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When The Verve captured the mood of a nation

The top ten this week in 1997


The Verve

The Verve

The Verve

'The Drugs Don't Work', from the pen of Verve frontman Richard Ashcroft, was released on September 1, 1997, the day after the death of Princess Diana in a Paris crash.

As the UK and wider world mourned, the public connected with the string-filled ballad, giving the Verve their first (and only) number one hit in their native land.

Three months earlier the Verve's classic 'Bittersweet Symphony' had fought a losing battle for the No. 1 spot with 'I'll Be Missing You', Puff Daddy and Faith Evans tribute to Notorious BIG.

'The Drugs Don't Work', the second single from the Verve's third album 'Urban Hymns', has been the subject of much debate and speculation over the meaning of the lyrics. Ashcroft wrote the song in 1995 and in an interview with Select magazine at that time, he said: "There's a new track I've just written. It goes 'the drugs don't work, they just make me worse, and I know I'll see your face again'. That's how I'm feeling at the moment. They make me worse, man. But I still take 'em. Out of boredom and frustration you turn to something else to escape."

Later, after the release of the single, he told one interviewer: "I wrote that song out of love for someone and that's the way it came out. The thought that your love is predestined and if one of you dies you're destined to meet again."

Whatever the meaning, 'The Drugs Don't Work' is one of the most popular hits of recent decades...on this side of the Atlantic. Number one in the UK and a top ten hit in Ireland and some other European charts, it was never released as a single in the US.

The Verve song had a short reign at the top of the UK charts and it's safe to speculate that it would have been longer but for the arrival of the biggest selling single since the beginning of the chart era. The week after our top ten was published, Elton John's poignant 'Candle In The Wind 1997' tribute to Diana soared to the top, going on to smash umpteen chart records.

One significant chart event of early September 1997 is not reflected in our retro top ten this week. In the week that the Verve cracked No. 1, a rereleased version of Led Zeppelin's 'Whole Lotta Love' was peaking at number 21. Incredibly, for a band who have sold more than 300 million albums worldwide, this remains their only single release in the UK.

1 The Drugs Don't Work The Verve

2 Men In Black Will Smith

3 Tubthumping Chumbawamba

4 Where's The Love Hanson

5 I'll Be Missing You Puff Daddy & Faith Evans

6 I Know Where It's At All Saints

7 Live The Dream Cast

8 Never Gonna Let You Go Tina Moore

9 Even After All Finley Quaye

10 Free DJ Quicksilver

Fingal Independent