“When I was younger, I used to stay at the Chelsea Hotel,” says Richard Ashcroft, now 39. “You were required to have a wild time or you weren’t allowed to stay there. The corridors felt like you were in Angel Heart and William Burroughs might stumble out of a room at any moment.” Two decades have passed since the former Verve frontman first roamed those hallowed New York halls, and on “ Third Eye,” a B-side from his fourth solo album, The United Nations of Sound, Ashcroft sings about a different place entirely.
“Let me take you there, to the rarified air of the Mandarin/ I got my beer in my hand, thinking ’bout my life plans.” You’d be forgiven for assuming that Ashcroft—who wrote the ballad “ The Drugs Don’t Work” about his well-documented battle with substance abuse—was recalling a psychedelic night inside a giant piece of fruit. But then he continues: “Just sittin’ in the Mandarin, and watch ’em go in cirles/ Columbus circles.” It becomes apparent—especially if you’re a New Yorker—that Ashcroft’s Mandarin is actually the luxury hotel in Manhattan’s Time Warner Center overlooking Central Park, not a precious kind of orange. “I recommend for everybody to go and have one drink at that place,” Ashcroft says of the hotel’s bar. “I stayed there on my own, all night, and saw the sun rise over Central Park,” he says. “It’s the only manmade thing I’ve seen that feels like you’re looking at the ocean, because the concrete just stops at the edge of the park. The shadows and the way the light changes all of those buildings is absolutely incredible.”