Bitter Sweet Symphony

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the album by Jade Valerie, see Bittersweet Symphony (album).
"Bitter Sweet Symphony"
Single by The Verve
from the album Urban Hymns
Released 16 June 1997 (1997-06-16)
Format CD single, 12" single
Recorded 1996 at Olympics Studios, London
Genre Britpop, alternative rock
Length 5:58 (album version)
4:33 (radio edit)
Label Hut
Writer(s) See song credits
Producer(s) Martin "Youth" Glover, The Verve
Certification Gold (RIAA)
The Verve singles chronology
"History"
(1995)
"Bitter Sweet Symphony"
(1997)
"The Drugs Don't Work"
(1997)
Music sample
A sample from "Bitter Sweet Symphony" by The Verve
Music video
"Bitter Sweet Symphony" on YouTube

"Bitter Sweet Symphony" is a song by English alternative rock band The Verve, and is the lead track on their third studio album, Urban Hymns (1997). It is based on an Andrew Loog Oldham orchestral version of The Rolling Stones' song, "The Last Time" from which it samples a main theme, and involved some legal controversy surrounding plagiarism charge as a result. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" was released on 16 June 1997 by Hut Recordings as the first single from the album, reaching number two on the UK Singles Chart. The song's momentum built slowly in the U.S. throughout the latter months of 1997, ultimately leading to a CD single release on 3 March 1998 by Virgin Records America, helping the song to reach number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The song's music video, which received heavy rotation on MTV, focuses on Richard Ashcroft lip-synching the song while walking down a busy London pavement, oblivious to what is going on around and refusing to change his stride or direction throughout.[1][2] At the 1998 Brit Awards, "Bitter Sweet Symphony" was nominated for Best British Single, and at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards, the song was nominated for Video of the Year, Best Group Video, and Best Alternative Video.[3][4] In 1999, the song was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Rock Song.[5]

Song credits[edit]

Although the song's lyrics were written by Verve vocalist Richard Ashcroft, its distinctive passage for strings was sampled from the 1965 Andrew Oldham Orchestra symphonic recording of "The Last Time", arranged & written by David Whitaker, inspired by the 1965 Rolling Stones' song of the same title.[6][7]

Originally, The Verve had negotiated a licence to use a five-note sample from the Oldham recording, but former Stones manager Allen Klein (who owned the copyrights to the band’s pre-1970 songs) claimed that The Verve broke the agreement and used a larger portion.[8][9] Despite its original lyrics and string intro (by Wil Malone & Ashcroft), the music of "Bitter Sweet Symphony" was sampled from the Oldham track, which led to a lawsuit with ABKCO Records, Klein's holding company, and eventually settled out of court. The Verve relinquished all of their royalties to Klein, owner of ABKCO Records, whilst songwriting credits were changed to Jagger/Richards/Ashcroft.[10]

The Verve bassist Simon Jones said, "We were told it was going to be a 50/50 split, and then they saw how well the record was doing. They rung up and said we want 100 percent or take it out of the shops, you don't have much choice."[11] After losing the composer credits to the song, Ashcroft commented, "This is the best song Jagger and Richards have written in 20 years",[12] noting it was their biggest UK hit since "Brown Sugar".[11] On Ashcroft's return to touring, the song traditionally ended the set list. Ashcroft also reworked the single for VH2 Live for the music channel VH1, stripping the song of its strings. Ashcroft is quoted as saying during the show: "Despite all the legal angles and the bullshit, strip down to the chords and the lyrics and the melody and you realise there is such a good song there."[13]

In a Cash for Questions interview with Q magazine published in January 1999, Keith Richards was asked if he thought it was harsh taking all The Verve's royalties from "Bitter Sweet Symphony". He replied, "I'm out of whack here, this is serious lawyer shit. If The Verve can write a better song, they can keep the money."

Production[edit]

"This was certainly the most successful track I've done," noted producer Youth. "I think Richard had actually cut a version with John Leckie but, by the time I came on board, he didn't want to do the song. I persuaded him to have a go at cutting a version but at first he wasn't really into it. It was only once we'd put strings on it that he started getting excited. Then, towards the end, Richard wanted to chuck all the album away and start again. What was my reaction? Horror. Sheer horror. All I could say was, I really think you should reconsider."[14]

Music video[edit]

A screenshot at the beginning of the music video showing Ashcroft, standing on a pavement. The video was noted as one of the most recognisable videos in the 90s.

The music video (directed by Walter A. Stern) is an homage to the music video for Massive Attack’s ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ and focuses on Ashcroft lip-synching the song while walking down a busy London pavement, refusing to change his stride or direction throughout (oblivious to what is going on around him), except for one instance where he is forced to stop for a moving car and a reflection is seen of him standing stationary in the car's tinted window.[2] He repeatedly bumps into passers-by (causing one young woman to lose balance and fall), narrowly avoids being hit by a car, and jumps on top of the bonnet of another vehicle stopped in his path (the driver gets out of her car and proceeds to confront him, while he continues unflinchingly). At the end of the video, the rest of The Verve join Ashcroft, and the final shot sees them walking down the street into the distance. This then leads into the beginning of the video for "The Drugs Don't Work".[15] The music video was nominated for a number of awards, including three MTV Awards at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards.[4]

Ashcroft starts walking from the southeast corner of the intersection of Hoxton and Falkirk Streets in Hoxton, North London,[16] subsequently proceeding north along the east side of Hoxton Street. The British comedy band Fat Les would later release a direct parody for their 1998 song "Vindaloo", an alternative anthem for England at the 1998 FIFA World Cup, where Paul Kaye takes the role of an Ashcroft look-alike who is mocked by a growing group of passersby as the video progresses.[17]

Live 8[edit]

On 2 July 2005, at the Live 8 concert in Hyde Park, London, Coldplay invited Ashcroft to perform the song with them in their set. They played it after only one rehearsal in Crystal Palace. Ashcroft was introduced by Chris Martin as "the best singer in the world" and he described the song as "the best song ever written". On 25 December 2005, a documentary entitled Live 8: A Bitter Sweet Symphony was aired reliving moments of the day featuring a portion of Ashcroft's performance as the music for the show's opening soundtrack.[18]

Legacy[edit]

Regarded as the band's signature song and one of the defining tracks of the Britpop era, "Bitter Sweet Symphony" has featured in best ever song polls; in 1998, BBC Radio 1 listeners voted it the third Best Track Ever.[19] In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked it number 392 on their list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[20] In 2007, NME magazine placed the song at number 18 in its list of the "50 Greatest Indie Anthems Ever".[21] In September 2007, a poll of 50 songwriters in Q magazine placed it in a list of the "Top 10 Greatest Tracks".[22] In the Australian Triple J Hottest 100 of All Time, 2009, the track was voted the 5th best song of all time.[23] Pitchfork Media included the song at number 29 on their "Top 200 Tracks of the 90s" list.[24] The publication also included "Bitter Sweet Symphony" in its collection of The Pitchfork 500.[25] In 2011, NME placed it at number 9 on its list "150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years".[26] The song featured at number one in Paste magazine's poll of the 25 awesome one-hit wonders of the 1990s.[27]

In popular culture[edit]

Film and television[edit]

Sports[edit]

Video games[edit]

Cover versions[edit]

Knowles performing a mash-up of "If I Were a Boy" and "Bitter Sweet Symphony" during The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour, 2013

Track listings[edit]

  • CD 1 HUTDG 82
  1. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (original) – 6:00
  2. "Lord I Guess I'll Never Know" – 4:51
  3. "Country Song" – 7:50
  4. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (radio edit) – 4:35
  • CD 2 HUTDX 82
  1. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (extended version) – 7:52
  2. "So Sister" – 4:11
  3. "Echo Bass" – 6:39
  • Cassette HUTC 82
  1. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (radio edit) – 4:35
  2. "Lord I Guess I'll Never Know" – 4:51
  • 7" HUTLH 82
  1. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (radio edit) – 4:35
  2. "Lord I Guess I'll Never Know" – 4:51
  • 12" HUTT 82
  1. "Bitter Sweet Symphony (original) – 6:00
  2. "Lord I Guess I'll Never Know" – 4:51
  3. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (James Lavelle Remix)
  4. "Country Song" – 7:50
  • Promo CD HUTCDP 82
  1. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (radio edit) – 4:35
  • Promo 12" HUTTP 82
  1. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (alt version)
  2. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (MSG)
  • Remix 12" HUTTR 82
  1. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (James Lavelle Remix)
  2. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (James Lavelle Instrumental Remix)

U.S. version[edit]

On 10 March 1998 Bitter Sweet Symphony was released in the United States. The single was distributed by Virgin Records

  • CD V25D-38634
  1. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (original) – 5:58
  2. "Lord I Guess I'll Never Know" – 4:52
  3. "So Sister" – 4:11
  4. "Echo Bass" – 6:39
  • Cassette 4KM-38634
  1. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (original) – 5:58
  2. "Lord I Guess I'll Never Know" – 4:52
  • Promo CD DPRO-12727
  1. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (radio edit) – 4:16
  2. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (original) – 5:57
  3. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (Call Out Research Hook 1 Vocal) – 0:12
  4. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (Call Out Research Hook 2 Instrumental) – 0:11
  • Promo 12" SPRO-12775
  1. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (James Lavelle Remix) - 5:50
  2. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (album version) – 5:57
  3. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (James Lavelle Instrumental Remix) - 5:50

Japanese version[edit]

  • CD VJCP-12077
  1. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (original) – 6:00
  2. "Lord I Guess I'll Never Know" – 4:51
  3. "Country Song" – 7:50
  4. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (radio edit) – 4:35

Dutch version[edit]

  • CD 8943752
  1. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (original) – 6:00
  2. "Lord I Guess I'll Never Know" – 4:51
  3. "Country Song" – 7:50
  4. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (radio edit) – 4:35

Electro version[edit]

  1. Dayze - Bittersweet symphony (Original mix) – 6:13

Charts[edit]

Chart successions[edit]

Preceded by
"3 a.m." by Matchbox 20
Canadian RPM Rock/Alternative 30 number-one single
January 26 – February 2, 1998
Succeeded by
"3 a.m." by Matchbox 20

References[edit]

  1. ^ Verve Single Tops Charts But Success Is Bittersweet Rolling Stone. Retrieved 11 February 2012
  2. ^ a b Craig McLean (14 Jan 2006) "Still crazy" The Telegraph. Retrieved 11 February 2012
  3. ^ The Brit Awards: The Verve Brits.co.uk. Retrieved 11 February 2012
  4. ^ a b 1998 MTV Video Music Awards Rock on the Net. Retrieved 11 February 2012
  5. ^ 41st Grammy Awards - 1999 Rock on the Net. Retrieved 12 February 2012
  6. ^ [1] Sound On Sound. Retrieved 19 March 2014
  7. ^ [2] The Guardian. Retrieved 19 March 2014
  8. ^ The Verve - Bitter Sweet Symphony: the controversy
  9. ^ Superswell.com: "Horror Stories of Sampling"
  10. ^ "The Verve: Bitter Sweet Symphony". allmusic. Rovi Corp. Retrieved 14 February 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Powell, Betsy. MusicSaves.org: "Bitter, Sweet Success"
  12. ^ http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/6596227/bitter_sweet_symphony Archived January 23, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Bitter Sweet Symphony (Vh2 Live) on YouTube VH2. Retrieved 10 March 2012
  14. ^ Q January 2001
  15. ^ "The Verve - Bittersweet Symphony". Parlophone. 23 July 2008. Retrieved 25 April 2009. 
  16. ^ musicpilgrimages.com: "Music video - Bittersweet Symphony"
  17. ^ Irene Morra (2013). "Britishness, Popular Music, and National Identity: The Making of Modern Britain". p. 138. Routledge,
  18. ^ Live 8: A Bittersweet Symphony (TV 2005) IMDB. Retrieved 10 March 2012
  19. ^ Radio 1 - Best Tracks Ever Rock List.net. Retrieved 10 February 2012
  20. ^ "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 22 August 2011. 
  21. ^ The Greatest Indie Anthems Ever - Numbers 30-11, NME.com. Accessed on 23 June 2007.
  22. ^ Songwriters reveal top 10 tracks BBC News. Retrieved 31 August 2007
  23. ^ "Countdown | Hottest 100 - Of All Time | triple j". Abc.net.au. Retrieved 11 February 2012. 
  24. ^ Pitchfork Top 200 Tracks of the 90s
  25. ^ Plagenhoef, Scott; Schreiber, Ryan, eds. (November 2008). The Pitchfork 500. Simon & Schuster. pp. 143–144. ISBN 978-1-4165-6202-3. 
  26. ^ "150 Best Tracks Of The Past 15 Years". Nme.Com. 30 April 1997. Retrieved 4 January 2012. 
  27. ^ Barrett, John (28 September 2011). "25 Awesome One-Hit Wonders of the 1990s". Paste. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  28. ^ Cruel Intentions OST All Music. Retrieved 10 March 2012
  29. ^ The Simpsons - "That 90's Show" (Season 19, and episode 11) Fox. Retrieved 10 March 2012
  30. ^ Richard Ashcroft - From urban hymns to united nations The Independent. Retrieved 10 March 2012
  31. ^ "Beyoncé makes nod to The Verve at London's O2 Arena". NME. IPC Media. 30 April 2013. Archived from the original on 5 July 2013. Retrieved 9 July 2013. 
  32. ^ Matusavage, Philip (4 May 2013). "Beyoncé – O2 Arena, London - Live reviews". musicOMH. Retrieved 10 July 2013. 
  33. ^ https://itunes.apple.com/za/album/a-rendezvous-at-nirvana/id633801588 Retrieved 13 January 2014
  34. ^ Australian-Charts.com Retrieved May 2009
  35. ^ Top Singles of 1997 (Italy)
  36. ^ "Billboard Top 100 - 1998". Retrieved 28 August 2010. 
  37. ^ "Rock/Alternative - Volume 68, No. 12, December 14, 1998". RPM. Retrieved 18 October 2010. 

External links[edit]