Verve dating site
"Bittersweet Symphony", a string-swept orchestral landscape overlaid with an elegaic vocal and a Rolling Stones sample (which has ultimately cost them all royalties, so hard did the Stones' lawyers fight them), swiftly went to No.2 in the charts; then the pensive "The Drugs Don't Work", to number one.
The release of their fourth album, Urban Hymns, in the same month to open-mouthed critical acclaim - in brilliant contrast to Oasis's disappointingly prosaic Be Here Now - confirmed their place in rock history.
Their former head teacher, Dennis Lavelle, recalls them making a lot of noise in the school's recording studio and contemporaries remember them dividing sixth-form girls between who lusted after Richard and who preferred Nick.
"Even then he was like a generator, powering the rest of the band," says Helen.
"You thought, God, they are really going somewhere." In one of this summer's biggest music events, the band are to return to Wigan's Haigh Hall to salute the faithful.
The best musicians come from the North, Ashcroft has said, "because there's fuck all else to do".
To Ashcroft, the son of an unemployed builder and a hairdresser, articulacy and individuality developed early on with the death of his father, when he was 11.