The Verve, from Wigan in Lancashire, were formed in 1990. The band's line-up was originally Richard Ashcroft (vocals, guitar), Nick McCabe (guitar), Simon Jones (bass) and Peter Salisbury (drums). At the tail-end of 1995, Simon Tong, an old school friend joined the band to play guitar and keyboards.
Richard, Simon and Pete knew each other from Upholland High School and recruited Nick from Winstanley College. Early gigs led writers to describe them as "Gigantic" and "Already immortal" before they had released a record. Those that saw them saw something potentially disconcerting, something inspiring. In a music scene that was waiting for anything to happen, down came Verve. People began to respond.
The band, who signed to Hut Recordings in September 1991, were described as "the liquid essence of rock 'n' roll", and easily met everyone's initial expectations when their first three singles in 1992 - All In The Mind, She's A Superstar, and Gravity Grave - all reached the top of the Independent Charts.
The songs, the sleeves, and even the B-sides were something to behold. Together they demonstrated a vision that was absent from many of their peers. But it was a vision that wouldn't bend for anyone. Live shows saw them literally unplugged by Philistines and, occasionally, simply stopping if they felt that things weren't right. Capricious arrogance perhaps, but if you're sure you're right, where's the sense in going wrong?
They went on to support The Black Crowes, play their first dates in the United States, and release another single, Blue, in May 1993. In June of the same year, the band's debut album, A Storm In Heaven was released. It was a truly ambitious LP, perhaps even a nineties' psychedelic classic, that fulfilled the claims that both the band and the media had been making.
Most of the songs were generated in the studio (Sawmills in Cornwall) with John Leckie and it proved a risk worth taking. For all Verve's charisma, however, they proved too elusive and, quite rightly, engrossed in their own ideals to be caught up in the music business fame machine. As Richard said at the time: "I don't think we're ever going to achieve what we want to achieve. It would be impossible, but that's the point, to aim further."
The United States was next. By September 1993 the single Slide Away was starting to make headway across the Atlantic and this set up the band for a grueling round of appearances on 1994's Lollapalooza spectacle.
Touring on such a scale can do things to a band. You improve but people crack, furniture goes out of windows and arrests are made (it was a bad year legally, not only did Salisbury find himself in a Kansas jail but the band formally known as "Verve" found themselves forced to adopt the "The" at the behest of the irate jazz label's lawyers). But you live and learn and they headed out to Europe in August for more festival hi-jinx and hotel illness.
In November 1994 the stage was set for the second album. What followed was, to quote Richard, "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 record was produced at Loco studios in Wales - with final touches and an orchestra at Abbey Road - by Owen Morris. "We needed a producer who would be extreme", said Richard, "Owen brought his personality to the record. He's the only person I know who can smash a thirty foot window in the studio and then do his job. He admitted he nearly had a nervous breakdown, and I think that's a commendable performance."
The album, A Northern Soul, was released in June 1995 and powerfully demonstrated how accomplished The Verve had become, something which has become even more evident as time has passed.
A Northern Soul has enduring qualities - at once robust and fragile, dense, juicy, melodic, abrasive and freeform - which make it certain to be remembered as one of the defining moments of nineties music. Richard described the album as "one character going through twelve different experiences of pain, elation, sex, loss, romance....all the emotions piled into one album. This is to the point, to the heart and from the soul".
Nick McCabe described the first three weeks of the sessions (which have become semi-famous for the band's enormous intake of ecstasy) to be the happiest of his life. Over time, however, friction started to develop between Richard Ashcroft and McCabe, and after the album failed to become a commercial success, Ashcroft disbanded The Verve (though he reformed it several weeks later). Despite its lack of critical success on its release, the album is now hailed as an underrated classic by the music press.
The singles, This Is Music and On Your Own entered the UK top 40 in the summer of 1995 and History reached hitherto uncharted (no pun intended) territory at Number 24 in September 1995. These were to be the last releases from The Verve for almost two years as the band split after their performance at the T In The Park festival in Glasgow. Richard, Simon and Pete later decided to continue working together, with new recruit Simon Tong, and early in 1997 Nick returned to the fold.
In the time they were away, the extraordinary ambition of A Northern Soul was properly assimilated, with due recognition accorded to The Verve's towering achievement. The band grew in stature, becoming a substantial influence and consequently being used as a reference point by journalists and other bands.
After months of work in Metropolis and Olympic studios in London, The Verve created a groundbreaking chart-destroyer, Urban Hymns, which was not only hailed as the best album of 1997, but one which set the standard for the rest of the nineties. Produced and mixed by the band and Chris Potter, with initial help from Youth, the record saw The Verve achieve the success which had always been within their reach.
The first single (released on 16th June), was the string laden epic Bitter Sweet Symphony which became the defining song of Summer 1997. It entered the UK charts at Number 2 (having been beaten to the #1 spot by "I'll Be Missing You" by Puff Daddy and Faith Evans) and stayed around for three months.
A sell out tour to coincide with the release was postponed due to illness and rescheduled for August 1997. The shows were unforgettable - a true release of energy and passion which ended in a magnificent headlining appearance at the Reading festival.
The Verve's first UK Number 1 single The Drugs Don't Work was released on September 1, 1997. It paved the way for Urban Hymns, one of the fastest selling British albums of all time. A third single, Lucky Man was released in November 1997 (reaching No. 7 in the UK) following a sold out United States tour.
They carried the rest of 1997 in similar style, and in January 1998 they completed a triumphant UK tour and announced details of a huge May show in their hometown of Wigan for 33,000 people.
In 1998, things went sour for The Verve. Nick McCabe decided to quit touring, and the band had to bring in pedal steel guitarist BJ Cole to fill his spot. Of course, nobody could replace Nick, so the reviews of the tour turned out unfavorably. In 1999, after much speculation, The Verve announced once again that they had split.
Richard Ashcroft decided that he would embark on a solo career and was joined by Peter Sailsbury. On June 26, 2000, Alone With Everybody was released on Hut Records reaching #1 in the UK charts. This was followed by Human Conditions on October 2, 2002 through Hut Records and reached #3 on the UK charts. Ashcroft released a third album, Keys To The World, on January 23, 2006 on Parlophone Records which reached #2 on the UK charts (having been beaten by the Arctic Monkeys first LP). This was followed by fourth album RPA & the United Nations of Sound, released on July 19, 2010, entering the UK charts at #20.
Peter Salisbury was not featured on RPA & The United Nations of Sound. However, he has played drums with various additional bands following the demise of The Verve including the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and he owns a drum shop, 'Drummin', in Stockport, England.
Following The Verve's split in 1999, Simon Jones announced that he would join John Squire's (ex-Stone Roses) new band but the project never left the ground. From 2002 to 2003, Simon Jones and Simon Tong announced that they would be working with a new band The Shining, along with Duncan Baxter, Dan MacBean, and Mark Heaney.
Their debut CD True Skies was produced by Youth. Rolling Stone magazine described them as "a transporting mix of hard rock and psychedelia, like Led Zeppelin cavorting with Oasis." The group eventually disbanded after mild success and a lawsuit over their name, which was apparently already taken by a Canadian outfit. In 2004, Jones became an official member of the band around singer Cathy Davey.
On February 10, 2003, Simon Tong joined the band Blur as a live guitarist. A source close to the band emphasized that he was not replacing departed guitarist Graham Coxon as a full-time band member.
Simon Tong's association with Blur frontman, Damon Albarn, has continued since. Tong was credited for providing additional (rather most) guitar-work on a number of tracks on the Gorillaz 2005 album Demon Days. Demon Days entered the UK charts at #1 and the US charts at #6, neatly outperforming the band's 2001 debut, Gorillaz. Since its release, Demon Days has been certified double platinum in the US and 5 times platinum in the UK.
Nick McCabe has worked with various bands from time to time, providing remixes and production work: The Beta Band, Mellow, Faultline, John Martyn, The Music, Witness, The Heavy, and The Nova Saints.
On June 26, 2007, amid no speculation whatsoever, The Verve's reunion was announced by Jo Whiley on BBC Radio 1. In a statement the band stated they were "getting back together for the joy of the music." The original press release read: "The band are to release an album at the end of the summer 2007 which will coincide with a tour in November 2007. The tour starts in Glasgow on the 2nd November, and will include performances at The Glasgow Academy, The Empress Ballroom, and the London Roundhouse."
The band released fourth album, Forth, on August 25, 2008. The album peaked on the UK Albums Chart at number one and at number 23 on the U.S. Billboard 200. Their comeback single Love is Noise debuted in the UK Singles Chart at #5 and peaked at #4 staying 5 weeks in the UK Top 10. It marked a great return for The Verve, charting as their third UK Top 5 single and their fourth to crack the UK Top 10.