You know you’re good when even your trash is red hot. The Beatles, and more specifically Paul McCartney, were hot in 1964. Case in point, the Peter and Gordon song “A World Without Love”, released (in North America) this day that year. It was not quite good enough for the Beatles…but it would soon go to #1 for the duo.
Peter and Gordon were Peter Asher and Gordon Waller, a couple of British lads who fancied themselves perhaps as the next Everly Brothers. Asher’s sister, Jane (an up and coming actress at the time who’d later star in Alfie and show up in TV shows like Brideshead Revisited) was McCartney’s girlfriend at the time, so McC ended up at the Asher’s house on Wimpole St. regularly. One time when he was there, Peter heard Paul playing the foundation to the song. He liked it right away, but Paul wasn’t sure…and later John Lennon thought it was not very good. So the Beatles passed on it. Around that time, Peter and Gordon got signed to EMI, who Asher says “saw us as an English version of the Kingston Trio or Peter, Paul and Mary). They went into the studio with maybe six or seven songs ready…a good start but not enough for a debut LP.
“I asked Paul …if that orphaned song was still up for grabs,” Peter recalled. “We still needed three or four songs to record. Paul said we could have it. So I asked him to finish the bridge, and he did!” .
The vocals were stellar, Vic Flick played a brand new Vox 12-string guitar on it and it became their first single. It got to #1 in the U.S. in June, by which time the Beatles had scored four #1s that year! The Fab Four would go on to have a couple more in ’64, giving Paul a hand in writing seven #1 songs that year… a record it would take 14 years to tie (Barry Gibb doing so in 1978.) The song also topped charts at home in the UK, as well as Canada and New Zealand. It would be the only song written by McCartney & Lennon (how it was credited though it was really all Paul’s baby) that hit #1 that wasn’t recorded by the Beatles, though Paul came reasonably close in 1970 with “Come and Get It”, the Badfinger single he wrote.
Peter and Gordon kept at it for another four or five years, but would never match the success of “A World Without Love,” but were not one hit wonders. They’d end up scoring seven more top 20 hits in the States, the biggest of which was “Lady Godiva”, which got to #6 in ’66. After they broke up, Asher went on to success in other ways in music, most notably being the successful manager of James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt.