We all learn at some point that life isn’t fair.
There’s a moment in which something monumental happens that shakes the way we view things. Maybe it’s something serious, like a car accident. Maybe it’s just the realization that sometimes you work hard but still come up short. It just happens.
For Richard Ashcroft and myself, that realization came in 1997.
Richard Ashcroft was the frontman for The Verve. In ’97, they enjoyed HUGE success with their song Bittersweet Symphony, easily one of the most beautiful songs ever written.
You know it. You probably cried at least ONCE while listening to it.
Richard and the boys were on top of the late ’90s world when this song was on the air. For years, they had been a band that was unknown outside of the UK. Bittersweet Symphony pushed them beyond that.
Basically, life was good. Until Mick Jagger and Keith Richards called and said, “Hey, we’re taking all your money kthanx”
That’s right, The Verve weren’t going to be able to enjoy any of the royalties from their biggest hit, because the composing credits belonged to The Rolling Stones.
And this is because The Verve CLEARLY ripped off this Stones classic. The similarities are nearly endless.
That’s right, technically, The Verve sampled too much from this awful, early British Invasion garbage that The Rolling Stones called “The Last Time”.
If you’re unfamiliar with the story, at this point, you’re probably scratching your head and wondering why The Stones weren’t accused of ripping ANY Beatles song from the 60’s. Shouldn’t John and Paul be getting royalties?
Well, the connection lies right here, in this 1965 orchestral version of The Last Time recorded by the Andrew Oldham Orchestra.
You’ll notice that the iconic string part from Bittersweet Symphony came straight from this version of The Last Time. Which means that technically, The Verve took from the Andrew Oldham Orchestra, but still a Rolling Stones song.
The Verve had the right to sample some of the orchestra’s recording, but Jagger and Richards claimed they sampled too much. And they claimed they should get all the royalties from it, because CLEARLY The Rolling Stones wrote that beautiful, beautiful string part.
And the strangest part? The courts agreed.
Jagger and Richards were given composing credit for the song, and The Verve never made another cent off of it.
Both parties handled it about as gracefully as you could expect. When the verdict was first reached, Ashcroft said “This is the best song Jagger and Richards have written in 20 years”, noting that it was the biggest hit they’d been given credit for since Brown Sugar. Which, let’s be honest, kinda sucks.
And two years later, Keith Richards was asked if he thought taking all the money of a band with much less success than his was fair. He responded with: “I’m out of whack here, this is serious lawyer s***. If The Verve can write a better song, they can keep the money.”
Personally, I’m more appalled that Keith Richards got away with saying “out of whack”.
Richard Ashcroft went on to continue his music career. But obviously, he nor any members of The Verve have achieved the success of Bittersweet Symphony, a song that Chris Martin of Coldplay once called “probably the greatest song ever written.”
(Copyright 1997 Mick Jagger and Keith Richards).
When did you learn that life isn’t fair? What’s the most beautiful song you’ve ever heard? What’s your favorite Bittersweet Symphony/rap song mashup? Here’s mine: