What is The Verve's The Drugs Don't Work about?

22 April 2019, 12:48 | Updated: 22 April 2019, 12:51

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 achieving 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.

Richard Ashcroft onstage with The Verve in 1998
Richard Ashcroft onstage with The Verve in 1998. Picture: Ben Curtis/PA Archive/PA Images

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.

Watch as Ashcroft explains why he doesn't play every Verve track: