august 2009

Crossing Over









Gordon Waller

June 4, 1945-July 17, 2009

Gordon Waller, one half of the blatantly Everly Brothers-influenced British Invasion duo Peter & Gordon, went into cardiac arrest at his home in Ledyard, CT, on the evening of July 16, 2009, and was pronounced dead early the following morning. Teaming with his school mate Peter Asher, whose actress sister Jane was dating Paul McCartney, Waller found himself riding the wave of Beatlemania, thanks to the duo's proximity to McCartney, who provided them with their first hit, "World Without Love," which topped the U.S. charts in May of 1964 and was followed by two more McCartney-penned Top 20 hits, "Nobody I Know" and "I Don't Want To See You Again," all in '64. Asher, with a softer voice, sang the high harmony part, Waller, a strong tenor, was the lead voice, in a decidedly folkish blend that proved a scintillating mix when paired with the big, booming productions behind their performances. At the outset of 1965 they returned to the Top 10 with a dramatic rendering of a Del Shannon heartbreaker, "I Go To Pieces," featuring their plaintive voices framed by cascading guitar lines in a song just about perfect in terms of texture and dynamics. Through '65 and '66 the pair were steady presences in the Top 20, with a lovely cover of Buddy Holly's "True Love Ways" and a reworking of the Teddy Bears' hit (written by a young Phil Spector) "To Know Him Is To Love Him," titled "To Know You Is To Love You." McCartney returned under a pseudonym, Bernard Webb, to contribute "Woman," which peaked at #16 in March 1966. They had a bigger hit later that year with the novelty number, "Lady Godiva" (#6) but when they opened 1967 with "Knight In Rusty Armor," it was clear the good ideas were now in short supply. After 1967's forgettable #31 single, "Sunday for Tea," Peter and Gordon stopped performing. In a 2007 interview with Gary James posted at, Waller said there was never a formal breakup, merely a decision that they could do no more than they had done already. (Ten Top 40 hits in three years—not bad.)

"We didn't break up at all.," Waller explained. "We just decided we'd done what we could do at the time. In those days, even if you were top of the bill, you only did like 20 to 25 minutes. By about '67, '68, that 25 minutes was just taken up with playing hits. So we didn't have time for anything other than the hits. It just got very, very tedious doing the same songs night after night after night. So we said let's give it a break for a bit and concentrate on recording. And that break lasted 39 years."

Peter & Gordon, on top of the world in the swinging '60s

Asher, of course, went on to become a producer of note. His first gig post-Peter & Gordon was as A&R director for the Beatles' Apple label. He signed James Taylor, produced his first album and continued on as Taylor's manager and producer after the artist left Apple and signed with Warner Bros. in the U.S. In the '70s and '80s he played a major behind the scenes role in shaping California rock as a producer for Bonnie Raitt, J.D. Souther, Andrew Gold and, most notably, Linda Ronstadt, whose Asher-produced Heart Like a Wheel album launched her into superstardom in 1974. He also produced artists as disparate as Cher and 10,000 Maniacs. The young Asher also served as the fashion model for Mike Myers's Austin Powers character, a dubious honor, perhaps, but there it is.

Waller continued on as a solo act and took a turn at acting in 1971, playing the Pharoah in a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which won him both critical kudos and enthusiastic audience reception. In 1976 he and Asher reunited for one night to play a date honoring songwriters in New York, then did not perform again together until 2005, when they teamed up to play two tribute concerts for the Dave Clark Five's ailing keyboardist, Mike Smith. In recent years they continued to perform on special occasions, and at Waller's death their official website ( listed several upcoming shows in the late summer/early fall. In 2008 Waller released a new solo album, Rebel Rider, by far his strongest effort. Working in a roots-rock style reminiscent of rock 'n' roll's formative years, blending rockabilly with hard driving, traditional rock 'n' roll, Waller cut a formidable figure on the disc, singing with authority and sounding intensely engaged with his largely self-penned material.

Gordon Waller is survived by his wife, Jen, whom he married in 2008, and two daughters from an earlier marriage,

On the Peter & Gordon website, Peter Asher posted the following thoughts:

A Word From Peter:

Gordon played such a significant role in my life that losing him is hard to comprehend—let alone to tolerate.

He was my best friend at school almost half a century ago. He was not only my musical partner but played a key role in my conversion from only a snooty jazz fan to a true rock and roll believer as well. Without Gordon I would never have begun my career in the music business in the first place. Our professional years together in the sixties constitute a major part of my life and I have always treasured them.

We remained good friends (unusual for a duo!) even while we were pursuing entirely separate professional paths and I was so delighted that after a hiatus of almost forty years we ended up singing and performing together again more recently for the sheer exhilarating fun of it. We had a terrific time doing so.

Gordon remains one of my very favorite singers of all time and I am still so proud of the work that we did together. I am just a harmony guy and Gordon was the heart and soul of our duo.

I shall miss him in so many different ways. The idea that I shall never get to sing those songs with him again, that I shall never again be able to get annoyed when he interrupts me on stage or to laugh at his unpredictable sense of humor or even to admire his newest model train or his latest gardening effort is an unthinkable change in my life with which I have not even begun to come to terms.


Let the music tell the rest of the story.

Peter & Gordon, 'World Without Love' (Lennon-McCartney)

Peter & Gordon, 'I Go To Pieces' (Del Shannon)

Peter & Gordon, 'Woman' (Bernard Webb, aka Paul McCartney)

Peter & Gordon, 'True Love Ways' (Buddy Holly)

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