“World Without Love” / Peter & Gordon
MAY IS BRITISH INVASION MONTH!
One of the nice things about being a fangirl is that you can safely cheat on your true love. Of course I was in love with Paul McCartney in 1964 -- but I was also in love with his as-good-as brother-in-law Peter Asher, of the duo Peter and Gordon. Peter was the redhaired one, the one wearing Buddy Holly glasses (just like my OTHER love, Chad Stuart of Chad and Jeremy). I was impeccably discreet -- none of them ever knew.
Peter and Gordon were inevitably compared to Chad and Jeremy, who’d broken onto the British music scene a few months earlier, though they appeared in the US pretty much simultaneously. But Peter and Gordon had a special advantage over Chad and Jeremy – they got their songs straight from Paul McCartney, who was involved with Peter’s sister Jane Asher (Paul actually lived in the Asher family townhouse, an arrangement that still blows my mind). The McCartney magic touch wasn’t just a matter of the famous name listed on the record label – even when he wrote songs under a pseudonym, they were hits. And Peter and Gordon, with their sincere vocals patterned after the Everly Brothers, did them full justice. These were bright little midtempo rockers, with a sound somehow younger and fresher than That Other Duo -- no strings, for one thing (not until “I Don’t Want To See You Again,” at any rate); electric guitars instead of acoustics; and snazzy back-up drums.
“World Without Love” was Peter and Gordon’s first single, an impressive pop debut indeed. Singing in unison, they start with an anti-social grabber: “Please lock me away / And don’t allow the day / Here inside / Where I hide / With my loneliness.” It’s perfect adolescent petulance; you can almost see the kid stamping his foot and scrunching his face into a frown: “I don’t care what they say / I won’t stay / In a world without love.” But in the second verse, he’s more like Romeo, feeling that the time is out of joint, and their two voices split into tender, close harmonies: “Birds sing out of tune / And rainclouds hide the moon / I’m okay / Here I’ll stay / With my loneliness.” I love the melodic plot here – the way the first two lines struggle up the scale, the next two tumble wistfully downwards, the last one hangs uncertainly on a diminished chord. It could so easily become morose, and yet the upbeat tempo, the jazzy guitar licks, the cheery organ solo in the break, keep it all eager and hopeful.
At first we suppose his heart’s been broken by a cruel girlfriend, but in the bridge the emotional territory shifts: “So I wait and in a while / I will see my true love smile / She may come, I know not when / When she does, I’ll know / So baby until then…” That romantic idealism, the McCartney trademark (he’d mine this idea again, even better, on the white album in the song “I Will”), and I still buy it – you just can’t keep up a jaded mindset in the face of that lovely melody. This guy’s young and innocent – he believes his true love is just around the corner, and Peter and Gordon’s boyish vocals sell it just right.
In 1964, I knew Peter Asher was locked away in his room, waiting for me. I wasn’t sure what I’d tell Paul McCartney when he learned I’d eloped with Peter Asher – but, hey, I’ll deal with that when it happens.