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Written, Voiced and Edited by Frank Furtado
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Even if you don’t know The Verve, you’ve probably heard their 1997 single Bitter Sweet Symphony.
It’s been used in ads, TV shows and films.
It was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Song and remains the Verve’s most definitive single. It launched the band into stardom. And it’s arguably one of the greatest songs of the last 25 years. It feels grand and that’s thanks to its orchestral elements. The Verve’s frontman, Richard Ashcroft was almost ready to scrap the song until producer Martin Glover put the strings over top of it. That’s when Ashcroft really got excited. But that’s also where The Verve’s biggest problem lied.
The Verve’s Bitter Sweet Symphony uses a string sample from Andrew Oldham Orchestra’s symphonic version of “The Last Time.” The song was inspired by The Rolling Stone’s first major single, “The Last Time”
The Verve cleared the sample with Decca Records but The Verve didn’t think to get the permission for the underlying Stones track that inspired the composition until after their track was completed - and why would they? The orchestral version was only inspired by the Rolling Stone’s track.
For those rights, they needed to talk to Allen Klein, the “music business boogeyman.” He first said no, but then granted them a license. The Verve says the deal was initially for a 50/50 split but when the single started to perform well, Klein claimed that The Verve broke the license agreement and used a larger portion of the sample than agreed upon.
Klein ended up suing the The Verve for plagiarism. The band decided to settle out of court thinking it would be cheaper than fighting a legal battle that might not go their way. Klein, demanded 100% royalties and songwriting credits attributed to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. So remember that Grammy Nomination? It had Jagger and Richards name on the ballot too.
What song did bittersweet symphony steal from? It didn’t “steal” exactly. They used a sample and got the license for it but failed to get the license for the track that inspired the song they sampled.
What song did bittersweet symphony sample? Andrew Oldham Orchestra’s “The Last Time,” a symphonic rendition of The Rolling Stone’s “The Last Time”
Who did bittersweet symphony? English rock band The Verve
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the videos or music used in this video. They are used for education and discussion purposes.