The Verve

  • British rock band formed in 1990 from Wigan England. The original members were Richard Ashcroft (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards), Nick McCabe (lead guitar, keyboards, accordion), Simon Jones (bass guitar, keyboards) and Peter Salisbury (drums). Simon Tong (guitars) also was a member during their peak period of popularity. All members contributed to songwriting.
  • All of the members of the band were high school classmates, except McCabe, whom they met in college. They began to play together, calling themselves Verve (without the “the”). Their first gig was at a friend’s 18th birthday party. They became known for their jam sessions while performing, and their music was innovative and psychedelic. They quickly were signed by a record label in 1991.
  • They released a single, All In The Mind, and a self titled EP in 1992. Their music quickly reached #1 on indie charts in the UK, but this did not lead to record sales, and they barely charted on the pop charts in the UK. In the U.S., they found some interest in cities like New York, where there was a following for their psychedelic sound, but they were largely ignored in the U.S.
  • Their debut full length album, A Storm In Heaven, was released in 1993. Critics loved it, but the listening public ignored it outside of the UK. To support the album, they toured the Lollapalooza tour – a disaster for the band, as Salisbury was arrested for destroying a hotel room, and Ashcroft was hospitalized for severe dehydration.
  • Amid the choas, they entered the studio to record more new music. In 1995, A Northern Soul was released. Hoping to be more successful commercially, they evolved to a more conventional alternative sound. The band name for the album was changed to The Verve, after the jazz record label Verve Records sued them. Three singles from the album nudged into the UK top 40, with History making it to #24. By this time, the band split up, with Ashcroft leading the way. A few weeks later, Ashcroft regretted the breakup, and he reunited the band, but McCabe refused to rejoin, so Tong was hired to play guitar.
  • The band did not tour in 1996 – rather, they wrote music and recorded in anticipation of a new album. By 1997, McCabe was back in the fold, and they released their third studio album, Urban Hymns, that summer. The album was a huge success – it topped the UK album chart, and was certified platinum in the U.S. The lead single, Bitter Sweet Symphony, reached #2 in the UK, and it was their only single ever to chart on the U.S. Hot 100, peaking at #12. True to form for the band, the song was marred by legal problems – it uses 4 bars from the orchestral version of the song The Last Time by the Rolling Stones. While they received permission to sample the bars, and they gave credit to Jagger and Richards as authors, and they agreed to splitting 50% of the royalties with them, they did not get explicit permission from the administrator of the song’s rights. When they retroactively requested it, the administrator insisted on 100% royalties and full publishing credit to Jagger/Richards. The Verve lost their case, and all of the royalties.
  • Another single from the album, The Drugs Don’t Work, was their only #1 song in the U.K. It was released the day after the death of Princess Diana, and it unintentionally captured the spirit of the nation after that tragic event. The band toured for a year after release of the album, until June 1998, when a post gig brawl led to a broken hand for McCabe and a sore jaw for Ashcroft. McCabe pulled out of the rest of the tour, and the band continued without him. By August, they played their last concert, and by May 1999 it was announced that they had disbanded again.
  • The members worked on various solo projects for a number of years. In 2007, they reunited, with all of the original members, and Tong absent, to keep the internal controversies at a minimum. They toured in the UK, with all shows selling out immediately, and they expanded the tour to North America, Japan and Europe, with great success. In August 2008, they released the album Forth, which quickly reached the top of the UK album chart, and peaked at #23 in the U.S. The single Love Is Noise reached #4 in the UK, 11 years after their previous top 10 UK hit. Alas – things fell apart quickly among the band, and by summer 2009, McCabe and Jones were no longer speaking to Ashcroft. It appears that the third breakup is permanent.
  • If you are curious as to what alternative rock in the 00s sounded like, go to your streaming service and cue up The Verve. Listen to Bitter Sweet Symphony a bunch of times – Mick Jagger and Keith Richards will thank you, as they get 100% of the revenue that comes from playing this song! Here’s the video.

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