The Verve vs The Music Bizz

‘You’re A Slave To The Money Then You Die’

(Part of the lyrics written by The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft for “Bitter Sweet Symphony”)

When The Verve wrote their most famous song in 1997 they could not predict in what kind of rollercoaster with legal situations they would end up with.


Producer Youth told in an interview that The Verve’s singer and composter Richard Ashcroft only began to find “Bitter Sweet Symphony” interesting after the famous sample with the strings was added.

A small piece of music with big consequenses

The Rolling Stones released “The Last Time” in 1965. It contains parts the song “May Be My Last Time” by The Staple Singers, released in 1955.

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The Staple Singers / The Rolling Stones

Andrew Loog Oldham was the first manager and producer of The Rolling Stones. He created an instrumental album under supervision of David Whittaker. On this album there is an instrumental interpretation of The Rolling Stones song “The Last Time”. The album was released in 1965, the same year as the The Rolling Stones release.

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The Rolling Stones / Andrew Oldham

Looking for expansion Andrew asked rock-hard negotiator Allen Klein to join The Stones’ management team. Klein agreed and was from then on manager from The Rolling Stones. He had other manners of doing business resulting in that artists made more money of their releases at first but had to share rights of their songs with – and sometimes loose to- this smart business man.

That happened with “The Last Time”, the first ‘self-written hit’ by Stones writers Jaggers & Richards, creative tandem of The Rolling Stones. An important part of this story. The result was that Klein owned 9/24th part, Richards/Jagger 9/24th part and publisher Westminster Publishing 3/24th part of the rights (who owns the remaining 3/24th part is not clear).

The Verve

The violin-strings sample used by The Verve is originating from The Andrew Oldham Orchestra – “The Last Time”. They sampled 6 bars of Oldham and Whittaker’s version of the song.

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Andrew Oldham / The Verve

Legal matters

There is information on an appointment the legal people of The Verve made with partial rights owner mister Klein, for a 50/50 split of the revenue. Klein started a trial right after the release of the song “Bittersweet Symphony” over the fact that er was a bigger part of the song sampled as agreed. The band and producer could not make a rebuttal. The case with Klein was settled out of court but this ended in a disaster. The Verve lost 100% of their revenues on the track. Jagger & Richards were added as songwriters to Ashcroft’s name (The Verve) on further releases. As Klein was right holder for 9/24th part he made serious money out of this case.

Andrew Oldham also went to court and got a share of the profits, in total 1,7 million dollar. His opinion was that The Verve should not complain because they did not invented the song but used another man’s work.

How it ended

In 2009 Alleen Klein diseased. 10 Years later, in 2019 an agreement was reached causing The Verve to get their rights to the song back. Klein’s son, together with the current manger of The Rolling Stones, Joyce Smiths, decided to make an end to this undesirable situation. To delight of songwriter Richard Ashcroft. From 2019 on the rights are back with The Verve. However they do not get the money earned with the song from the period 1997 to 2019.

Round  up

The lyrics of the song are partly about money”
“Cause it’s a bittersweet symphony this life
Trying to make ends meet, you’re a slave to the money then you die.”

To think you have little money as an artist, compose such an incredible world wide hit and get left woth so little money in first instance. For 22 years long…

Both sleeves pictured are Dutch pressings.

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