“Bittersweet Symphony”, The Verve

Bittersweet Symphony

This song was all over the place in 1998.  There wasn’t anything on the radio or MTV that sounded like it.  A powerful wave of Britpop bands were sweeping the music world, and I was happily caught up in it.  Yes, The Verve totally ripped off the Andrew Loog Oldham orchestral version of The Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time,” but that barely sounded like the Stones’ version anyway.  But the Stones still got 100% royalties from this song once the lawsuit was settled.  But let’s get back to The Verve, shall we?

I didn’t really know anything about them or Richard Ashcroft, but I probably thought he was trying to pull off some Liam Gallagher swagger in the brilliantly simple video for “Bittersweet Symphony.”  I bought the cassette single, and it was one of the songs I played repeatedly as I drove aimlessly through the summer of my 25th year. 


I need to hear some sounds

That recognize the pain in me, yeah

I let the melody shine,

Let it cleanse my mind

I feel free now


I was a quarter-century in 1998.  That seemed so significant to me.  Not old, just momentous in some way.  I laugh at that shit now that I’m 40, but when I drunkenly celebrated my 25th birthday with two good friends I really felt something major.  When I soberly celebrated my 40th with a bunch of friends I had a much better perspective on life and love and fun and what’s really momentous in one’s life.  We’re all fucking stupid when we’re 25.  Some of us are still stupid when we’re 40.  But I’m much happier and more settled than I was then.  I didn’t think this song would give me such an emotional reaction or that it would make me reflect on my younger days and what a mess I was.  But that’s what music does.


You know I can’t change

I can’t change

I can’t change

But I’m here in my mold,

I am here in my mold


And I’m a million different people

From one day to the next

I can’t change my mold,

No no no no no


I’ve changed quite a bit, thank God!  My essence (read: mold) is the same, because that really cannot change.  But when we’re young, we tend to think that the way things are will be that way forever.  So-and-so will always be my best friend!  So-and-so and I will always be my boyfriend!  I’ll always love this band!  I can eat fast food every day!  I can drink myself stupid without missing a beat!  And for many years, these things may be true.  If we don’t change our ways of thinking, we won’t grow.  Being consistent is a good thing in certain situations, of course, but sometimes we’re really just being fucking stubborn.  That’s not always such a good thing.  (And as a Serb, it pains me to say that!) 

When I was much younger I really thought I knew who I was.  I fancied myself quite evolved, quite self-aware for my age.  I certainly had insecurities and anxiety, even depression.  But I still felt like I knew who I was.  But I did lack confidence. 


As a 40-year-old woman, I just don’t give a shit about that stuff.  I am who I am, I look how I look, and I do what I do.  I don’t feel the need to impress anyone.  I don’t give a fuck what people think.  I always thought I didn’t care what people thought, and to a certain extent I didn’t.  But now when I look at all the years I spent as a party girl I can see that I did care.  Not that I cared if anyone thought I was a slut or a drunk or whatever, but I wanted to carve out a certain image, I wanted to be something other than boring.  I always thought my life was so boring, so I wanted to have as much scandal and excitement as possible.  I wanted everyone to know who I was and to envy me and want to be near me.  That’s a fucking ridiculous fantasy.  I lived it for a while, but I do understand how pathetic it was.  I don’t want to judge myself for it, though, because all I was really trying to do was figure out my shit.  


‘Cuz it’s a bittersweet symphony,

This life

Try to make ends meet

You’re a slave to money

Then you die


And now I’m back to being boring.  I work all the fucking time at two dead-end jobs.  I try to have a tiny bit of a social life, but it’s very difficult these days.  I try to not be bitter and angry about the bad shit and the stupid shit.  I have an awesome family, wonderful friends, and I can appreciate great music and literature and food.  Life is pretty damn good most of the time.  I don’t take things for granted like I used to.  Everything’s not exactly how I want it to be.  But it’s still a lot more sweet than bitter.

The Verve

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