The Verve Singer's 'Cosmic' Encounter With Oasis' Noel Gallagher

Verve Singers Cosmicencounter With Oasisnoel Gallagher

NEW YORK -- Some might say that a chance meeting by Oasis mastermind Noel Gallagher and The Verve's main brain Richard Ashcroft -- arguably Britain's two most important songwriters at the moment -- in one of the biggest cities in the world is a giant coincidence.

But not Ashcroft. He described their run in in the Big Apple (pop. 7 million) on Sunday as a cosmically appropriate convergence of two creative souls headed along a similar path.

'I met him yesterday for a Guinness -- we just bumped into each other,' Ashcroft said, sitting down with bandmate Simon Jones Monday for a beer at the West Village's Cafe Bistro.

'When we see each other it isn't just mutual backslapping,' said Ashcroft,

26, a longtime pal of Gallagher. 'It's about really making dreams real,

making your beliefs beyond belief. It's inspirational.'

Though they've yet to match the mega-success of their former tour partners

in Oasis, bassist Jones vows unabashedly that The Verve will do just that.

And with their new single 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' -- already a monster hit

in the U.K. and landing at #32 with a bullet this week on Billboard 's modern rock charts -- The Verve are poised to make their move.

Dropped into playlists among the current ska revival or residual summertime

hits from Smash Mouth and Sugar Ray, 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' seems to have come from leftfield. On first listen the song sets to pricking listeners' ears

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with its massive drum beat set behind an infectious string refrain, which,

the band hastens to note, they composed themselves. (The orchestral bit

that they sampled sans permission from a symphonic Stones album -- which

threw them into legal hot water with copyright owner Allen Klein -- lays in

the song's background.)

In front of the band's aural majesty, singer and guitarist Ashcroft sings

about life itself as being a 'bitter sweet symphony,' confessing his wish 'to

hear some sounds that recognize the pain in me.'

Ashcroft, never one for false modesty, said the band was struck immediately

by the song's brilliance. 'We knew we had never heard anything like that

before in our lives,' he said. 'That feeling sometimes makes you elated, then you're excited. But other times it can be quite frightening, because once you are stepping in those places -- places where no other footprints have been before... Not many musicians step in those places anymore. But the song's beyond us, and it has to be out.'

'I've been doing this for seven, eight years of my life,' added Simon, 25,

'and when we were in the studio -- because I know what good music sounds

like -- I knew it was fucking amazing. I knew it was going to do well in

England, but then you see it going on all over the world.'

The success of 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' -- along with its follow-up, 'The Drugs Don't Work' and Urban Hymns , the album that debuted this week on the Billboard charts at #63 -- has freed The Verve to focus more intently on their art, according to Ashcroft. Does that mean we shouldn't expect the band to be destroying hotel rooms on its upcoming American tour?

'I couldn't rule anything out,' he joked before returning to his more

serious side. 'You don't think of [Beach Boy] Brian Wilson [destroying hotel rooms] when he was making Pet Sounds -- although obviously he frolicked around a bit. But I'm sure

99.9 percent of his time around that period was spent thinking,

instructing, composing, creating music. We're talking about the same thing

here. We now know we have something. We ain't gonna go out and abuse it


What they are going to do is to keep on making albums at a rate that many big bands don't these days. The songwriter said The Verve already have their next album written, but

declined to discuss song titles or sounds. 'All I'll say is look, the

songs are gonna get better,' said Ashcroft. 'Sonically we're gonna get better. It's

another giant step.' [Thurs., Oct. 9, 1997, 9 a.m. PDT]