I want to state at the outset that I actually like the Rolling Stones. They haven't put out a decent song in over 30 years, but they put out lots of them back in the day. And if I judge Muhammad Ali* by how he fought between '64-'67 and not how he fought against Larry Holmes when he was well beyond washed up and had in fact already been diagnosed with Parkinsons, then I guess I gotta judge the Stones by their prime as well. Fair is fair.
So, again, I hate what happened to Richard Ashcroft because of the Stones, but I don't hate the Stones. Now shall we proceed. 1955
: The Staple Singers record a song called "This May Be The Last time". LINK 1965
: The Rolling Stones record a song called "The Last Time". It's a cover of the Staples Singers song and Keith Richards has acknowledged the same. No royalties from this song were ever paid to the Staples Singers. Apparently they didn't need to get permission to do this song or pay royalties off of it because it was a "traditional song". LINK
"we came up with The Last Time, which was basically re-adapting a traditional Gospel song that had been sung by the Staple Singers, but luckily the song itself goes back into the mists of time."
Andrew Oldham, who was the original manager for the Rolling Stones, creates a musical side project called The Andrew Oldham Orchestra. The Andrew Oldham Orchestra releases an orchestrated version of The Last Time. This "orchestrated version" sounds absolutely nothing like the actual song "The Last Time", and I have no earthly idea why it was branded as a cover song. But don't take my word for it. Listen to it yourself: LINK 1997:
The Verve negotiated a license to sample the Andrew Oldham Orchestra track in their song "Bittersweet Symphony". You read that correctly. The Verve had a license to sample what they sampled. You've heard the song, but here it is again: LINK
Bittersweet Symphony is released and becomes a huge hit. Allen Klein, who was the Stones' manager and the owner of their recordings via his company ABCKO, sues The Verve on the grounds that the song uses "too much" of the sample The Verve had A LICENSE TO USE. The Verve either (a) lacked the resources to challenge the claim in court, or (b) had the shittiest lawyer on the face of the planet. They settled with Klein.
Under the terms of the settlement, 100% of the royalties from the song -- which was a major international hit -- went to Klein. Additionally, songwriting credits were given to Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. Songwriting credits were not given to Andrew Oldham, which blows my mind.
Richard Ashcroft received $1,000 from the song Bittersweet Symphony.
“It must have devastated him, They f–king raped him. And then Keith put more salt in the wound by going, ‘Serves you right for playing with the big boys.’”
The villain in this story is certainly Allen Klein. And when he died, I'm certain there was a spot in hell already reserved for him. But Jagger and Richards weren't exactly angels in all of this either. Ashcroft contacted them personally when all of this was going down, and they basically gave him a "frick you". I'm not sure they could have done much anyway, as Klein was clearly the guy spearheading the operation, but Jagger and Richards knew it wasn't their song that was getting sampled. They knew a young musician was getting fricked right in the arse and wasn't even given the common courtesy of a reach-around. They weren't sweating it.
Has there ever been a bigger screw job in the history of music?
*His momma called him Clay