Former Verve singer Richard Ashcroft is still incredibly bitter over “Bittersweet Symphony”.
If you recall, the juggernaut single off 1997’s Urban Hymns was part of a lawsuit involving the late Allen Klein and ABKCO Music & Records, Inc., who essentially ran away with the rights to the song after EMI and the band tried to negotiate the use of a sample. That sample, of course, was an instrumental version of The Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time” that had appeared on an album by the Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra. (ABKCO owns the rights to The Rolling Stones’ catalog.)
In the end, Ashcroft received $1,000 dollars for his work, while Klein and ABKCO walked away with millions of dollars, garish commercial opportunities, and even a Grammy nomination that was cruelly credited to The Stones and not The Verve.
On the latest episode of Kyle Meredith With…, the English singer-songwriter digresses at great lengths on the sordid affair with ABKCO, stressing how the tables are finally turning for artists and their labels, which he compares to gangsters.
“Fucking Mr. Junior now has taken over that company,” Ashcroft says of Klein’s son, Jody, who’s now head of ABKCO. “I’m coming for that money. Someone stole god knows how many million dollars off me in 1997, and they’ve still got it. In terms, in normal basic terms, I don’t care where you come from, that’s serious matter. So I’m telling him, I’m telling Allen Klein Jr., I’m coming for my money, man.
“You know, when his dad was around,” he continues, “people could intimidate people by being a gangster in the music industry. Unfortunately, anyone who takes over that business, we now live in a world where anyone can be a gangster, anyone can be a virtual gangster, you can be a gangster in whatever way you want, you can form two phone calls, you can find a gangster. Everyone’s a gangster.
“So, there’s no gangster fucking attitude anymore,” he adds. “There’s no fear with this shit, with like some big figure. You know, it makes me laugh when I hear about these big managers from the ’70s and stuff. It’s like, ‘Get out of here. You wouldn’t last five minutes…”, these guys now. Because it’s a different world now, and anyone who would work for that company would know that…”
Aschroft says the lawsuit had an influence over his new solo album, Natural Rebel, particularly closing track “Money Money”, which is something of a big snub to ABKCO and similar entities at large.
“I’m happy for you to use [your show] to get the message out to his company,” Ashcroft insists to Meredith. “Put that song on, turn it on in the ABKCO office really loud and just check that little bit of energy out in the last three minutes, yeah? Just harness that for yourselves. Get in your nice car, that my song probably bought, and on the way back to see your ‘yoga guru’, just check out the end of that album and think about stealing $50 million dollars off a guy, and that that guy is still alive, on an island somewhere over there, and that you’re over there…
“And I’ve got millions of fans and people all over the fucking world, man,” he continues, “and I’m like, ‘Wow, you’re bold. You are bold motherfuckers. You don’t even put the song on your website you’re so damn ashamed of it.’ So, I’m happy to go there, brother, you can print anything you fucking like … because you know, why? I’m a free fucking individual, and to me, they’re just like a legacy from a guy who came from another era, who managed to somehow take away 50% of one of the greatest songs of all time from its author, and get away with it for 20 years.
“Anyone, unless you are mentally ill, will always remember the day when $50 million dollars was stolen off them,” he stresses, “and it doesn’t matter if it was 20 years later, or five, or 50. It’s the concept of gangster. I have something of mine, which was worth 50 million, or a 100, it’ll go on forever, taken from me, from a guy from New York, that’s all I know. There’s a little paltry piece of paper, and you’re telling me that’s enough….”
From there, he hints at recent revelations and potential action.
“I would love to… If I was them, I would sign for a real-life sort of TV show of ABKCO records over the next few years because it’s going to be so funny, some of their internal meetings on how they handle this shit,” Ashcroft says. “Because at the end of the day, they’re just people, going to work, ultimately. Most of the people who worked there are dead anyway. You know what I mean?
“It’s like, The Rolling Stones don’t even have the balls to fucking have it. It takes me on my own to fucking do it,” he adds. “The Rolling Stones can’t even have fucking have ABKCO, that’s how fucking bizarre it’s got. You’ve got a super fucking big Mack truck, and they don’t even want to turn left and run over the bug. They don’t even want to go turn left, but I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m happy now.’ I understood.
“Basically, something happened a few weeks ago, and I’m like, ‘Okay, I get it. I understand what’s necessary now,’ I realized, I filtered it down what happened back in ’97, filtered it down to its raw essence — a gangster stole 50% of something that’s worth at least a hundred million dollars already. So, you know, I’m never going to forget that.”
At the very least, he sounds optimistic.
“This part of my life story is good,” he confesses, “because it’s part of this epic story, which started with The Staple Singers, which starts again with the story of music, and the story of the manipulation, and the kind of outright dilution of the spirit, the capturing of the spirit, the marketing of the spirit, the death of the spirit, the reawakening of the spirit — not only personally, but as a community. That we’re no longer going to be used as little pawns, some pathetic little political bullshit game. Because we hold the keys, something way more powerful, it’s just that, if you don’t realize you got the keys, then you don’t realize you got the keys, you know what I’m saying?”
Stream the full episode below.
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