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Richard Ashcroft

 B i o g r a p h y

Richard Paul Ashcroft was born on 11th September, 1971 in the town of Billinge near Wigan in Lancashire. He attended Upholland Comprehensive School, ironically with Simon Jones and Pete Salisbury, who later formed The Verve. At the age of 11 Richard sadly lost his father which had a profound effect on him. He later fell under the influence of his stepfather who had a deep spiritual faith and was a member of the ancient secular order of the Rosicrucians, who regularly performed experiments in mind expansion and the healing arts.

Richard later became a student at Winstanley College along with Simon Jones, Pete Salisbury and Nick McCabe and in 1989 they formed The Verve. Signing to Virgin subsidiary Hut in 1992, they released the 'All In The Mind' single which immediately topped the Indie charts and garnered huge critical plaudits. The follow-up, 'She's A Superstar', floated to the outer reaches of the UK charts as the band's reputation for incendiary live shows grew. Two more singles, 'Gravity Grave' and 'Blue', preceded the band's debut album, 'A Storm In Heaven'. A dense collection of hypnotic, psychedelic-infused songs, it was a critical triumph but just crept into the Top 30. They toured the UK repeatedly and ventured over to Europe and America.

The summer of 1994 saw the band embark on a slot on the Lollapalooza tour, with disastrous consequences. Salisbury trashed a hotel room in Kansas while Ashcroft was hospitalised suffering from severe dehydration. Sessions for their second album became a drug-fuelled nightmare and found the band on the verge of a collective nervous breakdown. Nonetheless, on its release n July 1995, 'A Northern Soul' showed a massive progression from their debut, with the psychedelics abandoned in favour of a dark series of songs that reflected the band's disintegrating state of mind.

The singles 'This Is Music' and 'On Your Own' finally saw The Verve crack the Top 40 as Noel Gallagher proclaimed them the second-best band in Britain behind Oasis, a proclamation he rewarded with some support slots. However, the commercial indifference the band was facing forced them to consider their future. Following their appearance at the T In The Park festival Ashcroft left the band. The 'final' single was 'History', an apt choice, the cover of which featured a photo of the band standing under a sign saying 'All farewells should be sudden'. Confusion reigned as Ashcroft secretly reunited the band only weeks later. However, Nick McCabe refused to join the reunion so ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler worked on demos of new material including 'The Drugs Don't Work'. Ashcroft made a solo appearance at New York's Paramount in March 1996 as support to Oasis, where he debuted some new tracks.

After Butler refused the offer to join The Verve permanently, the band drafted in guitarist/keyboardist Simon Tong. McCabe was eventually persuaded to rejoin the fold and The Verve set about recording a new album. Their 'comeback' single, 'Bitter Sweet Symphony', was released in June 1997 and was backed by an arresting video featuring Richard, seemingly oblivious to everyone around him, striding down a street. The single reached Number 2. In August they returned to the live stage with a tour of small UK venues that had fans and critics reaching for the superlatives. There seemed to be a new manic intensity about Ashcroft - a man determined not to let the moment slip away again. The second single from the forthcoming album, the powerful ballad 'The Drugs DoTONY COUSINS b ANDY BRUCE WHITE - Electric Viola on []  n't Work', became The Verve's first Number 1 single and would have remained at the top longer were it not for Elton John's Princess Diana tribute version of 'Candle In The Wind'. Finally, in October, the album 'Urban Hymns' emerged. A summation of the band's first incarnations, it took the anthemic qualities of 'A Storm In Heaven' and melded them to the sophisticated songwriting of 'A Northern Soul'. McCabe, in particular, was singled out for praise for his fluid and inventive guitar lines. The album duly topped the charts.

A triumphant year was topped off by another Top 10 hit with 'Lucky Man'. But the band were again dogged by legal problems when a court awarded all of the publishing rights from 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' to ABKCO, who owned the publishing rights to the orchestral sample of The Rolling Stones' 'The Last Time' looped on the track. Following a UK tour early in 1998, The Verve announced the biggest concert of their career, a homecoming show at Wigan's Haigh Hall. It was a triumphant day in front of an ecstatic audience but there were problems on the horizon again as Nick McCabe walked out of the band prior to an American tour. The band continued with established session guitarist B.J. Cole replacing McCabe but the spark of their return seemed to be deserting them. After two headline performances at the V98 festivals and one at Dublin's Slane Castle everything went quiet. Rumours began circulating that the band had called it quits for good. Finally, in April 1999 it was announced that The Verve had split up.

By that time, Ashcroft had already been working on solo material accompanied by, among others, Pete Salisbury and B.J. Cole. In April 2000, his first solo single, 'A Song For The Lovers', was released and hit Number 3. He played three low-key acoustic dates in Toronto, New York and Milan to premiere his new material. In June, second single 'Money To Burn' was issued followed by the highly-anticipated album 'Alone With Everybody'. The album received some mixed reviews, with certain critics feeling Ashcroft had diluted his sound too much. Nonetheless, it still went to Number 1. In August, he headlined the V2000 festivals. After European and Japanese tours, Ashcroft was scheduled to tour America but postponed the dates just 48 before he was flying out due to illness. There were further problems when midway through his UK tour in Birmingham he fell off the stage and broke two ribs and hurt his back.

The final release from 'Alone With Everybody' was 'C'Mon People (We're Making It Now)' which reached number 14 in the UK. Ashcroft was disappointed with album sales in the US and announced that no further single releases would be made from the album. He finished the tour in February with three dates at London's Brixton Academy which saw Ashcroft at his very best. October 2002 saw the release of Richard's second solo album, 'Human Conditions.' The first release from the album was the superb 'Check The Meaning' which saw a wave of publicity, Richard appearing on CD:UK, Top Of The Pops and even having a complete '4Later' programme dedicated to his work. Further releases of 'Science of Silence' and 'Buy It In Bottles' failed to make the same impact on the charts and despite another triumphant UK sell-out tour Richard felt let down by the music press. Since Richard's last major gig in March 2003 there have been many changes to the record company Richard was signed to. HUT has now been wound up and Richard is signed back to Virgin. November 2004 saw the release of a 'Best Of' collection of The Verve's singles plus two unreleased tracks. There are due to be further releases of unreleased work before the hotly anticipated release of Richard's third solo album during the first half of 2005.

 A l b u m s

Alone With Everybody (Virgin Records, 1998)
Human Conditions (Virgin Records, 2002)
Keys to the World (Parlophone, 2006)