First recorded (as “The Last Time”) by The Rolling Stones (US #9/UK #1/IRE #2 1965).
Based on “This May Be the Last Time” by The Staple Singers (ca. 1954).
Also recorded (instrumentally, as “The Last Time”) by The Andrew Oldham Orchestra (1965).
Hit version by The Verve (US #12/UK #2 1997).
From the wiki: “‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ is a song by English alternative rock band The Verve, and is the lead track on their third studio album, Urban Hymns (1997). It is based on former Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham’s orchestral version of The Rolling Stones’ song ‘The Last Time’ from which the Verve samples the main theme.
“The sampling, and the extent to which it was used, would later involve The Verve in legal controversy. Oldham had produced his hobby-project album, The Rolling Stones Songbook, in 1965 by recording orchestrated instrumental versions of several popular Stones melodies. Oldham’s production of ‘The Last Time’ was the only take on Oldham’s album not immediately recognizable by comparison to the original Rolling Stones recordings.
“In 1997, former Rolling Stones business manager Allen Klein, whose company ABKCO Records owns the rights to all Rolling Stones material from the 1960s, sued The Verve for sampling Oldham’s ‘The Last Time’ in ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’. The Verve had obtained the requisite permissions and license to use the sample, but Klein successfully argued in court that the band used more than what the license covered.
“At first a 50/50 deal was closed, but the more The Verve hit grew, the greedier ABKCO got. Soon, Klein wanted 100% or would have the record banned from all selling points. This led to Oldham, who owns the copyright on the orchestral rendition sampled, also suing The Verve. Verve member Richard Ashcroft’s bittersweet comment: ‘This is the best song Jagger & Richards wrote in 20 years.’ Ironically, although ‘The Last Time’ is credited to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Richards has mentioned that it was based on a traditional gospel song called ‘This May Be The Last Time’, recorded by The Staple Singers ca. 1954.
“Regarded as The Verve’s signature song and one of the defining tracks of the Britpop era, ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ has been featured in best-ever song polls: In 1998, BBC Radio 1 listeners voted it the third Best Track Ever; in 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it #392 on their list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time“; in 2007, NME magazine placed the song at #18 in its list of the 50 Greatest Indie Anthems Ever.”
The Staples Singer, “This May Be the Last Time” (ca. 1954):
The Andrew Oldham Orchestra, “The Last Time” (1965):
The Verve, “Bitter Sweet Symphony” (1997):