Posts Tagged ‘The Verve’

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From their beginnings, Spiritualized and The Verve were celestial brethren. Both bands formed in 1990, undoubtedly with a mutual love for Pink Floyd’s The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn and an appetite for drug-taking: Jason “J Spaceman” Pierce founded Spiritualized from the ashes of his previous band, heroin-championing trance rockers Spacemen 3, while Verve (then without a “The”), led by the charismatic Richard Ashcroft, was a gang of teenagers that enjoyed trippin’ balls on LSD. They each jammed eternal, though with distinct styles: Pierce favoured extended, pedal-heavy drones, while Verve conceived loose, reverb-soaked grooves. Following the release of Spiritualized’s debut album, Lazer Guided Melodies, and Verve’s debut single, “All In The Mind,” in 1992, the two bands toured the UK together. For the next couple of years, the bands seemed to follow a similar path, on course for cult worship.
Spiritualized has always been and forever will be Jason Pierce. The gaunt, straggly-haired Spaceman as he was called, formed the band in 1990 as Spacemen 3 was crumbling from the result of his acrimonious relationship with paper-thin bandmate Pete “Sonic Boom” Kember, a 24/7 shades wearer with a bowl cut. A lot of it had to do with two songwriters going in different directions and likely drugs, but the presence of Pierce’s then-girlfriend, the Calvin Klein-modelesque Kate Radley, was also to blame. According to Kember, Radley put a strain on band relations by following the band around wherever they played, be it the studio, rehearsal, or gigs. Once the band imploded, Pierce recruited the remaining S3 members, sans Kember, for his new band, Spiritualized. After the release of their debut single, “Anyway That You Want Me,” Radley joined the band on keyboards, adding a face to Pierce’s muse for songs like “I Want You” and “If I Were With Her Now.” After joining in 1991, Radley became as synonymous with Spiritualized as Pierce, appearing in all press photos, sometimes just the two of them. They appeared as a match made in the heaven he so often referred to in his music.

In 1995, Spiritualized added “Electric Mainline” to their name for some reason and released the magnificent Pure Phase, an album of transcendental, cosmic R&B designed to “play loud ‘n’ drive fast.” Verve, meanwhile, was forced to add “The” to their name, thanks to a lawsuit by the record label of the same name. Unlike Spiritualized Electric Mainline, The Verve would stick. They too released an album, A Northern Soul, which followed up their 1993 debut, A Storm In Heaven. Moving on from their early cavernous psych-rock, A Northern Soul was a game-changer. Led by Ashcroft’s emotive voice, Nick McCabe’s virtuosic guitar work, and Oasis producer Owen Morris’ larger-than-life production, The Verve moved into a whole new stratosphere: the mainstream. Although the album is carried by a spirit that is equal parts Floyd and Zeppelin (see the rumbling low-end vibes of “Life’s An Ocean” or the ecstatic rave-up “This Is Music”), it was the ballads, “On Your Own” and “History,” that helped them crack the Top 30 and reveal Ashcroft, now referred to by Noel Gallagher as “Captain Rock,” as one of the UK’s most compelling songwriters.

The Verve had surpassed Spiritualized and entered the big time, but their success was not what caused a rift between the two bands. Instead, it was due to a personal matter. That same month, The Verve released A Northern Soul, Richard Ashcroft married Kate Radley in secret. Yeah, you read that right: Ashcroft, not Pierce, married Radley. This bombshell was kept under wraps until 1997, but for two more years, Radley was still an active member of Spiritualized. In fact, just days after the wedding, Spiritualized headlined above The Verve at the Phoenix Festival in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Neither camp has ever been forthcoming about whether Ashcroft was the cause of Pierce and Radley’s romance ending. Maybe that’s for the best, to let this dog lie and just enjoy all of the music that seemed to be a result of such an ordeal. But in these pre-social media times, this incredible love triangle story managed to transpire without details leaking to the press. Fifteen years after it happened, Ashcroft offered up a rare candid moment to Sirius XM, even accepting blame for her leaving Spiritualized. “I was supporting her band,” he said. “I saw this girl jump off the stage with these boots on, this beautiful little skirt. I’m like, ‘Wow! Who’s that? She’s gorgeous.’ And I’m just so lucky that she was intelligent as well. Such a bloody bonus, guys out there! You really should go for that. But I was very fortunate. People should check out her band, she doesn’t play with them anymore. I probably ruined that!”

The loss of Radley romantically seemed both devastating and inspirational for Pierce. Normally, he would let the songs just come to him, but when he sat down to begin writing Ladies and Gentleman in the summer of 1995, he amassed 14 songs in 11 days. According to then-bandmate Sean Cook, Pierce had been doing heroin, which he seems to corroborate on “Home Of The Brave”: “Sometimes I have my breakfast right off of a mirror.” Other lyrics like “There’s a hole in my arm where all the money goes” (“Cop Shoot Cop”) and “Just me, my spike in my arm, and my spoon” (“Think I’m In Love”) insinuate that he was consuming the brown stuff intravenously. Even for a guy who named an album, Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To , this seemed like a pretty shocking admission.

Of course, in hindsight, it’s Pierce’s romantic anguish and this supposed inability to carry on that makes the album such a gut-punch to hear. The first voice you hear on Spiritualized’s Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space isn’t his, but hers: Radley mutters the album’s titular words completely devoid of emotion. Rumour has it the line was left as a “kiss-off voicemail” for Pierce, though that has never been verified, and seems more like a thing of gossip. Lines like “I’m wasted all the time, I’ve got to drink you right out of my mind” (“Broken Heart”) and “All I want in life’s a little bit of love to take the pain away” (title track) painted a seemingly obvious picture of despair. But Pierce frequently denied that these songs were about his ex. He told MOJO, “If I hadn’t been doing interviews I wouldn’t even have come to that conclusion.” He also downplayed any kind of resentment over Radley leaving him for Ashcroft, telling NME, “I love her dearly and she loves me dearly. Simple fact.

Astonishingly, Radley was still in the band, and is credited with contributing organ, synths, and piano, as well as vocals to the album. However, when it came to gigs, Spiritualized’s PR team claimed she was suffering from a “mystery illness.”

Pierce has said that a lot of the album was recorded spontaneously, and most of what we hear are first takes. So the majority of his time was spent mixing the album, a total of 18 months all ce has said that a lot of the album was recorded spontaneously, and most of what we hear are first takes. So the majority of his time was spent mixing the album, a total of 18 months all together. Originally, he asked Brian Eno to take a crack at it, but he was too busy. And so Pierce began a quest on par with Kevin Shields‘ epic stab at refining My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, to achieve perfection. Some might say he achieved it. Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space might not receive the same godlike praise as Loveless, but it’s every bit warranted. This was one man’s singular vision: an orchestral space rock odyssey complete with blessed gospel choirs, bursts of free jazz noise, swampy blues, and garage rock freak-outs, divulging the pain he’s suffered.
When Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space was released, the press was still unaware of Radley’s marriage to Ashcroft. Pierce was subjected to questioning about their relationship, considering the lyrical content, but no one caught on. And why would they? He was admittedly still living with Radley’s parents at the time. Months later, when the press found out, Radley and Ashcroft became tabloid fodder and their lives became a soap opera.

Pierce did everything he could to deflect any such attention in order to push his masterpiece. Despite no real hit single to boost it, the album was a commercial success, charting at number four in the UK and achieving a considerable breakthrough in the US. The novelty of packaging the CD in prescription pill form complete with a foil blister pack and dosage advice also helped shift a few copies. So did a performance 114 stories high at the top of Toronto’s CN Tower, which was recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the highest gig ever played.

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The Verve, meanwhile, was on the verge of Oasis-level fame. After breaking up (for the first time) in 1995, Ashcroft began working on music he felt would be for his solo album. Instead, The Verve reformed and released the mammoth hit “Bitter Sweet Symphony” in June 1997. (To Pierce’s probable liking, the band was forced to pay 100 percent of the song’s royalties to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards for sampling an orchestral version of the Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time.”) These new, uplifting anthems – perhaps a sign of his domestic bliss with Radley – formed their third album, Urban Hymns.

The Verve may not have survived (they would reform again in 2007 to make a spectacularly shit fourth album, then break up for a third time), but Ashcroft ended up with both the girl and the glory. The drugs may not have worked for him, but selling out sure did. By appealing to the common denominator – which at this time was deemed Noelrock – rather than continue with their cathartic space rock, Urban Hymns became a number one album, selling over ten million copies worldwide and making Ashcroft a rock star in the process.
For the most part, Urban Hymns is still lauded as a modern day classic, but in retrospect, it likely should have been credited to “Richard Ashcroft & The Verve.” That’s certainly how the press treated it. Maybe in 1997, when Britpop was still being touted and Oasis was – in their words: the biggest band in the world – songs like “The Drugs Don’t Work” and “Lucky Man” were candidates for Single of the Week, but two decades later they sure don’t sound much different from this. Maybe finding true love wasn’t the best thing for Ashcroft’s songwriting after all, because things only got worse when The Verve returned in 2008 with Forth.

The same cannot be said about Spiritualized’s Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space. What Pierce created was timeless; an engrossing, uncompromising, and outright masterpiece that critics have never needed to reassess. That might have something to do with the fact that Pierce, unlike Ashcroft, has never strayed far from his original template.
OK Computer that year may have won over the critics, and Urban Hymns may have sold a zillion copies, but Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space is 1997’s true magnum opus. It’s the sound of a man detailing how he lost his heart, body, and soul over the span of 69 spellbinding minutes.

Words thanks To Noisey

The Verve / Urban Hymns super deluxe

 

Remastered • Unheard live audio • B-sides & Remixes • DVD • Vinyl box

Universal will celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Verve’s “Urban Hymns” album in September with a reissue campaign that includes a 5CD+DVD super deluxe edition and a massive 6LP vinyl box set….

All formats feature a remastered version of the album (the work of Chris Potter and Metropolis’ Tony Cousins) and the super deluxe edition box set adds four further CDs offering B-sides, remixes, session tracks, BBC Sessions and two discs of unreleased live performance from the era, including the May 1998 hometown show in front of around 35,000 fans at Haigh Hall, Wigan.

That same show also features on a content-packed DVD, included within the super deluxe, which includes the 1999 documentary The Video 96-98 (unreleased on DVD until now) and promo videos.

As with the Verve box sets from last year this super deluxe includes a 56-page hard cover book, a poster and five postcards. What is different about the reissue of this album is that there is a vinyl box set edition that is very extensive indeed and covers most (not all) of the audio in the CD box across six vinyl records (three gatefold packages). The remastered Urban Hymns is pressed on two LPs, and all the B-sides and remixes are included on two further vinyl records. All 15 tracks from the previously unreleased Live at Haigh Hall fill the final two vinyl records, completing this six-LP vinyl box.

The audio you don’t get in the vinyl box is the BBC Evening Session (CD3 of the box) and the 12 tracks of ‘Further live material’ on CD 5. However, the vinyl box does come with a 20-page booklet and a download card which entitles you to all audio from the super deluxe edition CD box set.

There is a 2Cd edition as well. The second disc is the Haigh Hall live performance, rather than the B-sides and remixes, although the eagle-eyed amongst you might notice that Universal haven’t just repeated CD 4 from the box set. Neon Wilderness is missing (along with the encores) and they’ve added three tracks from the aforementioned ‘further live material’ tracks. Putting this live audio on disc two is probably a good decision, since many fans will have CD singles from back in the day.

thanks to Super Deluxe Edition.

The Verve / Super Deluxe Edition box sets

Multi-disc super deluxe edition box sets of The Verve’s first two albums A Storm In Heaven and A Northern Soul are to be released…first two albums, 1993’s A Storm in Heaven and A Northern Soul from 1995 will both be reissued by Virgin/EMI in September as multi-disc super deluxe edition box sets…

Both albums are remastered by Chris Potter (co-producer of the band’s Urban Hymns) and both of the new box sets feature previously unreleased studio recordings, BBC sessions and various B-sides / extra tracks from the singles of the era.

The super deluxe of A Storm in Heaven is a 3CD+DVD set and includes all the pre-album E.P. tracks, associated B-sides and acoustic versions, as well as two previously unreleased BBC radio sessions and two unreleased studio tracks – South Pacific and Shoeshine Girl.

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The DVD features a 1992 Camden Town Hall concert, the USA promo video for Blue, unseen footage of the band in New York in October 1992 and a video for the unreleased South Pacific, made up from footage of the Sawmills recording sessions as captured by producer John Leckie.

The super deluxe for A Northern Soul is ‘just’ a three-CD set with the audio content following a similar pattern to the aforementioned Storm in Heaven set. So it includes of all associated B-sides and two previously unreleased BBC radio sessions as well as offering an impressive seven unreleased studio tracks, including early versions of The Rolling People and Come On (later re-recorded for Urban Hymns) as well as Mover and Muhammad Ali (both of which would be revisited for the band’s 2008 reunion album, Forth).

Both of the super deluxe editions are in lift-off-lid boxes (presumably like Tears For Fears/Simple Minds) and contain posters and postcards. The booklets feature interviews with the band (but not Ashcroft). The Northern Soul box is covered with silver ‘mirri’ board as per the original 2LP vinyl

Both of these will be issued on 9th September 2016 along with gatefold vinyl editions..

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