Bitter Sweet Symphony

Album: Urban Hymns (1997)
Charted: 2 12
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  • Lead singer Richard Ashcroft wrote the lyrics, which are a somber look at the ennui of everyday life: "You're a slave to money, then you die."

    At this point in his career, Ashcroft had learned that money and happiness were not synonymous. "People have been sold a lottery dream in life that money solves everyone's problems," he said in a Songfacts interview. "Suddenly you're looking at people and you're thinking: 'I know they need X but if I give X then that relationship that should have died years ago is going to carry on and spoil.' It opens up a myriad of things that you would never normally be thinking about, responsibilities on a new level."
  • 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.
  • "Try to make ends meet, you're a slave to money, then you die"

    Ashcroft's father, Frank, was an office clerk, a dissatisfying job that earned him enough to get by. He died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage in 1982 when Richard was 11 and his sisters, Victoria and Laura, were very young.

    "He worked nine to five and got nowhere," Ashcroft told Select. "I immediately realized that wasn't the life for me."
  • The sample used in this song is one of many layers that make up the track. The opening section of the song isn't a sample - it was arranged by Wil Malone - although it was based on those notes.
  • Nike used this in commercials as part of their 1998 "I Can" campaign, showing everyday athletes practicing with determination. The Verve were dead set against using their songs in commercials, but they didn't control the publishing rights to this song: Allen Klein's ABKCO company did. When ABKCO authorized the song, it gave Nike the right to re-record it with other musicians, so The Verve agreed to let their original recording be used so that wouldn't happen.

    Lyrically, the song stands in stark opposition to the sneaker-selling corporate monolith, but Nike used just the instrumental portion, which was in high demand, as Coca-Cola, Budweiser, and other big companies were vying to use it.

    The Verve were reportedly paid $175,000, with ABKCO receiving much more. The group donated the money to the Red Cross Land Mine Appeal.

    After the ad started running, the Urban Hymns album got a nice sales bump in America, giving the band lots of additional exposure in that country.

    In Europe, the song was used under similar circumstances around the same time in ads for the car company Vauxhall.
  • This was the only American hit for The Verve, but they were far more popular in their native UK, where their next single, "The Drugs Don't Work," went to #1. The band broke up in 1999 and reformed in 2007, releasing the album Forth in 2008. Their previous albums were:

    A Northern Soul - Released in 1995, it has a darker side.
    A Storm In Heaven - Released in 1993, a psychedelic rocker.
    No Come Down - A collection of the B-sides from A Storm in Heaven, released in 1994.

    After Urban Hymns, their lead singer, Richard Ashcroft, launched a successful solo career. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Seth - Stuttgart, Germany
  • Did you catch the play on words in the title?: Bitter Suite Symphony.
  • The video shows Ashcroft bumping into people as he walks down Hoxton Street, a crowded shopping area in London. It was inspired by the video for Massive Attack's 1991 song "Unfinished Sympathy," which was showed the singer walking down a street in a similar manner. The clip was directed by Walter Stern, who also did Massive Attack's "Teardrop" promo.
  • Had The Verve retained publishing rights to this song, there's a good chance it never would have become a hit in America. That's because they wouldn't have allowed it to be used in the Nike commercial, which is what introduced the song there.

    The Verve tried to break into the American market in 1992 when they staged a publicity stunt, playing their song "A Man Called Sun" for a few hours from the back of a flatbed truck driving around New York City. But they couldn't break through in America and put little effort into promoting Urban Hymns there.

    When Nike started airing the commercial (it debuted during the NFC Championship game between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers on January 11, 1998), radio stations added "Bitter Sweet Symphony" to their playlists, and MTV put the video in rotation. But the song wasn't released as a single in America until March 10, when it had already peaked in popularity. It debuted at #13 on the Hot 100, peaked at #12 a week later and gradually climbed down the chart over the next 18 weeks.
  • Because this sampled the song from The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards got composer credits along with Richard Ashcroft. Upset that he lost the royalties, Ashcroft said this was "The best song Jagger and Richards have written in 20 years."
  • This is featured at the pivotal end scene in the 1999 movie Cruel Intentions, where after Sebastian (Ryan Phillippe) dies, his stepsister Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Gellar) gets her comeuppance. It is meant to portray Sebastian's ups and downs in life: Kathryn's cruel antics that nearly destroyed him and the beautiful girl (Reese Witherspoon) who showed him how to love and redeemed his life.

    According to producer Neal Moritz, the song cost nearly a million dollars to clear, about 10% of their budget. When they found out the cost, they tried many other songs in its place, but none had the same impact. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Kristy - La Porte City, IA
  • We have yet to find an explanation why, but the Seattle Seahawks football team has been using this as their theme song since the mid-'00s. The song is certainly not a typical sports anthem, and has nothing to do with Seattle - a city with a rich musical history and many homegrown songs that seem more appropriate.

    The Seahawks play the song when coming on to the field, so it could be heard at the three Super Bowls the team made: a loss to the Steelers in 2006, a win against the Broncos in 2014, and a loss to the Patriots in 2015 (the Pats came out to "Crazy Train").
  • Details of the legal tussle surrounding this song aren't clear-cut, as there was no court case to get it on record. It appears that David Whitaker, who did the string arrangement on the orchestral version of "The Last Time" that was sampled, got nothing. Andrew Loog Oldham, who produced that version, got in on the action after "Bitter Sweet Symphony" was released, and it's unclear if he got a settlement.

    As for the publishing rights to the "The Last Time," those were administrated by ABKCO, but Allen Klein apparently was not the sole owner. According to an article in Mojo magazine, Klein got 9/24ths of the publishing, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards split 9/24ths, and 3/24ths went to Westminster Publishing, who were the Stones publishers early on. The takeaway here is that Jagger and Richards profited from the deal in a big way, which explains why they never had much to say about the lawsuit.

    Another wrinkle: "The Last Time" is very similar to a 1955 song by The Staple Singers called "This May Be The Last Time," but The Stones claimed it as their own.
  • This was a showstopper when a reunited Verve played the Glastonbury festival in 2008. Ashcroft introduced the song by saying: "Life's a struggle. Monday morning might be a struggle for a lot of you in a job that you despise, working for a boss that you despise. A slave to money, then we die."
  • In a statement released on May 23, 2019, Richard Ashcroft announced that Jagger and Richards had given him back "Bitter Sweet Symphony" royalties and The Stones duo also had their writing credits removed. The announcement coincided with Ashcroft receiving the Outstanding Contribution To British Music prize at the Ivor Novello Awards. Ashcroft says he can finally enjoy the song when he hears it played at football matches.

Comments: 89

  • Odii Gis from Farmington, NmAs I listen to this song for the umpteenth time, I can't help but laugh at some of the obscure song meanings in the comments. To me, the title says it all. A pleasure or pain musical merry-go-round of emotions because of how we feel life can be. That's it. From there, the listener can tailor the hypnotic lyrics and odes to wherever it manifests itself in one's life and/or psyche.
  • Chiquitita from Regina Sk, Canadathis song is actually about ABBA s chiquitita the person henceforth bittersweet. The meaning of "Bittersweet Symphony " The bittersweet refers to the tragic event that happened in chiquititas life and abba writing a song about him. The word Symphony means ABBA . Listen carefully to the lyrics . And on September 2021 ABBA gifts Chiquitita again in song with "I Still Have Faith In You" I hope you see this message Richard. All The Best .... Chiquitita
  • Roger Jones from Virginia UsaRichard Ashcroft if you ever wonder what the true meaning of those lyrics were drop me a line and maybe we can discuss it over a good cold beer. I'm sure I'll be accommodating, I'm a million different people from one day to the next. I'm glad Keith and Mick gave you back your money.
  • Seb from AucklandRichard Ashcroft wrote this song about his father dying when he was only 11. I remember my husband telling me he had thought the song too maudlin until he found that out that it was about the man's father dying when he was only 11. After my husband's sudden death I remembered him talking about this and looked up what Ashcroft's father died of and imagine my shock when it was the exact same thing my husband died of in his 40s too. A cerebral aneurysm rupture and brain hemorrhage and my husband left behind an 8 year old and 15 year old sons. I sure wouldn't use this for a wedding.
  • Hot-shot from Austin, AustraliaCurdle?
  • Samantha from Boone, IaI'm a little saddened by the wedding comment. I was just proposed to and the melody of this song was the first to pop into my head for when I walk down the isle. But the beautiful thing about music and lyrics is that you can relate to it, I don't see how this song cant be related to someone's feelings on marriage. Not every couple goes through the same things as the last. Sometimes its a hard struggle with drugs, family and vanity and this song has such an uplifting feeling to all those things letting you know its bitter sweet and there's nothing better. Definition of bittersweet: Producing or expressing a mixture of pain and pleasure. If you haven't gone through that in a relationship, well then try harder. If it was all sweet, then its too good to be true, so watch out....
  • G from A, Deas of right now, Feb. 23, 2013, the source song can be heard on youtube here:
    the search I did to find it on youtube was The Last Time Orchestral Version the comments on that vid are loaded with info, too G
  • Lisa from Eveleth, MnChoosing this as a wedding song is like choosing "Every Breath You Take" by The Police. READ THE LYRICS a little more carefully.
    - Jodi, Allentown, PA
    I dont understand why you would use this at a wedding, sure it sounds nice but the lyrics have nothing to do with marriage or relationships what so ever.
    - Derek, Flin Flon, MB

    Hey guys - why do you CARE what song i walked down the aisle to? LMAO i dont care what the lyrics are or what they mean , i walked down to the MUSIC. not the lyrics. wow lol Holy Hannah!! JUDGMENTAL MUCH???
  • Gintas from Vilnius, LithuaniaThe Andrew Oldham Orchestra - The Last Time
    = 1965 song by the Rolling Stones "The Last Time,"
    plus - the violins melody - a phrase from old Lithuanian folk dance Bitute Pilkoji
  • Julio from San Jose, Costa Rica@ Bill, Los Angeles
    Remember that Bittersweet Symphony samples "an obscure orchestral version of The Last Time". I also had the same confusion, since I can hardly find any similarity between Verve's song and The Last Time by The Rolling Stones.
    The Orchestral versions is virtually something different and tottally recognizable on Bittersweet Symphony. You can hear it here:
  • Brad from Topeka, KsI've loved this song since the release, but tonight I sat down and read the lyrics while listening to the song, and truly comprehended their meaning for the first time. I cried. Now, I love this song that much more. The strings and the rest of the music is great, and so are the lyrics. Just an incredible amazing song.
  • Renan Alisson from Salvador, Brazil"I need to hear some sounds that recognize the pain in me, yeah"
    "I let the melody shine, let it cleanse my mind, I feel free now""
    " 'Cause it's a bittersweet symphony, this life
    Try to make ends meet
    You're a slave to money then you die"

    True words. The whole music is perfect...the violins melody... everything about this music is just perfect. This is an another music that makes part of the
    soundtrack of my life.
  • Gail from Jackson, Fl"your a slave to money then you die" sad but true
  • Jodi from Allentown, PaChoosing this as a wedding song is like choosing "Every Breath You Take" by The Police. READ THE LYRICS a little more carefully.
  • Derek from Flin Flon, MbI dont understand why you would use this at a wedding, sure it sounds nice but the lyrics have nothing to do with marriage or relationships what so ever.
  • Lisa from Eveleth, Mni walked down the aisle at my wedding to this song, my pastor loved this song. so did everone else
  • Melvin from Boston, MaI despise this song. Don't understand all the hoopla about it. By the way, Jaggar and Richards didn't get a penny from the Verve's song. The song's copyright owner, ABKCO, made the money.
  • Bill from Los Angeles, CaI fail to see any obviously recognizable sound, melody, riff, or lyrics between Bittersweet Symphony by the Verve, and The Last Time by the Rolling Stones. The main instrumental riff is significantly different in the two songs, if that's what the basis of the claim was. When listening to Bittersweet Symphony, I never thought, "oh yea, that reminds me of the riff in The Last Time". In fact, the differences far out weigh any similarity. The melody, beat, tempo, and instrumental are all different. If there is any commonality, it is at most incidental and minor, especially when considering the songs in their entirety. The Stones and their agent's claim to Bittersweet Sympnyony, is as stupid and greedy as Metallica claiming rights to the "E minor" chord. Ridiculous! Who advised the Verve to settle? They should have told the Stones to stuff it. Bittersweet Sympnyony was created by, and rightfully belongs to the Verve.
  • Steve from Scranton, Pahey the stones are jerks cus the only thing a bout the last time and bittersweet symphony are the styles by which they sing the songs with a few words at a time then the chorus and then a few words at a time again.
  • Susan from Westchestertonfieldville, VaI would dance around a house to this and then open all the cabinents in the kitchen at the drum entry part....i am loony
  • Hippieangel from Schweinfurt, GermanyYou know what's funny? The song that the Verve supposedly ripped off was in fact ripped off by the rolling stones. "This was inspired by a 1955 Gospel song of the same name by The Staples Singers. Many Gospel fans felt The Stones ripped it off, since The Staples Singers never got any royalties from it. Since it is a traditional song (meaning no one owns the rights to it), many artists have recorded it, but The Stones were a very high-profile band that had success reworking songs by black artists into hits. Many people believe The Stones should have compensated The Staples Singers because it was based on their version of the song." If you ask me, this Klein is a greedy sue happy bastard, which is sad because law suits seem to be quite the trendy way to fashionably gain money you've no right to in this day and age. How disappointing. Klein seems to be suffering from a particularly severe case of rectal-cranial inversion that would most effectively be remedied by a well placed kick to the groin...
  • Johnny from Miami, FlI know VynSint! Kind of like the OJ trial.
  • Konrad from Toronto, OnTo me this song is self evident. No need to for facts about it. Just listen to the lyrics. What does it say really? Could there be a grain of truth in this song? "I'll take you down the only road I've ever been down" - could this road be "life" - "the road"? "I am a million diffrent people from one day to the next?" Could this mean going from one life after another.. procreation? "I can change my mold" I think that what he means by changing the mold is death, which begins life.

  • Pete from Tibshelf, United Kingdomthe verve made virtually no money from this song despite its huge comercial success due to royalty payments. Richard Ashcroft claimed in a radio interview with Chris Moyles that he kept the sample in because he felt it completed the 'wall of sound', and said that he didnt really care that he didnt benefit financially from it because the music was more important
  • Phil from Fakeville, CanadaI feel sorry for these guys. The Stones pretty much took all the money for this song. I think thats BS. Great song.
  • Chris from Kortenberg, BelgiumIt's that little (coicidally, Klein means little/small in Dutch) creepy, greedy a*hole Allen Klein who sued. Not The Stones.
    Little Allen has a whole team doing nothing else but surfing the internet, listen to new songs and so on, just trying to find something that remotely sounds like something he ownes the copyright for. try to post an A.K. copyright owned Stonesclip on Youtube and see how long it takes before they have to take it down. Happened to me on many occasions. Clips from the post A.K. Stones era have never been removed!


    Chris from Belgium
  • Graham from Shropshire,, EnglandAndrew Loog Oldham was 19 years old when he discovered, managed & produced the Rolling Stones. The comment from Andrew, London, England is spot on.
    ALO also started the Immediate record label signing acts such as the Small Faces, the McCoys, Chris Farlowe, John Mayall & Twice as Much to name but a few.
    The track that the Verve 'borrowed' can be found on 'The Rolling Stones Songbook' album by The Andrew Oldham Orchestra, released in 1966, re-released in 2004.
    Graham Oldham, Shropshire, England.
  • Cassie from London, Englandeven though Ashcroft says "you're a slave to money then you die" it was used in 2 bank commericals.

    also I believe a Vauxhall commercial so during a live performance at a festival he tells everyone not to buy Vauxhall cars because they're pieces of sh*t.
  • Andrew from London, EnglandThe music on the Verve's video is NOT Bittersweet Symphony but an orchestral arrangement of a rolling stones song (The Last Time) played by the Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra. Andrew sued the Verve - on behalf of the members of HIS orchestra. "The labourer is worthy of his hire"!
  • Mark from Burlington, NjI don't understand why no one has brought this up yet. The Verve did not just use a sample from "The Last Time". They also used its VOCAL VERSE MELODY!! So this is much more than just a basic sampling issue. I'm wondering if this is the real reason they settled out of court, yet gave 100% of the royalties away--they knew they had no chance. No wonder the Stones got partial writing credit.
  • Mandy from Austin, TxWhen I first heard this song it was on the radio and when the song was almost over I felt an urge to cry so because I was in a car I pulled over...Somehow I felt the pain and now this song is one of my favourites..
  • James from London, EnglandThis is the greatest ever song! Has there ever been a song that you could listen to a thousand times and still not be bored? I remember this in the 90's and Im still listening to it 10 years later!
  • Vynsint from St. Louis, MoI must have heard this song a couple hundred thousand times. It's one of my absolute all-time favorites, and i think it's bullsh*t that the stones pulled that crap on the verve. As if Bittersweet symphony was the only song that had an orchestral part that sounded like that. PLEASE, this is just ANOTHER example of if you have the "reputable" name, you can get away with murder. Since the rolling stones are, well, the rolling stones, they could say anything like that and get the freaking benefit of the doubt. It's because of that type of crap is why im no longer much of a rolling stones fan.
  • Annabelle from Eugene, OrFor the orchestra instruments in the background, I didn't know it was the song, "The Last Time", by the Rolling Stones. How could that be the Rolling Stones song, when it does in fact sound like a totally different melody to me.
  • Nate from Pittsburgh, PaWhat a song, I recently used it on of my school projects. The Verve is increadable and its a shame they broke up just after Urban Hyms, they could have writen so many more good songs.
  • Ravi from Pune, IndiaJust came across this song today (Sep 15, 2006) and it has really touched my heart. Was looking for its composer and that's how I stumbled on this great website.

    Great lyrics. Great singing. I've fallen in love with it and have it running in a loop right now!
  • Mjn Seifer from Not Listed For Personal Reason, EnglandThis video is SLIGHTLY parodied in "Vindaloo" by Fat Les. The Vindaloo video also fetures either Richard Ashcroft or a look alike of him.
  • Catriona from Edinburgh, United StatesThis song is a-smegging-mazing. We had to play it on keyboards in my music class at school, and it was so beautiful that I downloaded the mp3. I also think that the song has a point - we are all slaves to money. I hate money, and I don't want to end up a slave to it!
  • Victoria from Tucson, AzThis is one in a million.It is so original.I heard this in Cruel Intentions and fell in love with it.
  • Pinkmonty from London, Englandthe first time i ever heard it it gave me goosebumps, and it still does!
  • Robb from London, EnglandAwesome song and definitley an anthemn to walk, drive or strut to.

    The Verve have some very good albums out especially Urban Hymns which this song appears on.

    Oh Richard how we adore theeee
  • Foster from Dallas, TxThemes occur in almost every piece of literature, whether being poetry, books, stories, and in this case, a song. Poetry or stories, when read, often are only expressed by how the audience interprets it or how it is read. But with music, the music itself helps accompany the lyrics to help get the main points across to the audience. Through their use of lyrics and music, The Verve point out three main themes in "Bittersweet Symphony", which are hope, pain, and change.

    As one of the three themes of hope, the uses of symbolism, metaphor, and imagery are all used to help back up this theme. The first main example within symbolism is that the melody is symbolism for hope. When it says, "I let the melody shine, let it cleanse my mind?" (18), it is saying that the "melody" represents hope by telling the listener that he is going to let the "good stuff" stand out in his life. Even through the bad things going on, he still has hope in letting the positive things in his life stand out and let those things take control of him. Another point made for the case of symbolism is the example of prayer. He says, "Well I never pray/But tonight I'm on my knees yeah" (15-16). This exemplifies hope, because praying often illustrates hope to some people: they believe that God (or who they believe in) will answer their prayers. Also because, there is so much suffering in his life, that he hopes that his prayers will be answered. Two metaphors really stood out in this song, and the first is the comparison between a symphony and life. He says, "'Cause it's a bittersweet symphony, this life" (1). Comparing a bittersweet symphony and life, by explaining that life is like a symphony, parts of it are bitter and hard, but in the end it always turns out to be sweet. Also, that it may be uncomfortable or boring sitting through a symphony at the beginning, but it is always smart to look forward to the end of it, because that is when all of the greatest points of the show are. The next use of metaphor is comparing a road and the place where every road meets. He says, "I'll take you down the only road I've ever been down/You know the one that takes you to the places/where all the veins meet yeah" (4-6). Comparing the only road he knows and the place where every road meets. In the lines before this quote, he talks about poverty and being slave to money and dying. Then, in this quote, he says it is the only road he has ever been down, but there is hope, because if living in pain and hanging in there is something that every person goes through, the path will eventually lead to happiness, or a better road. Imagery was used in this song to better define the theme of hope. The Verve says, "I let the melody shine?" (18). This creates imagery for sight, because it gives the reader the thought of the melody ("good stuff") being the center, and no matter what, it will always "cleanse (his) mind". Having the image of a melody shining creates a calming or relaxing idea. The next imagery is the sense of hearing. "'Cause it's a bittersweet symphony, this life" (1) is imagery, because it is as if the audience is hearing a nice melodic symphony, almost relaxing, and there is nothing to worry about. With the uses of symbolism, metaphor, and imagery, The Verve help accomplish the theme of hope in "Bittersweet Symphony".

    Pain, as the second theme, is exemplified through the use of hyperbole, personification, and symbolism. When The Verve say, "And I'm a million different people/from one day to the next/I can't change my mold" (24-26), he says that he has the pain and burden like the same as being a million people everyday (hyperbolic), and to make it worse, he cannot change who he is, because he is who he is. Also, with hyperbole, The Verve also demonstrates pain when they say, "and there's nobody singing to me now" (19). This is hyperbolic, because it is, in a way, impossible for nobody to be talking to him. It displays pain, because they feel as if nobody likes them or wants to talk to them. As with personification, The Verve say, "I need to hear some sounds that recognize the pain in me, yeah" (17), giving "sounds" human characteristics, and by saying they can recognize pain. If someone is in so much pain, that they need to have non-human objects comfort them, or "feel the pain in (him)", then they must be going through some tough times. When they say, "But the airways are clean and there's no one singing to me now" (19) they use personification by giving "airways" human characteristics. Of course airways cannot be clean, so this exhibits pain by saying that if it were able to be "clean" then there is not anything coming across to him. It is almost as if no one cares about him, or so he says. Symbolism plays a big role, especially when they say, "Try to make ends meet/You're a slave to money then you die" (2-3). For one to "make ends meet" means to be poor, then you will do anything to get some (slave), and then you just die. It must be painful, because you will have nothing, try all you can to get some, but end up empty handed. Another way to look at this quote ("Try to make ends meet/Try to find some money then you die") in a different way is that it is the same sort of thing, except now it symbolizes how much you'll look for money and die, as apposed to working hard for it, then coming up empty handed. The theme of pain throughout life is expressed through the uses of hyperbole, personification, and symbolism.

    The last theme is change, and for this theme, it is necessary to say that the music is a theme, in a way, because the music its self never changes. But besides this, the three main points or examples are conceit, symbolism, and metaphor. He repeatedly goes between I can change and no, I can't change, when he says, "No change, I can change/I can change, I can change/ But I'm here in my mold/"I can't change/I can't change" (7-14). He says he can't change his mold, or whom he is, but he wants to. He also says he can't change his body (his mold). When they say, "I'll take you down the only road I've ever been down/You know the one that takes you to the places/where all the things meet yeah" (33-35), they talk about how the only road he has been down is failure, but you know the path that will take us somewhere else. They want to go down this one; he is hoping to change in some way or fashion. Both of these examples are conceits, because they are both recurring ideas throughout the entire lyrics. For symbolism, they say that their bodies and molds are the same and different, in the way that their bodies are physical, and their molds are spiritual, emotional, and personal. Both of which they claim they cannot change. They show this by saying, "I can't change my mold/"I can't change/I can't change" (26-29). As another example of symbolism, they say, "Well I never pray/But tonight I'm on my knees yeah" (15-16). When people pray, they usually ask for some sort of change, and although the reasons of or for change is unknown, we know that he wishes for some kind of change. Throughout the entire song, The Verve uses a metaphor to compare a symphony to life to change. All of this is a metaphor, because it is comparing between change and a symphony: symphonies must change, or else they aren't interesting"same with life; if life were the same from birth until death, it just would not be interesting. Throughout the first stanza, The Verve uses a metaphor to compare his present life and his future expectations. They want to change their poorness to what they hope to be (expectations unknown). The Verve uses conceit, symbolism, and metaphor to help exemplify the theme of changing and not changing.

    The Verve use the themes of hope, pain, and change, as well as the music its self, to help bring a deeper meaning to the well-liked song, "Bittersweet Symphony".

  • Kevin from Yorba Linda, CaThe best part of this song is at the beginning when the drums come in.
  • Ben from Ringwood, EnglandOi, what about "the drugs dont work" and "lucky man", these were other great verve songs that were succesful so less of the 'one hit wonder'. And urban hymns-WHAT AN ALBUM, one of the best ever.
  • Laine from Detroit, MiThis is the best song... enough so that it doesn't bother me that they sampled that Stones song for it. It's still my favorite one.
  • Bill from Dallas, TxThis is a beautiful song, and even though it is considered a one hit wonder, its still an amazing song.
  • Adalia from Brisbane, AustraliaAmazing song, Very advanced in it's simplicity. Its one of those special songs that can mean something to everyone.
  • Jim from Philadelphia, PaOh yeah, about this Richard Ashcroft quote "The best song Jagger and Richards have written in 20 years." He is wrong. I'm sure the Rolling Stones wrote better songs that this in 20 years. I mean Beast of Burden, Start Me Up, Shattered. Just listen to their new album. Plenty of new great songs on it. Hey, this guy should be glad to be mentioned in the same breath as Mick and Keith.
  • Jim from Philadelphia, PaStop ripping on the Stones. While this song is good, it isn't even in the same category as a lot of the Stones songs. And as a lot of you pointed out, it was Klein who sued and is getting the royalties. No use getting pissed at the Stones because they are getting ripped off too (though, they probably don't need the royalties from this song).
  • Grace from Fairfax Station, VaThis song is kind of a pessimistic view on life, but I think "bittersweet symphony" is a great symphony for it.
  • Gonçalo from Lisbon, PortugalHow can someone think that the video is not made with actors???? Of course it is! At least with hired people. They are not just "people passing by". How silly to think that! There are many facts that indicate this, but the most clear one is that there are different camera shots involved. Its not just one spontaneous take, like someone posted.
  • Martin Owens from Belfast, Irelandyeah i highly doubt that out of all them people one of them would wack him one so i think that they were actors and the way the camera is. people would see the camera and setting as it continuously travels and it doesn't stop untill the end.
  • Brittany from Richmond, KyThis song is great! I watched Cruel Intentions the other day and I always wanted to know who sung this, and now I do.
  • Chris from Chicago, IlIt's funny how there are plenty other songs that are clearly plagarized from other songs but the copying bands are never sued. Could be because the songs were only moderate hits, rather than the huge hit Bittersweet Symphony was. Probably why Allen Klein went after them, as the fact that he was able to swindle the early Stones catalog shows how greedy the man really is. Songs like Springsteen's "Open All Night" is clearly patterned off Johnny Rivers' "Mountain of Love." Green Day's "Brain Stew" can easily be related to Chicago's "25 or 6 to 4." More recently, Oasis' "Lyla" is a clear rip-off to the Stones' "Street Fighting Man."

    It's only because of how big of a hit this song became that led to it becoming a legal issue.
  • Chris from Chicago, IlContrary to one of the facts noted above, Bittersweet Symphony was NOT the only hit The Verve had. Although it was, by far, their greatest single in the US, they were mega-stars in their home Britain, with big hits such as "The Drugs Don't Work," "Sonnet," and "Lucky Man." Their album "A Northern Soul" was also a hit, although not as grand as "Urban Hymns."
  • Zoe from Mount Gambier, AustraliaThis song will forever remind me of the better times in my life, and I always play it when i am feeling down and out!
  • John from Houston, TxWow, how many songs did the Stones rip off? Countless, is my guess. Where is legal? Makes one wonder...
  • Bobins from Lancs, Englandfrom one of the best albums of the 90's Urban Hymns, packed full of great songs! a real masterpiece.. this song really sums up the 90's for me
  • Christian from Richmond, Withe Verve have 3 albums and a 30 minute EP this is off urban hymns. a northern soul is a better album if you ask me
  • Elly from Columbus, Ohi love this song && i love how cruel intentions used it
  • Scott from Sydney, AustraliaWhen Coldplay introduced Ashcroft at live 8 they mentioned that he is the best vocalist in the world. I would have to second that cause he sang it exactly like in the recorded version and his voice is awesome anyways.
  • Andy from Mdq, ArgentinaColdplay invited Richard Ashcroft to play this one at Live 8. Surely, this was live 8's best moment.
    This song has one of rock n roll greatest lyrics.
    Another fact is that it chartes #2 in the UK.
    Bitter Sweet Symphony is from the album "Urban hymns" released in 1997. The band split up in 1998 tight after releasing the single "sonnet" (limited edition).
    The band has been around since 1993 qhen the released "A Storm In Heaven", they disbaded and reform to release "Northern Soul" in 1995. This album contained the songs "History" which is another verve classic (it reached #24 in the UK)
  • Sam from Chicago, IlProbably the best song to appear on the radio in over twenty years. What an anthem!
  • Izzie from Lala, Hithis song was used in cruel intentions right??! i knew it. i immediatley recognized it when i heard it. good good song!! i love the violins, it has a cool sound!
  • Claire from Manchester, EnglandMusic Managers rip off the people who have the talent and create fantastic songs like this one Klein sux!
    However at the Live 8 concert in london yesterday, when coldplay announced Richard Ashcroft on stage yesterday and they did this song, it was so moving and fitting for the moment, a highlight of hyde parks concert.
  • Luke from Maple Grove, MnThis is one of the most powerful songs ever. The string arrangement is sooo beautiful!!! it gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it. It was also on Tom Penny's part of the FLIP skateboarding video REALLY SORRY!
  • Kirsty from Goomalling, Australiai think that it is a good song. so wat if they ripped off the stones. it is an awesome powerful song and to some people it means alot. i love it and so does many other people. so everyone who is saying that it is crap coz it was a stones song should really listen to it.
  • Steven from Arlington Heights, IlMan if I were him I would have fought back. He may have ruined the take but at least that way he wouldn't have a black eye.
  • Martijn from Arnhem, NetherlandsNot finished yet, sorry. The second day of the shootings were not genuine, because of the incident on the first day. They didn't want Richard getting injured again. Well, that's what I've read.
  • Martijn from Arnhem, NetherlandsNot all reactions in the video are genuine. The video has been shot at 2 dates. On the first day Richard Ashcroft got in a fight with someone because he bumped into him on the street, he got a black eye and couldn't continue making the video. The second day a part of the video has been shot. You can notice this because Richard's hair is one some points in the video very different and also his necklage is sometimes under his shirt and sometimes it in the open air.
  • T from Louisville, KyAlso interesting to note. Three 6 Mafia sampled the orchestral part of this song (Or the Stones version) for their song Triple Six Clubhouse. For any of you rap fans.
  • Randi from Linton, Mejust curious, what does everyone think the song is meant to be about?
  • Andrew from London, Englandi don't think the sample is an "obscure orchestral version" of The Last Time. Have you ever heard it?
    Richard should really have asked for permission BEFORE he released the song - which is A BRILLIANT SONG. The Stones were RIPPED OFF unmercifully during the Sixties and really Richard should have known better.
  • James from London, EnglandThe single rolling shot street scene in the video surely has to be a tribute to the same in Massive Attack's classic, Unfinished Sympathy.
  • Jeffrey from Victoria, CanadaI don't think I'll ever forget this song, if only because they played it on continious loop at my sister's graduation... it's a great song, but not when you have 300 names to call!
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesLots of interesting facts surrounding this. The string section from the Rolling Stones' "The Last Time", which featured on "Bittersweet Symphony", was also used on Rest Assured's haunting 1998 Top 20 hit "Treat Infamy". The video for "Bittersweet Symphony" was deliberately similar to it's near-namesake "Unfinished Sympathy", a 1991 hit for Massive Attack. This video was also purloined by Fat Les on their 1998 footie anthem "Vindaloo". The Verve also released an earlier album called "Northern Soul". And, as Sarah-Michelle from Leeds correctly points out, this song weasn't the band's only hit, they also had hits with "The Drugs Don't Work", "Lucky Man" and the less successful "Sonnet".
  • Dat Le from Katy, TxI highly doubt the video had only that guy and everyone else was an actual person. 1) they don't pay attention to the camera 2) how do you lip-sync without hearing the music? blasting music at him would be distracting 3) that'd look stupid walking down a street with your mouth moving
  • Lorne from Toronto, CanadaThis is one of my favourite songs this song singal handedly turned me on to music.
  • Joel from Chicago, IlThe Stones gave k.d. lang a songwriter's credit for Anybody Seen My Baby without any fuss and without being pressured. Mick claimed he never heard lang's song but agreed that their song sound like Constant Craving. On the other hand, lang said she was honored. A bit different situation than sour grapes Richard Ashcroft.
  • Tom from Trowbridge, EnglandYea, 'The Drugs don't work' is a great song. It was voted 7th best UK #1 ever in a poll recently. The Verve have been around for about 10 years; this was their 3rd or 4th album. I think they've only just split up.
  • Adeeb from Dhaka, Otheri heard it on one song of the cure but it drove me nuts trying to figure out which song. a crocodile icecream pancake. see what i mean?
  • Will from Mcallen , Txthere are no real actors in the video. it was shot on a street and noone knew it was a video. so all the reactions are genuine.
  • Chris from Victoria, TxThe violins are awesome, the video rules cuz its so cheap. Good Song!
  • Tim from Hartford, CtThey've had numerous albums and there are more than that available on amazon.
  • Dennis from Romeoville, IlThis wasn't the only album for The Verve. A quick check on Amazon shows "A Storm In Heaven". I thought when I first checked out "Bittersweet Sympathy" online back in the late 90s it listed three albums for them.
  • Kris from Toronto, CanadaI wonder how much money the Stones pay k.d. lang for ripping off Constant Craving in their song Has Anybody Seen My Baby?
  • Sarah-michelle from Leeds, Englandit wasn't the only hit for the verve, "the drugs don't work" was also a hit, at least it was in the uk.
  • Leo from Hilversum, Netherlands... and that was easy cash for the Stones, as ripped off an old Staples Singers tune!
  • Marci from Sacramento, CaIt was on the Cruel Intentions movie at the end.
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