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DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME?

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Back in the early 90s, Pulp were always one of those bands that you would read about in a music magazine every now and again, and depending on the particular journalist, they seemed to get a hugely positive or hugely negative review, whether it be an assessment of their records or the reactions to a live gig. But never really having heard any of their tunes, I was never in a position to make my own mind up. And although they were a band that did seem to divide opinion so much, I was never inclined to find things out for myself.

One day, in my usual fashion, I was watching the ITV Chart Show on a Saturday morning. In the days before satellite telly, there wasn’t all that much music on the box, and the best thing about this particular show was that every three weeks they had an indie chart in which you might be lucky enough to catch 90 seconds of the latest video by Carter USM, Lush, Pop Will Eat Itself or some shoegazing nonsense. I wasn’t paying all that much attention to the rundown one Saturday until about midway through a tune which hit me as something quite unique…..by now I had missed who the band was and what the song was called, but I recognised from the video that the singer was the bloke out of Pulp as I had seen his photo in the music papers a few times.

By the end of the video, I was certain the song in question was called ‘I Want To Take You Home’. I looked for it in a few shops around that time, but with no joy. It must have been the best part of a year later that I then saw another Pulp video on the same show….this time I clocked that it was for a song called Lipgloss. The following week I found a CD album of theirs called His’n’Hers in the second-hand section, so I bought it. About halfway through my first listen, the track I had previously thought was called I Want To take You Home suddenly came through the speakers loud and clear…

I know most folk rave about the quality of Different Class, the 1995 LP that turned Pulp into superstars in the UK, but I’ve a very soft spot for His’n’Hers which I reckon is a better all round record, albeit it doesn’t have the genius that is Common People. It was an act of negligence on the part of the record-buying public that Babies was a flop single on its initial release in late 1992, and I reckon the record label did the right thing with a re-release in May 1994, when they made the track the lead-off on the Sisters EP:-

mp3 : Pulp – Babies (EP Version)
mp3 : Pulp – Your Sister’s Clothes
mp3 : Pulp – Seconds
mp3 : Pulp – His’n’Hers

I don’t know why I never bought this particular EP when it was released – looking back it was a time when I was living in Glasgow in a small flat and travelling to Edinburgh every day to work. Space in the flat was at a premium, there wasn’t a lot of spare cash kicking around, and CD singles/EPs frankly didn’t seem worth the money if you already had the album (I didn’t realise until picking up a second hand copy about a decade ago that it was a re-recorded version).

Oh and here, from a BBC session recorded on 30th May 1992 for the Radio 1 Show, The Evening Session, is another version of I Want To take You Home :-

mp3 : Pulp – Babies (Session)

Enjoy

A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (45)

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON MONDAY 24 MARCH 2008

Not to be confused with Love of The Common People by Paul Young. Nor indeed the cover version that was later recorded by William Shatner.

Common People by Pulp is one of those songs that your instincts tell you the first ever time you catch it that it will become a timeless classic you will never grow tired of. And then you listen more closely as you get more familiar with the song and you realise that there is so much more to it than a catchy ditty that sound great on the radio or coming out of your telly on Top Of The Pops or whatever.

For me, this was the song that propelled Jarvis Cocker from talented but mostly unappreciated wordsmith into the people’s poet. At the time, I thought it was a fantastic bit of imaginary writing, but some years later, Jarvis revealed that the main protagonist was not a figment of his imagination – there really had been some upper-class toff at St Martin’s Art College in London who fancied a bit of rough (I suppose its makes a difference from the usual which seems to be a gap year traipsing round India seeking self-enlightenment).

This is a song that has a great storyline, fantastic lyrics, a catchy tune that you can dance to and an unforgettable sing-a-long chorus. And yet…..

……the version that was best known was the shorter 7″ version which omitted a few lines in the middle of the song when the tempo changed ever so-slightly, including what I reckon are the most telling lyrics:-

‘You will never understand
How if feels to live your life
With no meaning or control
And with nowhere else to go’

Jarvis Cocker’s life was never the same after this. He became a tabloid regular with his outspoken views and acidic one-liners – a genuine working-class hero who captured exactly how so many folk felt after nearly two decades of successive Tory governments in the UK. Then he waved his bum at Michael Jackson at the Brits the following year…….but that is another story.

Released in June 1995, Common People reached #2 in the UK charts, kept from the top spot by Robson & Jerome‘s cover of Unchained Melody.

(For those not familiar with the #1 act, they were two acts in a popular TV series who were encouraged to cash-in by the record industry. Nowadays, things like that have largely been overtaken by the myriad of talent shows that make new ‘stars’, but the effect is the same. Can anyone nowadays recall what Robson or Jerome looked like?)

I have what is described as CD2, which contains the full-length version of the song and three acoustic versions of older Pulp tracks.

mp3 : Pulp – Common People
mp3 : Pulp – Razzmatazz (Acoustic Version)
mp3 : Pulp – Dogs Are Everywhere (Acoustic Version)
mp3 : Pulp – Joyriders (Acoustic Version)

Oh and it also came with an unforgettable video.

All of this and it only made #45 in this countdown??

BEFORE THEY WERE FAMOUS…

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Tim’s imaginary compilation album yesterday understandably concentrated on what is rightly regarded as the band’s golden period.  But I’m a bit of a sucker for one of their early songs dating back to 1985 and released as the lead track on an 12″ EP on Fire Records:-

mp3 : Pulp – Little Girl (With Blue Eyes)

It is a precursor to the sort of lyric and tune that would much later on provide the band with critical acclaim and commercial success.

Here’s the equally wonderful b-sides the last of which doesn’t have Jarvis on lead vocal duties:-

mp3 : Pulp – Simultaneous
mp3 : Pulp – Blue Glow
mp3 : Pulp – The Will To Power

Looking back, it was probably just as well that the single was a flop as it would have set the band on an entirely different course and they would in all likelihood have broken up before the 90s came along.

Enjoy.

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #32 : PULP

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Tim Badger is back again with another marvellous contribution to the series…..

Way back when Britpop was all about Blur vs Oasis, the really cool kids chose Pulp. In Pulp the nerdy kids had a hero, Jarvis Cocker. Cocker a literary and gawky frontman became a sex symbol, famous for peddling a mix of disco and cheesy 80s synth sound with a sideline in frankly pervy lyrics. It is perhaps more clear now than it was at the time that he would define a generation. That generation being the Britpop era. Pulp had been around in varying forms since the early 80s – and yet didn’t really come to real attention until 1993, the year Cocker turned 30 – and it was perhaps this that stood them apart, a sense of mature wit and a different outlook.

In Pulp’s songs, the topics were more adult and realistic, the sex was dirtier and less satisfying, the relationships more fractious and they had characters that you identified with because we’d all been there. This compilation is made up from their three most successful records ‘This is Hardcore’ in 1998, ‘Different Class’ in 1995 and ‘His n Hers’ in 1994. I wanted to include the track ‘Like A Friend’ from Great Expectations OST but I can’t find the CD I have with it on. Sorry. It would have been Track 2 on Side 2

I should perhaps take a moment to acknowledge ‘We Love Life’. This is a gorgeous, expansive album that is much under rated. I tried to get a song on this list but just couldn’t fit it in. It would have been ‘Sunrise’ and it would have ended the compilation. I love that record but it isn’t ‘David’s Last Summer’ which does end the record. The strength of their three album run from ’94 to ’98 is just too overpowering. I’d also point you towards the B-Side of the single This is Hardcore called ‘It’s a Dirty World’ which also should have made this Compilation, but again got shunted by the others.

Side One

1. Babies (from His ‘n’ Hers, 1994)

After about ten years the wilderness, Pulp emerged with this tale of teenage tea time obsession. It begins innocently enough with Jarvis talking about afternoons with girls in bedrooms – before he goes well a bit perverse and then delivering this withering punchline “I only went with her ‘cause she looked like you!”

2. F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E. (from Different Class, 1995)

There was a real war going on between whether it was going to be “F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E.” or “Sorted for E’s & Wizz” that made it on this list and the latter almost won based purely on that awesome synth thing that happens about two and a half minutes in. But in the end I went with this (and forgive me if I leave out the .’s and just call it ‘Feeling’. This is one of the most bizarre songs Pulp ever did – it sounds like Jarvis is coming down from a bad trip but in reality it’s just a bad case of obsession. Lyrically its amongst the best (and claustrophobic) that Jarvis ever wrote and the way its bursts into the chorus is virtually theatrical.

3. The Fear (from This Is Hardcore, 1998)

“This is the sound of someone losing the plot/ Making out that they’re okay when they’re not/ You’re gonna like it, but not a lot/ And the chorus goes like this.” With that line, Pulp delivered the bleak mission of their darkest and most personal work ‘This is Hardcore’ . After finally becoming the celebrity Jarvis was always destined to be – I think he realised that he didn’t want after all – he was in danger of turning into a 1990s equivalent of Ricky Wilson from the Kaiser Chiefs. Unusually for a Pulp track, the keyboard sound of Candida Doyle is hardly there on this song and is replaced by guitars. Sure its bleak but it’s probably their most rewarding song.

4. Disco 2000 (from Different Class 1995)

How many of us can identify with this. The wild expectations of childhood infatuations which come crashing down in adulthood. Everything from the shameless ripping off ‘Gloria’ from the 80s to the wonderful lyrics of this make this songs essential. Disco 2000 is a pretty much like a school disco on record. A magnificent tribute to the one that got away.

5. Pink Glove (from His ‘n’ Hers, 1994)

For me this is the highlight of Pulp’s breakthrough LP and nicely sets out the band’s stall as social commentators with a sordid twist. The object of our narrator’s affections is desperate to please her man – but she should be with our Jarvis, who’d have her just the way she is. Bless.

Side Two

1. Common People (From Different Class, 1995)

Quite simply one of the best British singles, ever, by anyone. Absolutely their defining song, and the classic song of the Britpop era. I toyed with the idea of leaving it off just to be controversial but then I realised that I can’t write about Pulp without mentioning it. It’s too good a record. As a song it scathing yet hilarious, deeply personal yet turns an eye to larger social questions, intelligent yet simple enough to fit within a massively infectious pop melody. And to top it all triumphant enough to close a live show.

2. Do You Remember The First Time? (From His n Hers’, 1994)

Jarvis the lounge suited Romeo reminisces about his first love to whom he is now a distant memory. The thing about this song, when you strip away the melody and the soaring chorus, is that, it is one of Pulps more powerful moments, its urgent, yearning and ferocious but yet fragile, like it would fall apart if you nudged it too hard.

3. This is Hardcore (from This Is Hardcore, 1998)

Clocking in at over six minutes, this is a sordid tale of secrets buried in PVC raincoats. Its sounds indescribably sinister. It s adopts a late night vibe and a raft of distorted guitar riffs that eventually gives way to strings and sounds so utterly dejected. One of the saddest Pulp songs around and probably the closest thing that geeks have to ‘Sexual Healing’.

4. Something Changed (from Different Class, 1995)

Yes, another single, sorry it is single heavy, yet, what singles they are. Something Changed is Pulp at their sweetest, with Pulp pondering fate, chance and relationships. When you look at love songs, 99% are clichéd drivel, but this is in the 1% that stand out.

5. David’s Last Summer (from His ‘n’ Hers, 1994)

The glory of Pulp is that they don’t really feel like a band who just stitch songs together – nor do they just build to crescendo and stop. They fell like stories unfolding, often narrated and this is perhaps the best story they recorded. Jarvis sings “Drunk on the Sun, I Suppose” before shouting “I Want you to Stay!” as the violins and distortion overcomes him. You never find out why this was Davids Last Summer, I’m guessing that it was a song about the loss of youth or perhaps a person, but it’s the greatest ending of an album that I can think of.

Tim B

mp3 : Pulp – Babies
mp3 : Pulp – F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E
mp3 : Pulp – The Fear
mp3 : Pulp – Disco 2000
mp3 : Pulp – Pink Glove
mp3 : Pulp – Common People
mp3 : Pulp – Do You Remember The First Time?
mp3 : Pulp – This Is Hardcore
mp3 : Pulp – Something Changed
mp3 : Pulp – David’s Last Summer

JC adds…………….Pulp were on my list of bands to feature in this series and my ten wouldn’t have been too far removed from Tim’s offering.  I can however, provide a bonus track for him given that he wanted to include it on the LP but didn’t have the song to hand:-

mp3 : Pulp – Like A Friend

Enjoy.

COMMERCIAL SUICIDE

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After waiting well over a decade to enjoy commercial success, it was a bit of a shock when Pulp embarked on such a high-profile and deliberate fall from grace with their next LP.

The fact speak for themselves – flop albums in 1983, 1987 and 1992 before gaining a degree of popularity in 1994 with His’n’Hers. And then it was 1995 and the release of Different Class which eventually sold over 1.2 million copies in the UK alone – a quite astonishing feat for a band who up until that point had only ever had two Top 40 singles/EPs in their career.

While it is true that Different Class rode in on the tails of the Britpop era that saw pop music become fashionable again and part of everyday culture, it doesn’t detract from the fact that it is a cracking piece of work (albeit not as cracking as His’n’Hers in my humble opinion).

But all was not well in Pulp-land. When they went back into the studio to begin work on the new LP, with all the hopes and expectations of not only the record label but also an adoring public, there was nothing happening. Jarvis Cocker couldn’t come up with any words or tunes, and even more crucially, guitarist, violinist and key member of the band Russell Senior decided to leave.

The band eventually managed to record new material, and the first thing to emerge was the single Help The Aged in November 1997 which was about as far removed from the chant-a-long songs which had led to so many folk embracing the band. At this stage, it might still have been regarded as a one-off Cocker-like prank to choose the most awkward and difficult of the new songs to be the lead-off single, but it became clear in March 1998 with the release of the next single that Pulp were going to lose a lot of mainstream fans and not get many new recruits to replace them:-

mp3 : Pulp – This Is Hardcore
mp3 : Pulp – Ladies’ Man
mp3 : Pulp – The Professional
mp3 : Pulp – This Is Hardcore (end of the line remix)

This was difficult and uncompromising stuff of the highest or lowest order, depending on your point of view. But it’s too easy to dismiss it as a song about porn…it could easily be interpreted as Jarvis using sex and sexual imagery to attack anyone in power, whether it be the captains of industry in the likes of film, music or newspaper or indeed on politicians who had, for a while, gotten off on Britpop only to walk away when the musicians started dishing out the criticism.

But whatever the intentions behind the song, it remains one of the bleakest and yet most brilliantly subversive bits of music ever to have been played on the radio, climbing to #12 in the UK charts. Hell, it even managed an appearance on Top Of The Pops.

The b-sides were hugely uncompromising and self-mocking and then to top all of that, CD2 had some astonishing remixes to further confuse everyone:-

mp3 : Pulp – This Is Hardcore (4 hero remix)
mp3 : Pulp – This Is Hardcore (Swedish Erotica remix)
mp3 : Pulp – This Is Hardcore (Stock, Hausen & Walkman’s remix)

Enjoy. I certainly do.

A COMIC BOOK STORY

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I’m lifting this from the intro to the actual comic:-

“They’re part of the melodic continuum that began in England’s Dance Hall during World War II. More recent points on that timeline have included The Kinks, Roxy Music, Bowie (Diamond Dogs era), The Smiths and Blur. Pulp’s songs present a very English slice of life, garnished with bathos, wit and humour. The melange includes guitars, bass, drums, violin, a very cheesy Farfisa organ (how retro!) ans the inimitable vocal stylings of Mr Jarvis Cocker. Pulp have been around for almost 15 years as a loose entity with a mottled Indie past. Pulp’s Island Records signing and subsequent release of their album “His’nHers” marked their major-label debut.

With “Different Class” they triggered a real Pulpmania.  As a a tribute to the single “Common People”, the Tank Girl cartoonist, Jamie Hewlett, specially drew a cartoon, illustrating the lyrics.

 Page 1

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Page 2

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Page 3

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Page 4

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Page 5

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Bloody marvellous innit?

mp3 : Pulp – Common People

mp3 : Pulp – Common People (Motiv-8 Mix)

mp3 : Pulp – Common People (Live In Session, 1995)

Different Class right enough.