Born in 1939, Tony Asher
was a jingle writer and amateur songwriter when he was introduced to Brian Wilson
by mutual friend Loren Schwartz
Asher impressed Wilson as 'a real verbal guy', but was nonetheless more than a little surprised when he got a phone call from Wilson, then at the height of his commercial success, asking him to collaborate.
"I got this phone call and the voice said 'This is Brian Wilson'. And I said 'Yeah, right. This is one of the guys in the office, right?' But it turned out it was, in fact, Brian Wilson. And he wanted to know if I was available to write some songs with him."
Wilson and Asher together wrote, in late 65 and 66, the songs that would become the backbone of the album Pet Sounds - Wouldn't It Be Nice , You Still Believe In Me, That's Not Me, Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder), God Only Knows, Here Today, I Just Wasn't Made For These Times and Caroline, No. Asher also wrote lyrics for an early version of Good Vibrations. However the album was not a commercial success (by the Beach Boys' standards - it was top 10 in the US and got to number 2 in the UK), and the partnership ended.
Wilson and Asher's working methods were simple. They would work to a finished chord sequence and more-or-less finished melody that Wilson would have created. Asher would then write a lyric based on discussions between the two, which Wilson would, if necessary, fine tune in the studio. This meant that Asher received 25% of the copyright for the songs in question - Wilson is credited as writing 50% of the lyrics and 100% of the music. This was not a problem until Mike Love sued Wilson in the early 90s. One of the songs in the lawsuit was Wouldn't It Be Nice, to which Love added the line 'good night baby/sleep tight baby' to the coda. Love won the suit, and was awarded shares in the songs proportionate to the number of writers. As the song now had three credited writers - Wilson, Love and Asher, Love now receives 1/3 of the royalties for adding 6 words - while Asher, who wrote the rest of the lyric, receives 1/6 (Wilson gets the other 50%). Unsurprisingly, Asher is not happy about this.
Somewhat surprisingly, for the man who had co-written what Paul McCartney described as 'the most perfect song ever written' (God Only Knows) Asher didn't become a full-time songwriter. Other than a few collaborations with Roger Nichols and Paul Williams (released on Nichols' album A Small Circle Of Friends, now considered a soft-rock classic) he turned his back on songwriting, returning to advertising.
Asher reunited with Wilson for a few interviews in 1996, to mark the thirtieth anniversary of Pet Sounds' release. These meetings caused a brief resumption of their collaboration, resulting in two songs released so far - Everything I Need (recorded by Carnie, Wendy and Brian Wilson on The Wilsons and by Jeff Foskett and Brian Wilson on Foskett's Twelve And Twelve) and This Isn't Love (featured in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, and recorded by Wilson on Live At The Roxy - a solo instrumental version by Wilson appears on the compilation Songs Without Words). These songs, while pleasant enough, did not live up to their earlier work, and the collaboration appears once again to have ended.
Quotes taken from David Leaf's excellent liners to the Pet Sounds Sessions box set