I Need to Hear Some Sounds That Recognize The Pain In Me – Yeah!

There are some songs I never tire of hearing, and top among them is ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ by The Verve. So my thanks to Jimmy Buff at WDST for playing the song Wednesday lunchtime while I was in the car, and to the DJ at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square for playing it Thursday. Though Richard Ashcroft‘s lyrics are almost absurdly morbid – “Trying to make ends meet, you’re a slave to money then you die” – I find the overall song unbelievably uplifting, and my day is ALWAYS better for it. I’ve played it again today, Friday, to make it three in a row. Nothing wrong with that.

Of course part of what makes ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ so special are those soaring string lines, some of which were famously sampled from the Andrew Oldham Orchestra’s cover of ‘The Last Time,’ as recorded on his Rolling Stones Songbook album. (In the ensusing legal battle, Ashcroft and The Verve were forced to hand over all songwriting credits and royalties for ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ to Keith Richards and Mick Jagger.) I remember seeing that album in a second-hand record store off of Brooklyn’s Court Street in the late 90s. It was priced at $100. When I mentioned that it was the record that had inspired ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ and was really hard to find, the proprieter told me he would probably increase its sale price. When I asked to hear ‘The Last Time’ to learn what lines had been sampled, he refused. That store is now out of business, so there is some justice in this world.

Not, perhaps, if you’re Richard Ashcroft and every time you hear that song on the radio or in a Virgin Megastore, you have to accept that someone else is earning the publishing royalties. Credit then to Jimmy Buff again, for following ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ with the Stones’ original of ‘ The Last Time,’ recounting the preceding story and questioning whether Jagger and Richards really needed the songwriting income. After all, as he pointed out, the Rolling Stones Bigger Bang tour of 2005-2006 is expected to gross $500,000,000. Yes, that’s 500 million dollars.

Rolling Stones Songbook
The Rolling Stones Songbook album by The Andrew Oldham Orchestra was reissued on CD in 2004. You can order a copy by clicking the image above. Though if ever a song merited illegal downloading, it would be this album’s version of ‘The Last Time’ by anyone who bought ‘Bittersweet Symphony.’

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2 Comment(s)

  1. snotty moore

    1 December, 2006 at 7:17 pm

    I was under the impression that the royalties went to Allen Klein and ABCKO, who own the publishing on the early Stones material. The same thing happened when Carter USM borrowed one Stones line on a single. Certainly plenty of people have borrowed later period Stones without facing similar proceedings.
    Ashcroft is hardly on his uppers- mansion in Gloucestershire, another one on Richmond Green. Though after his recent turn at a rural youth club, he’s well on the way to being a national laughing stock. (In fact the strings were eventually rerecorded, not that Klein cared.)

  2. 6 December, 2006 at 4:01 pm

    The notorious Allen Klein indeed still acts as copyright holder or/and publisher, but even allowing for his reputation, the Stones are known as the most astute business people in the music world and you can guarantee that they have an inordinate amount of control (as well as the lion’s share of income) from their old recordings. If they wanted to let Bittersweet Symphony pass they could have done. More reasonably, if they’d wanted to take a cut of the credits and not the whole thing, they could have done that, too. It’s always struck me as unnecessary greed on their part.
    Should note that Ashcroft has taken quite an admirable attitude about the whole thing over the years. I was looking for a magazine quote from him about it when I put up this post, something about how the satisfaction of making the song made up for not earning from it.
    Finally, no reason Ashcroft should be on his uppers – if people sell records, I’m okay for them to earn from it. Sooner them than the suits – or Allan Klein.


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