Verve Reform for the Last Time?

Bittersweet
I was talking with a coworker about the news this week that original lineup of The Verve were reforming and which turned to the the whole "Bittersweet Symphony" lawsuit. If you don’t know the story, the song uses a sample of the Andrew Oldham Orchestra‘s version of the Rolling Stone’s "The Last Time." ABKCO Records honcho Allan Klein, who owns the rights to all the Stones songs pre-1971, sued the band saying they violated the licensing agreement by using "too much of the song." Klein won, giving sole songwriting credit of the song to Jagger/Richards — despite Verve frontman Richard Ashcroft’s claims that they only sampled "four little bars" of the song.

Klein is known for being a real douche, so I’d always sided with the Verve. But in talking with my friend, I realized I’d never actually heard the Oldham Orchestra version. At the time of the lawsuit, the album, The Rolling Stones Songbook, was one of those rarities you could only find at at collector’s shops, or maybe at a thriftstore if you were lucky. But it was reissued in 2004, so I went out and bought a copy.

What a cool album. This is the Stones as late ’60s bachelor pad music, and some of the arrangements are just brilliant. Especially "The Last Time," which is one of my favorite Stones songs ever. But hearing it, it’s apparent that Klein had reason to sue. The Verve may have brought in their own orchestra, but it’s all based around Andrew Loog Oldham’s arrangement. "Four little bars" my ass.

Still a brilliant song, though. And Klein is still a douche.

I must say, that as good as "Bittersweet Symphony" is, I’m one of those people that think The Verve peaked with A Storm in Heaven (best album of 1993 I thought). I still remember seeing them on their first U.S. tour at Washington DC’s 9:30 Club where they played to about 40 people. Ashcroft was known as "Mad Richard" then, and was an absolute wild man onstage with a scary Thousand Yard Stare. But I mainly watched in awe of guitarist Nick McCabe and drummer Peter Salisbury. As a friend said, "They became a different band after that."

If you’ve never heard it, do yourself a favor and pick up A Storm in Heaven today. Their early singles — "She’s a Superstar," "Gravity Grave" and "All in the Mind" — are great too.   

16 Comments

  1. Great post, I've always been curious to hear that, too… although it looks like you shared up "Time Is On My Side" rather than "The Last Time".

  2. Wow, you weren't kidding… the lift is a lot more blatant than I'd imagined. Crazy.
    Y'know, I hardly even equate the band that 'wrote' Bittersweet Symphony with the one that was responsible for the amazing 'All In The Mind'. That early stuff is just so brilliant (and I owe a debt of gratitude to Aaron at Mod Lang for putting their debut EP in my hands in '92).

  3. Agreed, SIH is their finest work. I'd say get the Verve EP, SIH and that singles comp and that's all the Verve you need really, although there are some good songs on the other two albums as well like "On Your Own" etc…

  4. Um, it was just four bars (and that's only if your counting it in double time, otherwise it's only 2). They just repeated those same four bars over and over again.
    But I guess can understand why they sued, only half of The Verve's song is original. I'm not a legal guru or anything but I'm still confused as to why they basically lost EVERYTHING even though they did license the sample. I don't know… I still don't think that was fair. But I guess life really isn't fair, so nevermind.

  5. The Orchestra Seriously Sounds crappy. I love the Verve they Rule. I was always wondering what that recording sounded like.
    Thanks a lot.

  6. I always found it fascinating that the Stones outro music after bows on the US Arena "No Security" shows of 1999 was infact a symphony version of 'The Last Time'…or so it was in Boston and Hartford.

  7. I heard the Oldham version for the first time today and as a massive verve fan i was blown away by what a blatant rip off it is. Totally agree with you about the original and the verves early stuff. The royalities should lye with Oldham though not Jagger/Richards. But then again look at the pop culture today…its ALL karaoke!

  8. any chance you could repost the andrew loog oldham orchestra last time mp3?

  9. Talk about ripping off a tune… Before The Verve ripped off The Stones' tune "The Last Time", The Stones ripped off a 1955 Gospel song of the same name by The Staples Singers. Many Gospel fans felt The Stones ripped it off, since The Staples Singers never got any royalties from it. Since it is a traditional song (meaning no one owns the rights to it), many artists have recorded it, but The Stones were a very high-profile band that had success reworking songs by black artists into hits. Many people believe The Stones should have compensated The Staples Singers because it was based on their version of the song.

  10. Wow! So similar. But I like the Verve's "cover" better and the Verve still deserve proper credit for their brilliant "reinterpretation".
    Btw since the MP3 is no longer there, you can listen to the Oldham version on myspace (link)

  11. hey,
    I was having the same type conversation today and saw this post only to find the link is now down – could you please repost briefly? I'd love to have this for comparison with the Verve song.
    thank you!

  12. I agree that it did sound a lot more like the original than I expected, but Erich is right, it is still only 4 bars looped so they weren't lying. I still completely side with the Verve on this (and I'm not even a huge fan, just outraged by these hideous music industry fat cats). They cleared the sample, but then Klein got greedy after it was so successful. There was no reason for him to take 100% royalties, it's disgusting. To not at least concede that the Verve's reworking of it made it a cash cow Klein wouldn't have had without it is insane. As far as I understand, they gave over full royalties because they couldn't afford to fight him in court.
    I read that Oldham sued a little later too, do you know anything about this?
    I find this quote telling from Oldham: "Well I thought it was wonderful to be part of another national anthem in present-time which is played the crap out of at every football match. It was in Nike. It was in the film Cruel Intentions. And you can’t ask to be sampled better than when somebody takes your recording and makes it their backing track." It was in response to being asked what he thinks of the Verve song. He says nothing about liking the track itself, just the success that was actually the result of Klein pimping it out madly once he had the rights.
    Richards and Jagger were jerks about this too, happily accepting a Grammy nod for the song. When asked what he thinks of the whole mess, Richards said don't ask him, it's all 'lawyer shit'. *eyeroll*
    Let's face it, if they found their songs posted here, they'd probably try to sue the pants off you too! No sympathy for these devils from me!

  13. The claim that the Stones "ripped off" the Staples Singers is absurd. With the exception of the title of the song (and titles cannot be protected) the Stones' Last Time has almost nothing in common with the Staples' Last Time, especially where melody is concerned. The Verve, on the other hand, RIPPED OFF Andrew Oldam in the truest sense of the term.

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