It really is a bittersweet symphony...

The Verve was apparently completely screwed out of the huge amount of money this highly regarded song made. Keith Richards and Mick Jagger managed to obtain writing credit on Bitter Sweet Symphony as a result of five notes sampled from a string arrangement of The Last Time by composer David Whitaker, who oddly received no credit at all.

How can it be that Jagger and Richards have writing credit for The Stones’ version of The Last Time, a gospel song recorded by the Staple Singers and writing credit for Bitter Sweet Symphony, a song with merely a sample of a song inspired by The Stones’ version of someone else’s song? That’s not right. It’s about greed and a band that was a lot less savvy about legalities around creative works than another.

How bittersweet for The Verve that their song is so well regarded and their reward is usurped by slaves to money. Fuck Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Allen Klein.

Those five notes are pretty much the entire song. The entire, dull, repetitive song.

The Verve were definitely screwed over (they lost all the royalties for the song despite the fact that the lyrics were clearly original). What’s more they had made an agreement to use the music.

But for what it’s worth, it appears Allen Klein was the main instigator of the legal action. Klein had already screwed Jagger and Richards out of their royalties so he was looking out for his own interests and not theirs.

I don’t know, when I first heard “Bittersweet Symphony” I thought: Man, this sure sounds like “The Last Time,” I hope the Rolling Stones got some money out of this. And it turns out they did.

This was after the whole “He’s So Fine”/whatever that George Harrison song was/“Kind of a Drag” thing which I believe was only three notes.

Verve didnt pilfer it. They had permission…but then got screwed. Its a long story.

I never heard any connection between the stones track and the verve. It seems to come from an orchestral produced interpretation. The relationship seems to be with the orchestration, which may be related to the tune but isn’t obvious.

I count 13 notes in the repeated theme.

That’s interesting because if I’m understanding correctly the only notes that were used from The Last Time weren’t even in the original release of the song, but were the strings from the orchestral arrangement released later and that were added to the arrangement by the composer.

To my ears, the Bitter Sweet Symphony sounds nothing at all like The Stones’ original recording of The Last Time.

Gah! On review, what **drad dog **said.

Which is exactly why they had to surrender the royalties, they’d only cleared a shorter sample. It’s also pretty ridiculous in my opinion, but it’s also the case that Bitter Sweet Symphony was the first Verve song I heard, and the one that inspired me to buy the album it was on - and that was also the case for several friends of mine, I actually remember buying 3 copies on the day it came out because I was going to the record shop for it. So, indirectly at least, I expect they’ve made plenty of money out of it.

Music biz and rights etc are mighty fucked up and strange things. Here’s hoping the Verve have a few more swings at it. But in the end, isn’t it hard to stay mad at this guy?

That’s not it at all. Did you watch the video I linked to in my first post? Bitter Sweet Symphony has 5 notes sampled from the orchestral version of The Last Time – not the whole 13 note theme **Chronos **noted. The Verve expanded upon those five notes and received permission from Decca Records to use the sample on their single. They did not steal it or neglect to get permission. Allen Klein, The Rolling Stones, and Andrew Oldham got greedy when they realized they could cash in on someone else’s creative work.

By the way, have you heard the Andrew Oldham orchestral version of The Last Time? It sounds less like the Stones’ The Last Time than the Stones’ The Last Time sounds like the Staple Singers recording of This May Be the Last Time. It’s disgusting that The Verve neither owns the copyright to the LYRICS of their own song, but Ashcroft shares songwriting credit with two guys who had not a single damn thing to do with Bitter Sweet Symphony. They didn’t even write the orchestration that was sampled, but they did borrow the lyrics and composition for their song from the Staple Singers. Which makes it ironic and insulting when Keith Richards suggests that The Verve should have written a more original tune. Yeah right, Keith, I don’t see the Staple Singers in your songwriting credits nor all the other black artists that “inspired” you.

The Staples song is a “traditional” song, meaning that the original author is unknown and the song itself was out of copyright even back in the 1960s. That means that nobody owns it and anybody can rewrite it or copy some of the words or do anything they please with it. The Staples didn’t write it, and they never claimed they did. At most, they could have claimed an arrangement. All the Stones “copied” was two lines of the chorus - the rest is original to Jagger/Richards, including the structure of their song and the guitar hook that everyone knows.

You might not like it, but the Stones did nothing illegal and did nothing morally wrong. They re-wrote an old, copyright free, standard, and made a new, different, song out of it.

If you listen to the track the the Verve sampled, you’ll hear that they didn’t just sample “a few notes” - they simply recorded vocals on top of the existing track. That goes way beyond what’s usually meant by “sampling”. And that’s why they lost the case.

Again, you might not like it, but the argument is settled and the Verve lost.

Although the Staple Singers didn’t write the song, their interpretation was unique and recorded. Jagger/Richards copied more than just the lyrics, they copied the melody and presentation (repetition) of those lyrics. It’s quite clear from the repeating lines of the chorus and the melody of that chorus that Jagger/Richards were copying the Staple Singers rendition of gospel song (it’s even clearer than the sampling from BSS). In keeping with their insistence that the five sampled notes of BSS belong to them, parts of The Last Time belong to the Staple Singers or whoever owns their catalog. Otherwise, it’s hypocrisy and greed, plain and simple.

BS. It may have been legal, but that doesn’t make it moral. They took writing credits for a song they had nothing to do with. The sampled notes weren’t written by them, composed by them, played by them, or even inspired by them. Their claim to them is tenuous at best. And they were complete hypocrites considering their early success was based on mimicking and adapting creative work that had come before them.

I’ve listened to it and it’s a five note hook that they got permission to use for 50 per cent of the royalties. 50%! You’d think a unique song with unique lyrics, original instrumentation and a sampled bit inspired from another song would be worth at least 50% of royalties for the song’s creators. But that wasn’t good enough for the money-grubbing Stones producers and The Verve were sued for the entirety of the royalties when they realized the song would be a hit. Further, The Verve didn’t lose their case; they settled out of court in what was perhaps the dumbest decision of their careers. And then to add insult to injury, the money-grubbers pimped the song out to advertisers to milk the cash cow they had nothing to do with creating.

The connection between the stones and the staples is that the stones wrote a great rock song based on a non protected idea: “The last time, I don’t know” end to the chorus, and the intimation of the chord change, the plagal cadence, having to do with E, D and A. In the staples it’s not exploited and it’s just a notion of a change. You might not even hear it. The stones made it into a pop record where you know where you are. Most of the melody is original. To me it was clever and not an evil deed.

The Verve seems to use a whole 13 note cycle from another recording and adds a vocal melody. I think 50% was fair. It’s a great lost track that they found.

It was ABCKO who made the lawsuit. The people who made the last time and the people suing the verve were different people.

Let me see if I can put together a timeline, here:

1: Back in the mists of history, someone wrote a folk song called “This May Be the Last Time”. Who wrote it is irrelevant, because it was so long ago, and it’s since lapsed into the public domain.

2: The Staple Sisters made a recording of “This May Be the Last Time”, with their own interpretation of the song. This was fine, because the song is public domain.

3: The Rolling Stones made a recording of a song called “The Last Time”, heavily inspired by the folk song. The inspiration from the folk song is fine, again because of public domain, but they might also have drawn some amount of inspiration from the Staple Sisters’ recording, which debatably might or might not be fine, depending on how closely you think they were following it.

4: The Andrew Oldman Orchestra made arrangements with The Rolling Stones to create an orchestral version of the Stones’ song. This orchestral version included a five-note theme which was not present in any previous version of the song.

5: Verve made arrangements with the Andrew Oldman Orchestra to use that five-note theme, and expanded it out to 13 notes, and used it as the main theme for “Bittersweet Symphony”, which is otherwise completely unlike any of the previous songs.

6: The Rolling Stones claimed that since they owned their version of “The Last Time” in its entirety, they also owned the Andrew Oldman version of it in its entirety, including that five-note theme.

7: The Rolling Stones then claimed that since they owned that five-note theme, they also owned the 13-note theme in “Bittersweet Symphony”, and by extension, the whole song.

8: The Rolling Stones threatened Verve, and got all of the royalties.

Do I have this correct?

My distinct impression is the whole affair was sleazy and underhanded and The Verve was totally ducked.

I loved “Bittersweet Symphony” and was listening to it in 2006 when I received the call that my baby 23yo brother had suddenly died in the night (he wasn’t sick, just a random tragic happening). I’ve not been able to enjoy the song since.

RE #5: I hear the whole 13 note thing in the AOO version. At the very least I hear it under, and implied in the string parts of the song. The original contribution was to make a melody on top and sing it. If he verve added string parts it was to enhance something I think I can hear in it already. The verve didn’t add measures to the song for instance to make a five note thing into a 13 note one.

RE #8: The Rolling Stones do not = Allen Klein or ABCKO. They are bitter enemies AFAIK. The arguments were all business and not the songwriters, even though they may have benefitted. It’s the music biz.

Man I hate how copyright law works when it comes to music. Someday we will get it right but it’s a dog’s breakfast now.