Released 11 September 2006
It has been 11 years since Jarvis Cocker's spontaneous dance routine hit our screens between shots of Sadie Frost in a shopping trolley. Britpop was emerging and the Union Jack was the new black. Common People was a self-described embodiment of the mood of the times. So much was this confidence that Cocker & co decided it needed to be released there and then. Its moment was so urgent that the band immediately went into the studio with only two songs to record, albeit two great songs.
The three unforgettable, mood-defining albums from Pulp's height - His 'n' Hers ('94), Different Class ('95), This Is Hardcore ('98) - are getting the Deluxe Edition treatment, and will each be released with a second disc of extraordinary bonus songs and sleevenotes penned by Mr Cocker himself, inside lavishly designed packaging.
But to take you back a little further and offer some notes on the bonus material...
It's 1993 and a North London studio has set up home for the band while they record their first major label release. As living conditions disintegrated into student squalor, the making of His 'n' Hers went as straight forward as it could get, as Jarvis recalls: "We decided to make things extra difficult for ourselves by simultaneously making a documentary to go with the song Do You Remember The First Time? So, whilst Ed Buller was struggling manfully to make us sound palatable, we kept nipping off to ask the likes of John Peel, Viv Stanshall, Justine Frischmann, Terry Hall, Pam Hogg, Jo Brand and Vic 'n' Bob about their first sexual experiences."
As Babies was re-released and became a real top-twenty hit, the band danced around on the hard shoulder of the motorway to the sound of 'Here Comes Success' by Iggy Pop. Yet, some of the 'lost children' of this record, which were not invited to the road-side party are now reunited for the part they played in Pulp. Watching Nicky was one from the 'audition tape' which was recorded before the band signed to Island. Seen as attempt to write another 'Babies' where Nick Banks wrote the guitar bit, the track is based on the story of a girl Cocker went out with the year previous.
Another attempt to rewrite their hit came with Your Not Blind, "I'd forgotten we'd ever done this until it turned up an a cassette along with the demo of Lipgloss. A Supremely nasty sentiment and quite nice guitar playing."
Then there is the fittingly titled Frightened, a growing sentiment of the time, of the horror of domesticity. "I think the fact we rehearsed in a pottery warehouse stuffed to the gills with trinkets and figurines had something to do with it."
At which point, the story brings us back to that song and May 1995. As the single's success shook Pulp's sloath-like approach to making a record, Island started to politely enquire into the whereabouts of the other ten songs that would make up the full album. By June the music was ready and off Pulp went to Sheffield's Axis studios. Only one problem, none of the tracks had lyrics. Jarvis's solution? Sit in his sister's kitchen with a bottle of cheap Spanish brandy and write until he lost consciousness. With ten written using the brandy method and another two on the way to the studio, Different Class was written barely a week before songs like Sorted For E's and Wizz were performed at Glastonbury.
"Given the warmth of our reception at Glastonbury we were probably the most confident we had ever been - I don't think that we could have pulled off a song such as Mis-Shapes if we didn't know that now, finally, we had a mass audience."
So, the spare brandy-session songs which were never properly recorded are now given a second wind. We Can Dance Again was going to be the post-'Babies' big hit, that even Jarvis's mum still asks when he is going to release it. "We played it at our Christmas 1994 show at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and it brought the house down - quite literally: the balconies to the venue suffered pretty severe structural damage."
Then there is the epic appraisal of Rotherham that is Catcliffe Shakedown, where taxi drivers really do charge a "fare and a half to get there" and there lives "pudgy 12 year-olds in Union Jack shorts." Jarvis explains its lack of appearance on the original release lovingly as, "the fact that the music is frankly ridiculous".
And so, it was after the massive success of 'Different Class' that things got a bit bruised and complications became cavernous cracks. "We went into the studio after a solid year on the road and when I came to sing Cocaine Socialism I just felt that something was awfully wrong. In all the years I'd been with the band I had never felt this way. I had to leave the studio right away and cancel the rest of the recording session. "Then I did something worse: I decided that what I needed was a rest cure - in New York - on my own. This bright idea led me to having some kind of nervous breakdown and I returned to the UK a physical wreck. Then Russell left the band."
This experience led Cocker to have a kind of phobia about 'Cocaine Socialism'. Yet, the elections in May 1997 seemed appropriate for its release. So the great female backing vocals and horn sections were finished, it was all ready and then, Cocker didn't want to release it; "because my nerve had gone, I had confused feelings about the Labour Party and yes, maybe it sounded a bit familiar to 'Common People' but the basic truth was that I didn't have the stomach for it any more. In the end I think the opening lines of 'The Fear' best sum up the record: "This is the sound of someone losing the plot/Making out they're ok when they're not/ You're going to like it, but not a lot." In the end 'This is Hardcore' may sound like failure - but it's the most successful rendition of the sounds of failure ever put to tape."
'Different Class' thrust Pulp to success and with it all the partying and drug-taking. Then they were asked to express support for the new Labour Party. Forget Champagne Socialism, this was Cocaine Socialism.
The body part obsessed bonus tracks that never made 'This is Hardcore' include the first song written after Cocker's American nightmare, appropriately titled, Can I Have My Balls Back, Please? With the continuing theme in My Erection where Jarvis, in an attempt to try be somebody else, began singing through a vocoder. Then the drunken sung Modern Marriage was an attempt to reinvent the wedding vows for the modern age, written while Cocker was temporarily engaged himself.
These three records represent five years of insane success, popularity and the breakdown of it all. Politics and music were crushed together as though it was all the embodiment of the changing times; that this shift in elections and the Britpop explosion were intrinsically linked. It would be easy to draw links between the current Government and the timing of these reissues. As Jarvis recalls from recording 'This is Hardcore', "We'd been invited to the victory party at Millbank but we didn't go. As I watched Tony Blair punching the air to the strains of D:Ream's 'Things Can Only Get Better' I thought to myself: Is that so?"