Of all Pulp’s anthemic floor-fillers, ‘Babies’ has got to be the most durable. It withstands listen after listen, always offering that same hit of seedy velvet-lined euphoria. Here we’ve bought you an alternative acoustic version of the 1993 His N Hers track sung by frontman Jarvis Cocker.
In this stripped-back performance, Cocker artfully demonstrates that a great song isn’t made by complex chord progressions or a Marshall Stack; a good song, more often than not, comes down to a decent set of lyrics. Many of Pulp’s biggest hits have a strong autobiographical – or at least seemingly autobiographical – narrative. Take ‘Common People’ for example, or ‘The Year 2000’. With that sentiment, ‘Babies’ is no different.
The single sees Cocker recount the tale of a boy who decides to spy on his friend’s sister while she has sex. He gets so obsessed with this voyeuristic pursuit in fact that he starts hiding in the girl’s wardrobe to get a better view: “Well, that was alright for a while,” he sings in the second verse, “But soon I wanted more / I want to see as well as hear / And so I, I hid inside her wardrobe / And she came home ’round four / And she was with some kid called David/ From the garage up the road.”
After the sister discovers she’s being watched, rather than screaming in terror, she decides to have sex with him too. The boy’s female friend then comes home, at which point it transpires that it was her he was in love with all along. “I know you won’t believe it’s true / I only went with her ‘coz she looks like you.”
Cocker’s knack for crafting songs filled with relatable characters and themes is somewhat surprising given that he usually wrote his lyrics last minute. “Many of my lyrics were hastily written the night before a recording session because I’d been putting off writing them until the very last minute,” he wrote in an article for The Guardian.
Adding: “It’s strange that the most intelligible part of a song – the words – should be seen as the most boring and chore-like aspect of the songwriting process by musicians themselves. And I think that’s down to a very simple fact: the words to a song are not that important. They’re contractual obligation, a necessary evil, an afterthought.”
Opening up about how the music for ‘Babies’ came about during an interview with Songbook, Cocker revealed: “The musical inspiration was our drummer Nick Banks.” Having got bored of sitting behind the kit all day, Banks decided to grab a guitar and have a go at strumming some chords he’d seen his bandmates using. On trying to play an A chord on the second fret, he mistakenly played it on three treble strings, creating a 7th chord. He then followed it with a G, giving the song its signature Stereolab-esque chime.