The Verve Break Up; Ashcroft Recording Solo Album

Split was mutual agreement after 'a difficult few months,' bandmembers say.

The Verve -- one of England's most successful rock exports in recent

years -- have broken up after a volatile nine-year career. Charismatic

leader Richard Ashcroft is working on a solo album, while several other

members may continue a partnership under a different name.

The split comes as little surprise to those who have watched the band

struggle through, among other things, a previous break-up in 1995, a

downsized U.S. tour last year minus guitarist Nick McCabe, and legal

wrangling that denied the band royalties from its breakthrough single,

"Bitter Sweet Symphony"

(RealAudio excerpt).

"The decision to split the band did not come without a great deal of

distress to me personally," Ashcroft said in a statement issued by the

band's management company Wednesday (April 28). "I have always given

everything to the band and would have continued to do so if circumstances

had not made it impossible."

Although it offered little insight into the particulars behind the split,

the statement said the band "mutually agreed" to part company following

"a difficult few months for The Verve," which began with McCabe's decision

not to tour with the group last summer. At the time, McCabe cited "the

increasing stress of touring." The lineup was augmented for the tour

by pedal-steel guitarist B.J. Cole and percussionist Steve Sidelynk.

That U.S. outing was meant to capitalize on the success of such songs as

"Bitter Sweet Symphony" and "Lucky Man," both from The Verve's third

album, Urban Hymns. The record, with its sweeping rock sound,

struck a chord with U.S. radio listeners that the earlier, more psychedelic

A Storm in Heaven (1993) and A Northern Soul (1995) had

not.

But the tour was riddled with setbacks.

In the wake of McCabe's announcement that he was staying home, several

dates were moved to smaller venues or cancelled. Trip-hoppers Massive

Attack pulled out of their opening slot in favor of their own headlining

venture.

Earlier in 1998, bassist Simon Jones came down with a viral infection

that forced the group to back out of several European festival concerts.

Jones said in the band statement that he, McCabe and guitarist Simon

Tong would continue to work together, while drummer Pete Salisbury is

lending a hand on an Ashcroft solo album.

"The rest of the band might even work with each other in the future,"

Jones said. "If this happens, it won't be as The Verve."

Ashcroft said he is glad the band has ended speculation about its fate.

"I feel more positive now a decision has been made -- being in limbo

isn't good for the soul," he said. "I can now move forward and put my

energies into new songs for a new album."

Details concerning songs and a release date for that album have not been

revealed. Managers Jazz Summers and Tim Parry were not available for

immediate comment.

This is not the first time the band has broken up. In 1995, Ashcroft

left the group shortly after the release of A Northern Soul. He

blamed "internal problems," which he said were exacerbated by a rigorous

touring schedule and countless nights of drug use.

The Verve were formed in 1990 in the northern-England industrial town of

Wigan. As he watched his friends in Oasis take the British charts by

storm, Ashcroft made no bones about his own lofty intentions to create

the greatest rock band in the world. Some critics saw their sound as an

antidote to the sugary, Spice Girls-y pop that dominated the British

music industry in the late 1990s.

In 1997 Ashcroft said bands should aim to write work that can compete

with the best of the Beatles and Bob Dylan. "You've gotta be head and

shoulders with them, and if you're not, you shouldn't be doing it," he said.

Some have said The Verve are as cursed as the fictitious heavy-metal

band Spinal Tap. They began as simply Verve, but were forced to append

their name with "The" in response to legal action from the U.S. record

label Verve. Ashcroft collapsed from dehydration during a stint on the

1994 Lollapalooza tour.

But the most famous knock came when, after finally scoring a bona fide

hit with "Bitter Sweet Symphony," the band was sued over the song's

sample of an orchestral version of the Rolling Stones' "The Last Time."

The Verve agreed in 1997 to give songwriting credit to the Stones' Mick

Jagger and Keith Richards and turn over publishing royalties to

the Stones' former manager, Allen Klein.

Earlier this year, Andrew Loog Oldham, a previous Stones manager, claimed

he owns the master recording of the sampled song; he is suing The Verve

for royalties and damages.

In Wednesday's statement, Ashcroft saluted the band's fans for their

devotion throughout The Verve's roller-coaster career.

"I would like to thank the fans for their loyal support and their

phenomenal response to Urban Hymns," he said.