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Classic Album PULP

While their Britpop peers looked to laddism, The Beatles and The Kinks, in 1995 Pulp emerged with an album that was strident, stylish and contemporary – and eclipsed all those around them. Neil Crossley dives in…


Jarvis Cocker, Steve Mackey, Candida Doyle, Nick Banks and Russell Senior, pictured in France in 1994

“I always thought the word common was interesting. It was a real insult in Shetheld to call someone common”


As retail outlets go, the shop once known as Record & Tape Exchange in Notting Hill has a rich legacy. It was the store where the Clash’s Mick Jones could othen be spotted; where cashstrapped music journalists would brazenly sell mint promo copies of albums before they’d even been released; and where, in 1994, a skinny Yorkshireman called Jarvis Branson Cocker walked up to the counter with a stack of albums to sell.

Armed with his credit from the sale, Cocker headed straight for the shop’s second-hand instrument department, where he bought a Casio MT-500 keyboard. Within an hour, he had written the basic structure of a song that would become the anthem of an era for his band Pulp.

“I went back to my That and wrote the chord sequence for Common People, which isn’t such a great achievement because it’s only got three chords,” he told journalist Nick Hasted in Uncut in 2010. “I thought it might come in handy for our next rehearsal.” Cocker played his new composition to Pulp bassist Steve Mackey, who laughed when he heard it, adding that it sounded like Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s Fanfare For the Common Man. This sparked something in Cocker. “I always thought the word ‘common’ was an interesting thing. It was a real insult in Shetheld to call someone ‘common’. That set off memories of this girl that I met at college. She was from a well-todo background, and there was me explaining that that would never work. Once I got that narrative in my head, it was very easy to write, lyrically.” Other band members were as unimpressed as Mackey when Cocker played his new idea. “It sounded like cod-Depeche Mode,” recalled violinist and guitarist Russell Senior. But keys player Candida Doyle spotted a classic. “I just thought it was great, straight away. It must have been the simplicity of it. You could just tell it was a really powerful song then.”

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