The Verve formed at Winstanley College in Billinge and went on to spawn monster hits such as Lucky Man and Bittersweet Symphony. Lead singer Richard Ashcroft was born in Billinge and for a time lived on Crank Road.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget their success. The Verve experienced widespread commercial success with Urban Hymns, the album’s first single “Bitter Sweet Symphony” entered the UK charts at number 2 in June 1997.
In August 1997, the band began playing their first gigs in two years, beginning the Urban Hymns Tour. The next single, “The Drugs Don’t Work” gave the band their first UK number 1 single in September. The album immediately reached number 1 on the charts later that month, knocking off Oasis’ highly anticipated album Be Here Now in the process.
The band saw an overwhelming increase in popularity overseas, and “Bitter Sweet Symphony” reached number 12 on the U.S. charts, the band’s highest ever American position. The album reached the US Top 30, going platinum in the process.
Critic Mike Gee of iZINE said of this time, “The Verve, as he (Richard Ashcroft) promised, had become the greatest band in the world. …The Verve were no longer the question mark or the cliché. They were the statement and the definition.”
By November the band released “Lucky Man” in the UK and reached number 7. At the 1998 Brit Awards in February, The Verve won the awards for Best British Group and Best British Album (Urban Hymns). The band’s singles were given extensive airplay on US rock stations and Ashcroft, and band mates, appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in March 1998.
The band split up in 1999 and Richard Ashcroft went on to became a successful solo artist in his own right, releasing three UK top three solo albums.
The Verve reformed in 2007 but again broke up by summer 2009. Ashcroft then founded a new band, RPA & The United Nations of Sound, and released a new album on 19 July 2010.
On 22 February 2016 Ashcroft announced his fourth solo album, These People, which was released in May 2016.
Chris Martin of Coldplay has described Ashcroft as “the best singer in the world”.