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Bitter Sweet Symphony, Live From Abbey Road, A Song For the Lovers
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Richard Paul Ashcroft (born September 11, 1971 in Billinge Higher End, Lancashire) is an English singer-songwriter. He is the lead singer of The Verve, an English rock band that he helped form in 1989. He is also a solo artist in his own right and he is still scheduled to resume and continue with his solo career at some point in the future, despite being busy with newly reformed The Verve at present.
Ashcroft grew up in Up Holland, Lancashire with his mother, who was a hairdresser, and his sisters. His father died when Richard was 11 as a result of a brain hemorrhage. Ashcroft soon fell under the influence of his stepfather, Doug (who incidentally was also called Ashcroft) who belonged to the Rosicrucians.
While in Up Holland, Ashcroft was an avid football player. He still closely follows his favourite team, Manchester United. He has also admitted to cheering for Wigan Athletic, since he actually played for the youth team when he was young and they are geographically the closest professional team to where he grew up. Ashcroft`s slightly misshapen nose can be credited to a broken nose he sustained playing football at school.
At school, Ashcroft admitted to having nicknames such as `spliffhead` and he was also dubbed `the cancer of the class`.
The Verve years: 1989-1999
Ashcroft formed The Verve (although until 1994 it was named simply Verve) in 1989 with his high school friends. The band members shared a collective liking for The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Raspberries, Funkadelic, and Krautrock, as well as a near-legendary appetite for psychedelic drugs. They were signed to Hut Records and became a critical hit soon after.
The band released the Verve EP in December 1992 before their first full-length album, A Storm in Heaven, came out in mid-1993. It was a critical smash and extremely popular in the underground public, but it failed to match that kind of success in the mainstream. Around this time the band changed their name to The Verve due to legal reasons. Afterwards they released an album with outtakes and b-sides entitled No Come Down in 1994.
1995 saw the release of the album A Northern Soul. Here the band departed from the neo-psychedelic sounds of A Storm in Heaven and focused more on conventional alternative rock, although signs of their early sound are still present in the record. During this time the band was named as a member of the popular Britpop movement, mostly due to the band`s friendship with Oasis rather than their music. Popularity increased, but album sales were disappointing for the band with only 40,000 albums approximately sold - distinctly average in 1995. The album is now considered to be a `lost gem` of the nineties. Tensions within the band reached boiling point, in particular between Ashcroft and guitarist Nick McCabe and the band disbanded.
From Autumn `96 to Spring `97 the band regrouped and worked on the third album. Most of Ashcroft`s songs on this album were written while he was on holiday in Bath when the band had yet to reform. It was initially intended to be Ashcroft`s first solo album. With McCabe yet to be invited back to the fold, friend of the band, guitarist and keyboardist Simon Tong was draughted in. In 1997 McCabe returned, with Ashcroft realising if it was to be an album from The Verve, McCabe would have to be involved. The five members finished Urban Hymns and the release was in September 1997. With the release of the first single off the album the band saw never-imagined popularity. The song "Bitter Sweet Symphony" became a commercial and critical hit in both sides of the Atlantic. The album is regarded as a highlight in the timeline of Britpop and rock music from the 90`s, maybe being the last commercial success from alternative British acts in the US market, until the arrival of artists like Coldplay, James Blunt and others, at least 5 years later. The band toured all over the world in the period 1997-1998. But Nick McCabe suddenly pulled out of the tour in 1998. The band continued for several months, but ultimately announced their break-up in April 1999.
In June 2007, Ashcroft and the rest of the band announced that they were getting back together for a UK stadium tour in November and December 2007, and were working on a future release, probably for 2008. The New Album `Forth` was released in August 2008.
Solo career: 1999-2007
Alone with Everybody
Richard Ashcroft had already been working on solo material as early as 1996 when The Verve was on hiatus after he had left after A Northern Soul. Some of his work intended for his solo career were later found in the band`s next album Urban Hymns. But it was not until after the dissolution of The Verve in 1999 that he dedicated entirely to his new career.
In early 2000 he released his first single as a solo artist. "A Song for the Lovers" peaked at #3 in the UK charts in April. The song and its video were admired by critics. The new album was named Alone with Everybody and received mixed reviews, although mostly positive. A few weeks before the release, the single "Money To Burn" was out and entered the UK Top 20 at number 17. Alone with Everybody was released in June and reached number 1 and received Platinum status in the United Kingdom. In September a third single was released. "C`mon People (We`re Making It Now)" entered the charts just one position away from the Top 20.
"A Song for the Lovers" and "C`mon People (We`re Making It Now)" could have been included on The Verve`s 1997 album Urban Hymns as the album was actually intended to be Ashcroft`s first solo album before Nick McCabe was asked to return thus making it a band project. The songs were left off in favour of songs with a traditional Verve sound. Before The Verve`s 2007 reformation, Ashcroft often stated his regret in interviews that he didn`t have `the balls` to do Urban Hymns alone.
The album title, `Alone With Everybody`, is taken from the work of American poet Charles Bukowski.
Ashcroft started working on his second album in 2002. The new album Human Conditions explored very much the same sound that Richard`s first record. The album also featured a collaboration with Beach Boys founder, Brian Wilson on the last track, Nature is the Law. The single "Check the Meaning" was released just a few weeks prior to the release the LP and it peaked at #11. The second single, "Science of Silence" was released in January 2003 and charted at #14. "Buy It in Bottles" was released afterwards and missed the Top 20, charting at #26. Generally the critics considered the album as a big failure for Ashcroft compared to Alone with Everybody. Most of the criticized aspects of the record were its lyrical content and overproduction, for example the extensive use of strings in most of the songs. Commercial success did not match the previous records` standards and the album received very little promotion or airplay outside the UK. While the album was heavily panned by music critics, Coldplay`s Chris Martin, a big fan of Ashcroft and his then former band The Verve, was one of Ashcroft`s few peers at the time who defended the album`s merits. This meant a lot to Ashcroft and their friendship initially developed from this.
Live 8 and Keys to the World
On the 2nd of July 2005, at the Live 8 concert in Hyde Park, Coldplay invited Ashcroft to perform with them in their set. They played The Verve`s hit Bitter Sweet Symphony after only one rehearsal in Crystal Palace. Ashcroft was introduced by Chris Martin as `the best singer in the world` and he described the song as `probably the greatest song ever written`. The performance, in addition to Martin`s kind words, created renewed media interest in Ashcroft. The performance was generally considered to be one of the highlights of the day and in subsequent interviews, Ashcroft described the experience as something that `blew his mind`. It wasn`t his only collaboration with the band. At a later date in France, while supporting Coldplay, they joined forces to play a cover of The Verve`s Life`s An Ocean from 1995 album A Northern Soul. Ashcroft expressed surprise that Chris Martin, a big fan of The Verve, knew the chords of the song while he didn`t.
Ashcroft took Live 8 and its reasons for happening very seriously, and months afterwards, rang Live 8 organiser Bob Geldof demanding to know `what we achieved that day`. Geldof, who before Ashcroft`s performance hugged him and told him that he was one of his favourite rock singers, sent him stacks of paper showing that third world countries had millions of pounds of debt written off as a result of Live 8.
At Christmas 2005, a documentary entitled Live 8: A Bitter Sweet Symphony was aired on the BBC reliving moments of the day featuring a portion of Ashcroft`s performance as the show`s opening soundtrack.
Ashcroft`s third solo album, Keys to the World, was recorded with the co-operation of the London Metropolitan Orchestra, and released on January 23, 2006, by Parlophone. The first single from the album, "Break the Night with Colour", was released on January 9, 2006, and entered the UK Singles Chart at number 3. He opened for Coldplay`s Twisted Logic Tour in North America and the UK, starting March 14, 2006, in Ottawa. He recently described himself as "the best support act you`ll ever see". Around the time of the album`s release, Ashcroft announced his largest UK tour for years for May 2006, culminating in three nights at London`s Brixton Academy. He played his biggest solo show in June 2006 at the Lancashire County Cricket Club in Manchester. He was well supported at the gig by acts such as Razorlight and The Feeling.
The second single released was "Music Is Power", which charted at number 20, but received important airplay not only in the UK but around the world. In 18 April he recorded a the Live from London EP, the ninth in a series of EPs released exclusively as digital downloads from Apple`s iTunes Store. The EP was released just 6 days later on the 24th. Richard hinted a probable release of a new version of the song "C`mon People (We`re Making It Now)" to coincide with England`s participation in the 2006 Football World Cup. The single (entitled C`mon England by Richard in an interview in May) never materialized. Instead, the next single was "Words Just Get in the Way", which charted lower than the previous, barely making it into the Top 40 at the number 40 position after receiving barely any promotion or airplay. In December the double a-side single "Why Not Nothing" / "Sweet Brother Malcolm" was released in limited size editions.
He recorded a live performance for Live From Abbey Road on 11 December 2006. The episode that he shared with Norah Jones and John Mayer was aired in the UK on Channel 4 in March 2007 and in the USA on the Sundance Channel in June 2007.
The Verve reunion: 2007-present
On June 26, 2007 the band`s reunion was announced by Jo Whiley on BBC Radio 1. After Ashcroft learned that friend and drummer on his solo albums, Peter Salisbury, was in contact with former The Verve guitarist, Nick McCabe, over a possible side project, Ashcroft was compelled to call McCabe. He made peace with him and bassist Simon Jones and the band reformed. As they reformed, a statement was released from the band saying they were "getting back together for the joy of the music".
They announced a small tour for November and are scheduled to release a new album at some point in 2008. The tour started in Glasgow on November 2, 2007 and included performances across the UK, at the Carling Academy Glasgow, the Empress Ballroom, and the Roundhouse. Since the six-gig tour went extremely well in sales, the band booked a second, and bigger tour for December. They played at O2 arena, the SECC in Glasgow, the Odyssey in Belfast, the Nottingham Arena and Manchester Central. Each show from the first and second part of the tour were sold out immediately after being put on sale. The band is now expected to continue touring in 2008. Playing at Coachella, Glastonbury, Pinkpop, T in the Park, the V Festival, and other major festivals in the summer, and some shows as lead act, including two gigs in the Madison Square Garden, New York.
The band announced that the album, entitled Forth, would be released in August 2008 after recording, rehearsing and touring for more than a year. The lead single for the new LP, Love Is Noise was released in the UK on August 11, 2008, just two weeks ahead of the release of the album.
Despite the reformation of The Verve, Ashcroft is still scheduled to resume and continue with his solo career at some point in the future. On August 5 he told Zane Lowe during an interview that there is no reason so as to quit his solo projects. He said the two things (solo work and the band) can be done together.
Richard played a solo gig on August 25 as part of the Last Days of Summer Festival in Buckingham. He co-headlined the event with Supergrass and Athlete.
Ashcroft is married to Kate Radley, the former keyboard player for British shoegaze band Spiritualized. They married in 1995 and it was years before it was publicly realised that the pair had married. Together, they have two sons: Sonny, born in 2000, and Cassius, born in 2004. Cassius suffered from minor breathing difficulties after his birth. The family live in Gloucester near Radley`s parents.
He is good friends with Oasis` Noel Gallagher and Coldplay`s Chris Martin (whom Ashcroft once thanked for "letting me be myself again"). The Gallagher brothers for a long time have expressed the greatest of respect to Ashcroft, with Noel fondly nicknaming Ashcroft as `Captain Rock`. The Oasis track "Cast No Shadow", included in the successful album 1995 (What`s the Story) Morning Glory? is dedicated to him, and it is believed that Ashcroft dedicated The Verve`s 1995 song "A Northern Soul" to Gallagher as a response. Ashcroft also provided backing vocals on the Oasis song "All Around the World" in 1997, for Oasis` "Be Here Now"
Ashcroft and his bandmates have run into trouble by borrowing words and ideas from other artists. This case spawned from The Verve`s biggest hit, "Bitter Sweet Symphony", which uses a sample of Andrew Oldham Orchestra`s recording of The Rolling Stones` 1965 song "The Last Time". In a well-publicized legal decision, the Rolling Stones` record company was awarded 100 percent of the royalties from "Bitter Sweet Symphony", and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were given songwriting credits along with Ashcroft. Legal ownership of the song created further controversy when Jagger and Richards gave Nike, Inc. license to use the song in one of its TV commercials, against The Verve`s wishes. Another of Ashcroft`s more well-known adaptations is found in the song "History". The first two verses of "History" are closely based on the first two stanzas of William Blake`s poem "London".
Ashcroft is also known for his problems regarding drugs. These were evidenced several times since the 1990s. Some examples of this are his 1994 summer tour collapses due to ecstasy overdose. He and the band were known for their heavy drug use, especially in the early and mid 1990s.
In 2006, Ashcroft confessed to taking Prozac to help him with clinical depression, but said that they didn`t help, referring to the pills as "very, very synthetic." Ashcroft has said that he`s always been "a depressive, someone who suffers from depression", and that music and creativity help him cope with his illness.
In 2006 he was arrested in Wiltshire after coming into a youth centre and asking to work with the teenagers present at the club. He refused to leave and employees called the police, resulting in Ashcroft being arrested and fined £80 for disorderly conduct.
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Full Name at Birth
Richard Paul Ashcroft
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RPA & The United Nations of Sound are a British alternative rock band formed by vocalist Richard Ashcroft, former lead singer of The Verve. Ashcroft announced the formation of the band (which is a pseudonym more than a real band) and presented the video of the first single, "Are You Ready?", on 18 January 2010 in an exclusive premiere on the NME website. "Are You Ready?" was released only in the UK on 1 April 2010 in a limited edition 12" vinyl. On 9 April 2010 the band released a fanclub-only track, "Third Eye (Colombus Circle)". In the first two weeks of June Ashcroft and his musicians completed a European tour (Ancona, Paris, Berlin, Cologne, Amsterdam, Manchester and London), then they played in Tokyo and Osaka on 7–8 August 2010 during the Summer Sonic Festival 2010 and also in Melbourne and Sydney respectively on 30 July and 31 July. The band played in Australia also during the Splendour in the Grass Festival in late July. The band's debut album as Richard's backing lineup, entitled "United Nations of Sound", was released on 19 July 2010. "Born Again", the first proper single, was officially released the same day of the album as a digital download.
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Confessional Lights and The Verve
Richard Ashcroft (vocals and acoustic guitar), Steve Wyreman (guitar), Dwayne "DW" Wright (bass), Qyu Jackson (drums - live), Rico Petrillo (keyboards and samples - live)
Past Group Members
Derrick Wright (drums - studio), Reggie Dozer (sound engineering - studio), Benjamin Wright (string arrangements - studio)
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Richard Ashcroft is married to Kate Radley.