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Saturday, February 7, 1998 Published at 17:07 GMT


Profile: The Verve claim their place in pop history

For a band who broke up three years ago, The Verve are alive and kicking. Richard Ayers tracks the history of a band with 'A Northern Soul'.

The Verve have been described by Oasis's Noel Gallagher as "one of the most important bands in history".

Yet in 1995 they split up and had no intention of reforming.

Now they are in vogue, and among the trophies. Their album 'Urban Hymns' has been at the top of the UK album chart for months and they are looking forward to an even better 1998.

Whatever happens, frontman Richard Ashcroft is philosophical: "I don't think we're ever going to achieve what we want to achieve. It would be impossible, but that's the point - to aim further."


They were formed in 1990 in Wigan in Lancashire. The line-up was Richard Ashcroft (vocals, guitar), Nick McCabe (guitar), Simon Jones (bass) and Peter Salisbury (drums).

In September 1991, then called just Verve, they signed to Hut Records, and within a year had three number one singles on the UK's independent chart. In June 1993 they released their first album 'A Storm in Heaven'. It was then they got a visit from an American jazz label also called Verve, which insisted they change their name, and so the band became The Verve.

In autumn 1994 they released 'A Northern Soul' - from which they released three more singles - 'This is music', 'On Your Own' and, in September 1995, 'History'.

Then, just as they were gaining commercial and critical recognition, they split up.

Richard Ashcroft put the split down to his falling out with guitarist Nick McCabe. While they were apart he started writing new songs and contacted the other members of the band. He added in guitarist and keyboard player Simon Tong, and finally got in touch with McCabe - and The Verve reformed.

Ashcroft said: "Relationships can sometimes get a bit strained, especially when you're going in to make a record like 'A Northern Soul' to come out of it without being a little bit tainted is pretty difficult. There's such a great atmosphere now amongst the band - I was in the studio at three in the morning the other night and we were all rocking 'cause we were creating great music and that's all we've ever wanted."

[ image:  ]
Their first single after reforming, 'Bitter Sweet Symphony', entered the UK chart at number 2 on June 22 and stayed in the chart for three months. It became the anthem of the summer of 1997.

Their first number one single, 'The Drugs Don't Work', was released on 1st September 1997, and paved the way for the award-winning third album 'Urban Hymns'. Then the release of 'Lucky Man' in November followed a US tour and preceded a return to gigging in the UK in 1998.

Slow climb to the top

Ashcroft said that despite their slow climb to the top, he always knew The Verve would become one of the biggest bands of the 1990s.

He said: "Northern bands were almost killed off after the Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses. Finally it's like here's another set of lads making music and passionate about it, and believing we can make it to the top. Saying you're going to be the biggest isn't boasting, it's saying to other people who are picking up guitars, that if you aim your sights high and believe in it, it'll happen".

Backed by Oasis

Oasis and The Verve have a strong bond of friendship and respect.

[ image: Oasis paid tribute to their friends]
Oasis paid tribute to their friends
The bands first met about four years ago when Noel Gallagher went to see The Verve playing. He gave Ashcroft a demo tape with 'Live Forever' on it - and Ashcroft was hooked. Shortly afterwards, they asked Oasis to open for them on their UK tour.

Three years later, the favour was returned when the Gallaghers asked The Verve to support them at their Earl's Court gigs.

Noel Gallagher told BBC Radio: "Richard's a genius and the rest of the band are superb musicians. The Verve gave us a leg-up in the early days - they were one of the first bands willing to take us out on the road because we were a bit mad, a bit good and we've ended up being really close friends and it's nice for us to repay the favour."

Ashcroft believes his band were not eclipsed by Oasis: "We did three nights in front of 20,000 people a night because it was a celebration of music, as friends. The Verve weren't going on to support Oasis - they went on to shake 20,000 people's heads to bits and I think that proves how strong Noel and Liam and Oasis are, the fact that they let The Verve go on before them."

Awards come tumbling in

In last month's NME Awards - previously known as the Brats - they got four gongs: best band, best single and best music video were awarded by readers of the NME and the music paper's staff also voted 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' best single.

However, they refused to take the stage to accept the statuettes, preferring to have them delivered to their table. Ashcroft said he was there because it had been music fans, not record industry figures, who had voted: "I think any other award system is an absolute farce, but I'm happy to be here to represent the people who voted for us. I know there's people out there who have put a cross on a piece of paper and I say thanks a lot to everyone who voted for us."

The future

The Verve are set to play their biggest show in their hometown at the end of May. The band will play to up to 33,000 people at Haigh Hall just outside Wigan on May 24th.


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