Cornershop for a Tuesday night/Hump Day morning. Formed in 1991 and with music that’s a fusion of Indian, Britpop, Electronic Dance and Alernative, they’ve been a staple in the British underground/club music scene ever since.
Tjinder Singh formed General Havoc while a student at Lancashire Polytechnic in Preston, in 1987. He relocated to Leicester, where his brother and sister lived, and formed Cornershop in 1991 along with his brother Avtar, Chambers and Ayres, while working as a barman at Leicester’s Magazine pub, also a popular local music venue. The band played their first gig at Leicester’s O’Jays venue.In the early 1990s, when popular singer Morrissey was being vilified by the UK music press after accusations of racism, the band were invited to comment and the Melody Maker ran a story featuring the band burning a picture of the singer outside the offices of EMI.
Their debut release, the In The Days of Ford Cortina EP, was pressed on “curry-coloured vinyl”, contained a blend of Indian-tinged noise pop. The sound mellowed somewhat with the release of debut album Hold On It Hurts in 1994, described by Trouser Press as “a politically charged popfest, ten tracks of noisy delights that meld incisive social commentary with a firm hold on British post-punk.” The album impressed David Byrne sufficiently for him to sign the band to his Luaka Bop label. Although David Chambers left the band in 1994, replaced by Nick Simms, the band re-emerged in 1995 with the “6 a.m. Jullandar Shere” single and the album Woman’s Gotta Have It, also touring the United States including some dates on the Lollapalooza tour. The band also toured Europe with Beck, Stereolab and Oasis.
They released their critically acclaimed album When I Was Born for the 7th Time in September 1997. The album featured collaborations with Allen Ginsberg, Paula Frazer, Justin Warfield and a Yoko Ono– and Paul McCartney-approved cover of “Norwegian Wood” recorded in the Punjabi language. The album was produced by Tjinder Singh and Dan the Automator. Rolling Stone called it one of the essential recordings of the 1990s. The album was ranked No. 1 on Spin’s list of ‘Top 20 Albums of the Year’ (1998)
The track “Brimful of Asha” topped the legendary Festive 50 rundown of John Peel’s tracks of the year in 1997.
Norman Cook (a.k.a. Fatboy Slim) loved the track and remixed the song, which became hugely popular and captured the attention of the world. The song was a tribute to the prolific Indian playback singer, Asha Bhosle, and Tjinder’s musical influences such as Trojan Records and vinyl culture in general.
To get an idea of that breakthrough period, or to be reminded of it, here is a session recorded at BBC Radio 1 on May 5, 1998.