Ash crash-landed from Downpatrick, Northern Ireland in 1994 into a London scene entirely obsessed with Britpop.
Proudly touted as ‘Guaranteed Real Teenagers’, the trio – Tim Wheeler on guitar and vocals, bassist Mark Hamilton and drummer Rick McMurray – embarked on a run of six Top 20 singles, thanks to Wheeler’s propensity for coughing up grunge-infused perfect pop.
Two days after leaving school, Ash played Glastonbury. Two weeks later, they were on Top Of The Pops with Girl From Mars, a song Wheeler had written when he was 16 and as good an argument for interplanetary romance as Britpop produced.
As hit (Angel Interceptor) followed hit (Goldfinger), the trio could be found beaming from simultaneous covers of Smash Hits, NME and Kerrang! and setting up camp on Top Of The Pops.
Their debut album, 1977 (1995) topped the charts, but success came at a heavy price. A crushing promotional workload left the band “psychologically damaged”.
Burnt out from relentless touring, its attendant overindulgences and the sheer weight of expectation, Ash set about writing and recording a ‘difficult’ second album that mirrored their inner turmoil.
They recruited second guitarist Charlotte Hatherley to take pressure off Wheeler but in the wake of 1977‘s sunny exuberance, the dark and cathartic Nu-Clear Sounds was a comparative flop, leaving Ash devastated and disillusioned.
As the commercial failure of the album took Ash close to bankruptcy and band morale sank to an all-time low, Wheeler simply disappeared, retreating to an anonymous New York City hotel room for the therapeutic sting of a razor blade.
Fortunately, the single Shining Light (2001) saved their career, gave Ash a Top 10 hit and earned Wheeler (who had set aside the razor blades) an Ivor Novello award for Best Contemporary Song. The accompanying album, Free All Angels, sold more than three million copies worldwide.
In 2004, the band headed to America to record the metal-influenced Meltdown album with Foo Fighters’ producer Nick Raskulinecz. The album went Top 5.
The band stripped back to a three-piece for the self-produced Twilight Of The Innocents three years later. The final album of their major label deal, it was the sound of a band pleasing themselves and, with little label support, it performed another commercial belly-flop.
Wheeler and Hamilton relocated to the US (New York and New Jersey respectively) while McMurray resettled in Edinburgh.
In 2009, Ash embarked on the so-called A-Z series, delivering 26 alphabetically-ordered singles, released at two-week intervals. A three-year hiatus followed while the various band members raised families and left behind their carefree booze-fuelled days.
The group reconvened in 2014 to record their first album in eight years, Kablammo! – a return to the classic Ash formula.