A Song That Reminds You of Someone: “Bitter Sweet Symphony,” The Verve (1997)

Task 5 on the “30” Day Music Challenge — A Song That Reminds You of Someone

Before I get into who this song reminds me of (and why), I’d like to offer this little ditty — whose “best part” comes from The Rolling Stones by way of record producer Andrew Loog Oldham — a bit of a superlative. I maintain that this song’s employment in the 1999 instant classic Cruel Intentions (yeah, that’s right) represents one of the best-ever uses of music in film.

Picture it (MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT 15 years later): Ryan Philippe’s character (Sebastian) has suffered death-by-New-York-City-taxi-cab.  The only girl he ever truly loved, Annette (Reese Witherspoon) has gotten revenge on Sebastian’s despicable stepsister, Kathryn (played brilliantly by Sarah Michelle Gellar). The song comes in ever-so-quietly at 0:17 in the clip below and swells as Kathryn’s world begins to unravel in epic fashion. A single tear falls. And shortly before the credits roll, we cut to Annette, who has taken to the streets in Sebastian’s vintage Jaguar, having lost love but gained strength.  You know you want to see it:

But that’s not why I’m here. Why I’m here is to explain why this song reminds me of my friend Katie. Katie and I met in 2001 on a blind-friend-date (to keep the story brief, I’ll say that a friend of mine knew her from college and put us in touch when I moved to St. Louis). Together we have shared many adventures, big and small, more than bottle of screw-top wine, and millions of laughs. But for the better part of a decade, her ringtone on my phone has been “Bitter Sweet Symphony,” because of this one fleeting and seemingly inconsequential moment we shared.

Katie and Me … Several Years Ago, OKAY.

It was a fall (I think?) afternoon in St. Louis, and we were taking advantage of that sliver of time in the city — after the stifling humidity of summer and before the cruel Midwestern winter sets in — by enjoying a coffee outdoors. Sitting there minding our own business, we hear this song coming our way, growing ever-louder. A red convertible Jaguar (ironically) pulls up to the coffee shop, parallel parks, and the driver hops out. LEAVES IT RUNNING — in the middle of the city — and saunters in to grab a latte. Meanwhile, The Verve is just blasting away.

So we totally stole the car.

In actuality, we sat there with WTF expressions, laughed at the absurd douchery of it all, and continued to enjoy our afternoon. It was absolutely a nothing moment, and yet it has stuck with me. And whenever I hear those opening strings, I’ll think of Katie, and the great friendship we share.


3 thoughts on “A Song That Reminds You of Someone: “Bitter Sweet Symphony,” The Verve (1997)

  1. Just the other day, I found out that the Verve had to forfeit ALL its royalties from this song to the Rolling Stones because they sampled *too much of the Stones’ song in this one.

    • Yeah. This makes me really sad for some reason. I think they had a few other hits across the pond, but to be a true one-hit wonder (Stateside) and not yield ANY monetary reward? Bully to that.

  2. Which is weird; the background music is not even by the Rolling Stones, but by a conductor who arranged a song by the Rolling Stones. And the foreground words and melody have nothing to do with the Rolling Stones.

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