Richard Ashcroft of The Verve - A tapestry of sonic madness - (Photo: Dean Chalkley)

Richard Ashcroft of The Verve  - A tapestry of sonic madness - (Photo: Dean Chalkley)
Richard Ashcroft of The Verve – A tapestry of sonic madness, a voice of plaintive wonderment – (Photo: Dean Chalkley)

A few years ago I ran an extended excerpt of a concert from The Verve recorded in 1997, during the middle period of the band. A few days later I ran across an earlier session from The Verve, this one from 1993 for the Mark Radcliffe program at the BBC, around the time their debut album A Storm In Heaven was issued. Although the album wasn’t a huge commercial success, it was a massive critical success (produced by John Leckie of Radiohead and XTC fame), and set the wheels in motion for a dramatic boost in the band’s career.

Beginning with a psychedelic sound with their debut LP A Storm in Heaven, by the mid-1990s the band had released several EPs and three albums. It also endured name and line-up changes, break-ups, health problems, drug abuse and various lawsuits. The band’s commercial breakthrough was the 1997 album Urban Hymns, one of the best-selling albums in UK Chart history.The album featured the hit singles “Bitter Sweet Symphony”, “The Drugs Don’t Work”, “Sonnet” and “Lucky Man”. In 1998, the band won two Brit Awards—winning Best British Group, appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in March, and in February 1999, “Bitter Sweet Symphony” was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Rock Song.

Soon after their commercial peak, the Verve disbanded in April 1999, citing internal conflicts. According to Billboard magazine, “the group’s rise was the culmination of a long, arduous journey that began at the dawn of the decade and went on to encompass a major breakup, multiple lawsuits, and an extensive diet of narcotics”. During an eight-year split, Ashcroft dismissed talk of a reunion, saying: “You’re more likely to get all four Beatles on stage.” The band’s original line-up reunited in June 2007, embarking on a tour later that year and releasing the album Forth in August 2008, which spawned the hit single “Love Is Noise”. Amid revived tensions, the band broke up for the third time in 2008 following their final performance together at the V Festival, but the band didn’t disclose this information until 2009.

1994 would prove to be dramatic, with an insane tour schedule and rumors of skyrocketing drug consumption.

But in 1993 things were just taking off and this session catches the band during a particularly formative time.

A little over 20 minutes, it’s classic Verve and a reminder why they were one of the more adventuresome and fascinating bands during that watershed period of the early 90s.

The session is rather loud – but you can crank it up anyway . . . .

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