Today sees the 20th anniversary of a sensational ’90s record.
Northern Irish rockers Ash released their debut album 1977 in 1996, scoring the young band a UK Number One and rocketing them to heights from which they’ve never looked back.
In celebration of one of the finest debut albums ever, we take a look at 20 facts you (probably) didn’t know about 1977:
1. It’s one big Star Wars reference
1977 was the year the first Star Wars film was released. The album also opens with the roaring sound of a TIE Fighter, and features a choral rendition of the Star Wars theme at the end of ‘Darkside Lightside’, itself a Star Wars reference.
The band also covered the ‘Cantina Band’ as the B-side to ‘Girl From Mars’. Brilliant.
2. But that’s not the only reason for the title
1977 was also the year of birth of two of the band’s members, and the year accredited with the rise of punk – with both The Damned and the Sex Pistols releasing debuts that year. All three events had a major influence on the band.
3. The sessions were more crazy than you might think
Tim Wheeler recalled making the album in an article penned for Kerrang! in November 2008:
“We’d been not-so-gradually introduced to drugs, so we were off our heads a lot of the time!”
4. They were still basically just kids
The album was recorded just six months after the band left school. Wheeler also remembered his first time in a proper studio back in the same 2008 interview:
“They had all the meals for you and you could just stay up!”
5. It could’ve turned out to be a lot less poppy
There was also this revelation, from the same article:
“One of the dumbest thing we did was we recorded this track called ‘The Scream’. We spent three days working on it. We built up 48 tracks that started out like a murmur up to full on screaming.
“I was on acid one time dancing to it. By the time we got to the end of it we were too scared to mix it.”
6. The CD version contained three hidden tracks
You don’t really hear too much about hidden tracks these days. But 1977 had three: the original version of ‘Jack Names the Planets’ and its B-side ‘Don’t Know’ were included in the album’s pre-gap (accessible by rewinding from track one).
‘Sick Party’ featured at the very end of the record too.
7. ‘Kung Fu’ was written rather quickly in an unusual location
The song was reportedly written by Wheeler in five minutes at Belfast International Airport on Boxing Day 1994, and recorded in one take on the following day.
8. And wouldn’t have been possible without The Verve
Ash used The Verve’s equipment for the one-take recording of the song, with Richard Ashcroft and co. nearby recording A Northern Soul at the same time.
9. Jackie Chan is a fan…
After the track ‘Kung Fu’ celebrated the famed martial arts movie-maker, Chan decided to use the song in the credits to the American version of his US breakthrough film, Rumble in the Bronx.
10. They once considered ‘Goldfinger’ their best song
Speaking about the single in 1996 (their first Top 10 hit and the track attributed with the popularity boost that sent 1977 to Number One), a young Tim Wheeler is reported to have said:
“‘Goldfinger’ is the best song we’ve ever written, and the best words I’ve ever written.”
11. But they couldn’t say the same for the video
The video, directed by Mike Brady, features the band playing in a gloomy, candle-lit room and gave the band very little involvement in its production.
The band were reportedly unhappy with the finished result, with the promo clip appearing quite ‘straight-forward’
12. ‘Girl From Mars’ has appeared on some very special phone lines
Ash’s first Top 40 single was at one time used by NASA as the hold music on their internal telephone lines.
We can’t really think of a higher accolade for a song!
13. And they played the song on TOTP just two weeks after their A-levels
Ash were a young band, making their Top of the Pops debut just two weeks after completing their A-level exams.
Better than a celebratory drink in the park we suppose.
14. There are two videos for the track
The one that will be familiar to UK viewers (reportedly described as a “cross between ‘Give It Away’ by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the ‘Natrel Plus’ TV ad”) and an American version that sees the band playing the song as part of an art exhibition, and mesmerising an onlooking girl.
15. They once trolled Richard and Judy with ‘Oh Yeah’
When the band ‘performed’ the track on Richard and Judy, bassist Mark Hamilton took over vocals duty. After the performance the presenters informed the band of what big fans they were, but hadn’t even noticed.
16. Which also features Lisa Moorish on backing vocals
Something of an indie-scene stalwart, professional backing singer Moorish (who had previously worked with George Michael) became a member of Kill City, signed to Alan McGee’s Poptones label in the early-00s. She also had children with both Liam Gallagher and Pete Doherty.
17. The video for the track was banned from Top of the Pops
It features an “extremely passionate” kiss from Mark Hamilton which, although cut away from regularly, didn’t make it past the censors of the BBC’s then flagship music show.
18. They also recorded a ‘quartet’ version of the song
Which only appears on an extremely rare 7″ version (one of the most sought after by Ash collectors).
19. ‘Angel Interceptor’ convinced the band to hire Charlotte Hatherly
The song required a high-pitched vocal delivery, originally attempted by drummer Rick McMurray, but the band were unsatisfied with them. As such, this song helped convince the band they need a fourth, female member. Hatherly joined Ash in 1998.
20. And they directed the video themselves
It basically consists of the band playing in a yellow room, and occasionally messing about with various objects. Simple, but effective.