Verve frontman Richard Ashcroft
wrote this epic string-soaked ballad after his long-standing girlfriend, Sarah, ran off with his childhood friend. Ashcroft references this betrayal in the lines:And one and one is two
But three is company
The song deals not only with his breakup, but his state of mind, telling the story of a man's broken dreams in a big city.
The opening lyrics are based on the first two stanzas of William Blake's 1794 poem, London. Ashcroft recalled to The Guardian that he penned it, "all in one go, this seven-minute outpouring with a bit of William Blake thrown in."
The subject of this song, Sarah, can be seen in very blurry form on the cover of the band's 1992 released The Verve E.P. The photo was taken in the apartment they shared.
The band was nearing a meltdown when they recorded the A Northern Soul album, making the recording process particularly difficult for their producer, Owen Morris. In an oft-told tale that had gone down in Verve legend, Morris hurled a chair through the studio window in joy when Ashcroft first played him this song. Ashcroft says the album reflects a combination of "good music, bad drugs and mixed emotions."
Like many Verve songs, "History" uses a haunting string section, in this case arranged by Wil Malone and performed by The London Symphony Orchestra.
This song took an ironic turn when a few months after the album's release, the band broke up. The split didn't last long though: Ashcroft started working on a solo album, then enlisted the band to perform on it, thus making it a Verve record. That album was Urban Hymns, released in 1997. Two years later, they split up again.
Reaching #24 in the UK, "History" marked the band's highest chart placing to that point, a ranking that could have been higher if the band stuck around to promote it. Their next album, Urban Hymns
, had three UK Top 10s: "Bitter Sweet Symphony
," "The Drugs Don't Work
" and "Lucky Man