Singer and guitarist Tjinder Singh was born to Indian parents and grew up in Preston, Lancashire. It was in 1992 whilst studying at Preston University he formed Cornershop, a name he chose as an observation to the supermarket take-over and demise of the local shop
He recruited guitarist and keyboard player Ben Ayres, another keyboardist Anthony Saffrey, percussionist Peter Bengry and drummer Nick Simms. Tjinder never told his father what he did. “An Asian on stage was unusual especially when I was playing guitar. It would have upset my father, so I told him I worked for a record company. My brother eventually told him.”
By 1997 they had slimmed down to a duo consisting of Tjinder and Ben. Tjinder wrote the song as a tribute to Bollywood actress Asha Bhosle. On its initial release in August 1997, it faltered at number 60 on the chart. The word ‘asha’ while referring to Asha Bhosle, has another meaning; Hope. Many of Asha Bhosle’s movie songs were filled with messages of hope that the younger generation took to heart and dreamed of better lives. The line ‘Well, it’s a brimful of Asha on the 45’refers to the speed the vinyl spins round at. In the bridge there are a number of non-Indian music references including the song Bancs Publics, the French singer/songwriter Jacques Dutronc, Marc Bolan and Trojan Records.
Soon after, Fatboy Slim who liked the track, sped it up and began dropping it into his DJ set. It was well received by the crowd so Fatboy worked out a definitive remix and offered it to Cornershop’s label, Wiiija, free of charge. They accepted it and issued it as a strictly limited white label 12″ single. A couple of copies found their way into the hands of Radio 1 DJs Mary Anne Hobbs and Anne Nightingale who began playing it on every show. Then Steve Lamacq began playing it and within a week there was an on-air campaign to have it officially released. Part of the song was a celebration of the 45rpm single. Fatboy said, “All I did was speed it up, put a drum beat, a heavy breakbeat and a bassline on it and left the rest of the song as it was. It was brilliant.”
The single was re-issued on seven inch and CD single, but Norman’s remix was confined to the B-side or track two on the CD. The A-side was a straight re-issue from the previous year. However, hardly any radio station played the A-side so everyone thinks it was the Norman Cook remix that topped the chart.
Tjinder publicly expressed that he wasn’t happy with the single’s success. He felt disappointed that after releasing songs for over six years without success that his glory had been stolen by a remix. Subsequently, the follow-up, Sleep on the Left Side, which only reached number 23, was compared with the remix. The second album, Handcream for A Generation, despite featuring Noel Gallagher on guitar, performed so badly that they were dropped from the label.
Norman said, “I thought I should apologise to Tjinder for fucking up the band’s career. Tjinder said he wasn’t bothered, but it doesn’t feel good, making people sound jolly when it wasn’t them.”
Cornershop were out of the limelight for four years, but began recording again in 2002 on their own Meccico record label and returned to the chart in 2004 with Topknot. In 2008 their song Candyman was featured in the TV advert for Nike’s Lebron James VI shoe. The following year they released the album Judy Sucks a Lemon for Breakfast and also formed their own Ample Play record label. In 2011 they were awarded a prize for Commitment to Scene in the UK Asian Music Awards and in May 2012 their eighth album Urban Turban was released and has yet to appear on the UK album chart.