The Verve's 1997 single was the subject of a bitter legal battle over the use of a sample
Richard Ashcroft has spoken once again about the ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ lawsuit, asserting his renewed hope that he can one day reclaim some of the loyalties he lost from the song back in 1997.
The Verve‘s renowned single was embroiled in a legal battle shortly after its release 21 years ago for the use of an orchestral sample from a 1965 recording by the Andrew Oldham Orchestra of the Rolling Stones song ‘The Last Time’.
Ashcroft was initially credited as the only songwriter of ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’. The band had to subsequently give up the rights and royalties from the song to the late Allen Klein and his company ABKCO Music & Records, Inc (who own the rights to The Stones’ back catalogue) following negotiations. The Stones’ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were later credited as co-songwriters on the track.
The former Verve frontman has now spoken about the suit in a new interview with Kyle Meredith With…, taking aim at the new head of ABKCO, Jody Klein (son of the late Allen).
“Fucking Mr. Junior now has taken over that company. I’m coming for that money,” Ashcroft said. “Someone stole god knows how many million dollars off me in 1997, and they’ve still got it. In terms, in normal basic terms, I don’t care where you come from, that’s serious matter. So I’m telling him, I’m telling Allen Klein Jr., I’m coming for my money, man.
“You know, when his dad was around, people could intimidate people by being a gangster in the music industry,” he continued. “Unfortunately, anyone who takes over that business, we now live in a world where anyone can be a gangster, anyone can be a virtual gangster, you can be a gangster in whatever way you want, you can form two phone calls, you can find a gangster. Everyone’s a gangster.
“So, there’s no gangster fucking attitude anymore. There’s no fear with this shit, with like some big figure. You know, it makes me laugh when I hear about these big managers from the ’70s and stuff. It’s like, ‘Get out of here. You wouldn’t last five minutes…’, these guys now. Because it’s a different world now, and anyone who would work for that company would know that…”
Ashcroft – who told Meredith that the ‘Natural Rebel’ song ‘Money Money’ was written in response to the actions of ABKCO and similar companies – hinted that he may be able to re-open the case in the near future.
“If I was them, I would sign for a real-life sort of TV show of ABKCO records over the next few years because it’s going to be so funny, some of their internal meetings on how they handle this shit,” he said. “Because at the end of the day, they’re just people, going to work, ultimately. Most of the people who worked there are dead anyway. You know what I mean?
“It’s like, The Rolling Stones don’t even have the balls to fucking have it. It takes me on my own to fucking do it. The Rolling Stones can’t even have fucking have ABKCO, that’s how fucking bizarre it’s got. You’ve got a super fucking big Mack truck, and they don’t even want to turn left and run over the bug. They don’t even want to go turn left, but I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m happy now.’ I understood.
“Basically, something happened a few weeks ago, and I’m like, ‘Okay, I get it. I understand what’s necessary now,’ I realised, I filtered it down what happened back in ’97, filtered it down to its raw essence – a gangster stole 50% of something that’s worth at least a hundred million dollars already. So, you know, I’m never going to forget that.”
He closed with this parting shot: “This part of my life story is good because it’s part of this epic story, which started with The Staple Singers, which starts again with the story of music, and the story of the manipulation, and the kind of outright dilution of the spirit, the capturing of the spirit, the marketing of the spirit, the death of the spirit, the reawakening of the spirit — not only personally, but as a community.
“That we’re no longer going to be used as little pawns, some pathetic little political bullshit game. Because we hold the keys, something way more powerful, it’s just that, if you don’t realise you got the keys, then you don’t realise you got the keys, you know what I’m saying?”