Naturally, the first song you ever literally heard is beyond your own cognizance. With that in mind, what Jarvis Cocker means when he describes the first song that he heard is the grander sense of recognition, much in the same way that James Baldwin poeticised when he wrote: “All I know about music is that not many people ever really hear it. And even then, on the rare occasions when something opens within, and the music enters, what we mainly hear, or hear corroborated, are personal, private, vanishing evocations.”
For Cocker, that first vanishing evocation was stirred up by the lyrics of Peter Sarstedt’s musical equivalent of a Wes Anderson movie with the 1969 classic, ‘Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)’. The whimsical epitome of European café culture has a line that stuck with the equally whimsical epitome of Britpop’s more artistic side.
In an interview with the Guardian, Cocker reminisced, “I’m interested in the way songs stick with you and mean different things at different times. When I was four or five this really scared me because of the line ‘I can look inside your head’.”
The power to perturb is always a memorable one that music propagates profoundly. Pete Townshend similarly recited the memorable prickling ability of music when discussing the effect that Link Wray’s ‘Rumble’ had on him, “I remember being made very uneasy the first time I heard ‘Rumble’, and yet very excited by the guitar sound.”
The unsettling potential of music proves to be a memorable one and the song always stuck with Cocker after that youthful introduction. “Years later, I was in Amsterdam,” Cocker continues, “And [I was] declaiming the song to my then-girlfriend, and I almost had a citizen’s arrest put on me by passers-by who objected to my rendition.”
Such is the way that music permeates our lives, Cocker was surprised at how often the track seems to crop up in his life. “Then recently I was watching an awful Piers Morgan programme about Monte Carlo, and I was reminded of the song again as it describes a poor girl from Naples joining the jet-set.”
The song itself is a counterculture classic and even though Sarstedt was just a young lad from London, he somehow managed to craft a song that not only rode the wave of French New Wave but seemed to be its sonic quintessence. He even scored a number one and Ivor Novello Award for what has been described by many as a romantic novel in song.