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 Princess Stomper

Is there really such a thing as selling out?

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If you liked The Verve and weren’t aware of their earlier music, you might be surprised to learn that they used to sound much different. The Verve I fell in love with sounded like this

and became famous for sounding like this

The new sound was very average where before the band was transcendental – especially live. “Where songs used to spiral upwards and outwards, they now simply fizzle tamely,” wrote the NME in 1998. [I might have written somewhat differently in Melody Maker – Ed] The band split up the following year.

Perhaps The Verve are the ultimate example of selling out – even they didn’t like their records. Guitarist Nick McCabe said of Urban Hymns, “By the time I got my parts in there it’s not really a music fan’s record. It just sits nicely next to the Oasis record.”

The band’s bassist Simon Jones agreed: “The Verve were going off in a direction of strings and ballads, and that’s not where I was coming from at all. Loud guitars is it for me.”

After reforming in 2007, the band were offered a multi-album deal, but – in a rare example of when this actually happens rather than the usual bullshit wheeled out by an act nobody wants to touch with a bargepole – they turned it down. They feared the ‘treadmill’ of endless writing, touring and promotion, and wanted to make music because they loved music. In terms of integrity, it was a moment of redemption.

This might have come as a shock to The Verve, but albums aren’t made by little pixies waving magic wands. Whatever dreams are spun of Phase 1: plan to be famous; Phase 3: profit, the reality is more mundane. It’s about deadlines and waiting round in airports and recording each vocal about 200 times, and waiting around in venues and negotiating rates and distribution and promotion.

But it needs to sound like it’s made by little pixies waving magic wands. It needs to be so unearthly and so magical that you couldn’t begin to believe that it was made by ordinary people working a job that is often boring and rarely glamorous.

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