The Verve (originally called Verve) were formed in the town of Wigan in Lancashire in 1989. Led by British rock singer Richard Ashcroft, the band caused a buzz in early 1991 for their ability to captivate audiences with their musical textures and sonic aptitude. As bandmembers sharing a collective liking for the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Funkadelic, and Krautrock — and a legendary appetite for psychedelics — they were signed to Hut Records and their debut studio release, Verve EP became a critical hit, making an impression with ethereal guitar work by Nick McCabe and psychedelic space rock. The album, featuring the artwork of designer Brian Cannon, came out in fall 1992 and produced the singles "All in the Mind", "She's a Superstar" and "Gravity Grave".
(1993–1994) First album
1993's A Storm in Heaven, the band's full-length debut, produced by Britpop producer John Leckie (both in the UK and the US), was a critical smash, but critical acclamation failed to translate into commercial success.
The early years from left: Nick McCabe, Richard Ashcroft, Peter Salisbury, Simon Jones
The second single, "Slide Away", topped the indie rock charts. The band played at the alternative rock festival, Lollapalooza, in 1994. The tour was disastrous for the group as Ashcroft was hospitalised for dehydration caused by overdosing with Ecstasy, and Salisbury was arrested for destroying a hotel room in Kansas. After the tour, the Jazz label Verve sued the band for copyright infringements and forced the group to officially change their name to The Verve.
(1995–1996) Turbulent recordings and a breakup
The turmoil continued well into the recording sessions of the follow-up album, 1995's A Northern Soul. The sessions started off well; McCabe even called the first three weeks of recording the happiest in his life (due to the massive intake of Ecstasy). However the rampant drug abuse and the strained relationship between Ashcroft and McCabe during the sessions took its toll on the band. Richard Ashcroft later described the recording experience as "Four intense, mad months. Really insane. In great ways and terrible ways. In ways that only good music and bad drugs and mixed emotions can make".
The band departed from the neo-psychedelic sounds of A Storm in Heaven and focused more on conventional alternative rock. The singles "This Is Music", "On Your Own", and "History" all reached the UK Top 40. The latter two singles were particularly new for the Verve as they dabbled with soulful ballads.
Around this period, Oasis guitarist and friend of Ashcroft, Noel Gallagher, wrote the classic "Cast No Shadow" for the troubled front-man. The song can be found on the album (What's the Story) Morning Glory?. Ashcroft returned the gesture by writing the title song "Northern Soul" for Noel Gallagher.
Album sales were once again disappointing and Richard Ashcroft broke up the band 3 months after its release in July.
(1997–1998) The height of fame
Ashcroft reunited the group just a few weeks after the breakup, but McCabe refused to rejoin the line-up. As a replacement, the band chose old Wigan schoolmate Simon Tong to fill in the lead guitar duties for the remainder of the tour.
Ashcroft, Jones, Salisbury, and Tong went ahead and started writing songs for the upcoming album, with most of 1996 passed through recording sessions. In 1997, Nick McCabe returned to the fold alongside Tong - a crucial moment for the band. With the lineup back together, the group went through a "spiritual" (i.e. full of drug intake) recording process to finish the epic Britpop classic, Urban Hymns. For the first time in their careers, the Verve experienced commercial success. Not only was the album a hit in the UK, but the band also "broke" into the US and much of the rest of the world. The first single from Urban Hymns, "Bitter Sweet Symphony", entered the UK charts at #2. The single reached #12 on the US charts, their highest position ever in the Billboards. The song borrows a reversed looped sample of a symphonic recording of the Rolling Stones' "The Last Time".
ABKCO Music, which runs the Rolling Stones' back catalogue, and which had warned The Verve against using the Rolling Stones sample in "Bitter Sweet Symphony," successfully sued the Verve for 100% of the royalties for "Bitter Sweet Symphony"; further, as a result of the lawsuit, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were given songwriting credits and full publishing rights to the song, which later appeared in a Nike commercial against The Verve's will. Then, as the band was on a tour to promote the album, bassist Simon Jones collapsed on stage. Nick McCabe suddenly pulled out of the tour and decided he couldn't tolerate the constant life on the road any longer.
The band continued with established session guitarist B.J. Cole replacing McCabe but the spark of their return seemed to be deserting them. After two headline performances at the V98 festivals and one at Slane Castle outside Dublin, everything went quiet. Rumours began circulating that the band had called it quits for good. Finally, in April 1999 it was announced that The Verve had split up.
(1999–present) Post-breakup activities
After the band's final collapse, Simon Jones and Simon Tong formed a new group called The Shining as well as working with former Stone Roses-guitarist John Squire on a group that never properly formed. Tong has also appeared as a live replacement for ex-guitarist Graham Coxon in Blur and the additional guitarist for Gorillaz. Nick McCabe has mostly remained quiet after the breakup, although he has recently worked with a few artists, notably John Martyn and Leeds based band, The Music. Besides working with Ashcroft, Salisbury also filled in as the drummer for a UK tour in 2004 for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, when their original drummer briefly left due to alcohol and drug abuse. Salisbury also owns a drum shop in Stockport, England.
(2000-present) Richard Ashcroft solo career
By the time the band finally split, Richard Ashcroft, who had quit taking drugs by the early 2000s, had already been working on solo material accompanied by, among others, the band's ex-drummer Peter Salisbury and B.J. Cole. In April 2000, his first solo single, "A Song For The Lovers", was released and hit Number 3. He debuted with Alone With Everybody (June 2000) and followed it by Human Conditions (October 2002). Recently, backed up by Coldplay, Ashcroft performed "Bitter Sweet Symphony" at the Live 8 concerts on 2 July 2005 at Hyde Park, London. Many felt this would help to revive his solo career and, though receiving mixed reviews, his third solo ablum, Keys to the World (January 2006), peaked at #2 in the UK charts (being kept off the top spot only by Arctic Monkeys' record breaking debut) with the first single, "Break the Night with Colour" reaching #3.