Verve frontman Richard Ashcroft has returned with a surprise new single – a cover of John Lennon’s 1973 track Bring On The Lucie (Freda Peeple). Ashcroft’s rendition – recorded at the iconic Abbey Road Studios immortalised by the Fab Four – is a faithful homage to the original; with the same rich texture, upbeat vibe and rousing, anthemic chorus. The 1973 version, which featured on Lennon’s fourth studio album Mind Games, saw the Beatle revert back to the kind of unifying protest message he had employed on 1971’s Power To The People; albeit with a more pointed and acerbic lyrical tone (“So while you’re jerking off each other/ You better bear this thought in mind/ Your time is up, you better know it/ But maybe you don’t read the signs”).
The new cover of Bring On The Lucie (Freda Peeple) is Ashcroft’s first release since his 2018 LP Natural Rebel; an album which also channelled the spectre of John Lennon on Streets of Amsterdam, with lyrics declaring: “You could be Yoko and I could be John/We’ll stay in bed and they’ll ban the bomb.” . That record, which debuted at number #4 on the Official UK Albums Chart, was met with a mixed critical response. While Under The Radar called it “a rootsy album of pedal steel guitars, orchestral flourishes, and rather sweet songs of a happy life”, the likes of NME were less positive, claiming that the singer-songwriter was “so comfortable in his well-worn big ballad rut that he almost sounds like a pastiche of himself.” Ashcroft responded in kind to that review by burning a copy of the eminent British music journal in a video posted to his Instagram account.
Ashcroft, who received an Ivor Novello award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music in 2019, is also working on an acoustic greatest hits album – with the aim of performing it live in the near future. In September, the Wigan-born troubadour told Radio X: “Yeah, at the moment I’m set to start on an acoustic set of some of the best tunes […] and stripping them back and laying them bare basically, so that will be my next thing. I’m excited about that. I’ll be recording, I’m carrying on, moving on. So that will be my next record and from there when that comes out, that mythical night in my mind will take place.”
2021 looks set to be a big year for Ashcroft, who turns 50 in September. In addition to the possibility of a new record in the works, the Lancastrian will also be making a long-awaited return to the live stage with two sold-out gigs at the London Palladium on May 21st and 22nd.
Ashcroft, who has released five studio albums as a solo artist in his own right, is still best-known for his work with The Verve in the late nineties; particularly their seminal 1997 album Urban Hymns, which sold over 3.3 million copies in the UK. The LP spawned a succession of hit singles in Bitter Sweet Symphony, The Drugs Don’t Work, Lucky Man and Sonnet. The band returned for a last hurrah with 2008’s Forth, which produced their last UK top ten single in Love Is Noise. After previous ruptures in 1995 and 1999, The Verve parted company for the third (and potentially final) time in 2009.