The British Invasion of America's pop charts in 1964 launched many musical careers into the stratosphere. One of the more long-lived periods of stateside success by an Invader was enjoyed by the duo Peter and Gordon.
Peter Asher and Gordon Waller were school friends who began playing music together for fun in the early '60s. Their career got a big jump-start after the band of the boyfriend of Asher's sister, Jane, exploded into international prominence -- that was Paul McCartney and The Beatles, of course. It was McCartney's song "A World Without Love" that vaulted Peter and Gordon to No. 1 in Billboard during summer 1964, and they continued charting in the Hot 100 through 1967. Although their biggest singles were written by others, the duo did write songs, and good ones, most often stashed away as album tracks.
It's somewhat unusual that Peter and Gordon ended up having more hits in the U.S. than in their native England. Also uncharacteristically for a British Invasion group, the singles released were relatively uniform on both sides of the Atlantic, only occasionally promoting different sides for either country. But as with many British artists in the mid-'60s, a comparison of the LP discographies produces total confusion; there are 11 U.S. Capitol albums to six on U.K. Columbia. In Peter and Gordon's case it's not completely caused by stretching the overseas releases across more discs; Capitol kept putting out albums after their U.K. counterpart had given up on the duo.
What follows is an attempt to disentangle their discography via a look at the U.S. albums.
A World Without Love
Peter and Gordon's debut sets a pattern followed by most of the Capitol collections: A hit or two (usually including the title track); some rocking moments (often written by Asher-Waller), balanced with a touch of Eurovisionesque orchestral/choral cheese; and, solidly chosen folk, country and R&B covers. This album is nearly a straight re-issue of their U.K. debut, Peter and Gordon, minus the track "Long Time Gone." Noteworthy covers include beat group updates to a couple clear influences on Peter and Gordon's style: The Everly Brothers (via their Little Richard cover, "Lucille") and Buddy Holly ("Tell Me How"). (Capitol T/ST 2115, 1964)
I Don't Want To See You Again
This album gets the two hits out of the way right off the bat, with the title tune (No. 16) and "Nobody I Know" (No. 12), both Billboard-worthy in 1964. The hits were McCartney numbers once again (though credited to Lennon-McCartney). I Don't Want To See You Again mixed it up with half their second U.K. album, In Touch With Peter and Gordon and three songs from the U.K. Just for You film soundtrack EP (minus "Roving Rambler"). The most interesting tracks are the Asher-Waller originals stashed away on side two. (Capitol T/ST 2220, 1964)
I Go To Pieces
This time around, the title hit was provided by former tourmate Del Shannon, and it returned the duo to the Billboard Top Ten in early 1965. Otherwise, they continue to show versatility with another trio of mid-tempo beat group originals, a pair each of Elvis and Doris Troy covers, and a more than creditable take on Leadbelly's "Good Morning Blues." Somewhat surprisingly, only three of the other seven In Touch songs are here, bypassed instead for tracks from their third U.K. LP. Also worth noting is that the title on the record label itself is England's Inimitable Singing Duo. (Capitol T/ST 2324, 1965)
True Love Ways
The True Love Ways LP somewhat corresponds to Peter and Gordon's third U.K. long player, Hurtin' 'n Lovin', minus the four tracks already used on I Go to Pieces while adding some singles sides instead. The Buddy Holly title track was a good-sized U.S. hit, as was a bombastic, re-titled take on "To Know You is to Love You" by the Teddy Bears. Much better was the self-penned "Don't Pity Me," also a single but unfortunately not a big hit. The duo begin to show their country leanings on this album, with a very C&W take on Solomon Burke's "Cry to Me" and the original tune "I Told You So." They also take some solo vocals, with Waller attacking The Miracles' "Who's Loving You" with verve and Asher sounding just a tad tentative on the Bacharach-David standard "Any Day Now." Even though this is missing a chunk of the correct U.K. track lineup, it's a very interesting album that shows Peter and Gordon expanding their horizons. (Capitol T/ST 2368, 1965)
The title hit this time around was a stunt by Paul McCartney to see if he could write a song under an alias and still have it make the charts. Mission accomplished -- "Woman" (attributed to Bernard Webb and, somewhat mysteriously, occasionally to A. Smith) hit the Top 30 on both sides of the Atlantic. The accompanying Capitol album finds Peter and Gordon following the lead of this disc's hit into an orchestral pop mode rather than beat group sounds. Exceptions are the album's lone Waller-Asher song, "Wrong from the Start," and the hook-laden "I Know a Man." There's also an interesting jazzy take on "Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair" called "Black, Brown & Gold." The U.S. and U.K. release chronology becomes very jumbled here, as the track lineup for Woman is split between the concurrent British Peter and Gordon album (a second self-titled disc) and what would be their final overseas LP, the film music concept collection Somewhere. However, the U.S. album emerged months before the U.K. film collection, so perhaps all this material was recorded around the same time? (Capitol T/ST 2477, 1966)
The Best of Peter and Gordon
The duo's first hits collection doesn't mess around, including all their Billboard Top 100 hits to that point except one, "Nobody I Know." It gets bonus points for otherwise including all Waller-Asher originals rather than some of the cover songs from their LPs, making this album all killer no filler. The only thing that would improve the track lineup would have been to skip "To Know You is To Love You" rather than "Nobody I Know" in leaving off a hit. (Capitol T/ST 2549, 1966)
Peter and Gordon Sing and Play the Hits of Nashville, Tennessee
Yes they do ... and they play 'em straight! Many years ago, this was the album that made me take notice of Peter and Gordon beyond the hits. Even as a teenager, I found it intriguing that a British duo would cut an entire disc of American country songs, and along with The Beatles' few C&W covers, this album was one of my entrees into the genre. Recorded in Nashville with Capitol staff producer Ken Nelson, it would be interesting to know who plays on this one; that sure does sound like The Jordanaires singing backup here and there. Despite where this catalog number falls in sequence, it appears this album wasn't issued until the end of 1966; it's mentioned as a new release in the Nov. 5, 1966 Billboard. Another clue is the back cover, since it pictures both the Woman and Best of... albums. (Capitol T/ST 2430, 1966)
Well, here's another Capitol muddle, of a piece with the orchestrated ballad-centric Woman LP. Another hit title track, the rest of the tracks from the U.K. Somewhere, and a couple more from Peter and Gordon. As is usually the case, no matter how strong the other material is, the most interesting songs are the two Asher-Waller originals buried on side two. One thing I will say for this LP and Woman: the stereo mixes aren't bad, so Capitol at least didn't botch that part of the equation as much usual. Between the two LPs, I think only the songs "Woman" and "Morning's Caling" are fake stereo. (Capitol T/ST 2664, 1967)
Knight in Rusty Armour
Another catch-up collection from Capitol, the largest piece being remaining tracks from 1966's U.K. Peter and Gordon disc, but also reaching back as far as a 1964 B-side, "I Would Buy You Presents." It's a more rock-oriented collection than Lady Godiva or Woman, though. There are also a couple songs that don't appear to have been released previously in the U.K., namely "My First Day Alone" and a cover of "Baby What You Want Me to Do." Considering the varied sources, the sound of the songs changes quite a bit from track to track. (Capitol T/ST 2729, 1967)
In London for Tea
Capitol was issuing Peter and Gordon LPs like they were going out of style at this point, which had to have hurt their sales figures. In London for Tea, released approximately July 1967, was the fourth album to emerge since the prior November! It also probably didn't help that the album releases weren't matching up well with when their hit singles were on the charts; a comparison of the singles chart dates with when the albums are first mentioned in Billboard shows the LPs were lagging at least a couple months after the singles had fallen off the charts, an eternity in a pop market that was still singles-driven. Though the duo's 45s continued to be released on both sides of the Atlantic, the Somewhere LP of 1966 was their last U.K. long player, leaving In London for Tea a U.S. only orphan. However, this is an excellent pop-rock LP, with what I always think of as a "Swinging London" sound: a bit more aggressive guitar and some soul-ish horn charts combining with a bit less heavy orchestration than on many of their 1966 recordings. As was the case on the prior four U.S. albums, In London for Tea cries out for more Asher-Waller originals (there's just one Waller song here). However, the cover songs are well chosen and interestingly arranged, including a pop re-do of a song previously recorded in Nashville, "Please Help Me I'm Falling." (Capitol T/ST 2747, 1967)
Hot Cold & Custard
Another U.S. only release, Hot Cold & Custard turned out to be Peter and Gordon's final LP -- and one of their best. It's a real shame it promptly disappeared without a trace, because the duo finally treated their fans to a set of nearly all original songs, now billed as solo compositions by Asher or Waller. The album was also produced by the duo with John Burgess, who had helmed most of their recordings the prior couple years. As may be expected for 1968, there's some psych tinges here, but not to a degree that they sound out of place; overall it's a top notch late '60s Britpop LP. My favorite songs are Waller's countrified "Sipping My Wine" and "You've Had Better Times," both of a piece and as good as what John Stewart was getting up to around the same time. It would be interesting to know if Hot Cold & Custard and In London for Tea were compiled as albums by the duo or if they are still more Captiol conceptions from a mish-mash of available recordings. I have to assume that HC&C at least was mostly of a piece, since there's really only one song here that sounds to be from earlier sessions: the Clint Ballard song "She Needs Love," a mid-'60s British hit for Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders. In the unlikely event you see this LP (it took me years to run across it), snag it ASAP. (Capitol ST 2882, 1968)
And that would be mostly it for Peter and Gordon aside from one final single that slipped out unnoticed in 1969. Gordon Waller did do some recording as a solo artist, including a few excellent singles released on Capitol during the Peter and Gordon era. Peter Asher moved to the other side of the mixing board, becoming a producer for huge-selling artists such as James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt. The duo did reunite for live performances in the 2000s, before Waller died of a heart attack in 2009.
One other thing to note: I started writing this at the behest of famous artiste Kyle Motor, after commiserating about the seeming lack of a detailed discussion of Peter and Gordon online. Lo and behold, as I was digging for info on the later albums, I discovered that there is an excellent reference guide to the duo, provided by Jason Rhoden; I'd feel remiss in not pointing it out. I haven't perused it too closely -- yet -- but it appears there's good info on how and where to track down the few stray songs that weren't issued on a U.S. album, as well as more specific comparison of stereo and mono content differences. (Generally, I've learned mono is essential on the earlier albums, and stereo is acceptable if not ideal for the later.) If the info here has whetted your appetite for Peter and Gordon records, Rhoden's guide will fill you up.