According to the Bitter Sweet Symphony Songfacts, the lyrics are a somber look at the ennui of everyday life: "You're a slave to money, then you die."
"Bitter Sweet Symphony" samples an obscure orchestral version of The Last Time , a 1965 song by The Rolling Stones . This was recorded before they got permission from the Stones to use the riff, so the Verve had to sign away most of the royalties from this in order to release it.
'Cause it's a bittersweet symphony, this life
Try to make ends meet
You're a slave to money then you die
I'll take you down the only road I've ever been down