Richard Ashcroft was born on September 11, 1971 in the Wigan suburb of Billinge, attending Upholland Comprehensive School alongside future Verve mates Simon Jones, Simon Tong, and Peter Salisbury; after losing his father at age 11, he fell under the influence of his stepfather, a member of the ancient secular order of the Rosicrucians, who regularly performed experiments in mind expansion and the healing arts.
While a student at Winstanley College in 1989, Richard Ashcroft co-founded Verve with bassist Simon Jones, drummer Pete Salisbury, and guitarist Nick McCabe; signing to Virgin’s Hut imprint to issue their 1992 debut single, “All in the Mind”, the group earned widespread praise for its majestic, oceanic guitar-pop, with the eminently-quotable Richard Ashcroft earning the dismissive nickname “Mad Richard” from the UK press.
Despite their critical acclaim, Verve often seemed at the mercy of forces outside their control – in 1994, while touring with the Lollapalooza festival in support of their 1993 debut LP, A Storm in Heaven, Richard Ashcroft was hospitalized after suffering from severe dehydration, and within months the band also entered into a protracted legal battle with the American jazz label Verve, which resulted in an official name change to “The” Verve. Recorded under the influence of a massive intake of ecstasy, 1995’s brilliant A Northern Soul effectively split the band apart, although Richard Ashcroft reformed the line-up a few weeks later albeit without one crucial element – Nick McCabe.
While working on their 3rd album Urban Hymns, Richard Ashcroft, acknowledging there was a missing vital element, swallowed his pride and rang Nick to ask him to return. The Verve then achieved international success with 1997’s celebrated Urban Hymns, scoring a series of hits with “Bitter Sweet Symphony”, “The Drugs Don’t Work”, “Lucky Man”, and “Sonnet”; however, legal hassles awarded 100 percent of “Bitter Sweet Symphony”’s publishing rights to ABKCO Music — the song was built on a sample taken from an instrumental version of The Rolling Stones “The Last Time”, (which, incidentally, was a remake of a Staple Singers song for which they were awarded no royalties!) — and as friction between Richard Ashcroft and Nick McCabe resurfaced, the guitarist quit the group, and following a final tour without McCabe, The Verve again disbanded, this time supposedly for good.
Richard Ashcroft’s solo debut, Alone with Everybody, followed in mid-2000. Later that year, Richard Ashcroft celebrated his solo success with a 10-date sold out US tour. Two days prior to kick off in Chicago, the entire tour was postponed due to Richard Ashcroft’s illness, and speculations were quickly linked to his previous drug taking with The Verve. Those rumours were quickly dispelled, and the US dates were rescheduled for January 2001. The following year, in 2002, Richard Ashcroft returned with the soul-searching, spiritual second album Human Conditions.
Richard Ashcroft then decided to spend time with his family until, apart from a couple of appearances in 2003, he supported Coldplay on their international tour in 2005. A key moment for Richard in 2005 was on July 2nd when he joined Coldplay on the Live8 stage to perform Bitter Sweet Symphony. Chris Martin introduced Richard Ashcroft as “the best singer in the world … singing the best song ever written”.
2006 was a busy year for Richard Ashcroft, with his 3rd solo album, Keys To The World, released in January. This was supported by extensive headlining tours throughout 2006, and numerous TV and radio appearances. The highlight of the year for Richard Ashcroft was his homecoming gig at Old Trafford on 17 June, when he performed to over 26,000 people, and was supported by Simple Kid, Akala, The Feeling and Razorlight. Richard Ashcroft also performed at The Isle Of Wight Festival and T In The Park. Another highlight was taking part (albeit briefly) in The Legends (friendly) football match against Germany in June, football being Richard’s passion after music. (The score was 3-0 to Germany).
On 26 June 2007 fans were taken by surprise (despite a few rumours!) when it was announced that Richard had once again reformed The Verve (minus Simon Tong) to work on a new album and a 6 date tour planned for the autumn. On 22 October 2007, their first jamming session ‘The Thaw Session’ was made available to fans as a 14 minute download from the NME website. After their UK reunion tour late 2007 (which sold out within 20 minutes of going on sale), spring 2008 saw them taking in US and Canada, before embarking on a number of European festivals, the highlight for them undoubtedly being headlining Glastonbury 2008 which had them closing with new song Love Is Noise to a captive audience. August 2008 saw the release of Forth, the band’s 4th album which went straight in at No.1 in the UK charts and No.1 Billboard Indie, No.23 Billboard. Love Is Noise, the first single for the album reached No.4 in UK charts, but Rather Be, the second single, only reached a disappointing No.56.
Despite assurances (mainly from Simon Jones) that the band would not split again, silence followed and rumours began surfacing of a return to tensions between the band members and a lack of communication from Richard Ashcroft. Announcements of the band “being on holiday” was the only official information given.
On 17 December 2009 it was announced that Richard Ashcroft had formed a new band “RPA & The United Nations Of Sound”. Band members were guitarist Steve Wyreman, Paul ‘DW’ Wright (bass) and Derrick Wright (Drums). 20-30 songs were recorded in New York, Los Angeles and London and the album was released in July 2010, called simply ‘United Nations Of Sound’. It was a different direction for Richard Ashcroft being produced by No.I.D. and embracing many of Richard’s influences. The album reached No.20 in the UK charts and was preceeded by a European tour (with Qyu Jackson replacing Derrick Wright on drums and Rico Petrillo on Keyboards).