The Verve

Bitter Sweet Symphony

Composed by Richard Ashcroft / Mick Jagger / Keith Richards

Song Review by

After going on hiatus after their 1995 A Northern Soul release, the Verve decided to reunite, and two years later issued Urban Hymns, their greatest album yet. The album proved to be the global breakthrough that they hoped for, especially on the strength of the majestic hit single "Bittersweet Symphony." A few years before the track was written, Verve singer Richard Ashcroft bought a used copy of the obscure album The Rolling Stones Songbook, from 1966. The album consisted of Stones songs that were reworked by an orchestra (the bandmembers didn't play on it at all). And while there was absolutely no comparison between these strange new versions and the definitive, rocking originals, Ashcroft became interested in a small musical phrase that was included on the album's final song, "The Last Time." the Verve sampled a bit for "Bittersweet," and all hell broke loose when the song was being issued as a single shortly after the release of Hymns. The copyright holders of the Stones' '60s catalog, ABKCO, informed the Verve that they were not going to give the band clearance for the sample they used. the Verve's manager even contacted Mick Jagger and Keith Richards personally to see if they'd help out, but both refused to get involved in a dispute with ABKCO (run by their former manager, Allen Klein). Eventually, ABKCO agreed to let the Verve use the sample, but at a very steep price -- they'd have to surrender 100 percent of the royalties to the Stones' copywriters. Without much choice in the matter, the band agreed and the single was finally released, helping propel the album to the top of the charts worldwide.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Bitter Sweet Symphony 1997 Virgin 5:58
Urban Hymns 1997 Virgin 5:58
Now That's What I Call Music! 37 [UK] 1997
Various Artists
Virgin/EMI
Triple J Hottest 100, Vol. 5 1998
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 5:59
Cruel Intentions 1999
Original Soundtrack
Virgin 5:57
Q Anthems 2002
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 4:34
This Is Music: The Singles 92-98 [DVD] 2004 Virgin
Dad Rocks! [EMI Australia 2005] 2005
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 6:00