Verve Frontman Dusts Off Old Rolling Stones Legal Battle: ‘I’m Coming for That Money’
Former Verve frontman Richard Ashcroft said he was determined to take advantage of changes in the music industry to launch a fightback against the legal dispute over the band’s 1997 track “Bitter Sweet Symphony," and criticized the Rolling Stones for their lack of action in the episode.
The track prominently features a sample of the Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra’s instrumental cover of “The Last Time” by the Stones. Allen Klein’s ABKCO organization, owners of rights to the Stones’ catalog, claimed the Verve had exceeded the usage agreement over the sample, and wound up owning the majority of “Bitter Sweet Symphony,” with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards added to the songwriting credits before Ashcroft, who ended up with just $1,000 for his work. When the song earned an Emmy nomination, it was listed as a Rolling Stones composition.
“I’m coming for that money,” Ashcroft said in a new interview with Consequence of Sound. “Someone stole God knows how many million dollars off me in 1997, and they’ve still got it. … I don’t care where you come from, that’s a serious matter.”
He said of Allen Klein Jr., who now runs ABKCO, “You know, when his dad was around people could intimidate people by being a gangster in the music industry. Unfortunately, anyone who takes over that business, we now live in a world where anyone can be a gangster. … Everyone’s a gangster. So, there’s no gangster fucking attitude anymore. There’s no fear with this shit, with, like, some big figure. … It makes me laugh when I hear about these big managers from the ‘70s and stuff. It’s like, ‘Get out of here. You wouldn’t last five minutes,’ these guys now.”
He said his message to ABKCO was, “Wow, you’re bold. You are bold motherfuckers. You don’t even put the song on your website, you’re so damn ashamed of it.” "They’re just like a legacy from a guy who came from another era, who managed to somehow take away 50 per cent of one of the greatest songs of all time from its author, and get away with it for 20 years,” he noted.
Ashcroft said the Stones should have been able to stand up to ABKCO themselves, describing the band as owning “a super-fucking big Mack truck and they don’t even want to turn left and run over the bug.” Explaining why he was speaking out now, he said, “Basically, something happened a few weeks ago, and I’m like, ‘Okay, I get it. I understand what’s necessary now,’ I realized, I filtered it down what happened back in ’97, filtered it down to its raw essence – a gangster stole 50 percent of something that’s worth at least $100 million already. So, you know, I’m never going to forget that.”
He also pointed out that “Money Money,” a song from his new solo album Natural Rebel, was partly inspired by his “Bitter Sweet Symphony” experience. “Just harness that for yourselves," he said to ABKCO executives. "Get in your nice car that my song probably bought, and on the way back to see your ‘yoga guru.' Just check out the end of that album and think about stealing $50 million off a guy, and that that guy is still alive.”