Pulp (band)

From Academic Kids

The pop group Pulp were formed in Sheffield, England, in 1978 by then 15-year-old school-boy Jarvis "I'm not Jesus though I have the same initials" Cocker (vocals, guitar). They were originally known as "Arabacus Pulp", but this was soon shortened.

They are most famous in the UK, where their blend of disco-influenced pop-rock coupled with the amusing down-to-Earth kitchen-sink lyrics of lanky, rubber-limbed front-man Cocker, saw them become popular during the mid 1990s.



The first line-up was Cocker, David Lockwood, Mark Swift and Peter Dalton, though this soon disintegrated into a fairly un-set membership of Cocker and whoever else was around at the time. They played their first proper gig at Rotherham Arts Centre in July 1980, and made a demo tape the following year which they gave to the DJ John Peel. Amazingly they landed a Peel Session, and the tracks they recorded were pretty much in the typical Sheffield sound of the time (cf. Human League, Comsat Angels) - sort of electronic new wave.

Despite the exposure on national radio, success was not forthcoming, and most of the then line-up left for university. A new set of musicians was gathered: Simon Hinkler (who later joined The Mission and produced All About Eve), David Hinkler, Wayne Furniss, Peter Boam, Gary Wilson, and Cocker's sister, Saskia. They managed to get enough local backing to record a mini-album in late 1982 entitled It. This largely consisted of jangly, happy-go-lucky, folkish, romantic pop tunes, and was a change of direction from the Peel Sessions.

But fame was still not knocking, and Cocker was becoming unhappy with his chosen musical direction, especially after being forced to cut a single in the style of the then prevalent pop-group Wham!. He was all set to throw the towel in and go to university, when he decided to hold a practice with Russell Senior (violin, guitar, vocals) and Magnus Doyle (drums). The three of them established a new, more experimental, artier, and noisier direction for Pulp, and were subsequently augmented by Peter Mansell (bass) and Tim Allcard (keyboards, saxophone, poetry).

Mid-80s disappointments

Having survived a number of ill-fated gigs, Allcard left to be replaced on keyboards by Doyle's sister Candida. Following her first performance with the band, they were signed to a label called Fire Records, and began to record a number of singles that were later released as the compilation album Masters of the Universe. These tracks were much darker in tone than those on It, and often veered towards the likes of The Fall.

These releases were followed by an album, Freaks in 1986, recorded in one week due to pressure from the label. Its release ended up being delayed for a year, and the record was not well received. It is either loved or hated by fans, and might be considered the antithesis of the happy and optimistic It.

It was during this mid-80s period that Cocker fell out of a window while trying to impress a girl, and ended up in hospital, and temporarily wheelchair-bound. This gave Cocker ample time to consider his direction, and when, later, Freaks failed to be a success, Pulp folded, with Jarvis going off to London to study film.

The fold was short-lived however, and a new line-up, consisting of Cocker, Senior, Candida Doyle, Nick Banks (drums) and Steve Mackey (bass) emerged. They recorded another album for Fire after a separate deal fell through. This album, Separations, was a progression of the style of Freaks, with Leonard Cohen-esque ballads on side one and a more disco / Acid House infused track-listing on side two. Like Freaks, its release was delayed, to an extent lessening the potential impact.

In the meantime, however, in 1991, a 12" recording - "My Legendary Girlfriend" became music periodical The NME's single of the week, and it was this that ushered Pulp's first steps towards fame.

Indie successes

Frustrated that Separations still hadn't been released, Pulp signed to Warp Records imprint Gift Records in 1992. Fire attempted to capitalise on this by finally releasing Separations. The three singles released on Gift were later compiled on the album Intro which was released when they were signed up by Island Records.

Island Records then released the singles "Do You Remember the First Time" and "Lipgloss", to modest chart success. These were followed by the Ed Buller produced album His 'n' Hers which reached No.9 in the UK charts, and which, sonically, was not a million miles away from Suede.

This sudden increase in popularity was certainly helped by the massive media interest in a new wave of Britpop ushered by the likes of Suede and Blur, the latter of which Pulp supported on a US tour in 1994.

Popular success

1995 saw the peak of Pulp's fame, with the release of their No.2 UK Hit single "Common People", their much loved performance at the Glastonbury festival (standing in for the Stone Roses at the last minute) and their Mercury award winning album Different Class (the first album featuring Pulp fan-club president Mark Webber, who became a permanent member of the band on guitar and keyboards). This album, with its disco-infused pop-rock, and the trademark sordid yet witty lyrics about sexual encounters and working class life, is for most fans what Pulp are about. While Blur and Oasis were fighting it out over which band were the true kings of Britpop, Jarvis Cocker and co. saw the opportunity to steal the crown, and "Common People" was arguably the stand-out single of the year, if not the decade.

But domestic attention was never really equaled in the rest of the world, and if Pulp are known beyond the UK at all it is perhaps more likely the result of Cocker's antics at the infamous 1996 Brit Awards, when he invaded the stage in protest during Michael Jackson's performance (for which he spent the night in the cells on the ungrounded charge of having injured some of the children that Jackson was "healing"). This incident propelled Cocker into even greater notoriety in the UK, and having spent the last 15 years trying to be famous, he grabbed the attention with both hands.

The price of fame

It was during this period of intense fame that long time member and major innovator in the band's sound, Russell Senior, decided to call it a day to spend time with his family (and out of the tabloid press). Cocker was also having difficulty with the celebrity lifestyle, resulting in the breakup of a long-term relationship.

The fallout of all of this, and the ensuing depression induced by finding the one thing he'd been after all his life (fame) and then deciding that it wasn't really up to much, was the subject matter of the follow-up album This Is Hardcore: a trawl through the seedy world of Soho, which during its more navel-gazing, depressed-singer-in-a-hotel-room moments stylistically approached Pink Floyd's The Wall. Many of the fans who had so enjoyed the happier, more amusing and light-hearted approach of Different Class were somewhat turned off by the darker tone of the new record. Pulp also collaborated with Patrick Doyle on the song "Like A Friend" for the soundtrack to the movie Great Expectations.

Pulp then spent a few years in the wilderness before reappearing in 2001 with a new album, We Love Life, symbolising another new phase in Cocker and Pulp's development. Produced by Scott Walker, it was a much happier and more popular album than Hardcore. In 2002 the band announced they were leaving their label, Island. They brought out a greatest hits package: Hits and organised a music festival: Auto (held at Rotherham's Magna centre) where they played their last gig before embarking on a temporary hiatus from the music industry.

In 16 March 2005 Jarvis Cocker said (http://www.femalefirst.co.uk/entertainment/34992004.htm) that the band will finally return and although removed from public eyes, they haven't split, assuring impatient fans that the band will have more material once he's finished working on solo projects, including the soundtrack to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He says: "We're far too lazy for that kind of dramatic-ness. Pulp, as I'm sure you kind of know, has undergone many periods of hibernation and stuff. I don't know whether we'll do anything again. I've been doing Pulp since I was 15 years old and I'm now a 41-year-old man. Even though we've never released that many records I was always doing it and I just thought, 'I'll try summat else.' "


Studio Albums

  1. It (1983)
  2. Freaks (1986)
  3. Separations (1991)
  4. His 'n' Hers (1994) #9 UK
  5. Different Class (1995) #1 UK
  6. This Is Hardcore (1998) #1 UK, #114 US
  7. We Love Life (2001) #6 UK


UK hit singles

  • November 1993 "Lipgloss" #50
  • April 1994 "Do You Remember the First Time" #33
  • June 1994 "The Sisters EP" (Babies / Your Sister's Clothes / Seconds / His 'n' Hers) #19
  • June 1995 "Common People" #2
  • October 1995 "Mis-Shapes/Sorted for E's and Wizz" #2
  • December 1995 "Disco 2000" #7
  • April 1996 "Something Changed" #10
  • November 1997 "Help the Aged" #8
  • March 1998 "This is Hardcore" #12
  • June 1998 "A Little Soul" #22
  • September 1998 "Party Hard" #29
  • October 2001 "Sunrise/The Trees" #23
  • April 2002 "Bad Cover Version" #27

Further reading

  • Mark Sturdy, Truth & Beauty: The Story of Pulp (Omnibus Press, 2003) - comprehensive biography

External links

sv:Pulp (popgrupp)


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