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Peter Asher performed at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in Minneapolis on Monday.

Renee Jones Schneider, Star tribune

PETER ASHER

What: "A Musical Memoir of the '60s and Beyond"

When: 7 p.m. Tue.

Where: Dakota Jazz Club, 1010 Nicollet Mall, Mpls.

Tickets: $40; dakotacooks.com; 612-332-1010.

Asher a trove of music history

  • Article by: JON BREAM
  • Star Tribune
  • January 17, 2012 - 9:13 AM

Meet the Beatles insider -- Peter Asher.

Paul McCartney stayed in the Asher home when the Beatles first returned to London from Hamburg (Paul was dating Asher's sister Jane). Asher's duo, Peter & Gordon, took an abandoned Beatles song, "World Without Love," and made it into their own No. 1 hit in 1964. Asher worked for the Beatles' Apple Records as its chief talent executive. Asher introduced John Lennon to Yoko Ono, who was exhibiting at Asher's art gallery.

We could go on, as Asher does in "A Musical Memoir of the '60s and Beyond," which he has brought to the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis this week.

Using many words and a few songs, Asher sprinkled magical mystery dust over a full house of mesmerized baby boomers for two hours Monday. His multi-media presentation came across as part "VH1 Storytellers," part "VH1 Behind the Music," and part music-college lecture. Asher, who also went on to discover James Taylor, produce Linda Ronstadt and manage Courtney Love, was here, there and everywhere -- like the Forrest Gump of rock for nearly 50 years.

Looking like Red Skelton in a sharp suit, skinny tie and modern-day Beatle boots and sounding like a humble Sting at his wittiest, Asher, 67, charmed with tales of John, Paul, George and never Ringo. Mick Jagger was in there, too, along with Marianne Faithfull and Twiggy. And to add to the Fab Four aura, Asher's band had a left-handed bassist, a drummer who, in profile, looked like Ringo and a keyboardist who played in Badfinger.

The son of a physician father and music professor mother, Asher grew up in upper-class London. A childhood film actor, he dropped out of college to work in the aspiring folk duo Peter & Gordon. They latched onto an unfinished McCartney song (he begged Paul to finish it) that became a worldwide smash. Pop stardom was a wild ride, although the back stories at the Dakota were often more entertaining than the Peter & Gordon songs Asher and his band sang (sometimes the late Gordon Waller appeared on video screens from reunion shows in the '00s). What made the evening extra-special were priceless photos and clips ("Ed Sullivan Show," Beatles press conferences, etc.) and the ultimate -- Asher's Buddy Holly-like glasses from the mid-'60s.

It was clear that Gordon was the stronger singer and Asher mostly the harmony guy. But McCartney recognized Asher's talents as a producer and hired him at Apple Records.

The second half of "Musical Memoir" focused on his post-performing career, mainly his work with Taylor as well as Badfinger, Robin Williams, Diana Ross and most recently with "Pirates of the Caribbean" soundtrack and guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela.

He even showed an acting cameo in a 2007 HBO film (he played Doris Duke's butler) and plugged his daughter Victoria Asher's current hit band, Cobra Starship.

To some, the second half might have seemed a bit wordy and indulgent. But Asher seemed so gracious and self-deprecating that he came across as more informative than self-aggrandizing. Moreover, how can you complain about a guy who, like the true Gump of rock, passed a box of chocolates to the audience.

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