We are all one all the same.
We all know all the know.
We are all in the great wide open.
Once upon a time, there in the 1990s, came some high wired fired British young lads who Saw it and tried to enrapture It in song. And realized that, to fully & completely do so, they needed to nick a five-note sample from a thirty-year-old Rolling Stones tune, “This Could Be The Last Time.”
So, dutifully, they wrote off to Allan Klein—not a musician at all, but just a money-grubber. Who, alas, nonetheless exclusively held the copyright to all pre-1971 Rolling Stones songs. Because the Stones, back then, were on drugs. And Klein was not. Klein, then, as always, was only on money. And so he then stole it—money—in the form of their songs, from the drugged-out Stones.
Anyway. Permission was in the event granted by Klein, to these humble supplicants of British young lads (known collectively as the Verve), to sample five notes from “Last Time.”
And all then seemed very fine and every.
But then the song the Verve, those humble supplicants of British lads, infused into the five notes from “Last Time”—a song monikered by the Verve boys “Bittersweet Symphony”—became a truly massive hit.
To wit: it made money.
Lots and lots of it.
And so Allan Klein therefore roared forth with phalanxes of lawyers, and decreed the Verve kids had used the five-note sample “too much” . . . and so he wanted all of their money. Every penny. And soon succeeded in buffaloing this band of young kids, who knew of the music biz nothing, into signing over every cent they got, or would ever get, from their “Bittersweet” song.
Though in truth, the five-note sample employed by the kids in the Verve, was not actually from the original Stones song, but instead pulled notes forth from an orchestral version of “The Last Time,” produced and released a bit after the appearance of the Stones song, by Andrew Loog Oldham.
Further, Oldham himself didn’t come up with the five notes.
Whitaker would, much later, work with the producer of the band (The Verve) that got sued, and liked him. And said the whole Klein-theft thing was, in his opinion, a sick-making shame.
“The whole thing just makes one a bit sick, really.”
That was his—Whitaker’s—”high string line,” that he had created, that the Verve used, that Klein used to rake in, to himself, all the money.
But Whitaker had no say. And got none of the money that flowed to Klein.
Keith Richards, he also was truly disgusted. It was his band. But he also got none of the Klein money.
I’m out of whack here. This is serious lawyer shit. But if The Verve can write a better song, they can keep the money.
They wrote a better song, the Verve. Keith knows that. And so do we.
For even more irony, the Stones song itself—”This Could Be The Last Time”—is said by bitter grousing black folk to have been stolen from the earlier tune “This May Be The Last Time,” recorded by The Staple Singers in 1955.
Richards himself freely admits that he was “inspired,” for the Stones’ “Last Time,” by that very Staples song: “We came up with ‘The Last Time’, which was basically re-adapting a traditional gospel song that had been sung by The Staple Singers. But luckily the song itself goes back into the mists of time.”
And now is here where we will trip through each of these songs.
Here is the ’90s hit, “Bittersweet Symphony,” from the Verve.
A song that really connected with people. Really strongly. And still does. When people come across it on YouTube, for example, they write things like:
Ever heard a song on a radio and no matter how much you tried to describe it people had no clue who or what it was, and you hear it on some ones playlist and it passes, then you realize that the reason why seven years ago people laughed at you for hearing music that didn’t exist and you ask that person to play it again and you ask them what it is, and it’s this holy fuck awesome song and it’s melody and lyrics Jesus, and that symphony and you straight up kiss the girl who told you and yes I got smacked but it was worth it, and now it was our wedding song and we’re expecting our second child next April.
Here is the orchestral Oldham version, where Whitaker pulled from the ether the “high string line”:
Here is the Stones version:
And here are the Staples:
From “Bittersweet Symphony,” the Verve got no money. The members of the Stones got no money. David Whitaker, who unspooled from the ether the Universal Right high string line, he got no money. The Staples—black people—for fuckin’ sure, they got no money.
All the money went to Allen Klein. A tone-deaf music-less fuck who would—and did—rob even dead and dying people: this man once lashed into jail for defrauding Biafran babies, dying with flies crawling on their eyes, through ripping off UNICEF, and the Concert for Bangladesh.
Irony central—in that all of the money of their art stolen from a man of no art—in the lyrics of the Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” itself:
’cause it’s a bittersweet symphony, this life
try to make ends meet
you’re a slave to money, then you die
But that is not why the song rings in the heads of hundreds of millions.
It rings instead for whirls like this:
well i never pray
but tonight i’m on my knees
i need to hear some sounds that recognize the pain in me
i let the melody shine let it cleanse my mind
i feel free now
There you go. People of the karass. Verve. Didn’t get paid? Join the club. May be scrabbling on the street, but afire in your mind that, people hearing your art, say things like: “one of those songs your soul always knew”; “HOLY SHIT I FINALLY FOUND THIS SONG AND IT’S BY COMPLETE ACCIDENT OMFG I’VE BEEN LOOKING ALL OVER FOR THIS FOR YEARS I AM SO HAPPY RIGHT NOW HOLY CRAP!”; “Oh. My. GOSH!! I found it! Finally!”; “ever hear a song that just stops you in your tracks, and no matter what you are doing it’s not as important as the song?”; “this is the song my bridesmaids walk down the aisle to”; “I will have this played at my wedding and funeral”; “everything is amazing, yes, make it endless”; “I quit my job while this was playing”; “i love you”; “this is a masterpiece approved by god”; and “well, I thought I was going to bed . . . .”
Didn’t get no money? Yeah, well, true art is positively allergic to money. Pure accident, when the two come to meet. You, with “Bittersweet Symphony,” you young boys, you seared souls. No amount of “money,” can ever match that.
Downhill from there?
So what. You’re artists.
As Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia, they did pull from the ether:
All the years combine
They melt into a dream
A broken angel sings
From a guitar
In the end there’s just a song
Comes crying up the night
Through all the broken dreams
And vanished years
When all the cards are down
There’s nothing left to see
There’s nothing . . .
And broken dreams
In the end you hear that song
Come crying like the night
Down every lonely street
That’s ever been
I’ve stayed in every blue-light cheap hotel
Can’t win for trying
Dust off those rusty strings just one more time
Gonna make ’em shine
It all rolls into one
And nothing comes for free
There’s nothing you can hold
For very long
And when you hear that song
Come crying like the wind
It seems like all this life
Was just a dream
A. An owl in a wasp’s nest.
B. The next step is 1917.
C. Why can’t painting be done from inside the canvas?
G. It is all-important to know how you hold your hands in sleep.
I. What crisis do you speak of? The gesture of fruit is not timid.
He quick and unseemly learns what he knows before his head gets around to it.
The shapes must be mutilated . . . it is holes not blocks we need.
It is exciting to think of keeping the secret from the secret.
—Kenneth Patchen, The Journal Of Albion Moonlight