The Drugs Don't Work

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"The Drugs Don't Work"
Single by The Verve
from the album Urban Hymns
B-side "Three Steps"
"The Crab"
"Stamped"
Released 1 September 1997
Format CD, 12"
Recorded 1997 Olympics Studios, London
Genre Britpop
Length 5:05
Label Hut
Writer(s) Richard Ashcroft
Producer(s) Youth, Chris Potter, The Verve
The Verve singles chronology
"Bitter Sweet Symphony"
(1997)
"The Drugs Don't Work"
(1997)
"Lucky Man"
(1997)

"The Drugs Don't Work" is a song by the English rock band The Verve, written by Richard Ashcroft and is featured on their third album, Urban Hymns. It was released on 1 September 1997 as the second single from the album, charting at number one on the UK Singles Chart, becoming the band's most successful single in the United Kingdom.[1] In October 2011, NME placed it at number 78 on its list "150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years".[2]

Background and recording[edit]

Lead singer Richard Ashcroft wrote the song in early 1995. He briefly mentioned it in an interview at the time, relating it to his drug usage: "There's a new track I've just written [...] It goes 'the drugs don't work, they just make me worse, and I know I'll see your face again'. That's how I'm feeling at the moment. They make me worse, man. But I still take 'em. Out of boredom and frustration you turn to something else to escape."[3]

Ashcroft also performed the song when the band was touring in support of A Northern Soul.[4][5] The song was eventually recorded for Urban Hymns. The album's producer, Chris Potter later referred to it as both the best song and best vocal he had ever recorded.[6]

Composition and lyrics[edit]

The exact meaning of the song is unclear, but it is generally believed that composer Richard Ashcroft wrote the song in response to the death of his father,[7] and is also thought to be influenced by his relationship with his wife.

The lyrics of the original demo varied from the eventual album track, with the main line changing from "They just make me worse" to "They just make you worse",[citation needed] as Ashcroft attempted to lyrically put across different points of view in the song; "They make you/me worse" refer to the medication his father was taking (which prolonged his life, but inflicted suffering at the same time).

The single was also noted during Channel 4's 100 Greatest #1 Singles program as unintentionally capturing the spirit of the nation as it was released the day after Princess Diana died.

Music video[edit]

The music video for the song was directed by Andy Baybutt. The video begins with several references to The Verve's earlier work. The band appears in the same formation and clothes as they did at the end of the video for "Bitter Sweet Symphony". The cover of the machine on the front of the album No Come Down also appears briefly. The band turns around a corner and walks over to a vending machine called "Feelings". This refers to the song "Life's an Ocean" from their second album, A Northern Soul, where Ashcroft sings, "I was buying some feelings from a vending machine" (the same vending machine is also seen on the back of that album). The rest of the video shows, partially in black and white, the band playing the song indoors. The video ends with a piece of burning wood, with the words 'Urban Hymns' written on it, floating on water. The original concept for the video was to have the band filmed in a maze to illustrate "loss of direction".[citation needed]

Cover versions[edit]

  • The song was covered by Ben Harper on his live album Live from Mars.
  • It has been covered by Skin.
  • James Walsh (Starsailor) also covered it.
  • In Australia, it was covered by Grinspoon for youth radio station Triple J's Like a Version CD.
  • Adam Gontier released a version of the song.
  • A Eurohouse cover of the song was performed by Devorah, a short-lived covers project, along with "Bitter Sweet Symphony", in 1996.
  • It was covered by Australian pop vocalist/entertainer Kate Ceberano on her live album Kate Ceberano and the West Australian Symphony Orchestra.
  • In 2009, Taiwanese rock singer Faith Yang recorded the song as a part of her album Self-Selected of English-language covers.
  • Terra Naomi performed an acoustic cover of the song on YouTube in August 2008.
  • Howie Day covered the song for a promotional EP for his debut album, Australia.

Track listing[edit]

  • CD 1 HUTDG 88
  1. "The Drugs Don't Work" (radio edit)
  2. "Three Steps"
  3. "The Drugs Don't Work" (demo)
  • CD 2 HUTDX 88
  1. "The Drugs Don't Work"
  2. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (James Lavelle Remix)
  3. "The Crab"
  4. "Stamped"
  • Cassette HUTC 88
  1. "The Drugs Don't Work" (radio edit)
  2. "Three Steps"
  • 7" HUTLH 88
  1. "The Drugs Don't Work" (radio edit)
  2. "The Drugs Don't Work" (demo)
  • 12" HUTT 88
  1. "The Drugs Don't Work" (radio edit)
  2. "Three Steps"
  3. "The Drugs Don't Work" (demo)
  4. "The Crab"
  • Promo CD HUTCDP 88
  1. "The Drugs Don't Work" (radio edit)

Australian version[edit]

  • CD 8949382
  1. "The Drugs Don't Work" (radio edit)
  2. "Three Steps"
  3. "The Drugs Don't Work" (demo)
  4. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (original)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 610. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  2. ^ "150 Best Tracks Of The Past 15 Years". Nme.Com. 2014-03-26. Retrieved 2014-03-31. 
  3. ^ "SELECT JUNE 1995". Musicsaves.org. Retrieved 2014-03-31. 
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^ [2][dead link]
  6. ^ "Chris Potter". Special.the-raft.com. Retrieved 2014-03-31. 
  7. ^ "Radio 2 - Sold On Song - Drugs Don't Work". BBC. Retrieved 2014-03-31. 
Preceded by
"Men in Black" by Will Smith
UK Singles Chart number-one single
7 September 1997 – 13 September 1997
Succeeded by
"Candle in the Wind 1997" / "Something About the Way You Look Tonight" by Elton John

External links[edit]