Inspired by last week’s column, I decided to revisit one of my favorite one-hit wonders from a band that was completely destroyed by The Rolling Stones.
“Bitter Sweet Symphony” is the signature song of The Verve, a British rock group. You probably recognize it from the end of Cruel Intentions:
This song is off of the band’s third album, Urban Hymns, which was released in 1997. The band had enjoyed some moderate success in the UK but it wasn’t until this album–and specifically “Bitter Sweet Symphony”–that this band found international success. Before recording this song, The Verve got permission to sample four bars of an orchestral version of the Stones’ song, “The Last Time” by Andrew Loog Oldham. However, once “Bitter Sweet Symphony” was released and got insanely popular, this guy decided he didn’t like it:
Keith Richards and Mick Jagger then sued The Verve for copyright infringement, claiming that The Verve had relied too heavily on the original song. Vanilla Ice blatantly ripped off Queen and lied about it but no, let’s go after the group that legally acquired permission to use four bars of a cover of a Stones song. The Verve argued that they didn’t violate the copyright permission, but it didn’t matter. Because they’re Keith Richards and Mick Jagger and can afford better lawyers because they’re the goddamn Rolling Stones, they won the lawsuit which entitled them not only to the songwriting credit, but 100% of the royalties because fuck you, The Verve, that’s why.
The Verve never really recovered from this huge hit and they disbanded two years later. They’ve reunited a few times for tours, but all anyone really wants to hear is “Bitter Sweet Symphony” which probably stings a little. It’s sweet because people want to hear their music but bitter because of all the legal issues and the association with the demise of the band. It’s a bittersweet symphony, if you will.
I’ll show myself out.
Several artists have subsequently covered or sampled “Bitter Sweet Symphony” including Beyonce, Madonna, Kanye West, and Limp Bizkit, the latter of which kind of feels like adding insult to injury.
This song was also played at Super Bowl XLIX when the Seattle Seahawks took the field. I imagine it worked equally well as a depressing song to listen to on the bus ride home after coach Pete Carroll made one of the stupidest play calls ever made in football.
I’m not saying it’s the song’s fault, but you don’t hear my team listening to
the curse of Keith Richards this song.
Happy Throwback Thursday!