don-key work

The Drugs Don't Work

"The Drugs Don't Work" is a song by the British band The Verve and is featured on their third album, Urban Hymns. It was released on 1 September 1997 as the second single from the album, charting at number 1 in the UK Singles Chart, becoming the band's most successful single in the UK. Though the exact meaning of the song is unclear, it is generally believed that composer Richard Ashcroft wrote the song in response to the death of his father to cancer , and is also thought to be influenced by his relationship with his wife, Ashcroft saying in an interview "to me, it's a lovesong".

The song has been covered by Ben Harper on his live album Live from Mars, and has also been covered by Skin. In Australia it was also covered by Grinspoon for youth radio station Triple J's Like A Version CD. Adam Gontier has released a version of this song; it has also been covered by Devorah project on its album Bitter sweet symphony / Drugs don't work (Euro House genre) in the 90's (1996).

The lyrics of the original demo varied from the eventual album track, with the main line changing from "They just make me worse" to "They just make you worse".

The single was also noted during Channel 4's "100 Greatest #1 Singles" programme as unintentionally capturing the spirit of the nation as it was released the day after Princess Diana died.

Music video

The music video for the song starts where the video for "Bitter Sweet Symphony" ends. The band turn around a corner and walk over to a vending machine called 'Feelings'. This is a reference to the song "Life's an Ocean" from The Verve's second album, A Northern Soul, where Ashcroft sings, "I was buying some feelings/from a vending machine" (the same vending machine is also seen on the back of that album). The cover of the machine on the front of the album No Come Down also appears briefly. The rest of the video shows the band indoors, playing the song, partially in black and white. The original concept for the video was to have the band filmed in a maze to illustrate "loss of direction".

Track listings

  • CD1 HUTDG88
  • "The Drugs Don't Work"
  • "Three Steps"
  • "The Drugs Don't Work" (demo)
  • CD2 HUTDX88
  • "The Drugs Don't Work"
  • "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (James Lavelle Remix)
  • "The Crab"
  • "Stamped"
  • 12" HUT88
  • "The Drugs Don't Work" (radio edit)
  • "The Drugs Don't Work" (demo version)
  • "Three Steps"
  • "The Crab"


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