Now presenting, a very controversial song because of copyright reasons. Bitter Sweet (or Bittersweet) Symphony by British band The Verve.

The Verve - Bitter Sweet Symphony

The Verve - Bitter Sweet Symphony

Song History

I'll tell you the whole controversy that happened behind this song.

In 1965, the song "The Last Time" is released by The Rolling Stones. Later, the song received an orchestral version by Andrew Loog Oldham. Then, The Verve, a popular British band made "Bittersweet Symphony", which became a worldwide hit. The Verve negotiated a license to use a five-note sample from an orchestral version of one of the Rolling Stones’ lesser hits, “The Last Time,” and received clearance from Decca Records.

Result? After Bittersweet Symphony became a hit, The Verve was sued by The Rolling Stones's former manager, Allen Klein, who owns the copyrights to the band’s pre-1970 songs because of aggressive business practices.

He claimed the Verve broke the agreement when they supposedly used a larger portion than what was covered in the license, something the group vehemently disputed.

The Verve layered nearly fifty tracks of instrumentation, including novel string arrangements, to create a distinctly new song. In fact, the song’s signature swirling orchestral melody was recorded and arranged by the Verve; the sample from the instrumental record is largely buried under other tracks in the chorus.

The band eventually settled out of court and handed over 100% of their songwriting royalties because it seemed cheaper than fighting for a legal ruling that might not end in their favor. As if things couldn’t have gotten worse, they were then sued by another old Rolling Stones manager, Andrew Loog Oldham. Klein went after the Verve for infringing on the songwriting copyright, which he owned, but Oldham possessed the copyright on the sampled sound recording. They totally lost everything.

Not only the Verve earn money from their biggest hit, they were stripped of control of their song. For instance, after the group refused Nike’s request to use “Bittersweet Symphony” in an ad, the shoe manufacturer aired the song after it purchased a license from Allen Klein.

"The last thing I wanted in the world I wanted was for one of my songs to be used in a commercial,” the despondent lead vocalist Richard Ashcroft said. “I’m still sick about it.” In one final kick in the groin, “Bittersweet Symphony” was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Song category, which honors songwriters. Because the unfavorable settlement transferred the Verve’s copyright and songwriting credit to Klein and the Rolling Stones, the Grammy nomination went to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

Ashcroft quipped that it was “the best song Jagger and Richards have written in twenty years.” He then suffered from a nervous breakdown and the group eventually broke up.

tl;dr, Verve makes a song that sounds like another song, then gets screwed by the lawyers.


But now, about the song. It pretty much tells you that life is a "symphony", with joyous moments and painful moments and how we are made with predetermined characteristics that we can't change (I can't change my mold) and the music video helps us understand the lyrics a little bit more.

The music video has Richard, the band's lead singer, walking down a road while bumping into everyone and not stopping even after knocking a woman down, hell, he even walks over a car hood at one point. What's happening there, is that he is symbolizing how you can't veer off the path you are forced to take, and whichever way you go, it'll always be your distinctive path.

He is "a million different people from one day to the next" because life is always pushing him into some other version of himself, but that version is always a cast from the same "mold" of him that's always walking down a road, always heading torwards an unique future that he can't stop from coming.

The lyrics are brilliant and so is the music video. The song can easily be related to any of us if you think about it.

Fun fact, the music video reminds me of how I walk down a busy street in my city. I don't know how I haven't been beat up, sued or shot so far.


The Verve Live

Reviewed by Synthwave

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