Peter Beckett: The Man Behind Player and “Baby Come Back”
Written by: Frank Iacono
In 1974, legendary singer/songwriter/musician Peter Beckett, a Liverpool, England native, came to America to join an international group of writer/musicians called Skyband and recorded an album for RCA Records. Unfortunately, Skyband was short-lived, but during a glitzy Hollywood party he met singer/guitarist J.C. Crowley. A short time later, Peter formed Player along with Crowley, bassist Ronn Moss and drummer John Friesen.
In 1978, Player struck gold with the chart-topping, feel-good smash hit co-written by Beckett and Crowley entitled “Baby Come Back.” The song was Player’s biggest single, hitting number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 10 on the soul charts. With the success of “Baby Come Back,” the self-titled debut album went platinum and the band toured extensively. When Player slowed down in the 1980s Beckett focused on film and TV projects while his bandmate Moss gained stardom playing Ridge Forrester on the CBS soap opera series The Bold And The Beautiful.
Between the years 1989-1997, Peter was a featured member of The Little River Band and has written several singles for them. Beckett and Moss reunited in 1997 and completed the fifth Player album entitled Lost In Reality. Then in 1999, they began performing again as Player, usually with all-star lineups of musicians that included members of Foreigner, REO Speedwagon, The Cars, Mister Mister and Little River Band.
After an almost 20-year hiatus, Player returned back in 2013 with a new album entitled Too Many Reasons. The album, which features 12 new tracks and a new acoustic version of “Baby Come Back,” was written and produced by Peter.
In this interview for Music Player Magazine, we caught up with Peter Beckett where he talked about his musical influences, his early career in the band Player, his songwriting career, his more memorable performances and the Too Many Reasons CD.
Music Player Magazine: Growing up in Liverpool, England when did you realize music was something you wanted to pursue? And, were there any specific bands that highly influenced your decision?
My brother sneaked me into The Cavern Club in Liverpool when I was about 16 and I got to see The Beatles play live. It was so loud and atmospheric that from that moment I was hooked. One of my favorite bands was The Escorts. I loved their Everly Brothers style harmonies and used to go see them a lot.
MPM: Tell us about when Player showcased “Baby Come Back,” a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1977, for legendary American record producer and music industry executive Clive Davis and describe how that meeting played itself out?
John Charles Crowley (vocals, keyboards, guitar) and Ronn Moss (bass, vocals) and I were set up to play a handful of songs for Clive at the Beverly Hills Hotel in the ballroom. There was just him sitting out there. We were on the stage playing acoustically. We did about three songs including “Baby Come Back”. Afterwards he took us to his suite, and after telling us that he didn’t hear a hit, he started playing us a bunch of records that he thought were hits. We were deflated. He was very polite, but also wrong (for once).
MPM: Since then “Baby Come Back” has been featured in many TV commercials, more recently to sell Swiffer Sweeper Vac and Swiffer WetJet, so how do you think that either helps or hurts Player?
At this stage of the game and the way the music business has changed, I don’t think anything can hurt. It’s all airplay and gets the song in people’s faces again.
MPM: When you were working on Player’s second album, entitled The Danger Zone, your record company asked you to tour with guitar great Eric Clapton. Can you tell us all about that experience?
I had performed with Clapton several times in England before during the John Mayall and eventually “Cream” days. We knew when we got the news that we would have to toughen up our sound somewhat to do the “Slowhand” tour. This led to the harder edged 1978 album entitled Danger Zone and it featured the hit “Silver Lining.”
This came naturally to me as I had played in some harder rock bands in England. I was asked to play with Uriah Heep at one stage but turned it down to stay in Los Angeles as I would have had to move back to London. The “Slowhand” tour was a classic and a great memory.
MPM: Over the years, are there any specific Player performances that are particularly memorable for you?
I remember playing in Chicago on the Boz Scaggs’ Silk Degrees tour. We had been touring for a while as our single was going up the Billboard charts. We walked out on stage and the audience reception was much, much bigger than usual. We found out later that the record had hit number one and a lot more people knew who we were.
MPM: What are among some of the strangest venues or gigs you’ve ever played and how did it affect the overall performance?
I did a “theater in the round” one time, and what was supposed to happen was the band would start playing facing the backstage area, By the time we started singing, the stage should have turned, and we should have been facing the audience. The stage never turned, and we did the whole first song facing backstage. The roadies were in hysterics, but they applauded at the end. Then the stage turned, and things were back to normal.
MPM: Can you provide us with some background about the acoustic song “I Will” that appears on your 2013 release entitled Too Many Reasons?
I wrote that song with Steve Plunkett a few years back and it seemed to fit alongside the other songs that were chosen for the CD. It was meant to have a kind of Dave Matthews vibe.
MPM: During your career, you’ve done a fair amount of songwriting and a great deal of session work for other artists so can you share with us some of that work?
I can barely remember all of them these days, but off the top of my head I have written songs for:
- Kenny Rogers
- Olivia Newton John
- Sergio Mendes
- The Temptations
- Janet Jackson
- Little River Band
- and many others…including Grace Slick and Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead
Some of my movie credits include:
- Major League
- The Karate Kid
- Terminator 3
- Dirty Dancing 2
- Rock Star
- St Elmo’s Fire (the song received a Grammy Nomination)
- Frankie and Johnny