Angel Interceptor, despite being a #14 hit for Ash, is a sort of forgotten single by many.

The trio (as they were at the time), had enjoyed their first chart success with Girl From Mars in August 1995. The following year, each of Goldfinger and Oh Yeah would go top 10 on either side of debut album 1977 entering the charts at #1.

In many ways, Angel Interceptor was a strange choice for a single, thanks to its loud/quiet/loud nature.

mp3: Ash – Angel Interceptor

It also finds Tim Wheeler at the edge of his comfort zone in terms of vocal delivery, and it has been said that the difficulties involved in the higher-pitched harmonies were a factor in the band looking to recruit a female member for going forward, which they would be with the addition of Charlotte Hatherley as the additional guitarist and backing vocalist.

Two b-sides with this one:-

mp3: Ash – 5am Eternal
mp3: Ash – Gimme Some Truth

The former is an energetic original, largely driven along in the main by the guitars, but with a weird electronic break about halfway through the track with the refrain of ‘dance dance dance’ followed by more guitars before coming to halt at what feels like midway through a verse or chorus.

The latter is a cover of a John Lennon song, originally released in 1971 on the album Imagine, and later as a b-side to a posthumous single in 1982, issued at the time of a new ‘best of’ collection.  As someone who isn’t much of a fan of the late legend, I’m not terribly enamoured by this one.



SWC, who as part of the Devon & Cornwall constabulary, has been just a tad occupied with the recent G7 summit that was held on his patch last week.  But he’s back……….

Did you miss me? Sorry for the radio silence, I’ve been a bit busy. Anyway, where was I, Oh Yes, Aphex Twin records, that’s were I left everything. Well that was sort of the last record I was going to talk about but….then I decided to move Badgers records from the boxes and into my vinyl cupboard, which was not an easy task I’ll tell you. I had to make space and now much to the annoyance of Mrs SWC, I’ve got a big pile of records sat in the bottom of my wardrobe behind the picture of Sennen Cove I’ve been meaning to put up in the lounge for years.

Still, there I was lovingly putting all these records in alphabetical (and chronological) order in small piles. I am somewhat surrounded by records, it is a lovely feeling, I have a cup of tea close at hand, a small plate of biscuits and the digital radio (BBC Radio 6 Music) has just played this:-

Real Estate – Talking Backwards

I am quite content.

It then dawns on me – that once again, save for the obvious letters of Q, X, Y and Z, Badger has given me at least one piece of vinyl for every letter of the alphabet, and with that a little lightbulb sparks above my head. It turns out I have leant against the switch whilst I was casually the reading the label notes for ‘Mixed Up’ by The Cure.

I did also have an idea. The next few pieces in this series will be in alphabetical order (rather like the Charity Shop CD bit – more of that later) – some will be bunched together to avoid you having to read at least 22 pieces of this nonsense. Oh, and massive apologies well in advance, the only band starting with U was U2, ‘Pop’ era U2 at that, so that means Bono at his most pompous wraparound shades wearing worst I’m afraid. You have my permission to pretend your internet was broken all week on that day.

Let’s start with something a little bit brilliant (we’ll get progressively shitter as the weeks go on) and a band who did their own A to Z tour of the UK a few years back.

A is for ASH

Trailer (Infectious Records, 1994)

According to legend (or Wikipedia, whichever you like), Ash were called Ash because back in 1992 the band decided that if they were going to be taken seriously as a band, then being an Iron Maiden covers band called ‘Vietnam’ wasn’t a good enough. One of the band, probably the drummer, because, well its always the drummer, as we know, picked up a dictionary and starting with A they flicked through until they came across word that they all liked…talking of legends….

“There is a cave at the bottom of Tregarra Head where a mermaid lives…” is how the story told by an old fisherman who sits at the back drinking his ale from a jug, starts (if you went to the right pub that is). His purpose in life is to pass on information, stories, and tales. If you pay him in pints of Doom Bar he will regale you with a yarn from about the mermaid who lived in a cave below the mining village of Zennor.

He used to that is until 2009.

You will note I said until 2009, why..? Well because in 2009 a new Cornish legend was born, one that replaced the old, slightly creepy and probably not true story of the mermaid who lived in a cave below the mining village of Zennor. A story told by, let’s be honest, a man who should probably get a real job and seek help for his obvious and depressing descent into alcoholism.

The new legend was born towards the end of November 2009, when a band called Ash played the final gig of their aforementioned A to Z tour in the Village Hall at Zennor to a crowd of 70, why only 70? Well, because that’s the capacity.

Now when you stagger into the local pub in that tiny Cornish village and go up to the gnarly looking old guy in the corner with the chunky sweater and the yellow trousers and casually put down his pint of Doom. The fisherman will look at you and then rip off his chunky sweater to reveal an original ‘1977’ tour t shirt, he will then jump up on the bar and shout,

“Twas a cold November evening when lights dimmed in Zennor Village Hall and not a whisper could be heard until a voice shouted into the darkness “Hey, We’re fucking Ash and this is called ‘Kung Fu’”….

Here are three tracks from ‘Trailer’ all of which are excellent, and three of the reasons why Ash were so good back in the mid-nineties, of course you should have them:-

Jack Names The Planets
Uncle Pat

There were a couple of other records in the ‘A’ Pile that were worthy of your attention, there was this:-

Alabama 3 – Speed of the Sound of Loneliness

which is all kinds of funky brilliance and way better than the original.

Audioweb – Sleeper

who Badger saw live in a BBC Studio once on the Jools Holland smug fest that is ‘Hootenanny’.



Album : Free All Angels – Ash
Review : The Guardian, 20 April 2001
Author : Betty Clarke

Nowadays it’s not cool to be young and enjoy it. Instead, adolescence is surrounded by negativity and teenagers just bemoan the fact that they have their whole lives in front of them. Fun without responsibility has been diluted by the likes of Wheatus, who celebrate the poor personal hygiene and dodgy taste in music that youth entails, by Westlife and their middle-aged, middle-of-the-road sentiments, and by dismissive declarations of “my generation” from the greying Limp Bizkit. Where are the head-spinning thrills, the heart-stopping lust, the celebration of golden summer holidays that seem to last for ever?

Step forward Ash, who (while they themselves wrestle with the complexities of mid-20s angst) have crystallised the pleasure and pain of being a teen. Back in 1996, when they kicked up some punk-pop dust with the single Kung Fu, Tim Wheeler, Mark Hamilton and Rick McMurray were the naughtiest kids in the Britpop class. Juggling a record deal with their A-levels, they hit the charts with the adrenaline-filled debut album 1977. Spawning indie classics Girl from Mars and Oh Yeah, 1977 conjured up playground longings and Kodak memories and set them to lush melodies and spiky guitars. Ash held on to their innocent exuberance, their Star Wars fixation and the knowledge that girls were an unknown but desired quantity.

Following a foray into soundtracks with A Life Less Ordinary, Ash acquired a new guitarist in Charlotte Hatherley and released their second album, Nu-Clear Sounds. But the joy had evaporated into thrash and an affection for the Jesus and Mary Chain that vanquished the optimism and fun of the past. Personally, things weren’t so great either. After two years of non-stop pop, the sweetness of success turned bitter for Wheeler, who gradually retreated into depression. Cue 18 months of suffering, silence and recovery.

But with Free All Angels, Ash have rediscovered their enthusiasm, and Wheeler – not just the singer but the band’s chief songwriter – has a smile on his face. From the beginning, you know it’s going to be good. Walking Barefoot has that trademark sense of nostalgia for a time you’re still experiencing. A great festival song, it’s about relishing a perfect moment while knowing it’s about to come to an end. “Remember when the sun was hot, remember when the days were long,” Wheeler sings, a homage to both lazy days and golden years.

The perfect pop ethic of simple, epic singalong songs continues with Shining Star, Ash’s greatest single since Girl from Mars, a celebration of someone special in sixth-form prose. World Domination is another call to arms to kids everywhere to kick off their trainers and jump up and down. With its “we don’t give a fuck how we’re meant to be” feelgood factor, plus count-in intro, speeding drums and rock guitars just distant enough from Status Quo to be cool, it’s destined to be an Ash anthem.

But Wheeler knows life isn’t all about good times, and Free All Angels has its share of sadness. New single Burn Baby Burn initially sounds joyful, but listen closer and you’ll hear how the nagging guitar really captures the sound of confusion in an ode to the slow death of a relationship. “You’re all I have in this teenage twilight,” Wheeler sings, while admitting that the bitter words and anger characterise the death of what was once his lifeline.

The obsession with stars is still apparent in many of the songs – from There’s a Star to the winsome hymn Sometimes, which blames the realignment of the stars for the loss of love – and so too are the layered harmonies and Beach Boys sound. Pacific Palisades in particular is very like the Barracudas, a fantastic melody rising like a wave before crashing into scrunched-up pop.

There’s some unlikely stuff too. On Nicole, Wheeler adopts a deranged serial-killer persona as he shouts: “I said no, I killed my baby, but I love her.” He gives the impression that the blood is still on his hands. The weirdness continues in Submission, which would find a suitably seedy home on Soft Cell’s Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret: a wannabe homage to S&M that doesn’t work because Wheeler’s voice is too thin to be scary. It’s like discovering your little brother’s secret stash of porn mags – it just makes you giggle.

Frothy, bizarre but beautiful, Candy is the most interesting song on the album. Wheeler does Dusty as the string section from the Walker Brothers’ Make It Easy on Yourself meets the sparse keyboards of Dr Dre‘s Next Episode in a song of sweetness and reassurance. Some unnecessary guitar messes up the ending, but it’s a brave and confident fusion of genres.

Free All Angels is simply great. Sometimes introspective, a bit strange, but most of all fun, it’s what being young is all about.

mp3 : Ash – Walking Barefoot
mp3 : Ash – Shining Light
mp3 : Ash – Candy
mp3 : Ash – World Domination

JC adds : As this series has demonstrated, there’s been a severe lack, over the years, of female writers when it comes to music reviews of the sort of stuff I’ve a love for, and it is interesting that I had to go to a broadsheet newspaper to dig this one out.  It’s a review that would make me want to buy the album, rightfully acknowledging that a very fine debut effort had been followed up with something of a mishap, but passing on the news that the boys and new girl were back on track again.

I listened again to Free All Angels in its entirety for the first time in ages on the back of reading this review and found myself falling for its charms all over again.  It certainly doesn’t feel or sound like an album that is not far short of 20 years old, and arguably deserves to be thought of as one of the best releases by a UK band from the period in question.






I am a long time reader of this blog, but a very rare commenter, however, I have been loving the ICA series and have been keen to do one. I debated a few different bands and maybe I might do some of the others later, but this is the one I kept coming back to.

Here we are then, an ICA from Northern Ireland’s finest, Ash. This is a band I have seen live many times and the only band I have seen at all the major venues in Portsmouth where I live (the Wedgewood Rooms, the Pyramids, the Guildhall & Victorious Festival on the seafront) – the Pyramids show on the Free All Angels tour is up there in my top 5 all-time gigs. This a very “hit-heavy” ICA covering most of their career, though nothing from the most recent album, Kablammo!, which is good, but in my opinion is missing a killer tune. I think this ICA is a good introduction to the band and hopefully there are one or two gems here that people haven’t heard before.

Side 1

Jack Names The Planets (from Trailer)

Their first single and the first indication of their lyrical obsession with using space/sci-fi terms. A great blast of melodic energy, that disguises some bittersweet lyrics. If you’re wondering about the spoken section at the beginning of the song, this is the explanation from Wikipedia;

“two Dutchmen, Oscar “Wilde” Vermeer and Patrick “The Brewer” Schrama (who met Tim Wheeler during a holiday in France), suggest that the song should have been called “Jack Names The Planet Nieuw-Vennep”, given that, in their opinion, “Nieuw-Vennep” is a good name for a planet. Nieuw-Vennep is a town of thirty thousand inhabitants in the west of Holland, midway between The Hague and Amsterdam”.

Girl From Mars (from 1977)

The first Ash song most people (including me) were aware of. Their first top 20 hit and their first Top Of The Pops appearance. An acapella opening leads into a smart pop-punk song with a cool guitar solo, ideal for radio during the Britpop years. The lyrics of this song, as well as having more sci-fi references, also features another regular Ash lyrical concern, summer.

A Life Less Ordinary (single)

Charlotte Hatherley joined the band as a second guitarist in 1997, expanding their sound as a result. This is the first release to feature her, a standalone single from the soundtrack to the Ewan McGregor/Cameron Diaz film of the same name, which you’ve probably never heard of. I can remember renting the video from Blockbuster (that’s such a 90s sentence!) because of the Ash connection and also because I rate Ewan McGregor as an actor, I wouldn’t bother seeking it out if I were you, as it’s not a good film. The song by contrast is great, driven by nagging, choppy guitar and a dreamy chorus.

True Love 1980 (from A-Z Volume 1)

In 2007 Ash announced that they would no longer be releasing albums, just singles, as they believed the advent of the download had changed the emphasis to single tracks over albums. This eventually became a series of 26 singles (the A-Z series) released every fortnight for a year, later gathered over 2 compilation albums. This was the first single released this way (although there was a free download song issued prior to it that was not officially part of the series, confused?). It is a wistful love song, underpinned by a retro synthesizer backing, that sounds like an old video game soundtrack, stereotypical Ash and perfect for the 80s themed lyrics.

Won’t Be Saved (from Meltdown)

Ash managed the tricky feat of appealing to both Indie kids & the Kerrang! crowd and there are definite metal influences to some of their work. This is probably best illustrated on the Meltdown album, although ironically not on this track, the penultimate song on the album, which is a more straightforward pop song. The track starts with a simple but melodic guitar intro leading into a charming song of unrequited love with a typical Ash singalong chorus.

Side 2

Walking Barefoot (from Free All Angels)

I always associate the Free All Angels album with summer and I think it is mostly to do with this song, which is a perfect summer anthem. This song, “Burn Baby Burn” and “Shining Light” provide one of the greatest album openings ever in my opinion, the three songs work so well together and I couldn’t break them up, so they start side 2 of my ICA.

Shining Light (from Free All Angels)

It’s difficult to say much new about this song. It is their biggest selling single and probably their most recognisable song and one I have grown to love more as the years have gone by. A wonderful melody, with lyrics full of religious imagery, not surprising really, as Tim Wheeler grew up in Northern Ireland in the 70s and 80s, when the church really dominated society there. Fun fact, this song won an Ivor Novello songwriting award.

Burn Baby Burn (from Free All Angels)

For a time Ash were my favourite band and I played Free All Angels to death and this song in particular, which was my all time favourite song for a time. This is an almost perfect indie single, guaranteed to fill the floor at indie club nights. I love the way the song announces itself with those chiming guitars.

Goldfinger (from 1977)

As I mentioned above, this is a very hit-heavy ICA, but I make no apologies for that, as I’ve always thought Ash were a quintessential singles band. This is their first top 10 hit and their highest ever charting single. What I like about this track is the way each verse starts with a slow stuttering build and the way for such a melancholy song it swings.

Twilight Of The Innocents (from Twilight Of The Innocents)

The closing title track from their fifth album (and at one point their last album). Charlotte Hatherley had left at this point and they were back to a three piece, not that you notice on a track like this, which has some wonderful instrumentation. This is a great closing track, particularly the way it builds into an epic, driven by some powerful drumming, a really effective string arrangement and Tim singing “I’m still breathing, My heart’s still beating” before fading out to just keyboards, all of which makes it a perfect end to this ICA.

Bonus Single

Does Your Mother Know (from Evening Session Priority Tunes Compilation)

Except it’s not quite the end. Ash do a great cover version, often showing some unexpected influences, so I’ve celebrated that by adding a bonus single of cover versions. The A side is this Abba cover taken from a 1995 Steve Lamacq/Jo Whilley Evening Session and included on the 1996 Evening Session compilation album. It’s a very punky take, which I think suits the song well.

Coming Around Again (from A-Z Volume 1)

Another surprising cover, this time a 1986 Carly Simon track, which they turn into a stereotypical Ash ballad, building to a climax where they throw the kitchen sink at it in terms of arrangement, an approach that ends up working despite itself.

I hope you enjoyed my first attempt at an ICA.



Absolutely nothing to do with James Bond….and it’s not even a posting about Magazine who once did an okay cover version of the theme song made famous by Shirley Bassey back in 1964.

Instead, it is one of the finest moments in the career of Ash:-

mp3 : Ash – Goldfinger

The fourth single to be lifted from the album 1977, it was arguably the one which made them such a stand-out act in comparison with many of their peers. OK, the opening few bars owe something to Nirvana or Smashing Pumpkins but once the lyric kicks in and the song slows down there’s a real sense that the 18-year old Tim Wheeler is again proving to be highly capable of writing stuff that is well beyond his tender years. It’s an ambiguous tale that could be about a young lad trying unsuccessfully to come to terms with the fact his relationship has come to an end or equally it could be from the perspective of a junkie waiting on the return of his other half with the next hit. Either way, it’s a great piece of indie-rock that climbed all the way to #5 in the UK singles charts, which remains the band’s best achievement in that respect.

There were three very different types of tracks available on the CD single:-

mp3 : Ash – I Need Somebody
mp3 : Ash – Sneaker
mp3 : Ash – Get Ready

The first is quite experimental, with a strange ever-changing tempo which sounds as if it was waiting to be put in the hands of an uber-producer who could have added strings, brass and a kitchen sink to make it into something epic.

The middle track is Ash at their loudest and fastest, the sort of track that made them so appealing to those who pogoed and those who headbanged.

The latter is indeed a cover of the 1966 hit single by The Temptations. I could be cruel and say it is an effort akin to that by a slightly better than average wedding covers band, but then again, it really is no worse than the sort of covers that Paul Weller and co had been recording 20 years earlier when they were ages with the Ash boys.




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)