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Gordon Waller 7/2009

July 17, 2009 – Gordon Waller  (Peter & Gordon) was born in Braemar, Scotland, on June 4th 1945. The son of a surgeon, Gordon met fellow student, Peter Asher while attending the prestigious Westminster School, and they began playing together as the duo Peter & Gordon.

Both were keen guitarists and soon they were entertaining their fellow students. By 1963, they were playing (initially as Gordon and Peter) in pubs and small clubs at lunchtimes and evenings for small fees or for a meal, often singing their own compositions in the close harmony style of the Everly Brothers.

Early in 1964, they were booked for a two-week engagement at the Pickwick nightclub. One of the diners was Norman Newell, an EMI record producer. Newell was charmed enough by Peter and Gordon’s rendition of their song If I Were You to offer them a recording contract.

At this time, Beatle Paul McCartney was dating Peter Asher’s sister Jane, and Peter and Gordon badgered McCartney to provide them with a song. He obliged with A World Without Love, which he had written six years earlier in Liverpool. McCartney told his biographer Barry Miles: “Gordon was a lot of fun – he was slightly less academic than Peter. It was he who persuaded Peter to jump school to do lunchtime sessions.”

By the end of March 1964, A World Without Love had displaced the Beatles’ own Can’t Buy Me Love in the charts. In May, just before Waller’s 19th birthday and Asher’s 20th, it was the biggest selling record in the US. It catapulted them to fame and the instant stardom created by A World Without Love, was the beginning of two years of frantic activity for Peter and Gordon.

For the American media, they combined the cachet of a Beatles connection (McCartney wrote several more of their hits and fans discerned in Waller a slight resemblance to John Lennon) with the Woosterish appeal of well-bred British toffs strumming guitars. There were numerous television appearances, occasional tours of Japan and Australia as well as North America and dozens of recordings. In the next 12 months, Nobody I Know and I Don’t Want to See You Again (both by McCartney) were transatlantic hits, as were I Go To Pieces, written by Del Shannon, and True Love Ways, a Buddy Holly song the duo had performed in their early days in London.

By now, Peter and Gordon were competing in North America with numerous other British imports, including another middle-class duo, Chad and Jeremy. But in 1966 their star began to wane, when their only hits were Woman, another McCartney composition credited pseudonymously to “Bernard Webb”, and Lady Godiva, a novelty number that was denounced as obscene by the mayor of Coventry, which helped it reach the Top 20 in Britain and the American Top 10.

By 1967, Peter and Gordon’s British career was over and in America they were reduced to peddling olde English material such as the minor hit The Knight in Rusty Armour and the album Sunday for Tea. As part of the British Invasion, Peter & Gordon appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “Shindig” and “Hullabaloo.” Among their other hits were “I Go to Pieces,” and “True Love Ways.

After nine Top 20 records (three of them gold), the duo broke up in 1968, with Asher joining the Beatles’ Apple project as an A&R man and Waller launching a career as a solo singer. They stayed life long friends however.

Gordon solo career went nowhere, despite him being the better voice. He then left showbusiness for a few years to run a landscape gardening business in Northamptonshire until in 1971 he appeared in the production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat as Pharaoh.

In the mid-1970s Waller worked as a photocopier salesman in Bedford and in 1995, he moved to Los Angeles, California, and started a publishing company: Steel Wallet International Ltd.

In August 2005, Peter and Gordon reunited onstage for the first time in over 30 years, as part of two tribute concerts in New York City, for Mike Smith of the Dave Clark Five. Beginning the following year, this was followed by more complete concerts at The Festival for Beatles Fans conventions and as well as a world tour.

In 2007 Gordon released a solo album “Plays the Beatles”, featuring a new recording of his 60s hit “Woman”.

On 19 July, 2008, Peter and Gordon performed together at The Cannery Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Also on the bill that night were Chad & Jeremy. Both duos sang the final concert song (“Bye Bye Love”) together for only the second time.

On August 21st 2008, Peter and Gordon performed a free concert on the pier in Santa Monica, California, briefly accompanied by Joan Baez.

On 2 February 2009 Gordon performed with Asher at the Surf Ballroom as part of a tribute concert marking the 50th anniversary of “The Day The Music Died”.

Gordon Waller went into cardiac arrest on the evening of 16 July 2009, and died aged 64 of a heart attack early in the morning of 17 July 2009 in Norwich, Connecticut. He was 64.

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