Revisiting Cornershop’s “Brimful of Asha” On a… Compact Disc

Something renewed my interest on this indie rock band called Cornershop, who scored a hit with “Brimful of Asha” back in 1997. No, it’s not this new-ish indie rock group from London who call themselves Bombay Bicycle Club, who probably thought adopting a name based on a defunct Indian restaurant would make it sound like they care about “culture.” It was watching Stephen Malkmus on the Slow Century DVD, inserting the chorus of “Brimful of Asha” at the end of “Summer Babe” during one of their last gigs in London in 1999.

Cornershop’s “Brimful of Asha” is an honest and insightful song about cinema, the people working behind the scenes, and the common people who love going to the movies. This song was on one of those compilation albums (don’t remember if it was MTV Fresh or something), this is how we discovered it, one of our friends brought the tape to school. And no, it’s not through the Fatboy Slim remix.

Cornershop, a band we never heard of before, were among familiar names like Oasis, Radiohead, and Meredith Brooks. I thought the song was about a famous Bollywood movie star named Asha Bhosle. I was wrong. And while the song is about Indian cinema, and is sort of a tribute to Asha Bhosle, no, she’s not a movie star, but she sang and recorded songs for many a Bollywood movies. You can read more about it here, if you want. 

I’m not sure if our local radio also played “Brimful of Asha” in the mid to late ’90s (they probably did though not as often as they did the bigger hits of the day) but I’m pretty sure they played Kula Shaker’s “Govinda.” I remember singing this song to myself whenever I’m truly bored (Govinda jaya jaya / Gopala jaya jaya / Radha-ramanahari Govinda jaya jaya). By the way, I did not copy that lyrics from the internet, I typed them from memory. Back then, we didn’t mind, that “Brimful of Asha” is written mostly in English while Kula Shaker, a band consist of four white lads from London, sing their song in classic Indian language. Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?

Maybe it’s ironic — in Alanis Morrissette sort of way. Regardless, I’ll take Tjinder Singh & co.’s East-meets-West pop-rock over Kula Shaker’s culture-appropriating psychedelic rock any time of the day.

When I searched for When I Was Born for the 7th Time online (When I Was Born is the album that contains “Brimful of Asha”), I was surprised that the album cover is different from what I remember. It’s different from what I saw on the cassette inserts of that compilation album (still don’t remember if it was MTV Fresh or something else), from which we first heard “Brimful of Asha.” Turns out the one I was looking for was the US version of the album. The cover and packaging of the US version were different from the ones originally released in the UK. The cover art of the UK version is kind of I don’t know, I like the US version better.

Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow. Everybody needs a bosom.


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