical, titled “Bright Star.” They hope to get it on stage next year, and possibly to Broadway by 2015. 

Asher’s schedule of late has also included stints in the studio, recording soundtracks for movies like “Pirates of the Caribbean 4,” “Rush,” “Madagascar 3” and “Man of Steel,” while working with famed composer Hans Zimmer. 

With all the activity, he still has time to tour his one-man show, “Peter Asher: A Musical Memoir of the ’60s and Beyond.” His next performance of the international hit will be at the Grammy Museum next month. Debuted about three years ago, Asher tells first-hand tales of the people like Mick Jagger, John Lennon and Yoko Ono that helped shape popular music over the past four decades. 

He isn’t stuck in that era, though. When asked if he sees new artists that would inspire him to produce more, he is enthusiastic. 

“Oh, God, yes,” Asher exclaimed. “There’s Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars. That teenage girl from New Zealand, Lorde. She’s amazing. I have a lot to keep busy. I have no inclination to take up golf or lie on the beach—even here in Malibu.” 

Peter Asher’s Musical Memoir plays two shows at the Grammy Museum in downtown Los Angeles October 12. More information may be found at: babcla.org/events.asp?ArticleID=186