×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Richard Ashcroft Talks About ‘Emotional’ Legal Battle Over ‘Bittersweet Symphony’

On Thursday, nearly 22 years after the Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” was released, singer Richard Ashcroft announced that the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards assigned to him the songwriter royalties and rights from the song, which samples one of their compositions, and removed their writing credits. The songwriting royalties and rights had been assigned to Jagger and Richards in a legal dispute around the time of the song’s original release in 1997.

The news spurred conversation and debate over the complicated legal battle behind the rights and royalties to the song, which was a global hit in 1997 and samples a segment of an orchestral version of the Jagger-Richards 1965 composition “The Last Time” from an album by erstwhile Stones manager and producer Andrew Loog Oldham. The sample was not fully cleared — permission for the recording was obtained, but not for the song itself — and after a legal tussle with Abkco, the song’s publisher, which threatened to block its release, Ashcroft signed away his rights and royalties to “Bittersweet Symphony,” frequently complaining about it in the press, although the sample is a prominent element in the recording.

Ashcroft released a statement early Friday recapping the background of the dispute, which follows in full below. Reps for Jagger and Richards and Abkco did not immediately respond to Variety‘s requests for comment.

Abkco was founded by the late Allen Klein, a notoriously tough attorney, music publisher and rights-holder who at one point around 50 years ago was business manager for both the Stones and three-fourths of the Beatles (disagreements between Paul McCartney and the other Beatles over Klein’s tactics are often cited as a contributing factor in their 1969 breakup). In a comment to the BBC yesterday, Ashcroft said that the “Bittersweet” dispute came to an end following negotiations with Klein’s son Jody, CEO of Abkco, and Stones manager Joyce Smith.

Richard Ashcroft’s statement on the history of the “Bittersweet Symphony” dispute:

Over 20 years ago Richard Ashcroft wrote one of his most important songs, “Bitter Sweet Symphony,” but near the end of the creative process a four-second sample of an Andrew Loog Oldham orchestral recording of The Last Time was sampled and used as a loop in the backing track.

Permission for the use of the recording was obtained but for whatever reason at the time permission for the use of the song was overlooked.

By the time the mistake was realised a huge number of copies of the “Urban Hymns” album had been manufactured around the world and the record company were reluctant to scrap them.

They were confident they would be able to do a deal with the publishers and convinced Richard to allow the release of the album as it stood.

However Mr. Allen Klein, the owner of ABKCO, was very protective of his copyright and the only deal that he was prepared to do involved Richard effectively signing away all of his rights in one of his most iconic songs, including the total lyrical content.

Of course, there was a huge financial cost but any songwriter will know that there is a huge emotional price greater than the money in having to surrender the composition of one of your own songs.

Richard has endured that loss for many years.

A few months ago, his management decided to pursue a strategy which any number of people had been told over the years was a futile course of action with zero chance of success.

They decided to appeal to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards directly to try regain the song for Richard to the extent it was within their power to do so.

Mick and Keith immediately, unhesitatingly and unconditionally agreed to this request. Incredibly generously and as an indication of what great artists and men they are they have agreed that to the extent it is within their power they have given Richard his song back.

In the future all royalties that would have gone to them for “Bitter Sweet Symphony” will now go to Richard, but in many ways even more importantly they have said that they no longer require a writing credit for “Bitter Sweet Symphony,” kindly acknowledging that as far as they are concerned it is Richard’s song.

 Last year, the Rolling Stones invited Richard Ashcroft to support them at their huge outdoor shows in Manchester and Edinburgh, making him the only artist to join them at more than one show during their 2018 European tour.

 

More Music

  • Little Shop of Horrors review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Little Shop of Horrors'

    With its strains of kitschy doo-wop and its sci-fi B-movie inspirations, the quaint 1982 musical “Little Shop of Horrors” hardly seems a thing of modern-day revivalism, even despite its touches of S&M. Yet this year alone, not only is there an Off Broadway production of the blackly comic “Little Shop” featuring Jonathan Groff of Netflix’s [...]

  • BBC's Little Mix Talent Show to

    BBC's Little Mix Talent Show to Be Produced by Management Firm's New Shingle, ModestTV

    The BBC has confirmed its Little Mix talent show, which the pop band’s management firm, Modest!, will produce through a new banner, ModestTV. “Little Mix The Search” will be exec produced by Andrea Hamilton, who has partnered with the management outfit to launch the new operation. Her entertainment show credits include “The Voice” and “Strictly [...]

  • NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 15:

    Midland Turns L.A.'s Dormant Palomino Club Into a Honky-Tonk Brigadoon

    Would it be too much to ask Midland to give up its burgeoning-country-star status and move west to become the humble house band at a newly reopened Palomino club in L.A.? It doesn’t seem a lot to beseech for a good cause, however unlucrative it might be for the group’s fortunes and fame. The famed [...]

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 16:

    Idina Menzel, Bebe Rexha Take the Stage for Justin Tranter's 'Beyond' Benefit Concert

    We’re here, we’re queer and we’re writing your favorite songs was the theme of Beyond, the third annual benefit concert that Justin Tranter and his CAA agent, Jenna Adler, organized to benefit GLAAD at the Sunset Room in Hollywood on Wednesday night (Oct. 16). Beyond a music showcase, its mission is to highlight the annual [...]

  • Taylor SwiftMTV Video Music Awards, Arrivals,

    Vivendi's Third Quarter Results Up Nearly 17%, UMG Still Rising

    Vivendi saw its third quarter revenues increase by 16.7% to €3.97 billion ($4.4 billion) compared with the third quarter of 2018, once again boosted by the growth of Universal Music Group, while Canal Plus Group remained stable. For the first nine months of 2019, Vivendi’s revenues reached €11.3 billion ($12.5 billion), an increase of 14.6% [...]

  • Parliament-Funkadelic and George ClintonIEBA Annual Conference,

    George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Sheila E. to Perform in ‘Grammy Salute’ Airing Friday

    Parliament-Funkadelic stars George Clinton and Bootsy Collins, along with Sheila E. and many others, perform in the “Grammy Salute to Music Legends” airing as part of PBS’ “Great Performances” series Friday night. The show, the fourth annual all-star concert offering a primetime spotlight for the Academy’s 2019 Special Merit Awards recipients, premieres nationwide Friday, Oct. [...]

  • Lola Marsh

    Ping Pong Sets the Beat in Hypnotic, Green Screen-Ambitious Lola Marsh Video (Watch)

    Forrest Gump has nothing on Lola Marsh. The Tel Aviv-based twosome of vocalist Yael Shoshana Cohen and multi-instrumentalist Gil Landau transform into ping pong rivals in the video for “Only for a Moment.” The indie-pop jam combines Cohen’s Lana Del Rey-esque vocals over an upbeat blend of snaps, claps, shakers, and a driving melody courtesy [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content