Classic Copyright Cases – Bitter Sweet Symphony
Bitter Sweet Symphony needs no introduction. It is an undisputed classic from The Verve with an equally memorable music video. The song, written by Richard Ashcroft and released back in 1997, sampled a symphonic version of The Last Time by The Rolling Stones, recorded by the Andrew Oldham Orchestra in 1965.
The Verve had originally agreed to sample a five-note segment of the recording in exchange for an even split of the royalties, however that was until Allen Klein stepped in. Klein was a ruthless businessman, music publisher and record label exec who at one point managed both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones simultaneously. It is safe to say he was at the top of the game.
Klein claimed that The Verve voided the agreement by using a larger section of the 1965 recording than the parties had agreed. His holding company, ABKCO Records, then took legal action against the North West heroes on behalf of himself, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
In the end, The Verve had to give up the songwriting royalties and publishing rights which in turn vested in ABKCO Records, with Jagger and Richards picking up the songwriting credit.
To make matters worse, Andrew Loog Oldham (what a strange middle name), the owner of the recording, joined in on the fun and sued The Verve for a cool $1.7 million. The band ended up losing all control over their magnum opus. Adding insult to injury, the song was even nominated for a Grammy but it was not The Verve who were named on the ballot, but rather Jagger and Richards. Ashcroft (who looks suspiciously like Mick Jagger) revealed years later that he was still crushed by the outcome.
What a truly unfortunate turn of events for The Verve and undoubtedly something that must have been very difficult to come to terms with. The case highlights the importance of ensuring that intellectual property affairs are in order when it comes to music.
As always, our specialist solicitors and music lovers here at Briffa are always on hand to help with all things music, be it contracts, claims or even just a free chat about what’s what. Please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected] or on 020 72886003 for a free consultation.
Written by Alex Fewtrell, Solicitor