The famous orchestral riff incorporates a sample from an obscure instrumental version of the 1965 Rolling Stones song "The Last Time
" by Stones producer Andrew Loog Oldham, who included it on a 1966 album called The Rolling Stones Songbook
(credited to The Andrew Oldham Orchestra). The Verve got permission to use the six-second sample from Decca Records, which owned the Oldham recording
, but they also needed permission from the publisher of "The Last Time," something they didn't realize until after the album was completed.
So, with Urban Hymns
ready to go and "Bitter Sweet Symphony" slated as the first single, Verve manager Jazz Summers tried to secure those rights, which belonged to Allen Klein's company ABKCO. The Rolling Stones signed a very lopsided contract with Klein, who was their manager, early in their career, and had to make huge concessions in order to get out of it. Part of the deal gave Klein the publishing rights to all of the Stones' songs they recorded through 1969.
In the book Allen Klein: The Man Who Bailed Out the Beatles, Made the Stones, and Transformed Rock & Roll
, it states that Summers offered Klein 15% of the publishing to obtain the rights. Klein turned him down flat, and when he realized that the Verve were sitting on a hit record they couldn't release without a deal, he insisted on 100% of the publishing. The Verve gave in, since they really had no choice. Richard Ashcroft, who wrote the lyric, was given a flat fee of $1,000 and had to sign away his rights. "I was put under duress to sign away one of the greatest songs of all time," he said.
The end result was Klein making an enormous profit on the song every time it was purchased or used in a TV show, movie or commercial.