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Classical Music In The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony"

What's that classical music I heard?

Classical Music In The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony"

Postby kickassclassical » Tue Sep 16, 2008 11:01 pm

One question we've been asked is, "What is the classical music in the song "Bitter Sweet Symphony" by The Verve? (Sometimes spelled "Bittersweet Symphony.")

It may interest you to know that this is a case of rock music - that was inspired by classical music - that was inspired by rock music - that was possibly inspired by gospel music.

Who copied who? You be the judge. Let's start at the beginning...

In 1965 the Rolling Stones released a song called "The Last Time" on their album "Out Of Our Heads." It was the first Rolling Stones single written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards to reach #1 on the British charts.

And we're not pointing any fingers here, but some say the Stones song bears a strikingly resemblence to the traditional gospel song "This May Be The Last Time," made famous in 1955 by the Staple Singers. Although the meaning of the song is different, the words in the chorus, "this may be the last time, I don't know" are identical.

In 1966 the Andrew Oldham Orchestra released an orchestral version of the Rolling Stones' "The Last Time" on their album "The Rolling Stones Songbook." Andrew Oldham was the manager of the Rolling Stones at the time, and he made a few albums with orchestra versions of pop hits. Not really "classical music," even by our broad definition, but definitely the symphonic sound some people associate with classical.

Listen to the Andrew Oldham Orchestra's "The Last Time." At 1:40 is the part sampled by The Verve in their 1997 single "Bitter Sweet Symphony."

Even though The Verve had gotten clearance to sample the 31-year-old music, they were still sued by Andrew Oldham, who successfully argued that the band used more of the song than they agreed to. This led to Allen Klein suing The Verve on behalf of his ABKCO Records, which owns the rights to all Stones material from the 1960s. Eventually The Verve settled out of court, turning over the composer credits to Jagger and Richards - even though they didn't write one word of the song.

For The Verve, "bitter." For the Rolling Stones, "sweet." (We think it sucks.)

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