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Ashley & Jackson

Ashley & Jackson's history can be traced back to the vibrant indie scene of the early 1980s. Paul Wheatcroft (Ashley) was 17 when he started his first band, Workforce. They were part of the so-called 'Industrial Funk' movement which also included bands such as A Certain Ratio, Public Image and Cabaret Voltaire. The band were formed from a tight-knit group of musicians, many of whom swapped regularly between groups. Workforce's line up comprised at various times Rod Leigh of early Sheffield punk band I'm So Hollow (who appeared on the legendary '1980-The First 15 Minutes' EP), Charlie Collins, Terry Todd and Roger Quail from Clock DVA, Adie Hardy of B-Movie, Alan Fish and Mark Tattersall of Cabaret Voltaire, and briefly also Stephen Mallinder of the Cabs. Early production was also by Richard Kirk of Cabaret Voltaire, using the Cabs' famous Western Works studios, where many bands of the genre recorded. Workforce did 3 John Peel sessions, all produced by ex-Mott The Hoople drummer Dale Griffin (inbetween his visits to the loo for allegedly-nefarious substance-related purposes) before being picked up by, of all people Kate Bush's driver Paul Smith who had started his own record label, Blast First. The other band Paul signed at the time was Sonic Youth, and both Workforce's first single, and Sonic Youth's were released simultaneously, though the groups only met once at Workforce's gig at the London ICA in 1984. Listening to all this was Steve Cobby (later to become Jackson) who through a bizarre connection (his sister and Paul's girlfriend working in a related chain of clothes shops) managed to get in touch with Paul and send him some tapes of fledgling tunes. At this time, Paul had begun working with the FON label, and had begun a solo career, working closely with Mark Brydon who was later to form Moloko. One single, 'Run', was released on white-label and touted to CBS, with whom Paul nearly signed. Legend is that upon hearing a couple of Paul's other tunes, Terence Trent Darby was moved to write 'Sign Your Name'. A lawsuit was mooted, as the single became a hit for him, but never carried through by FON. Ashley & Jackson began working together in 1988, and quickly wrote the first track to bring them to nationwide attention, 'The Sermon'. Their first gig was at the Ritz in Manchester, supporting Factory Records' A Certain Ratio, who quickly took them under their wing, also providing musicians for the band and production duties at various times via guitarist Martin Moscrop. At the gig was Inspiral Carpets' Clint Boon, who invited them to go on tour with them at the height of the Inspirals' national fame. As a result A&J played to capacity crowds in most major venues in the country, including Manchester GMEX, Brixton Academy, Nottingham Rock City, Glasgow Barrowlands and Newcastle Mayfair. The band had by now acquired a manager, Dave Rofe, and had become labelmates on Dave's DFM label with a band called Sub Sub. Sub Sub were to morph from a dance act into The Doves, and the rest is history. Dave is now a very successful manager. Meanwhile, 'The Sermon' was receiving heavy rotation by M People's Mike Pickering on the Hacienda dancefloor, and was high in the DJ charts in Smash Hits and receiving rave reviews in the music press in general. It wasn't long before a major label came along, and A&J found themselves on Big Life, with lablemates Yazz, The Soupdragons, The Orb and Coldcut. Big Life decided not to release 'The Sermon' as a single, instead plumping for what was to be A&J's most famous track, 'Solid Gold'. 'Solid Gold' scraped the top 30, but never achieved its full potential - it was A-listed on Radio 1 and received heavy airplay, plus A&J appeared on TV shows of the time such as Normski's 'Dance Energy', alongside Paul's UK soul heroes Loose Ends. A further single, 'Sweet Time', followed before the band embarked on a lengthy session to record their first album. Many of the musicians who became regulars, such as sax player Bernard Moss, Primal Scream's Denise Johnson, A Certain Ratio's Tony Quigley, trumpeter Gerard Presencer (later to join the Rolling Stones' studio band), Jaco Peake from Paul Weller's band and Bill Nelson, ex-of 70's popstars BeBop Deluxe, joined at this time. A&J's most high-profile gig to date was with Happy Mondays and Electronic at the Cities In The Park Festival in Manchester's Heaton Park in 1991. They also embarked on a European tour, taking in Austria, Germany and Holland, even playing Austria's equivalent of Top Of The Pops (they got as high as No 3 here, and also made the top 10 in Italy). A final single 'Here I Go Again' was released, the band hooking up with the West London soul scene and Soul II Souls's production crew and musicians. Further gigs followed with Massive Attack, Jamiroquai, Seal/Adamski and The Brand New Heavies as Big Life tried to cash in on the new-funk boom of the time. Things started to come to a halt in 1992, when Paul left Manchester for London, and Steve formed a new band, Fila Brasilia, with whom he had much underground success and made several albums. Paul flirted briefly with the 203 incarnation, and the Talkin' Loud label, returning to the West London scene which had been such great supporters of A&J. He hooked up again with Adie Hardy, by this time a producer, whose many connections in the London music scene enabled tracks such as Long Time Dead to be recorded, with the help of various Stereo MCs and World Of Twist sidekicks. From the breakup to this date, Paul and Steve have never spoken. Sent by Paul Wheatcroft. 11.01.13