Pulp began at the City
Comprehensive, Sheffield in 1978. The original line-up was Mark Swift, David Lockwood, Peter Dalton and Jarvis
Cocker. Originally known as
Arabicus Pulp (after a commodity Jarvis learned about during
economics) this was soon shortened to Pulp because nobody else knew
what the full name meant. In the beginning, practises were held at
Jarvis's granny's house and the first song ever written was called
"Shakespeare Rock". David Lockwood's departure heralded the
beginnings of an unsteady line-up when he was replaced by Philip
Thompson. Pulp's first project was a film which was made before they
played any concerts. "The Three
Spartans", which was shown at
school with a 10p admission fee, only featured two spartans - the
third was depicted by a hat on a cane.
By 1980 Pulp had been mentioned in a
booklet which was part of the "Bouquet of Steel"
compilation of South Yorkshire bands and soon after they played
their first concert (with Mark Swift replaced by Jimmy Sellars) at
the Rotherham Arts Centre in July of that year. A month later, at
the Sheffield Leadmill, Russell Senior first encountered Pulp and he
reviewed them for his fanzine "The
After the first few concerts, Pulp got
two new band members -Jamie
Pinchbeck on bass and Wayne Furniss
on drums. The first recordings, made in June 1981, were given to
John Peel at a Radio 1 roadshow in Sheffield resulting in the band
being asked to travel down to London for a session recorded by Dale
Griffin (drummer of Mott the Hoople). The sessions were heard by
Statik Records' Nigel Burnham and they contributed a track
"What Do You Say" (from the demo) to the compilation
album "Your Secret's Safe With
Us" which was released early in
That year, all the band members left
school, forcing Jamie and Peter to leave the group as they were off
to University. Tony
Perrin was working with Pulp and
arranged for them to record a mini album with the line-up of
Jarvis and Simon Hinkler along
with David Hinkler, Wayne Furness, Peter Boam, Jarvis' sister Saskia
and Gary Wilson (credited as
'Beefy Gary O'). In Christmas 1982 "It" was made and was
released by Red Rhino along with the single "My Lighthouse" the following April.
Jarvis at this time experimented with
other bands and projects, including Heroes of the Beach, Repressive
Minority, Michael's Foot and the Jarvis Cocker Explosion Experience.
Russell hooked back up with Pulp whilst trying to produce his
"supposedly dadaist" play "The
Fruits of Passion". Unhappy about
the direction Pulp had taken with
"It" and the single "Everybody's Problem" he was considering a change of scene by going to college in
Liverpool. Before this happened Jarvis, Russell, and Magnus Doyle
got together for a practise and developed a new direction for Pulp
to take. Magnus' friend Peter
Mansell and Tim Allcard
joined the band and this new Pulp played their first concert at
Brunel University which was less than successful as they were
appearing in place of a rugby songs band. The concert ended in a
stage invasion as the audience had trouble understanding Pulp's new
direction (which was complimented by Tim Allcard reading bits of
poetry in between the songs).
When Tim left free his position as
keyboard player, Magnus's sister Candida joined. On the
night of her first concert Johnny Waller of Fire Records signed the
band and the single "Little Girl
(With Blue Eyes)" was released in
late 1985. Around this time Jarvis had his well-documented topple
out of a window, breaking an ankle, a wrist and his pelvis and when
he was fit enough to play concerts to promote "Dogs Are Everywhere" he did so from his wheelchair.
"Freaks" LP was recorded in June
1986 with a small budget forcing them to complete the recording in
one week, though Fire did not release the album until May 1987.
During filming for the video of the chosen single "They Suffocate At Night", the band's line up changed once again -
Magnus and Peter left the band: Jarvis and Russell were getting
serious about Pulp but 'Mag' and 'Manners' wanted to have a laugh.
In late 1987 Jarvis was experimenting with disco sounds on his
granny's Yamaha Portasound and around this time Nick Banks
joined the group on drums, joined by Steven Havenhand who was
replaced soon after by Antony
Genn (apparently Steven played too
Russell's description of the following
concerts as "a multi media cosmic tangerine experience" proved quite
apt as Pulp experimented with concept concerts where, with the aid
of Mark Webber and friends, the audience were subjected to
film, slides, dry ice (home made), smells (concocted by Russell),
trees and tin foil. Although it sounded fun to watch this didn't
last for long as it was time-consuming, unreliable and often stole
attention from the music.
Anthony Genn left the band and this period left Pulp in disarray. There
was not much interest outside of Sheffield and no record deal, so
Jarvis left to study film in London where he got in touch with
Steve Mackey who joined the group soon after. After Pulp
played at the Sounds Christmas party in 1988 Fire became interested
in another album and
"Separations" was made. There was
little activity until Christmas 1990 when there was a secret concert
at the Sheffield Leadmill and another concert filmed by Granada
Television for the "New Sessions" programme. In March 1991 Fire
released "My Legendary
Girlfriend" and this made NME's
single of the week
Fire were unwilling to
release "Separations", so the single "Countdown" was
re-recorded and released that September instead. Pulp were asked to
play at festivals organised by the French magazine Les
Inrockuptibles and soon after the band decided to leave Fire (the
album was still unreleased). The next Pulp release was "O.U. (Gone, Gone)" on Gift and this was supported by the band's first ever tour
and a Mark Goodier session. Fire decided belatedly to
release "Separations" encouraged by the new interest and publicity
which Pulp were receiving.
Bob Stanley's label Caff released a limited edition
7" ("My Legendary
Girlfriend") and this was followed
by "Babies" in October 1992 which became a hit in the UK
indie charts. "Razzmatazz" was released
as the final Gift single and Pulp then toured the UK with St
Etienne, gaining many new fans.
The next stage was severing all ties
with Fire and signing to Island. Island's first release was a
mid-price compilation of the Gift recordings, "Pulp-Intro", and this was followed by a new single "Lipgloss"
which made the UK Top 50. The first major label LP was completed in
February 1994 and in March Pulp released "Do You Remember The First Time?", accompanied by a 25-minute film which was made by Steve and
Jarvis and premiered at the ICA in London.
"His 'n' Hers" arrived a month later and reached number 9 in
the LP Charts. The band were kept busy with a nomination for the
Mercury Music Awards (which they nearly won!) and a French tour
followed by dates in Stockholm and Amsterdam. "Babies" was
re-released by Island (along with three new tracks) as the
"Sisters EP" and made the charts at number 19.
Fire released a compilation album,
"Masters of the
Universe" and issued "It" on CD
while Pulp had a quiet summer punctuated by appearances at several
festivals. Next, the band toured America with Blur in September of
1994 and were greeted by screaming girls in Los Angeles and New
York. On their return to Britain they joined Blur once again with
shows at Aston Villa Leisure Centre and London's Alexandra Palace.
The year ended with an invitation to play at the Princes Trust Gala
Concert and a Christmas show at the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane
which left the theatre with a huge crack in the balcony caused by
dancing Pulp fans!
In May of 1995 Pulp made the charts in
style with "Common
People" reaching number 2. Its
success brought Pulp a new audience and contributed to a headline
performance at Glastonbury when the Stone Roses pulled out at the
last minute. The sight of thousands of people singing along to
"Common People" at the end of the set must have helped make
Glastonbury a high point of the band's career.
The double a-sided single "Mis-shapes"/"Sorted for E's and
Wizz" brought tabloid interest in
the band, and in particular Jarvis with the outrageous banner
headline ran by the Daily Mirror - BAN THIS SICK STUNT!! - where
they objected to the sleeve instructions on how to make a wrap for
"hiding your drugs". Crisis meetings were held immediately at the
Top of the Pops studios and Pulp's position on drugs was reported
with a rather confusing follow up story in the Mirror the following
day. In the same story the Mirror revealed that 73% of its
readership thought that the single featuring the offending cover
should be banned. The single reached number 2 in the UK charts.
Later, on tour, Russell was approached and offered drugs, he refused
and then realised that a photographer was on the other side of the
road waiting to take pictures of him accepting. The buzz surrounding
Jarvis became so newsworthy that his estranged father was contacted
for a story, and articles were published on Jarvis's secret health
club, his sex appeal and the group's supposed relocation to
Pulp by now had a "new" member in the
shape of Mark Webber who had been involved in the group for many
years, running the fan club (Pulp People) and tour managing as well
as playing keyboards and guitar.
October saw the group embark on a
19-date tour of Britain which carried on into a major European tour,
taking them to Spain and Germany for the first time as well as to
France, Belgium and Holland.
With the publicity raised by "Sorted.
. ." and the status "Common People" had reached in being the
most-heard single of the summer, the LP "Different Class" was
released to a willing audience and received enthusiastic reviews. It
featured a novel limited-edition sleeve which enabled fans to choose
their own front cover out of a choice of 12 and became Pulp's first
British number 1.
By December, the strains of touring
became apparent when the band stormed off stage in Paris without
playing any of the expected encores and it was left to Nick to
subdue the near rioting crowd with an apology.
The end of 1995 saw Pulp and Jarvis
featured in nearly every magazine's end of the year round-up, where
they received praise for the singles and album released during the
year and Jarvis was voted Melody Maker's number 1 man of 1995.
"Common People" made it into the Smash Hits Lyrics of the Year and
Candida was one of the Melody Maker's top 10 Women of the Year. They
were also invited to play at the Smash Hits Poll Winners' Party and
on Christmas Top of the Pops.
January 1996 gave most of the members
of Pulp a well deserved break before they successfully toured Japan
and Scandinavia. Back in Britain, they were nominated for four
awards at the now infamous 1996 Brit Awards. Jarvis and Candida's
boyfriend Peter Mansell's actions are well known to everybody (from
taxi drivers to your granny) but in case you had your head in the
clouds, they protested at Michael Jackson's Christ-like performance by
invading the stage. One of Jackson's security men (disguised as the
poor and needy) tried to get Jarvis off the stage and the whole
event culminated in him being taken to the South Kensington Police
Station to "help them with their enquiries" regarding injured
The next day the tabloids were
incensed by our hero's bad behaviour but this was soon to change as
the full horror of Jackson's performance was aired alongside the
footage showing that Jarvis did not harm any children. In a
spectacular change of heart, the papers proclaimed Jarvis a national
treasure and suggested he ought to have a knighthood! Phone polls
were held in Britain and America for people to register their
support or shock at Pulp's frontman and Jarvis's mum and sister
appeared live on Richard and Judy's This Morning assuring viewers
that the protest had been a spur of the moment thing with no harm
intended. Jarvis has since been cleared of all charges and the saga
stands with Island and Pulp waiting for a statement from Jackson
retracting his earlier condemnation of Cocker. Whether a retracting
statement is released or not, there is no doubt where the public's
The day after the Brit Awards, Pulp
embarked on their UK Arena Tour, supported by Denim and Edwyn
Collins. The Jackson episode was at the fore of many people's minds
and Jarvis assured everybody at many of the shows that he was
innocent of the charges reported in the press.
"Something Changed" was chosen as the last single from
"Different Class" and it entered the charts at number 10. Pulp
also announced a US/Canadian tour for the summer of '96 as well as a
series of headline performances at major outdoor events.
Little did anyone know, on the record
front, that things were going to be quiet for a year and half.
Getting away from it rather than away with it, Pulp embarked on a
tour of America and Canada in the Summer of 1996 - all dates selling
out, rather surprisingly, considering their sales there hadn't been
particularly substantial, including a one-stop at Toronto's Opera
House, breaking records with a reported three-minute ticket drain!
Despite brilliant performances, reviews and audience reactions for
the first few dates, the tour took a turn for the worst when a bug
Jarvis had contracted on holiday in Hawaii pre-tour, finally caught
up with him and the Denver, Colorado date had to be cancelled. With
rest, prescribed medication and a few days off, Jarv proclaimed
himself fit enough to continue with the battle to win over a huge
nation who knew him as the guy who invaded Jackson's stage rather
than the man who sang with Pulp, a band.
On many levels, the tour was a big
success for both the fans and the band, who enjoyed it immensely.
Pulp's biggest and brightest concerts were to take place on English
soil, however, in the Summer, with headline slots at the first
Virgin sponsored outdoor all dayers in Chelmsford and Warrington.
The two days attracted over 70,000 punters between them to see
performances by the likes of Super Furry Animals, Jonathan Richman,
Gary Numan, Stereolab, Elastica, Long Pigs, Gorkys Zygotic Mynci and
Denim amongst others. These were to be Pulp's last live dates for 14
months. A new song, "Help
The Aged" was also previewed - a
song that slept for just as long. In October, amidst, it should be
noted, fierce and fine competition,"Different Class" won the
prestiguous Mercury Music prize along with twenty five thousand
pounds, which the band immediately awarded to the War Child charity
for Bosnia. The peaks, it seemed, were coming thick and fast
There followed Pulp's Snow White
months. After years of rabid hyperactivity the pop stars took a step
back into the shadows. Gave someone else a go, if you like. It
wasn't like they just did nothing, sat at home watching daytime TV.
They began writing a new record - the follow-up to "Different Class" but the Jackson incident, the touring, the awards, the
expectations of "Common People MkII", the limelight, had changed
them. They wanted to do something for themselves for once, at their
own pace, take some of the pressure off, slow things down a little.
They needed to chill. One member more than the others, it soon
turned out, needed a little air.
On 21 January 1997, Russell Senior released a
statement declaring that he had left Pulp "to pursue other
projects." Senior, a band member for 13 years, gave no indication as
to what those projects might be but did stress that the split was an
amicable arrangement with the band. They were sad to see him go.
Things wouldn't be the same again. Though they had wanted, needed
it, change had forced itself upon them regardless. The recording of
Pulp's next album dragged itself through the Spring and Summer. Days
in and out of the studio permeated by your "normal"civvie activity.
Pulp were missed but there was enough to be going on with, it seemed.
A few tracks did emerge from their London studio - "Like A Friend" towards a forthcoming Alfonso Curan movie, "Great
Expectations", "We Are The
Boyz" for Todd Haynes celebration
of the 70's glam/art school years,
"Velvet Goldmine", "All Time High" for David Arnold's James Bond themes album. But no single,
no inkling of an album or live dates.
In Autumn, XFM, a new London
alternative/indie radio station which had recently been granted a
permanent licence, opened for business with a day-long pilot show,
hosted by Pulp. The band played their favourite records, interviewed
friends both famous and not-so, held competitions, chatted in a way
that few bands do, as actual friends who get on - as "people." They
ended the show with an unannounced track which sounded curiously
like.... well, like Pulp. London was quick on the uptake.They'd just
heard the new Pulp single, "Help
The Aged." DJing seemed to come
naturally to them. Over the next few weeks they'd been guest DJ's at
the opening of a new HMV store in Oxford Street and been the only
people ever to take over John Peel's Radio 1 radio show whilst he
holidayd, again playing the kind of weird and wonderful records Peel
would have been proud to hear coming out of his stereo as he chilled
on some far-off holiday isle.
"Help The Aged" was released on
October 10th 1997. It previewed a new, ironically more "mature"
sounding Pulp who had obviously moved on, undaunted by the vox
populi's expectations for that "Common People" sequel. The record
sleeve reflected their growing up, their step back from the
limelight - the band obscured behind venetian blinds. The single
entered the UK national chart at number 8. Twenty one days later,
Pulp played their first concert since the previous August - three
Barry", "This Is Hardcore" and
"Help TheAged." The concert, at London's Barbican Hall,
co-promoted by Mark Webber to raise money for the US minimalist
composer La Monte Young and his partner Marian Zazeela, also
featured performances by Spiritualised, Nick Cave and the Gavin
Bryars Ensemble (with which Mark guested). Though onstage for little
more than twenty minutes, Pulp had made their point.
They were back, they were different
and, well, let's just see, shall we? Pulp's new album, "This Is
Hardcore" will be released in Spring 1998.