An Ash fan's early years...

My parents moved house recently so I was forced to clear out a load of the stuff I’d left behind when I moved out about 8 years ago. During the clear out I discovered evidence of my early fanzine ambitions in the shape of some pretty ropey stuff I’d written as a 17 year old Ash fan. With this discovery and the impending re-issue of 1977 I felt inspired to take a trip down memory lane. Come join me…. 

I first became aware of Ash in the summer of 95. I bought the ‘Shine Too’ compilation on cassette and listened to it endlessly. My favourite song on it was ‘Girl from Mars’….it was then that the love affair began.

Fast forward to 9th October 1995 and I stopped off at our local branch of ‘Our Price’ (Kids ask your parents!) on my way to college (or more than likely bunked off) to buy ‘Angel Interceptor’. In my many free periods I watched a lot of music TV and drooled over the accompanying music video. 


 First Ash gig - 20th Jan 96 @ Astoria, London

I was 16 and this was my first trip by train to a gig in the big smoke. After a ridiculously long time spent queuing outside the venue I managed to worm my way onto to the left hand side of the barrier. This is what I wrote about it: 

On 20th January Ash played at the Astoria with Northern Uproar, Super Furry Animals and Kenickie. [It was an NME Brats gig.] Ash bounced onto the stage and kicked off with the brilliant ‘Angel Interceptor’. Mark leapt all over the stage, Tim bounced and Rick just drummed away behind them.

Half-way through the set Mark removed his baseball cap to reveal that his hair has gone! (The band sacrificed his hair to God Rock during Tim’s 19th birthday celebrations.) “Do you like Mark’s haircut?” said Tim. “YES!” we replied.

Naturally crowd reaction was at it’s peak during the ‘hits’ and the crowd were yelling for ‘Kung Fu’ as the band left the stage. As well as the old favourites we were treated to some new songs which sounded pretty good.

Was it worth it? You bet! Even though I came out with a limp and tons of bruises (I think that good gigs always leave a mark on you), I was happy. I was especially proud of one bruise on my arm which was heart-shaped. I’m not kidding!
 


I neglected to mention the fact that Tim was wearing leather trousers and the red & white top from the ‘Angel Interceptor’ video. Important details I think you'll agree! 


 1977

6th May 96 – 1977 is released. Me and my mates take a trip to Woolworths to buy the CD and claim our free Frisbees. I copy the CD onto tape (hi-speed dubbing anyone?!), filling the remaining minutes up with track from Trailer and various b-sides…then listen to it on heavy rotation on my walkman. 


12th May 96 – 1977 goes to the top of the album charts. Happy days! 


16th May 96 – Ash @ Southampton Guildhall 

1977 was riding high in the charts and it was time for my second Ash gig. My friends and I were at the venue from about 3pm (!). There was a bit of jostling just before the doors open but we made it in first and ran to the front. Luckily the gig was reviewed by Kerrang! and they printed the set-list (otherwise I wouldn’t have a clue!)  


 

After the gig I hung around for ages outside the venue hoping to meet my heroes. Luckily persistence paid off and eventually the guys came out to mingle. Mark sat slumped against the wall, Rick was quiet and Tim…well, I embarrassed myself with Tim. My first words to my idol? “It’s such a pleasure to meet you.”? “I’m such a big fan of your music.”? Nope! What I went for was “I didn’t realise you were such a short arse.” I was instantly mortified and wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. My friends (or should I say ‘friends’!) revelled in my embarrassment and Tim just laughed nervously. (Little did I know it would take another 11 years for me to actually manage a proper conversation!)  

First Reading Festival – Aug 96 

This was before it became the ‘Carling Weekend’, before Leeds was added….tickets were £75 for the weekend and you still could buy one in June or July without having to pay extortionate prices on eBay. Few people had mobile phones, so pre-arranged meeting points were a must. 

The main-stage headliners were The Prodigy, Black Grape and The Stone Roses. Feeder were near the bottom of the bill on the Dr. Martens Stage (the third stage basically). Other bands on that stage included Symposium (who I sadly didn’t discover until the next summer), The Divine Comedy, Mansun and Kenickie. I can’t really remember which bands I saw. On the Friday I’m pretty sure I saw Gold Blade, 60ft Dolls, Bis and The Prodigy. On Saturday I probably spent a lot of time at the NME Stage since My Life Story, Catatonia, Space and Northern Uproar were all on the bill (don't laugh!). Sunday was all about Ash. I have a horrible feeling that I missed 3 Colours Red because I was in the queue for the Ash signing session! Reef and Gene were the two bands on the Main Stage prior to Ash, so I watched them while trying to find a good place to stand. I know that we didn’t see The Stone Roses and I really wish we had since everyone was slating them afterwards! 


 My write up only covered the Sunday:

25th August 1996 

In the morning I met Ash in the signing tent (after queuing for 3 hours) and got my favourite t-shirt signed. [When I say ‘met’ what I really mean is that I shuffled past them in the signing tent, shoved my t-shirt in front of each of them, mumbled “cheers” and barely even looked at them…] They were looking gorgeous, as usual [*cringe*] and after meeting them I was looking forward to their performance even more if that were possible. 

Ash hit the main stage at about 7.20pm, as the sun went down. They kicked off with the rock-tastic ‘Lose Control’ and the crowd went crazy! The band seemed to be enjoying themselves too; they were all rocking out big-time. [I remember being quite near the front, just a few rows back. I stuck it out for a bit but I was a wuss back then so I got the guy behind me to give me a leg-up and crowd surfed the short distance to the barrier. Then I stood further back and danced around on my own. I particularly remember people looking at me strangely as I swayed along to (I think) ‘Gone the Dream’.] Highlights included ‘Goldfinger’, ‘Innocent Smile’, ‘Petrol’ and ‘Girl from Mars’. The crowd reaction to ‘Oh Yeah’ was amazing, second only to the last song ‘Kung Fu’. It was made even more spectacular by a fantastic firework display. [Allegedly nicked from The Stone Roses.] During ‘Kung Fu’ Tim shouted “Let’s fucking destroy the place!” and they certainly did. It was Ash’s biggest gig so far and it was the best I’ve seen. [Okay, so best out of three…] 


 

Shortly after I got home from Reading I wrote Ash some fan-mail (luckily in those days it was all pen & paper so I have no record of what I wrote!) and sent a spare 1977 CD booklet I had picked up, along with a stamped addressed envelope. I had almost forgotten about it when in December an envelope with very familiar handwriting dropped through my letterbox. ‘Happy Christmas!’ was written on the back of it and inside was my 1977 CD booklet (now fully signed) and a hand-written note.


I couldn’t shift the grin from my face for days! :D 


Now I am 29 years old and still an avid Ash fan. I may have been temporarily distracted over the years but my love of Ash has remained. 


And finally….12 years after those first hand-written fanzine attempts I am fulfilling my fanzine dream! ;-)


The first of my many Ash autographs, gig ticket from Southampton Guildhall (the gig was re-scheduled) and one of my favourite old photos...