Tony Asher

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Tony Asher
BornAnthony D. Asher
(1939-05-02) May 2, 1939 (age 85)
London, England, UK
OccupationSongwriter, jingle writer, copywriter
Years active1960s–present

Anthony D. Asher (born May 2, 1939) is an American songwriter and advertising copywriter who is best known for his collaborations with Brian Wilson (of the Beach Boys) and Roger Nichols in the 1960s. Asher co-wrote eight songs on the Beach Boys' 1966 album Pet Sounds, including the singles "God Only Knows", "Wouldn't It Be Nice", and "Caroline, No". According to Asher, he mainly served as a lyricist for Wilson's songs, but in some cases also contributed musical ideas. Asher also composed jingles, such as Mattel's slogan "You can tell it's Mattel—it's swell!", and contributed songs to The Partridge Family.


Tony Asher was born in London on May 2, 1939, the son of American actress Laura La Plante and film producer Irving Asher.[1] He and his mother moved to Los Angeles before he was six months old, while Irving remained in England to serve in the US Army during World War II. As a child, Asher played piano and composed. He graduated from UCLA with a degree in journalism and subsequently found employment at the Carson/Roberts/Inc. advertising agency.[2] Asher devised the company's Mattel slogan, "You can tell it's Mattel—it's swell!", a success that led him to write popular ads and jingles for Barbie and Chatty Cathy dolls.[3] His colleagues at the agency included Terry Gilliam and Joel Siegel.[4] Asher also collaborated on songwriting with Van Dyke Parks.[5]

Pet Sounds[edit]

Meeting Wilson[edit]

I asked [Tony] what it was like writing commercials for an advertising company. It seemed like interesting work. I said, “You should be good with words if you can do that.” And, he said, “I’m pretty good with words.” Out of nowhere I said “Would you like to work with me on some songs and write some lyrics?” “I’ll give it a try.” Then, Pet Sounds, like that.

—Brian Wilson, 2007[6]

According to most sources, Asher met Brian Wilson while recording at United Western Recorders in 1965.[7] Asher was a 26-year-old copywriter who had been working on advertising jingles and had felt that the Beach Boys were distinct from most artists, releasing a string of hits where "you wouldn't even know, necessarily, that it was gonna be a Beach Boys record from the first bar or something."[4] However, although he was a fan, he "didn't own any of their albums. I had Bill Evans albums."[8]

Asher explained, "I think we were recording some music, or voice-overs for a commercial and I had heard that the Beach Boys were in another studio. During a break, we kind of hung out in the hallway and eventually, sort of snuck into the booth and Brian was in the studio [alone]. ... eventually, we met."[4] Looking for a clean break from the by-then-famous Beach Boys sound (associated with surfing and cars) and not wanting to collaborate with any of the songwriters with whom he had previously worked, Wilson called Asher around December 1965, and within ten days they started to write the songs that formed the bulk of Pet Sounds.[4]

Other sources state that the pair had met during a social gathering at mutual friend Loren Schwartz's house.[7] Asher said that Schwartz "had been a classmate of mine at Santa Monica College. ... Occasionally I would see Brian [at Loren's house]—but [Brian] never stayed long."[9] Wilson biographer Peter Ames Carlin dates the initial meeting between Asher and Wilson to early 1963.[7] Schwartz himself claimed that he was introduced to Wilson by Asher, "my best pal in college," at Western Studio.[10] Asked why he felt Asher was the right collaborator, Wilson responded that he "thought he was a cool person" and was impressed that Asher had known Schwartz, "a very brainy guy, a real verbal type person."[11]


Wilson and Asher wrote together for about three weeks.[12] According to Asher, a typical writing session started either with Wilson's playing melody or chord patterns that he was working on, by discussing a recent record that Wilson liked the feel of, or by discussing a subject that Wilson had always wanted to write a song about. Asher's contribution to the music itself was minimal, serving mainly as a source of second opinion for Wilson as he worked out possible melodies and chord progressions, although the two did trade ideas as the songs evolved.[4] He characterized the experience as "writing an autobiography", however, "I wouldn't limit it to Brian's autobiography."[4] On "God Only Knows", Wilson reflected, "I think Tony had a musical influence on me [through his] certain love for classic songs."[11] In turn, Asher admired the way Wilson "hunt[ed] for a chord change ... the [same] way some of us type."[4]

Asher contended that his most significant musical contributions were to "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times", "Caroline, No", and "That's Not Me".[12] He also said that he conceived the title and subject matter to three of their eight songs.[13] On the publishing royalties, Asher agreed to a 25% cut, an arrangement that he felt was not necessarily commensurate with his contributions. In his words, it was "a screw ... Until you consider that I was a nothing who had never done shit, and I had a chance to write with a guy who had something like nine million-selling records in a row. Well, then it doesn’t seem so bad."[14]

In later years, Asher reflected on his interactions with Wilson and his bandmates as an "embarrassing" experience. He remembered that Wilson "exhibit[ed] this awful taste. His choice of movies, say, was invariably terrible. ... every four hours we'd spend writing songs, there'd be about 48 hours of these dopey conversations about some dumb book [about mysticism] he'd just read. Or else he'd just go on and on about girls."[15] He added that his impression of Wilson was of "the single most irresponsible person" he had ever met, recalling that he had seen uncashed royalty checks of up to $100,000 laying around Wilson's house.[12] He was further bemused by what he described as "the weird relationship he maintained with Marilyn ... like something out of The Flintstones. Personally, I could never understand why he'd married her."[16]

Asked if Wilson had displayed any signs of "lunacy", Asher responded that Wilson had "fits of this uncontrollable anger. Then he'd fall apart and start crying during play-backs of certain tracks."[16] Asher believed that the "whole claustrophobic scene with him and his family" was more to blame for Wilson's bipolar moods than his use of LSD.[16] Asher later called Wilson a "genius musician but an amateur human being".[15] Referencing this remark in a 2013 interview, Asher said that he "didn’t mean that in the way it came out", explaining, "We all have areas of things we’re good at and things we’re not so good at, but his is so zeroed-in on music."[17]

After their songs were completed, Asher visited a few of the recording sessions, most of which were string overdub dates.[18] He did not have a favorable reaction when he learned of the album's title. He remembered that Wilson showed him "some proofs of the pictures they'd done at the zoo, and he told me they were thinking of calling the album Pet Sounds. I thought it was a goofy name for an album – I thought it trivialized what we had accomplished. On the other hand, I was aware that many of Brian's off-the-wall ideas had turned out to be brilliant."[19] Asher was not called again to write for the next Beach Boys album. He said, "I wasn't surprised. Remember, Pet Sounds was considered a flop. Even before the songs were recorded, I knew that the rest of the band felt that Brian's decision to write with me was a bad decision."[20] Mike Love said that he thought "Asher's lyrics were great. I found no fault whatsoever with his lyrical contributions."[21]

Later career[edit]

Following Pet Sounds, Asher collaborated with Roger Nichols. He also wrote several songs with composer-arranger John Bahler recorded by The Partridge Family and used on their television show. As a copywriter and creative director at several advertising agencies (including Carson/Roberts/Inc.), Asher wrote and produced dozens of jingles for Mattel Toys, Gallo Wines, Max Factor Cosmetics, Glendale Federal Savings, and others.[citation needed]

After leaving the advertising agency business, Asher teamed with John Bahler to form Producer's Music Service, a jingle and scoring production company in Hollywood. Asher eventually went to work for Bass/Yager and Associates, a Los Angeles graphic design firm headed by designer Saul Bass. Asher spent 12 years at the firm, the last eight as president.[citation needed]

In the late 1990s, Wilson and Asher rekindled their writing partnership and wrote at least four songs together. Only two were released: "This Isn't Love" and "Everything I Need". A piano-only rendition of "This Isn't Love" was issued on the 1997 compilation Songs Without Words, while a full-band live performance was released on Wilson's 2002 album Live at the Roxy Theatre. In 1997, "Everything I Need" appeared on The Wilsons, a project involving Wilson and his daughters Carnie and Wendy.[22]


  1. ^ White, Timothy (1996). The Nearest Faraway Place: Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys, and the Southern Californian Experience. Macmillan. p. 252. ISBN 0333649370.
  2. ^ Granata 2003, p. 78.
  3. ^ White 1996, p. 253.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Interview with Tony Asher". The Pet Sounds Sessions (Booklet). The Beach Boys. Capitol Records. 1997.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  5. ^ Badman, Keith (2004). The Beach Boys: The Definitive Diary of America's Greatest Band, on Stage and in the Studio. Backbeat Books. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-87930-818-6.
  6. ^ Kubernick, Harvey (July 2, 2021). "Beach Boys "Feel Flows" Box Set". Music Connection. Retrieved April 25, 2022.
  7. ^ a b c Lambert, Philip, ed. (2016). Good Vibrations: Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys in Critical Perspective. University of Michigan Press. p. 188. doi:10.3998/mpub.9275965. ISBN 978-0-472-11995-0. S2CID 192796203.
  8. ^ Carlin, Peter Ames (2006). Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson. Rodale. p. 76. ISBN 978-1-59486-320-2.
  9. ^ Granata 2003, pp. 54–55.
  10. ^ Carlin 2006, p. 64.
  11. ^ a b "Interview with Brian Wilson". The Pet Sounds Sessions (Booklet). The Beach Boys. Capitol Records. 1997.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  12. ^ a b c Gaines, Steven (1986). Heroes and Villains: The True Story of The Beach Boys. New York: Da Capo Press. pp. 143–145. ISBN 0306806479.
  13. ^ Granata, Charles L. (2003). Wouldn't it Be Nice: Brian Wilson and the Making of the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. Chicago Review Press. p. 88. ISBN 978-1-55652-507-0.
  14. ^ Carlin 2006, p. 79.
  15. ^ a b Kent, Nick (June 21, 1975). "The Last Beach Movie: Part 1". NME. p. 24.
  16. ^ a b c Kent, Nick (2009). "The Last Beach Movie Revisited: The Life of Brian Wilson". The Dark Stuff: Selected Writings on Rock Music. Da Capo Press. p. 20. ISBN 9780786730742.
  17. ^ Sharp, Ken (September 4, 2013). "Interview with 'Pet Sounds' Lyricist Tony Asher". Rock Cellar Magazine.
  18. ^ Granata 2003, p. 114.
  19. ^ Granata 2003, p. 82.
  20. ^ Granata 2003, p. 204.
  21. ^ Beard, David (December 2011). "Mike Love & Brian Remember Smile". Endless Summer Quarterly. Vol. 24, no. 94. p. 12.
  22. ^ Lambert, Philip (2007). Inside the Music of Brian Wilson: The Songs, Sounds, and Influences of the Beach Boys' Founding Genius. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 324. ISBN 978-1-4411-0748-0.

Further reading[edit]

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