To the small but growing list of rare Beatles tapes that unexpectedly pop up, add one more: Paul McCartney’s solo performance of “A World Without Love,” the debut 1964 single by Peter and Gordon that hit Number One in both the U.S. and the U.K.
The only known McCartney version of the song, the tape – featuring McCartney singing and accompanying himself on acoustic guitar – was unearthed a few months ago by Peter Asher, half of Peter and Gordon and the brother of McCartney’s girlfriend at the time, Jane Asher. In early 1964, McCartney was living in the Asher family home, sharing the top floor with Peter. “He had two tape machines and I had one – we were both into taping,” Asher says. “Paul told me about the song and played it for me.”
As Asher soon learned, nothing became of the song. “No one wanted it,” he says. “John didn’t like it or something.” (The song has been credited to Lennon-McCartney, but McCartney apparently wrote it alone.) Billy J. Kramer, a Merseybeat singer of the time, also turned it down.
Not long after McCartney played “A World Without Love” for Asher (who taped it on a reel-to-reel deck), Peter and Gordon, the duo Asher formed with Gordon Waller, landed a record deal. Immediately, Asher asked McCartney if the duo could have the unfinished ballad. “Paul said, ‘Absolutely,’ but I had to nag him to write the bridge. It came several weeks later, just in time for the session.” As a result, the tape in Asher’s possession doesn’t feature the song’s bridge.
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Asher discovered the recording (a DAT tape of the reel-to-reel original) in a storage space in L.A. Currently, there are no plans to release it, but Beatles fans can hear it in Peter Asher: A Musical Memoir of the ‘60s and Beyond, Asher’s touring show, which plays shows in New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Clear Lake, Iowa, over the next few weeks. Also on the tape, from the same bedroom recording, is McCartney singing an early version of “I’ll Follow the Sun,” with a quicker, friskier tempo than the ones the Beatles used for their recording of the song.