Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony

Released in 1997 as the first single from “Urban Hymns” album, “Bitter Sweet Symphony” brought commercial success to The Verve and undeniably remains their signature song to this day. Both the song and the music video received high chart rankings and multiple award nominations throughout the following years including a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best Rock Song in 1999.

“Bitter Sweet Symphony” was also a subject of legal controversy, as the main music theme is based on a sample from orchestral version of The Rolling Stones’ song “The Last Time”. Despite all the rest being original, The Verve lost copyright and all royalties for the song, as well as control of its rotation, which allowed Nike to use it in one of their ads in 1998. While The Verve opposed such type of promotion, it drew even more attention to the song and contributed to the band’s popularity. The song is also notable for its highly recognized music video that received heavy rotation on MTV.

“The music video is an homage to the single continuous shot docu-fiction music video for Massive Attack’s “Unfinished Sympathy” and focuses on Ashcroft lip-synching the song while walking down a busy London pavement, refusing to change his stride or direction throughout (oblivious to what is going on around him)”

— wikipedia.org

“Ashcroft starts walking from the southeast corner of the intersection of Hoxton and Falkirk Streets in Hoxton, North London, subsequently proceeding north along the east side of Hoxton Street. ”

This post is obviously dedicated to locating the filming sites for the music video. Determining the approximate whereabouts was rather uncomplicated, as Wikipedia mentions Hoxton Street in London as filming location. Below you can see the Google Street View of the Start of Richard Ashcroft’s walk. As the street saw many changes in the last 19 years, Street Views from different years were used in this post. The one you can see below is from 2008, when Golden Fried Chicken fast food restaurant was still there, just like it appears in the video.

Ashcroft walks across a narrow brick-paved Path with trash on it.

Convenience store with the Blue Tent is located further on Hoxton Street. The tent was probably replaced with a new one, but the shape and color remained, as you can see below.

Ashcroft climbs over a Car at the intersection of Hoxton and Wilks Place. Note the window grates in the second image behind Ashcroft as he is standing on the car hood.

A little further down the street, by the Hoxton Trust Community Garden, he walks past a Girl. Check out the black lamp post (green in Street View). Some type of scaffolding can be seen on the road. Interestingly, similar objects appear in the Street View.

And here is a twist! It took some time to put location to this frame, as nothing after the park resembled the surroundings seen in the video. The reason is simple. Contrary to the impression you get from the video, the singer is not really following the straight line. In fact, he crosses the road and continues walking in the opposite direction towards the starting point. Note the black Lamp Post and the brick column in the background – definitely looks the same in Street View.

Another shot from the opposite side of Hoxton Street supports the fact of the changed walking direction. There’s a Man laying on the floor by the arched doorway near the building with tiled walls.

Finally, Richard Ashcroft and his bandmates walk away passing by a telephone booth, which is situated right across the street from the point where he started. The booth can still be seen there, next to the same black pipe on the wall. What used to be a short brick column (just right of the booth) now turned into a fence – note the lighter color of the newer layers of bricks.

To recap, here is a map of the part of Hoxton Street that is seen in the “Bitter Sweet Symphony” music video, indicating locations of all the frames from above. The route is 450 meters (0.3 miles) long and apparently takes 6 minutes to walk it with normal pace. Once in London, you can try matching Ashcroft’s pace to finish it within the length of the song (4 minutes 47 seconds). Pushing people around, however, may not go unpunished.

 If you have Google Earth installed and know how to use it, here is a LINK  to the file with a virtual tour. If you have Google Earth installed and know how to use it, here is a LINK  to the file with a virtual tour.

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