Pulp Biography

Jarvis Cocker 1982
Russell Senior 1984
left to right: Tim Allcard, Saskia Cocker, Jarvis Cocker 1983
Pete Mansell
Allcard, Cocker
left to right: Senior, Doyle, Doyle, Senior, Cocker. 1984
Senior, Doyle, Banks, Cocker, Havenhand
Mackey, Doyle, Senior, Cocker, Banks 1993
Mackey, Cocker, Senior, Doyle, Banks 1994
Senior, Cocker, Mackey, Doyle, Banks
Doyle, Mackey, Cocker, Senior, Banks 1994
Banks, Doyle, Cocker, Senior, Mackey 1995
Doyle, Senior, Banks, Cocker, Mackey, Webber, late 95
Senior, Webber, Banks, Doyle, Mackey, 96
Jarvis: Making the headlines, 96
Pulp loved America
America loved Pulp
Russell on stage at V96
Jarvis, 96 Mercury Music Prize
Doyle, Mackey, Cocker, Banks, Webber, late 97
Doyle, Mackey, Cocker, Banks, Webber, late 97
Doyle, Cocker, Banks, Mackey, Webber, 1997
Hardcore Promo: 1998

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 Bath Banker".

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 1982.

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.

The "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 quietly).

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 America.

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 children.

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 sympathy lies.

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 until....

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 songs, "Seductive 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.

Features Menu    Home