Ash perform concert on 25th anniversary of debut album

Ash perform concert on 25th anniversary of debut album

9 June 2021

IT was back to the future for Ash as the band relived their debut album 1977 in a special online concert over the weekend.

Lead singer Tim Wheeler and bassist Mark Hamilton from Downpatrick and drummer Rick McMurray from Killyleagh delighted fans across the world by playing their entire beloved album on Saturday night.

The band’s platinum selling UK number one album 1977 spawned the hit singles, Girl From Mars, Petrol, Kung Fu, Angel Interceptor, Goldfinger and Oh Yeah – all songs which continue to ring out loud at venues and on festival stages all over the world.

The album was recorded with Oasis producer Owen Morris in Wales in early 1996 and released later in May.

Ash, the band Tim founded in 1992 at the age of 15 while he was a Down High School student, exploded on to the Britpop scene in the mid-1990s.

Tim had just completed his A Levels when the band began to break into the charts. Many of the songs were written in the living room of his family home in Downpatrick where his mother, Rosalind, still lives.

Tim recently described 1977 as a “coming of age” record.

“There’s a purity and innocence about 1977 that rally captured the atmosphere at the time of its release,” he said.

“It’s a coming of age album which has stood the test of time. We were all about 18 or 19 at the time.

“The stars aligned for us. It was the right time. But in saying that, there was a pressure on us too. We were having to write the rest of the album, having already had a few hits. We had a lot to live up to.”

According to Rick, the band could not have foreseen their unexpected success, as 1977 knocked Alanis Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill off the number one spot.

“We were’t expecting to write a number one album. We weren’t thinking of its legacy or anything like that,” he said.

“We were on a bit of a roll, starting from the previous year when we’d release Kung Fu. Every time we released a single leading up to the album coming out, it brought us up to another level. 

“In a way, we thought we could do no wrong. But at the same time there 

was pressure on us to finish it and get Goldfinger ready for a single release.”

The band had planned a year of touring last year to promote their Teenage Wildlife: 25 Years of Ash, which traced their early days up to the 2018 album release, Islands.

Now back living and working in London and New York, Tim spent a good part on last year at home in Downpatrick as he was unable to travel back to New York due to the covid travel ban. 

He said: “We were all spread far and wide during lockdown so it was brilliant to be together again, playing music. It’s the longest we’re ever gone without seeing each other and playing as a band.”

However, he had good news for local fans and promised a gig at The Limelight in Belfast in December.

Saturday’s online show came just ahead of the band releasing an exclusive vinyl, BBC Sessions 1994-1999, limited to 1,000 copies, on June 12.

This collection highlights how they grew up in public, from Northern Irish underground garage band, through the years of the mad fame of the number one debut album, to the expansion of the line up and sound with the introduction of guitar legend Charlotte Hatherley. 

Some of these tracks are being made available for the first time since they were originally broadcast and include the voice of the late great John Peel introducing Ash for one of his Peel Acres sessions in April 1999.

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