[1] The Verve, ‘Bittersweet Symphony’

For a couple of months in 1997 everyone loved The Verve. Then ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ was a bit drippy (No.1 smash notwithstanding), the album underwhelmed and the whole shooting match fell to pieces amid lawsuits and general hatred, only for Richard Ashcroft to rise from the flames like a boring phoenix.

So, many evils were visited upon the world, but ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ is a classic. I love ‘Brimful Of Asha’ more, I find, but ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ is a classic. We need our rock classics. Without them, what would Virgin Radio’s listeners vote into the Top 10 ‘tracks’ of all time? What would our dads and brothers-in-law play in the car?

This is more inventive than your standard rock monster. For a start, there’s a *gasp* sample. Bet they regretted that. The strings don’t add pomposity, as they would to any number of Oasis singles of the time, they add urgency. Pompous as that sounds. Oh, blah blah blah. I love the wall of sound, getting wider and higher throughout.

And Junior swung her hips – which don’t lie – in exact time with the string stabs, and rocked back and forth with the Eastenders drums. She was wailing by the end, mind. Probably had a vision of Ashcroft’s solo career. Actually, the iDog was making funny noises as well. That’s one bad solo career.

A Spotify playlist of the whole Top 20 (but no Blue Boy. Rats)

The Verve, ‘Lucky Man’/Kate Bush, ‘Wuthering Heights’

These were on the radio this morning while I shaved (bit of gritty bathroom sink real life drama for you there), so perhaps it’s a cheat. Junior was in her bouncy chair, singing along to ‘Lucky Man’. I’ve decided that it’s the song where it went wrong for Ashcroft, inspiration finally giving way to pomposity, after the poised and considered highs of ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ and ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’. Those two may have had a tinge of the overblown, but they carried it off by being totemic. We’ll hear arguments for earlier Verve, from the kind of hipster who’ll dismiss a band when they nuzzle against the bosom of the hit parade. I’m going to ignore them. ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ gets to be the totem. It had bells and whistles. Well, not whistles as such. Whistles and flutes. Suits. Lawsuits. It had a couple of them. Lawsuits that with one hand gave them a “The”, and with the other took away all their royalties.

By happy chance, Ashcroft’s new single was a Video Exclusive on Channel 4 last night. I’d had a couple of Hoegaardens, but it sounded to me as if it started off with some low-fi electronic burbling. “Hello,” I thought, “Richard’s had enough of self-parody, he’s branching out, pushing that envelope, cutting through the Blunts and Powters of our years to reconnect.” Don’t remember the rest of it.

Looking back, I think Junior was droning, not singing. The blossoming satirist was taking the mick.

‘Wuthering Heights’ had her transfixed. Sounds about right.