Host Daryl Easlea opens with a bit of background, saying, “Urban Hymns truly took people by surprise on its release in 1997. The Verve had been known and respected on the scene, and their two albums critical and moderate commercial successes. A Storm In Heaven reached No.27 for a couple of weeks in 1993, and thanks to the group being extensively namechecked by the Gallagher brothers (Oasis supported The Verve on one of their first ever tours), 1995’s A Northern Soul reached No.13 and stayed in the listings for 11 weeks. Both albums were solid performances, yet offered little hint at the size or scale of the success that was waiting for them with Urban Hymns.”
Easlea then expands on the success of Hymns, saying, “The music on Urban Hymns captures a group hungry for recognition. The power and rapture that the group conveyed live needed to be shared with the widest audience possible.
“‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ of course was the album’s keynote, the reason why the album became heard so widely and so loved. The controversy surrounding the use of the sample overshadowed the release but then gave the track greater publicity than it would have had previously. Although the group had cleared the sample with UK Decca, Abkco, Allen Klein’s company and ultimate copyright owner objected and all royalties until the late 2010s were turned over to his company. It was indeed, Bitter-Sweet. The record got the album noticed and played it ways it would never have been, but cost Ashcroft millions in royalties.”
Easlea also takes a look at the less heralded singles that were nevertheless extremely successful and moving. “It was ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ that captured the zeitgeist, topping the charts the week after the shock death of ‘Diana in Paris.’ The song, written about Ashcroft’s father slipping away from cancer, also had that early morning comedown feeling when indeed recreational drugs were wearing off.
“It is a work of great tenderness, and showed Ashcroft’s light, emotional touch that proved why Oasis had written ‘Cast No Shadow.’ Its sweet, acoustic slow build suited the downbeat week in which it was released, and Wil Malone’s string arrangement was sensitive yet not syrupy.”