I would like to write a few words about Ashley Cartwright, best known to NMA fans as the original writer of “51st State”, who died at the weekend, aged 57.

I am often asked about ‘Punk Rock’ and what I remember about the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. It’s sad that the words came to mean playing loud guitars and shouting a lot because it was so much more than that – a whole creative revolution in music, poetry and art. Perhaps the most significant thing was to do with with an attitude – an instinct of resistance to all social or artistic conventions and a bit of bloody-mindedness (well-suited to the Yorkshire character).

Now it’s easy to be ‘bolshie’ when you’re young - to be angry and awkward. But the people who really made the whole thing happen are the ones who, though often beset by demons, combined this attitude with a huge sense of love, wit and humour, an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and the desire to create. I was lucky enough to know a few such special characters and one of them was Ashley Cartwright.

In the very early years of New Model Army, we played often with his band, The Shakes, a fine outfit with his amazing gift for song-writing at it’s heart. When, for one reason or another, The Shakes broke up in 1983, we took one of their songs, ‘51st State” and developed it as a live track and then recorded it for The Ghost Of Cain.

In the years since then, Ashley continued to write and play wonderful songs in several outfits in and around Keighley, but perhaps it was his demons that always prevented them reaching a wider audience. We met every few years to talk or walk on the moors and at least two more NMA songs owe something to these exchanges.

Like many hundreds of people, I shall miss him and my condolences go out to all those closest to him.

Justin Sullivan

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