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BITTER SWEET LOVE STORY; The woman Verve idol Richard Ashcroft publicly ripped in to at a concert this week reveals why she dumped him for a pal .. and why he can't forgive.

HE is a rock idol with the world at his feet.

The hero had returned, and Verve singer Richard Ashcroft gloried in the adulation of 33,000 fans when he played his home town of Wigan.

But for one woman in the crowd at Sunday night's concert, Richard's triumphant homecoming was a bitter-sweet experience.

Sarah Carpenter, 26. was the brooding singer's first love - and it was the end of their love affair that inspired some of his most moving lyrics.

Even now Richard cannot hide his bitterness that Sarah left him for one of his closest friends. As he introduced the song, History, written about their split, he lashed out at his former sweetheart.

In front of thousands of fans, he blurted: "Despite what you think, this isn't about you. You know who you are, you snide f*****. This song's about love and peace."

It was a painful, shocking moment for Sarah, who remains one of Verve's biggest fans.

For although their lives could not be more different, Sarah has never regretted leaving the star for the band's former roadie, Andy Burke.

It was Andy who comforted her when she discovered she could not live with the singer's new-found celebrity.

"I know people must think I am mad, but I was never cut out to be a rock star's girlfriend," says Sarah. "I wanted to be Sarah in my own right, not 'Richard Ashcroft's girlfriend'.

"I could be living in a half a million pound house with a man who is an idol to millions. But I made the decision that I would rather be me first, rather than a pop star wife."

EVEN now, as the band basks in worldwide success with their album, Urban Hymns, Sarah has no regrets.

A computer student, she lives in a cramped one bedroom flat in Wigan while Richard is worshipped by millions of fans and has recently bought a pounds 500,000 country estate in Gloucestershire.

Two years ago, he secretly married Kate Radley, keyboard player in indie band Spiritualised.

It is a world away from the first time she set eyes on the gangly teenager at Winstanley College where they were both studying for A-levels.

"It was the Freshers' Ball. He was just this weird looking lad, dead striking. He was really thin with a huge Adam's apple, black slicked-back hair and a long beige mac.

"I found him compelling, but I didn't fancy him though."

But Richard had other ideas. The gangly 17-year-old was too nervous to ask her for a date and got a female friend to pass on the message.

"Even then I just laughed it off," says Sarah.

But soon she fell for his charms - and they began a relationship that would last six years.

"He was completely out of the ordinary," she says. "He wasn't educationally intelligent and he didn't read loads of book or anything. He was more spiritual.

"Physically, he was unusual too. Someone once said to me Richard was either incredibly beautiful or incredibly ugly. To me, he was handsome.

"He looked arrogant, but really it was just confidence. He could be quite shy and other times really outgoing. And he had a wicked dry sense of humour."

As penniless students, they were often so hard-up that all they could afford to do was take long walks together.

When they did have money, Richard would spend it on his record collection or on tickets for their favourite band, the Stone Roses.

Richard's outlook was different from other lads his age, says Sarah.

"He believed anything was possible.

"All the kids went to school, to university. It was all mapped out. But Richard said it didn't have to be that way because things can happen in other ways. I think we opened each other's eyes. We taught each other a lot."

But although he is now famous for his moving lyrics in songs like Sonnet and Lucky Man, Sarah said Richard was never a romantic.

"He wasn't a sweet-talker or a charmer," she says.

"He didn't communicate very well when it came to relationships.

WE were very young, but I knew that he loved me because he used to tell me."

When Richard formed Verve at college, Sarah was their biggest fan - but soon discovered that the band had become his first love, and she his second.

"You got this feeling that one day he was going to be famous because he believed it so much. He just had that something about him.

"But soon I realised that the love of his life was the band, not me."

When they finished their course, Richard headed for the dole queue so he could concentrate on music while Sarah took a temporary job as a waitress.

They moved into a flat above a chemists in Orrell Post, Lancs where Sarah, worried about his gangly frame, tried to feed Richard up.

"He was all skin and bone, so when I worked at a hotel I used to bring home left-over dinners, but it never worked."

Richard's big break came when the band performed a showcase concert in Manchester. Within 24 hours, Hut Records boss Dave Boyd had them signed up and the money started coming in. But it made no difference to Richard.

"He was a completely free spirit," says Sarah. "He didn't care how much he had in his pocket. He was the most irresponsible person I have ever known when it came to money.

"It certainly wasn't his motivation. He wanted to be recognised as an artist."

But if the cash made no difference, his growing fame DID start to turn Richard's head.

"He started having loads of people around him, telling him how wonderful he was," Sarah says.

"He was going away on tours more and more, and I wanted the attention." In her despair, Sarah turned to Verve roadie Andy Burke. She cried on his shoulder, often confiding how left out she felt.

"Andy started to take care of me while Richard was busy. We hit it off immediately.

BECAUSE they'd grown up together, all the points I had loved about Richard were there with Andy.

"We both realised we were falling for each other, but tried to deny it. We were soul mates.

"But I was never unfaithful."

Eventually Richard confronted his girlfriend.

"He phoned and said, 'What's going on between you and Andy?' I said, 'Nothing' because nothing had happened. But Richard kept shouting, and slammed the phone down on me."

That phone call, in the summer of 1995, was the last time they spoke.

The split sent Richard into a spiral of despair and depression.

He went missing, refusing to tell anyone where he was. Instead, he channelled his pain into emotion-packed songs which appear on their Number One album, Urban Hymns.

His bitter side-swipe on Sunday night hurt Sarah deeply.

"Friends told me he hated me and never wanted to see me again," she says. "He thought I was manipulative. He's never really forgiven me, although he is still friends with Andy. It hurt me when a friend told me Richard didn't want me at the concert, but there was no way he was going to stop me."

Even so she was shocked by his outburst.

"He was playing the spoilt pop star. It's gone to his head. I don't know what his problem is, but he obviously won't let it drop.

"To say that in front of a packed auditorium makes it difficult to remember him fondly."

Now their life together is just a memory.

"When he was up on that stage, Richard seemed very distant," she says.

"Not like the man I spent six years of my life with."

History

I wander lonely streets

Behind where the old Thames does flow

And in every face I meet

reminds me of what I've run for.

In every man, in every hand

In every kiss you understand

That living is for other men

I hope you two will understand

I gotta tell you my tale

Of how I loved and how I failed

I hope you understand

These feelings should not be in a man

In every child, in every eye

In every sky above my head

I hope that I'll know

So come with me in bed

Because it's you and me

We're history

There aint nothing left to say

When I will get you alone.

Written by The Verve

published by EMI.
COPYRIGHT 1998 MGN LTD
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Carey, Tanith
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 26, 1998
Words:1405
Previous Article:Franks, it's been fun.. but I'll give it up to be just a mum; SAYS THE MAGAZINE EDITOR WHO HAD IT ALL.
Next Article:Think of our beaten, skeletal heroes as the Garter is shamed.


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