Monday, June 16, 1997

The Verve released “Bitter Sweet Symphony”

Bitter Sweet Symphony

The Verve

Writer(s): Richard Ashcroft (see lyrics here)

Released: June 16, 1997

First Charted: June 28, 1997

Peak: 12 US, 22 RR, 8 A40, 3 AA, 22 AR, 4 MR, 2 UK, 5 CN, 11 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 0.5 US, 1.28 UK, 2.24 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 1103.7 video, 901.07 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

“Bitter Sweet Symphony” was the lead single from Urban Hymns, the third album from the British alternative rock group The Verve. With its “Phil Spector-ish density,” AMG it became “one of the defining songs of the Britpop era.” WK While the group had other hits in the UK, this was their only song reach the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the U.S. It might not have charted at all if it weren’t for its use in a Nike commercial which prompted radio statios and MTV to add the song. SF

Lyrically, it takes “a somber look at the ennui of everyday life.” SF Lead singer Richard Ashcroft said the song is a reflection on how money and happiness were not synonymous. Rolling Stone and NME each named it the Single of the Year. It was nominated for a Brit Award for Best British Single and a Grammy Award for Best Rock Song.

It also garnered MTV Video Music Award nominations for Video of the Year, Best Group Video, and Best Alternative Video. The Verve’s lead singer Richard Ashcroft is shown walking down a London sidewalk in one continuous motion, an homage to the “docu-fiction music video” for Massive Attack’s ‘Unfinished Sympathy.” WK The Guardian’s Francesca Perry called it one of the best music videos about city life. WK

The song created legal controversy because the opening strings, which are sampled from a 1965 orchestral recording by Andrew Loog Oldham of the Rolling Stones’ song “The Last Time.” Although the Verve got permission from Decca Records, which owned the Oldham recording, they didn’t know they also needed permission from ABKCO, which owned the original publishing for the song. The company’s owner, Allen Klein, was a former manager with the Rolling Stones and forced them into a very lopsided contract which gave him publishing rights to all the songs the band had recorded through 1969. He employed similarly cruel tactics in paying Ashcroft a flat fee of $1000 and forcing the band to sign over 100% of the publishing. SF


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First posted 2/2/2021; last updated 8/24/2023.

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