"Brimful of Asha" is about India's filmi music industry in general, with a reference to filmi star Asha Bhosle in particular. The word "asha" also happens to mean "hope" in Hindi, something that certainly wasn't lost on Cornershop's Tjinder Singh when he wrote the tune - 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.
Music and dance scenes are pivotal to India's Bollywood cinema, making up the most important scenes of all major films in that nation. As a result, soundtracks are by far the most popular musical releases in India, representing 72% of total music sales as of 2009, according to the BBC.
Of the filmi vocalists, Asha Bhonsle is one of the most beloved; she is believed to have sung on over 12,000 songs behind movie scenes in Bollywood. It is this Asha who is "on the 45," a "45" being a record single.
Mumbai-based Hindi language films are often produced in Bollywood, the film industry of India. "Bollywood" is a melding of the words Bombay (the English name for Mumbai) and Hollywood (the hub of the American cinematic industry).
The versatile Asha Bhosle's musical contribution to the film industry includes folk, pop, bhajans, traditional Indian classical, Rabindra Sangeet, and the languages she has recorded songs in include Hindi, Tamil, Russian, English, and Bengali.
The song is much more than just a nod to Asha. It's also a commentary on life in India and about the hope that music and film hold out to the Indian people.
India is home to some of the richest cultural, philosophical, and spiritual histories of any nation on Earth, but it's also a nation that was struggling with a great deal of poverty, corruption, and tough times. "Brimful of Asha" is about an Indian listening to Asha's filmi music amidst those tough times as a way to hold on to hope and to find joy in a tough existence, hence the line, "She's the one that keeps the dream alive, From the morning, past the evening, till the end of the light."
The chorus sums up the entire song: "Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow, mine's on the 45." It's a story of a person going to a record single to find hope and a place to rest their head.
Originally a #60 hit in 1997, this became an UK chart topper the following year, after being re-mixed by Fatboy Slim (aka Norman Cook). He was so keen to re-mix this that he didn't charge a fee. His version was included on The Greatest Hits – Why Try Harder in 2006.
The video was shot across two continents. The band members were in London while the teenager's bedroom was in Minneapolis.
The portion of the song that lists off a series of names before the "45" refrain is referring to filmi and pop stars. The list includes: Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Solid State Radio, Ferguson Mono, Non Public, Jacques Dutronc and Bolan Boogies, The Heavy-Hitters and the Chi-Chi Music, All Indian Radio, Two in Ones, Ovvo Records, and Trojan Records.
In a 2017 Songfacts interview with Tjinder Singh
, he said that the song was in some ways responsible for the band's demise. "It's a lovely song to be remembered by," said Singh. "But the way it brought success falling from the skies also meant that it changed focus on to the remix, so it took the carpet away from underneath us as an album artist. We've never been able to fully recover.
So, though it's been very good in many respects, it's also meant that we've been pigeonholed very easily, and that we've been put down very easily. The slow process of people getting into us through the albums as such has been even more elongated.
Maybe we didn't want to be in it for the long haul. Maybe we just wanted to burn out and get on it. And maybe if that hadn't happened, then heaven knows."
This was used on Friends in the season 4 episode "The One with the Fake Party," where it plays during a going away party for Emily. The song was also included on the 2005 album Friends: The Ultimate Soundtrack.
The was also featured in the movies The Truth About Charlie (2002) and Chasing Mavericks (2012). Fatboy Slim's remix shows up in the comedy The Love Guru (2008) and the TV show Chuck ("Chuck Versus the Balcony" - 2011). It was also prominently featured on Alias ("The Indicator" - 2002) during the grand opening of Francie's restaurant.