“I need to hear some sounds that recognize the pain in me, yeah.
I let the melody shine,
let it cleanse my mind,
I feel free now.”
History lesson: This song, featured on The Verve’s 1997 album Urban Hymns, is based on music from an Andrew Loog Oldham adaptation of a Rolling Stones song, The Last Time. The song, prior to its release, was involved in some legal controversy surrounding plagiarism charges. 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 soon after.
Although the song’s lyrics were written by Verve vocalist Richard Ashcroft, it has been credited to Keith Richards and Mick Jagger after charges by the original copyright owners that the song was plagiarized from the Andrew Oldham Orchestra recording of The Rolling Stones’ 1965 song The Last Time.
“We were told it was going to be a 50/50 split, and then they saw how well the record was doing,” says band member Simon Jones. “They rung up and said, ‘We want 100 percent or take it out of the shops, you don’t have much choice.'”
After losing the composer credits to the song, Richard Ashcroft commented, “This is the best song Jagger and Richards have written in 20 years”,noting it was their biggest UK hit since Brown Sugar.
The song was featured in the film Cruel Intentions, utilized exceptionally well during the ending scene/confrontation.
Personal reflection: I remember chatting with a friend online once and her telling me that if and when she ever got married this would be the song she would want playing as she walked down the aisle. I always think of that, and picture a church with everyone turning to watch her as Richard Ashcroft crooned “It’s a bittersweet symphony, this life.” — maybe we would all sing-a-long.
The other thing I think on when I hear this is how an ex of mine would say, when listening to this song, “If he can change than why doesn’t he change the chord progression? Ever?”
For me this song feels like an anthem. You know, the kind of songs you turn up to the highest volume while you drive to wherever it is you are going, and it makes everything feel right for a moment. The kind of song that feels cathartic to sing along loudly, proclaiming how you can change, but that you are “a million different people from one day to the next”; those are mighty powerful, and relatable, lyrics for me.
Bitter Sweet Symphony :: The Verve