Sunday, September 7, 2014

Verve -- "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (1997)

And I'm a million different people 
From one day to the next

The previous 2 or 3 lines featured the Go Home Productions mashup, "(I Am The) Trampolene (To The Other Side)."  Click here to read it.

That mashup begins with a sample from "Bitter Sweet Symphony."  Actually, it begins with a sample from an orchestral version of the Rolling Stones' song, "The Last Time," which was recorded by the Andrew Oldham Orchestra in 1966.

The young Andrew Loog Oldham
Andrew Loog Oldham's father was an American officer who was killed when his B-17 bomber was shot down over the English Channel in June 1943 -- a full seven months before Oldham was born to an Australian mother who worked in England as a nurse during World War II.

Oldham was a hustler whose first job was for a Carnaby Street "mod" fashion designer.  He became a publicist for a number of musicians, and a friend introduced him to the Rolling Stones in 1963.

Oldham with the Stones
He managed the Stones until 1967, when he and the band had something of a falling out.  Despite his lack of experience, he also produced all their albums during that period.

While he was the Stones' manager and producer, Oldham also recorded several albums of instrumental covers of pop hits, using a collection of session musicians that he called the Andrew Oldham Orchestra.

One of the song's on the Oldham Orchestra's 1966 album, The Rolling Stones Songbook, was a cover of "The Last Time."

Here's the Stones' version of the song, which was the first of their hits to be written to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards:

Here's the Andrew Oldham Orchestra cover, which to my ears barely resembles the original version:

The world little noted, nor long remembered the Oldham Orchestra until 1997, when "Bitter Sweet Symphony" was released on the Verve's Urban Hymns album.

The Verve had a license to use a five-note sample from the orchestral version of "The Last Time," but ABKCO Records, the company that owned the copyrights to the Stones' pre-1970 songs, argued that the Verve had used a lot more of the song than five notes.  

The dispute was settled when the Verve agreed to give songwriting credits for "Bitter Sweet Symphony" to Jagger and Richards, and assigned the song's copyright to ABKCO.  Given that the instrumental version of "The Last Time" sounds almost nothing like the Stones' version, that seems like a truly bizarre outcome.

Verve lead singer Richard Ashcroft, who wrote the lyrics to "Bitter Sweet Symphony" as well as a melodic violin part that is prominently featured in the song, had this to say about Jagger and Richards being credited with authorship of his song:  "This is the best song Jagger and Richards have written in 20 years."

Richard Ashcroft
The music video for "Bitter Sweet Symphony," which features Ashcroft lip-synching the song while strolling down a busy London street.

Ashcroft walks straight ahead, bumping into pedestrians who are going the other way and fail to make way for him -- he flattens one young woman without appearing to notice what he has done -- and steps up on to the hood of a car that is stopped in his path rather than change direction and walk around the car.

Here's "Bitter Sweet Symphony":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon . . . not that Messrs. Jagger and Richards need the money:

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