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,
"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
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
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
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.