We all have that moment in childhood when culture cracks open the door and offers up a somewhat perturbing come-hither into the future beyond—a future that you aren’t quite ready for yet, but one that offers up the lure of what lies ahead. For Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker, that moment came when a babysitter came around and played a few intact tracks on a broken copy of Pink Floyd’s classic The Dark Side of the Moon. All the while, a young Cocker listened through the floorboards when he should’ve been sleeping for school—a tale reminiscent of a PC musical version of his song ‘Babies’.
As he told Pitchfork, “I was actually quite frightened by the bits and bites of deranged laughing, and I wished that I had not listened to it. But I started to realize that music wasn’t just things that you listen to at fun fairs, that there was a more adult side to music. I think Pink Floyd’s music still stands up, actually. Still don’t like The Wall, though. Animals is as far as I got.” Thus, he might not have gone on to be a huge Floyd fan, but with that, the bohemian world of culture crept towards his impressionable mind, and as someone born in 1963, The Beatles were an inevitable introduction.
“I was young at the time, 10, 11, 12, whatever, and the track that ends side one, ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ that was mind-blowing to me, the way it went on and on and on at the end, with this big synthy wooshy noise,” The star told The Quietus about the time he fell head over heels for Abbey Road. “I’ve since found out its Ringo playing this machine that sounds like wind that you get in classical orchestras. It was a psychedelic experience in a living room in a normal part of Sheffield in the early 70s, where, you know, psychedelic experiences weren’t that common.”
The music, therefore, was mind-broadening but also strangely commercial and transcended by proxy of its ubiquity. This was something of a revelation, as Cocker continues: “I’ll always remember it, that song in particularly took me somewhere. And that’s the end of that side – if you had Abbey Road on CD it wouldn’t be right, it only really works as a statement if you listen to it for ages and then it suddenly stops and then you’re left in silence for a while until you can be bothered to get up and start again. I started with this because it plays with what an album can be. It’s great.”
Then, in a very on-brand moment, as Cocker was getting into making music himself, he fell out of a window. It was both painful and absurd and in a crushed heap at the bottom, he found himself. He realised that there was a poetry and beauty to everyday life. It wasn’t mundane at all, like the absurdism of Russian literary subversives like Daniil Kharms, he learnt that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. So it goes.
This opened him to the notion of finding your voice as a songwriter. And he has always be a fan of individualists, as he said of Death of a Ladies’ Man: “Leonard Cohen and Scott Walker are the two real touchstones in terms of people I’ve listened to consistently throughout my whole life. If you listen to that first Pulp record, it is just a direct rip-off of his first album—though I’m not saying it was as good as that.”
And speaking of that first Pulp record, the period that they ahead of the band when fame finally found Cocker after years of trying, was the dreaded B—pop movement—a label that he loathes. However, he doesn’t hate the artistry that came with the umbrella term.
And just as Dougie Payne of Travis told us when discussing Suede, “As far as I’m concerned, the Britpop wars were won by Suede and Pulp. They were the most interesting and adventurous people in the movement. Suede had a depth that the things that followed didn’t have.” Cocker would certainly be pleased with that praise because he also holds them in the highest esteem.
As Cocker said of that period in time: “By ’93, it was all turning into something interesting—I don’t think they’d come up with that horrible word “Britpop” yet, but there was a new movement of bands. It was before it really broke and got spoiled by getting too commercialized. It still was really just a bunch of people in secondhand clothes getting wasted in Camden, which was fun.”
That sense of fun has stayed with him in everything he has done. And now Pulp are set to get back on the road, and we can’t wait to meet them on their travels. For now, you can check out the curated list of albums that Cocker has opined to be among his favourites over the years in various dispatches we have come across. What’s more, you can listen to them in a playlist too.
Jarvis Cocker’s favourite albums of all time:
- 12 Crass Songs – Jeffrey Lewis
- Abbey Road – The Beatles
- Animal Nitrate – Suede
- B-52s – The B-52s
- Basement Five in Dub – Basement Five
- Death of a Ladies Man – Leonard Cohen
- Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! – Devo
- I Need a Freak – Sexual Harassment
- If You Could Read My Mind – Gordon Lightfoot
- Marianne Faithful – Marianne Faithful
- Master and Everyone – Bonnie Prince Billy
- Midnight Cowboy OST – Various Artists
- Persian Surgery Dervishes – Terry Riley
- Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest – Bill Callahan
- The Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd
- The Dark Side of the Wall – The Stallion
- The Moths are Real – Serafina Steer
- Two Sunsets – Pastels & Tenniscoats
- Volumes I & II – Endless Boogie