Saturday, July 18, 2009

Gordon Waller of Peter and Gordon Passes Away

Gordon Waller, who sang with the British invasion duo, Peter & Gordon, died on July 16, 2009. Waller went into cardiac arrest and was taken to a nearby hospital; however despite intensive efforts by hospital personnel, they were unable to revive the sixty-four year old singer.

Long time friend and musical partner Peter Asher stated:

"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.”

While both were attending Westminster School, Waller met fellow student and future singing partner Peter Asher and they began playing together as a duo — Peter & Gordon. As luck would have it, Peter Asher’s sister, actress Jane Asher, was dating Beatle Paul McCartney at the time and Peter and Gordon recorded the Lennon/McCartney penned song “A World Without Love,” which went to #1 in the US in 1964.

The duo reached the Billboard Top 40 a total of ten times with songs such as "Nobody I Know" (#12 in 1964), "I Don't Want To See You Again" (#16 in 1964), the Del Shannon penned single “I Go To Pieces” (#9 in 1965), a remake of the Buddy Holly classic “True Love Ways” (#14 in 1965), a cover of the Phil Spector-led group the Teddy Bears, with the song “To Know You Is To Love You” (they changed the title from “To Know Him Is To Love Him) and the 1966 single “Woman.” Interestingly, the songwriting credit for this song listed Bernard Webb as the songwriter; however this was just an alias for Paul McCartney, who wanted to see if he could have a hit song without his famous name attached to it. The song reached #14 in the US and #28 in the UK. They also reached #6 with the cut “Lady Godiva” in 1966.

The duo had their last hits in 1967 with “Knight In Rusty Armour” (#15) and “Sunday For Tea,” which peaked at #31. Peter & Gordon broke up in 1968 and Asher became head of A&R for Apple Records. Waller attempted a solo career with little success, releasing one record, “and Gordon” (1972). He also appeared in a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat as Pharaoh, a performance that he reprised on the LP. In 2007, Gordon released a solo album “Plays the Beatles,” which featured a new recording of the duo’s 1966 hit "Woman." He followed up with another album in 2008 called “Rebel Rider.”

In 2005, Peter & Gordon reunited onstage for the first time in over 30 years, as part of two tribute concerts for Mike Smith of the Dave Clark Five. They followed up this appearance with several other performances including concerts at The Festival for Beatles Fans (formerly Beatlefest), where according to a report by Journalist Peter Palmiere for Beatlefan magazine, the pair was the performing highlight of the convention. On July 19, 2008 Peter & Gordon performed together at The Cannery Casino in North Las Vegas, Nevada and on August 21, 2008, they performed a free concert on the pier in Santa Monica, California, briefly accompanied by Joan Baez.

Peter Asher was truly saddened by the news of his partner in music passing away, saying:

"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.”

"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.”

Written By Robert Benson 2009

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