25 years ago today, The Verve released their best-selling seminal album ‘Urban Hymns’ which ended up being one of their most recognisable and revered albums and received both critical acclaim and commercial success in equal measure.
Just one year earlier, the band was at breaking point, jaded from touring and in need of some much-needed respite. Frontman Richard Ashcroft needed to decompress and rejuvenate himself, physically, mentally and creatively – a reset was required and this ultimately led to the collection of songs that we now know and love as ‘Urban Hymns’ today and showcased era-defining tracks like ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony, ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’, ‘Lucky Man’ and ‘Sonnet’.
Some have argued that ‘Urban Hymns’ was the epitome of the swan song of Britpop’s cultural hegemony and I think it’s fair to say that the Britpop era was arguably on its way out as the nineties came to an end.
Fancy a deep dive into this incredible album? Take a look at our favourite facts about ‘Urban Hymns’ that you may not have known.
1) There was originally more material that could have been used than was eventually used on the album. Richard Ashcroft had an abundance of material to choose from, but after careful consideration, the 13 tracks on ‘Urban Hymns’ were the ones that eventually made the grade.
2) ‘Sonnet’ was never originally intended as a single – the band weren’t keen. The record label had approached the band wanting a fourth single to be released from the album, but collectively the band didn’t agree and didn’t want to ‘milk it’. As history shows, a compromise was reached and ‘Sonnet’, a powerful and emotive song that truly speaks to your soul was released, but as a limited edition.
3) ‘Urban Hymns’ could well have been a solo album. Richard Ashcroft pondered the idea of creating ‘Urban Hymns’ as a solo project. However, after much reflection, he vetoed that idea and decided to use the body of work for the band’s third album.
4) The album cover of ‘Urban Hymns’ is iconic and was designed by Brian Cannon and was shot in London’s Richmond Park.
5) Liam Gallagher features on this album on two tracks which include ‘Space and Time’ where he provides handclaps. The Oasis legend also contributed backing vocals on ‘Come On’, the final track on the album. Ironically, ‘Urban Hymns’ ended up knocking off ‘Be Here Now’, from the top of the album charts upon the week of its release and spent a total of five consecutive weeks at number 1.
6) There’s a hidden track which comes after the album closer ‘Come On’. You’ll have to wait precisely 6 and a half minutes (easier in the CD days!) but patience is a virtue and some things are worth waiting for, especially when it comes to the secret track, the fantastic ‘Deep Freeze’.
7) ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ never made it to number 1, despite it being one of the most distinguishable and most-loved songs of the decade. It did reach a very worthy number 2 position, but in fact, it was ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ that was the best-selling single from the album which did attain the much-coveted top spot.
‘Urban Hymns’ is a triumph from start to finish thanks to its unabating candour, soul searching and complexity and remains a staple of an era-defining piece of modern British culture. It is quite simply, a masterpiece of exquisite musical vision.