The Verve – A Northern Soul

For 1997 The Verve were my favourite band. Yet Urban Hymns, the album they released that year is, of the albums of ’97 I’ve recently written about, the one I’m least compelled to go back and listen to.

Because it was the single ‘Bittersweet Symphony’, the song they released as a single two months before Urban Hymns, that took me in. It was this song, in the period between its release and the release of the album, caused me to devour The Verve’s back catalogue. This was what elevated the band up. It’s an obsession of a band I’m unable to sustain anymore. Perhaps partly it’s to do with the amount of time it needs. In 1997 I wasn’t doing anything – or whatever it was I was supposed to be doing I wasn’t doing – so there was plenty of time. I also had a best friend, Chris, who shared my enthusiasms, and there’s something about a shared obsession that makes the endeavour of immersion deeper, more strongly felt.

It was an intense period and seems to me now to have lasted for only a short time: through the release of Urban Hymns, through seeing The Verve support Oasis on their Be Here Now tour at Earls Court (where Chris and I made ourselves quite unpopular by contesting with anyone who’d get drawn in that The Verve were the better band), and culminating in January 1998 and The Verve’s show in Brixton.


It probably lasted longer, those enthusiasms waning slower than I remember, but it’s that period of seven months that remain.

We loved A Northern Soul. That was the album for me. It was released in 1995 but two years later it still felt like an alternative to the music I was being exposed to regularly. Nick McCabe’s guitar sound was completely different to all the other bands’ guitar sounds who were around at the time; whose guitars sounded like, well, guitars. It’s a guitar noise (what better word for it here?) heard on the song ‘A Northern Soul’, whose beginning, I’m glad to say, still causes goose-flesh twenty years on.

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