What Is The Verve's The Drugs Don't Work About?

5 March 2018, 16:20 | Updated: 27 March 2018, 18:15

The Verve - The Drugs Don't Work


As we kick off this year's Best Of British vote, we look back at one of Richard Ashcroft's most moving tracks.

The Verve's Urban Hymns stands out as one of the most important British albums of all time, with arguably almost every track reaching sonic perfection.

From it comes the emotive and string-filled ballad, The Drugs Don't Work, which no doubt could be up there with some of the most memorable British singles ever. 

Remind yourself of its video above.

The Verve Urban Hymns artwork

Written by frontman Richard Ashcroft in 1995 and released on 1 September 1997, the track itself has been known to reduce The Verve fans to tears- which perhaps isn't that surprising when thinking about its origins...

Speaking about the track in 1995 to Select magazine, Ashcroft is quoted as saying: "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."

Though then it seemed to be about recreational drug use, the track has since been linked to both the death of his father - who died from a blood clot when he was just 11 years old - and his wife's Kate Radley's father, who died of cancer.

In fact, some sources even claim the song was written by his father-in-law's bedside- with the most compelling lyrics to support this claim being: "And I hope you're thinking of me/As you lay down on your side" as well as "Now the drugs don't work/They just make you worse/But I know I'll see your face again".

Revisiting the lyrics with this reading, it's impossible not to take on the heartache of losing a loved one. 

Now the drugs don't work

They just make you worse

But I know I'll see your face again

Though clearly not inspiring the song, the shocking death of a member of The Royal Family just before the song's release date can perhaps be attributed to why it connected with so many, and gave the band their only chart-topping single. 

Released just one day after Princess Diana died on 31 August 1997, it captured the spirit of the nation before Elton John released his re-working of Candle In The Wind 13 days later.

Do you want to vote for The Drugs Don't Work as your Best of British track?

Watch as Ashcroft explains why he doesn't play every Verve track:
Lead photo credit: Jon Mo