Beatles fans are marking the 50th anniversary of the group's first trip to New York and the United States. Many will gather this weekend at the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan for the annual Festival for Beatles Fans. Among those performing will be one musician with a unique vantage point on Beatlemania. Peter Asher talks with NY1 about the early days hanging out with John Lennon and Paul McCartney in the first part of Budd Mishkin's series, "The Beatles: Yesterday and Today."
At the time when Beatlemania hit New York and the United States 50 years, Paul McCartney was a housemate of Peter Asher's in London in the Asher family home, where Paul and John Lennon once invited Asher to come listen to a new song.
"I came and sat on the sofa and they sat side by side on the piano bench, there were no guitars, it wasn’t a guitar song at that point. They played me “I Want to Hold Your Hand” for the first time and asked me what I thought of it,” said Asher from his Midtown apartment.
As Asher's pop duo Peter and Gordon prepared for their first recording session, Asher remembered one McCartney song The Beatles weren't going to record.
"I went back to Paul and specifically said, ‘Look if that song is still sitting there and still unused, can we record it?’" Asher said.
The song was “World Without Love,” and it became a number one hit in the U.S. for Peter and Gordon, leading to their first trip to New York and America.
"What ideal circumstances under which to make your first trip, to arrive as a British pop star in the sixties with a number one record and be chased by screaming girls trying to tear your clothes off which is an experience I recommend highly should the opportunity ever come your way,” said Asher. “It was fantastic.”
Paul McCartney wrote three more of Peter and Gordon's hits.
Asher has enjoyed a long successful career producing and managing many top musicians, most prominently James Taylor.
"I don’t think there has every been a circumstance under which I've worked with any group of musicians for any length of time that Beatles questions don't come up,” said Asher.
Asher says his current work producing records keeps him from being a remnant of the past. But he knows he experienced something special watching and listening to Paul McCartney in the Asher home all those years ago.
"One doesn't want to get too pretentious because it is only a three minute pop song, but honestly there is something a little magical about being there at the moment of creation of what seemed like great art and of course turned out to be so,” he said.