The Verve was an English rock band formed in 1990 in Wigan by lead vocalist Richard Ashcroft, guitarist Nick McCabe, bassist Simon Jones, and drummer Peter Salisbury. Simon Tong later became a member.
The group was signed by Hut Records in 1991 and their first studio releases in 1992, "All In The Mind,” "She's a Superstar,” and "Gravity Grave," along with their December 1992 debut EP “Verve,” saw the band become a critical success, making an impression with freeform guitar work by McCabe and unpredictable vocals by Ashcroft. The first three singles reached the #1 on the U.K. Indie chart, and "She's a Superstar" entered the U.K. Top 75 Singles chart. The band also saw some support from these early days in the United States.
1993's “A Storm in Heaven” was the band's full-length debut, produced by esteemed record producer John Leckie. "Blue" was released as the lead single and again managed to enter the U.K. Top 75 at #69 and reached #2 in the Indie chart. The album was a critical smash, but was only a moderate commercial success, reaching #27 on the U.K. Albums chart that summer. The second single from the album, "Slide Away,” topped the U.K. Indie Rock chart.
In 1994, the band released the album “No Come Down,” a compilation of b-sides plus a live version of "Gravity Grave" performed at Glastonbury Festival in 1993. It was the band's first release under the name “The Verve,” following legal difficulties with the jazz label Verve Records.
1995's “A Northern Soul,” was produced by Owen Morris and saw the band depart from the neo-psychedelic sounds of “A Storm in Heaven” to more conventional alternative rock, with Ashcroft's vocals taking a more prominent role in the songs, although reminiscent of some of the early work. The band released the album's first single "This Is Music" and it reached #35, making it their first single to reach the Top 40. It was followed by "On Your Own" which performed even better, reaching #28. The album reached the U.K. Top 20 upon its release in July, but Ashcroft broke up the band three months later, just before the release of the third single "History," which reached #24 in September 1995.
Ashcroft reunited with Jones and Salisbury just a few weeks after the breakup, but McCabe did not rejoin them. The new band hired former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, but he spent only a couple of days with the band. The band then chose Simon Tong, a school friend credited with originally teaching Ashcroft and Jones to play guitar.
In early 1997, Ashcroft decided to ask McCabe to return. McCabe obliged and with the original lineup back together (Tong remained on guitar alongside McCabe), the group recorded their third album “Urban Hymns” which was completed by early summer. For the first time in their career, The Verve experienced widespread commercial success with their new material. The album's first single "Bitter Sweet Symphony" entered the U.K. chart at #2 in June 1997. The next single, "The Drugs Don't Work" gave the band their first U.K. #1 single in September. The album immediately reached #1 on the charts later that month. The band saw an overwhelming increase in popularity overseas, and "Bitter Sweet Symphony" reached #12 on the U.S. chart, the band's highest ever American showing. The album reached the U.S. Top 30, going platinum in the process. After a fight following a concert in support of the album, McCabe chose to leave the band mid-tour. Once the tour was complete, a long period of inactivity followed. Finally, in April 1999, it was announced that The Verve had split up.
Ashcroft went on to pursue a successful solo career, releasing several solo albums. Tong and Jones formed a new group called The Shining, releasing one album before disbanding. Jones went on to join the band of Irish artist Cathy Davey. Both Tong and Jones collaborated on Gorillaz projects and tours. Tong is also a member of an unnamed supergroup formed by Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz which released its first album “The Good, the Bad & the Queen” in January 2007. McCabe worked in different projects like the London-based Neotropic project and played with some established artists, including John Martyn, Leeds-based band The Music, The Beta Band and Faultline.
Ashcroft had been adamant that The Verve would not reform however, after Ashcroft learned that Salisbury was in contact with McCabe over a possible side project, Ashcroft contacted McCabe and Jones, making peace with them, and the band reformed. Tong was not asked to rejoin, so as to keep the internal issues that split the band up a decade ago to an absolute minimum.
The band's new single, "Love Is Noise,” was premiered in 2003. The band’s new album, “Forth,” reached #1 on the U.K. Albums chart. The lead single "Love Is Noise" peaked at #4 in the U.K. "Rather Be,” the second single from the album, was released in November 2008 and wasn't as peaked at #56 on the U.K. Singles hart.
August 2009 The Guardian speculated that The Verve have broken up for a third time, with Jones and McCabe no longer speaking to Ashcroft as they felt he was using the reunion as a vehicle to get his solo career on track. McCabe and Jones have since started their own project, The Black Ships, along with electric violinist and arranger Davide Rossi and drummer Mig Schillace.