In April 1996 I was a massive Oasis fan and had built up a collection of their entire back catalogue, import singles and everything they had released really. This had become a bit of an obsession as a recently turned 16 year old. I now had my National Insurance Card and I could legally buy cigarettes and lottery tickets, but Oasis were taking a break. My second favourite band at the time were Pulp, and they also decided to take a break after their ‘Something Changed’ single, so I needed some new bands and music to keep me going. This came in the form of two bands (one the Manic Street Preachers, whom I will mention again) and two surprisingly Ash, who I had only heard for the first time on BBC Radio One in April 1996. Not only was I tuned in the day that outrageously wet and sunny ballad ‘Goldfinger’ hit the UK charts at number 4, but I was totally shocked when I then realised they were from my very own country, Northern Ireland. These three guys, Tim Wheeler, Rick McMurray and Mark Hamilton were only 3 years older than me and there they were at number 4 in the UK singles chart with a song which 12 years on I still play religiously (I had it on the car stereo today on the way home from work!). Hailing from Downpatrick (a scene of an unfortunate IRA car bomb attack on the UDR in the 1980s – another one that sticks in my memory growing up in Northern Ireland) these three lads had already released a mini album and 6 singles. This song I heard was ‘Goldfinger’, named strangely after a James Bond filim. The name of the song just makes sense though. Ash certainly had gold in their fingers and this tune had me realising how a stormy night in Northern Ireland could easily become the subject of a top 4 hit. It was always the line “her brother started school again today.” I mean, that in itself means nothing, but its what makes it brilliant. If you don’t know what I mean listen to the song and pick out your own favourite bits. Everyone’s known someone whose brother “started school”. “again”, “today” at some point in their lives. At one stage it was even my sister.
The next week I bought the single on cassette (as I used to in those days, when I didn’t have a CD player, though my parents owned one and I got a CD player soon after). It was accompanied by a track called ‘Get Ready’ (which was also released on 7 inch vinyl at one point) and ‘I Need Somebody’ (which I initially thought was a Beatles cover version such was the similarity to the Lennon/McCartney early days tunes). I remember watching Top of the Pops the next week to try and see what the band looked like, but they hadn’t made it onto the show. The song itself to me is abour being locked in a basement with a girl and the rain lashing down but everything is OK and the world is locked out, plus we have some music and some wine. As a 16 year old I thought about how that sounded like a great night. It’s still a fucking great night. There must be some sexual lines in there as well “move closer, set my mind on fire”, here Wheeler is offering himself to the lady in exchange for something that will be worth it. As the rain beats down however, we are disappointed to hear that the lady (who I reckon should be called ‘Goldfinger’) has gone “into the night” and gone “into the town.” The man is still in the basement waiting for her with a deadly world beating relentlessly in at him. To me its a classic Northern Ireland night in. But then Ash are such a clever band you wouldn’t know. It could be Los Angeles, it could be Berlin, but I’m led to believe the song was written in a dripping wet basement in Downpatrick with wine which cost less than £2.50 a bottle. Actually in 1996 that would probably have been a decent Merlot. The image I have is that it’s red wine.
The wait in the basement for the lady to arrive is also intriguing. The man will however just “lie back and drift away.” I reckon you could chuck Rivers of Babylon by Boney M on the dukebox in the background in a crowded council estate where its too bloody wet for any straying teenagers to steal a car. It probably wouldn’t be a 1996 Northern Ireland without that. And you’d have to throw in the vibrancy of youth and Britpop. And probably in my opinion add to all that the fact that Ash broke into the music industry at a time where kids like myself wanted football, music, alcohol and women in any order any of the time. Ash got all four of them in this song. Yes there’s football in it – just imagine a David Healy goal hitting the net as Rick McMurray bangs them drums in that typical Ash way. The drums on this track are awesome. It’s just a great fucking song. So this is me doing another review. This time for the Ash single Goldfinger. It’s one of the best songs I’ve ever heard. I’d fucking love that one on a wedding day. I wonder whose brother actually started school, again, on that day…
And the sublime irony for me…the very first time I ever heard of Ash, that day they went in at UK number 4, was as high as it ever got for an Ash single…
MARKS OF OUT TEN: 10/10. One of the best songs of all time. Buy it.
GOLDFINGER – THE VIDEO:
GOLDFINGER LIVE ON JOOLS HOLLAND 1996:
GOLDFINGER LIVE AT GLASTONBURY 2002:
AN EXCELLENT ACOUSTIC COVER VERSION: