Thursday, 18 April 2013

P is for Pulp

A lifetime fascination with men in knitwear began here.
In the autumn of 1995, I was in the midst of some exciting changes in my life. I had been released from the confines of my secondary school - glad to leave the corridors that echoed with taunts and the stink of PE humiliation behind. I had moved on to FE college, and the opportunity to study the things I really loved. I was able to do so with some of my dearest friends from school and explore this new place with its exotic cuisine (curly chips) and exciting people (from different schools - shock!) We quickly formed a cute little clutch of friends who all enjoyed each others company and shared many interests. It was top ace.

The ubiquitous cover from a
Guardian Weekend
Magazine, pinned to my
bedroom wall for years.
On the first day at college, however, I didn't know anyone who was actually in my form. I entered the room trepidatiously and chose to sit next to a girl called Rosh, purely because she had streaks of blue in her hair and she was wearing a Pulp t-shirt. This, to me, was the sign of a Very Sound Person. I made rather a lot of my judgements about people based on their taste in hair-dye and musical tastes and, to be fair, it was usually pretty accurate.

My bookmark, which
caused such concern.
At this time, I was already somewhat enamoured with Blur, amongst other bands, but Pulp stood out, really, as my favourite amongst favourites. I had a rather enormous fascination with the snake-hipped, super-odd, Jarvis Cocker, as the many posters adorning my bedroom walls would attest. At college I was given a 'Cause for Concern' note, by my Sociology lecturer for having a picture of Jarv as a bookmark, largely because that she suspected that I spent more time looking at the bookmark than reading about Marxism. I couldn't possibly comment on whether she was right or not, but suffice to say that the image remains seared onto my retina, whilst the intricacies of Functionalism, are a little more hazy.

I can't pretend to have been a fan from the very early days of Pulp - to be fair, the band formed the year before I was born, in 1978. Unless I was the hippest baby in the world (which I was not - as evidenced here) the likelihood of being in at the beginning, was pretty low. However, it has been galling in more recent times to be told of the brushes I had with seeing, what became, my all time faves in earlier times. They played 'spit and sawdust' pubs in towns in Yorkshire I lived in, and gigs in the Midlands not far from my hometown, before I knew they existed. They only really came to my attention when the rest of the world also started to wake up to their talent and my first ever Pulp purchase was The Sisters EP in 1994. Babies remains a song that I am ALWAYS in the mood for.

Pulp were particularly important to me as, along with a typical teenage admiration for a sardonic sense of humour, their laconic disdain for what was deemed conventionally fashionable greatly appealed. As a fat, bespectacled, geeky, vegetarian I was never one of the cool kids. When you are in your early teens, a successful piano lesson or good English grade never really makes up for realising you will never be in the 'popular' gang. For a while, I wanted to be one of the girls that all the boys liked. I wanted to have just the right clothes and be good at netball and laugh that seemingly carefree laugh of a golden, chosen one. It never occurred to me that their life would be anything other than wonderful, compared to mine - being the butt of every joke, being 'friends' with boys but never being lusted after.

In retrospect, I was an idiot. I had parents that cared about me, supportive friends, a loving wider family, beliefs, passions and, most crucially, the opportunity to move on to whatever I chose to do. Still, for that brief time, I felt I'd been dealt a crap hand. What Pulp (particularly their wonderful call to arms for the terminally un-cool, Mis-shapes), woke me up to, was that actually, I'd got my aspirations all skewed. These people, these awkward, quirky, arty people, were outsiders too - and they had something important to say. It made me see that being different was actually the key to being interesting. Be it lanky, angular Jarvis or quiet, plastic jewellery-adorned Candida, these were people who didn't fit the mould of convention, but were undeniably cool - because of their otherness, not despite it.

In December 1995, Rosh and I went to Blackpool, to the glamorous sounding (but, at the time, not so glamorous looking) Empress Ballroom to see Pulp live. To say I was excited is something of an understatement - I was almost sick with giddiness on the way there. We had paid the unbelievably reasonable price of just £9.50 for our tickets and set off, my stomach lurching with excitement. The gig was overwhelming - to be surrounded by fellow mis-shapes, belting out the band's songs at the tops of our lungs was rapturous. I remember returning, very late, that night, simply dizzy with the excitement of it all and hoarsely rambling on to my, presumably exhausted, Mum, who listened to the whole gig recounted song-by-song over tea and toast.

The very first email I ever received from David indicated that his email address included the phrase 'pulpanarchist' and, despite there being no indication of his mis-shapeness previous to this, I was thrilled that he confirmed that this was, indeed, a reference to Sheffield's finest export. He is potentially the biggest Pulp fan you will ever meet and, frankly, if you want to know anything about band and their music, apart from my own personal ramblings, you can't go far wrong by clicking on this link here. We were both thrilled to hear Pulp would be playing live again in 2011 and managed to get tickets to see them play at Brixton Academy on 31st August. Despite the sad realisation that I am now too old for the mosh-pit (it felt like a collective panic attack on a bouncy castle) we had an amazing night. Hearing the Pulp faithful gathered again, old and young, to share the songs we all loved so much was just magical.

Pulp recently released their first single for 11 years, After You, this year, and I rather like it. Jarvis remains a constant presence on BBC 6 Music with his marvellous show, Jarvis Cocker's Sunday Service and he makes regular appearances across the media. I'm hoping we also get to hear and see more of Pulp, as well as more of Cocker's solo work, in the near future.


  1. Ha ha! This is so British!! I love it. You are my new best friend and you don't even know it. :) I really like your taste. Jennifer a.k.a. Urban Gypsy Girl

    1. Thank you :0) I've been blown away by your poem 'Over The Edge' - it is incredible! x