THE 1997 NME SINGLE OF THE YEAR (Recorded in 1965!)

I’m a long way removed from being a fan of The Verve or Richard Ashcroft, but I am willing to admit the song that brought them/him to the attention of the wider public is absolute class:-

mp3 : The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony (radio edit)

Only thing is….. that according to the info within the CD single sitting on my shelf, it was actually performed by The Andrew Oldham Orchestra and written solely by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

The story is quite infamous now. I’ll simply lift from wiki:-

The opening strings are sampled from the 1965 Andrew Oldham Orchestra recording of the Rolling Stones song “The Last Time”, arranged and written by David Whitaker. The Verve negotiated rights to use a six-note sample from the recording from the recording’s copyright holder Decca Records; however, they did not obtain permission from former Rolling Stones manager Allen Klein, who owned the copyrights to the band’s pre-1970 songs, including “The Last Time”. Although “Bitter Sweet Symphony” had already been released, Klein refused to grant a license for the sample. This led to a lawsuit with ABKCO Records, Klein’s holding company, which was settled out of court. The Verve relinquished all royalties to Klein, and the songwriting credits were changed to Jagger/Richards, with Ashcroft receiving $1,000 for completely relinquishing rights.

Verve bassist Simon Jones said, “We were told it was going to be a 50/50 split, and then they saw how well the record was doing. They rung up and said we want 100 percent or take it out of the shops, you don’t have much choice.” Ashcroft sarcastically said, “This is the best song Jagger and Richards have written in 20 years”, noting it was their biggest UK hit since “Brown Sugar”.

In a 1999 interview with Q, asked whether he believed the result was fair, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards said: “I’m out of whack here, this is serious lawyer shit. If the Verve can write a better song, they can keep the money.”

In 1999, Andrew Oldham sued for royalties after failing to receive the mechanical royalties he claimed he was owed. After receiving his royalties, Oldham joked that he bought “a pretty presentable watch strap” compared to the watch Jagger and Richards would get with the money. In an interview with Uncut, he said: “As for Richard Ashcroft, well, I don’t know how an artist can be severely damaged by that experience. Songwriters have learned to call songs their children, and he thinks he wrote something. He didn’t. I hope he’s got over it. It takes a while.”

In May 2019, Ashcroft received the Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers, and Authors. Ashcroft announced that the dispute was over following negotiations with Klein’s son, Jody, and the Rolling Stones’ manager Joyce Smith.  He said: “As of last month, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards signed over all their publishing for Bittersweet Symphony, which was a truly kind and magnanimous thing for them to do. I never had a personal beef with the Stones. They’ve always been the greatest rock and roll band in the world. It’s been a fantastic development. It’s life-affirming in a way.

So how much plagarism was involved?

mp3 : Andrew Oldham Orchestra – The Last Time

OK, I’m no musician and I can’t quite understand how it went the way it did.  Yup, there was a sample.  Yup, there was an error in not getting Klein on board. Yup, the song ended up being more successful than was likely imagined.  But there is no way that it could ever be seen as solely a Jagger/Richard composition. I’m also baffled as to why none of the five members of The Verve, named on the front of the sleeve and who obviously played on the track, aren’t entitled to any credit.

Things were just as ridiculous when The Verve included a remix version of the song as a track on the CD2 single of The Drugs Don’t Work:-

mp3 : The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony (James Lavelle Remix)

The same credits in terms of composing and performing were detailed, with the following additions:-

Vocals by Richard Ashcroft
Lyrics by Richard Ashcroft
Additional strings conducted and arranged by Wil Malone
Remixed by James Lavelle for U.N.C.L.E Productions

How magnanimous of them…..


7 thoughts on “THE 1997 NME SINGLE OF THE YEAR (Recorded in 1965!)

  1. I knew nothing of this dramatic back story. These 2 songs are the only 2 by The Verve that I liked. I bought the LP that they appeared on and found it a dull trudge – confirming why I had never previously engaged with them.

    It’s always more than a little ridiculous and egotistical when ‘song writers’ deny other band members recognition for their contributions.

  2. Didn’t something similar happen with Carter USM too?

    They took a loan of the line ‘Goodbye Ruby Tuesday’ and
    The Stones – or their representatives – pounced.

    This is serious JTFL stuff…

  3. It’s actually not that complicated. Just an example of being too careless with using intellectual property composed by famous artists (Stones) and owned by famous bastards (Klein). In a nutshell, the license the Verve got was incomplete. They needed to make sure the rights of all copyright holders were addressed before they released the record but didn’t. If the song wasn’t a hit it probably would have gone unnoticed. But you can bet if there was real money being generated ABKCO was going to get its slice.

  4. I have never really got the whole songwriting credit thing which always seems to be at the heart of when bands split up. Remember seeing a doc recently where Andy summers came up with the distinctive guitar line for every breath a song credited to sting as the songwriter. When that guitar line was lifted by Puff Daddy for I’ll be missing you it was sting who got the royalties.

  5. Verve/The Verve- a band ruined by Oasis. Visionary psychedelic long hairs on a questing mission who fell under the nefarious spell of Gallagher 1 and 2, forgot about visionary, psychedelic questing and began writing dreary, everyman singalongs.
    Bittersweet Symphony is ace, obviously. The Stones/Klein are cunts, obviously.
    Verve’s A Storm In Heaven and A Northern Soul are great albums, patchy maybe but packed with brilliance. Urban Hymns, Bittersweet Symphony aside, is a one paced, acoustic troubadour shuffle. No wonder Nick McCabe left.

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