After nearly two decades, Richard Ashcroft, the former frontman and songwriter for Britpop outfit The Verve, has finally been granted sole songwriter credit on the band’s 1997 megahit, “Bitter Sweet Symphony”. The announcement of the business move on Thursday comes after The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards relented their shared ownership rights of the famous alt-rock ballad to Ashcroft, who will now be entitled to 100% of all future royalties.
According to reports, Ashcroft unlawfully used four seconds of strings-based audio from The Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time” for the trademark opening of “Bitter Sweet Symphony”. The licensing rights were not fully cleared by the publishing company ABKCO (co-owned by The Stones along with their manager Allen Klein) by the time “Bitter Sweet Symphony” was released as a single in June 1997. This led to legal proceedings which saw ABKCO claiming the Verve had used a larger portion of the sample than what was initially agreed, resulting in Ashcroft being forced to give up his full share of the song’s copyright ownership. A court British declared that henceforth, all royalties earned from the song were to be split three ways between Ashcroft, Jagger, and Richards.
However, 20 years of earning songwriting royalties from one of the most financially successful singles and albums in British pop music history, Jagger and Richards felt they had pulled in enough money from the catchy tune to fit their lavish lifestyles. The two have since “immediately, unhesitatingly and unconditionally agreed” to give back the full songwriting credit to Ashcroft.
“This remarkable and life-affirming turn of events was made possible by a kind and magnanimous gesture from Mick and Keith,” Ashcroft said about his renewed sole ownership of the song. “[They] have also agreed that they are happy for the writing credit to exclude their names and all their royalties derived from the song they will now pass to me.”
According to the report, even ownership of “Bitter Sweet Symphony” split three ways must have paid for more than its fair share of fancy gifts for the three musicians over the years. Urban Hymns, The Verve’s 1997 album which included the beloved ballad, would go on to sell over 10 million copies worldwide, and remains the 19th highest-selling album of all time in the United Kingdom.
The Verve – “Bitter Sweet Symphony”
[Video: The Verve Vevo]
Well, we’re glad that’s settled. Now onto more pressing Britpop matters like reuniting Oasis.
Bitter Sweet Press Release. ✌🏻 pic.twitter.com/NnmiGf8e6C
— Richard Ashcroft (@richardashcroft) May 23, 2019