The Verve were a band from Wigan who were popular throughout the nineties and were always somewhat in the shadow of fellow northerners Oasis. They were formed by vocalist Richard Ashcroft, guitarist Nick McCabe, bassist Simon Jones and drummer Peter Salisbury. They began with more of a psychedelic sound before developing more into the sound that got them success during the Britpop era. The band had quite a troubled existence due to things such as drug problems and lawsuits. Their breakthrough success came with the album Urban Hymns released in 1997. The album featured several of the Verve’s biggest hit singles such as “Bittersweet Symphony” and “The Drugs Don’t Work.” After this, they enjoyed further success, being nominated for several awards, and winning some of them.
However, a couple of years later in 1999, internal troubles within the band led to them make the decision to disband. Ashcroft went on to peruse a solo career for the next eight years and expressed very little interest in reforming the band. However, in 2007 they announced their reformation and a year later released an album titled Forth. However, this reunion proved to be short-lived as revived tensions led to them breaking up once again in 2009, and they have remained defunct ever since.
# 10 – All in the Mind
Kicking off the list is the band’s debut single released in 1992. Upon its release it topped the independent charts but made very little traffic in the more mainstream charts. This is likely due to the fact that the sound here is much less commercially accessible than that of their later material, being much more psychedelic and having more of an underground appeal. The sound here is rather reminiscent of British underground bands such as Loop and Spacemen 3.
# 9 – Blue
Next on the list is the first single to be taken from the first album A Storm in Heaven released in 1993. It reached number sixty-nine on the UK charts. The track clearly takes some influence from later Beatles, making it psychedelic but in more of a retro sixties kind of way as opposed to what would have been considered the more “contemporary” psychedelic sounds of the early singles. This sixties influence made them fit in with the Britpop movement.
# 8 – Rather Be
This track was the band’s second single from their fourth album which was their comeback titled Forth and to date is their final single, as they broke up again a year after the record’s release. Ashcroft actually began writing the song a few months before the reformation and it reportedly went through a lot of changes before the final product was finished. It entered the charts at number fifty-six and did not move up any higher.
# 7 – The Sun, The Sea
This next track is also taken from A Storm In Heaven and like much of the rest of the record has psychedelic overtones whilst at the same time having a bigger sound to make it more commercially accessible. This track recalls the more spacey moments of Pink Floyd and even has a saxophone part which makes it stand out from many of the Britpop releases of the time. The album charted at number twenty-seven in the UK.
# 6 – A Northern Soul
This song is the title track of the band’s second album released in 1995. This track, like the rest of the album marked a change for the band in the sense that it saw them move away from the psychedelic sound to a more mainstream style of alternative rock. The record was moderately successful upon its release, reaching number thirteen on the UK album charts. It has received more acclaim retrospectively in the years since its release, often being included in many best albums of all-time lists.
# 5 – Gravity Grave
This song was the band’s third single which reached number 196 on the UK singles chart. The band played an extended version of this at the 1993 edition of the Glastonbury festival which lasted for nine minutes and was featured on the 1994 No Come Down b sides compilation. The full version was released as a single and later appeared on the 2004 singles compilation This is Music: The Singles 92-98. The edited version was the lead track on the Verve ep in 1992.
# 4 – Sonnet
Here we have the final single to be taken from Urban Hymns. The instrumental layout of the song is the same as that of “The Drugs Don’t Work” which is another single from the same album. The band did not initially want to release another single from the album after putting out three previous ones and did so due to pressure from their record company. A series of disputes between the band and their label involving extra content included with the single led to it only reaching number seventy-four on the Uk charts.
# 3 – Lucky Man
At number three we have the third single from Urban Hymns. It charted at number seven on the Uk Singles chart. It was also their second single to chart on the US Billboard Modern Rocks Tracks where it reached number sixteen. In addition to this it reached the top forty in several other countries across Europe. U2 frontman Bono listed this as one of the six songs written between 1986 and 2006 that he wished that he had written.
# 2 – The Drugs Don’t Work
Just off the top spot we have the second single to be released from Urban Hymns which reached number one. It is without a doubt one of the saddest and heartfelt songs that the band has ever written, as it see’s Ashcroft wear his heart on his sleeve as he sings about his problematic and heavily documented problems with drug use. British television network Channel four ranked it at number seven on their list 100 greatest British number one singles.
# 1 – Bittersweet Symphony
At number one on our top 10 Verve songs list we have the band’s signature track that was the lead single from Urban Hymns. The track was the subject of a well-documented lawsuit with the Rolling Stones who accused the band of plagiarism and as a result Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had their names added to the writing credits. The song reached number two in the UK and to this day is heavily acclaimed as one of the greatest nineties tracks ever written.