It is really scary to look back and realise that Ash conquered the world before they were out of their teens.
The male trio (Tim Wheeler, Mark Hamilton and Rick McMurray) from Downpatrick in Northern Ireland had already enjoyed a modicum of critical acclaim and commercial success thanks to singles and a mini-LP released before they had even left school but that was nothing compared to the release of proper debut, entitled 1977, which went to #1 in the UK and spawned five hit singles, four of which went Top 20.
They expanded their line-up by adding a female guitarist (Charlotte Hatherley) who was even younger than them and gained a well deserved reputation for incendiary live shows. Unfortunately, the pressure to write and record a smash follow-up to 1977 led to all sorts of difficulties and tensions which showed in the patchy Nu-Clear Sounds released in 1998. It also nearly bankrupted all concerned…
Three years later, and still all in the early 20s, Ash unleashed Free All Angels on the world, a record that had been written back in the sanctuary of Downpatrick and well away from all the temptations and distractions that are put before any successful young band. It would go on to sell more than three million copies world-wide and put Ash, deservedly, back in the spotlight where this time they were far better equipped to deal with all that entailed.
There was one more album – Meltdown – as a four-piece before Hatherley quit in 2006 after a hugely adventurous nine years. The next album recorded as a trio was called Twilight of the Innocents. It didn’t quite fare so well and the band also struggled in the live setting readjusting to being a three-piece and unable to properly perform some of their best known and most popular tracks.
What happened next almost beggars belief. Announcing that due to the changing ways that people listened to and consumed music, particularly with the advent of downloading, they would no longer record any albums but concentrate on single tracks. They were true to their word, beginning in April 2009 with a 45 called Return of White Rabbit for which the three band members each hand-created 178 sleeves with the single being available to win in different competitions being run through their website. The following month they announced the intention to release 26 singles, one every two weeks over a 12-month period.
That project came to an end in 2010 since when the band have been active only on the live front. But very shortly, on Monday 25 May, they will release Kablammo!, their first new LP in eight years. Things are never easy trying to keep up with Ash.
Here’s one of their best known singles from the Free All Angels era, with the tracks taken from the 2 x CDs that made up the release:-
mp3 : Ash – Burn Baby Burn
mp3 : Ash – 13th Floor (radio 1 session)
mp3 : Ash – Only in Dreams (radio 1 session)
mp3 : Ash – Burn Baby Burn (album version)
mp3 : Ash – Thinking About You
mp3 : Ash – Submission (Arthur Baker mix)
Only In Dreams is a cover version of a Weezer song. And here’s a little know fact….Burn Baby Burn was the first song played on BBC 6 Music when it aired on the morning of Monday 11 March 2002.
Here’s an acoustic version of the song as made available on a ‘special’ CD release of the album:-
mp3 : Ash – Burn Baby Burn (acoustic)