National Anthems
Words: Jarvis Cocker, Photographer: Terence Donovan
Taken from GQ Magazine, December 1996

I have to say that I'm not really in the habit of eulogising this place we call the UK - jingoism and flag-waving make me sick (they really do). But, having been out of the country for most of the past year, I have to admit there are a few things about Britain that I've missed or thought kindly about. Here's a few of them (cue "Land of Hope and Glory" playing in the background, general Last Night of the Proms atmosphere, streamers, etc)

Double-decker buses (I have my own private fleet now, of course); concrete bus shelters (becoming rare - good places to kiss on cold autumn evenings); chips (that's chips, not fries, OK); the BBC (yes, pay yer bleeding licence fee you tight gets - and if I could just add my tuppence worth to the debate on the future of the World Service: leave it alone. Now that Radio 2 is having to play Radio 1's cast-offs, the World Service is the only BBC station you can listen to at night when you want to fall asleep. I mean, have you tried failing asleep to Tina Turner? It's not nice); Top of the Pops, as long as it's on at 7pm on a Thursday. That's THURSDAY, as in "Not Friday" - do I make myself clear?; pointless exercises such as train-spotting, plane-spotting (in Sheffield they even have tram-spotting) - see also stone-cladding and the half-timbering of Portakabins; televised snooker; bitter shandy; Simpsons of Piccadilly; proper cafés; Radio Times trivia machines; Day Nurse; DG "Old Jamaican" ginger beer; Marmite; PG Tips (can I have that sponsorship deal now, please?); the fact that you still have to get to know people a bit before they'll tell you anything-personal (i.e. not like in the US). Yes, if I put my mind to it, there's quite a lot about this country that I like - but you wouldn't find me admitting that in public. I mean, that just wouldn't be British, would it?

But I didn't ask to be born here, and there's lots about Britain that I don't like. Nowhere else in the world, for example, do you get as much abuse if people think you're wearing something "weird"; it's like it's a personal insult to them, as if you're wearing it just to spite them. This intolerance to difference is one of the sides to the British character that I find very unappealing.

It also depresses me when people think they're part of some Great British heritage and they've got a God-given right to go ahead and beat people up if they can't get a pint and some chips at ten o'clock at night. It all came out again during Euro 96, didn't it? I mean, I was excited by England's performance and I really wanted them to win, but stabbing people after the match because they've got a German accent or they're driving an Audi - it's not really on, is it?

Still, I have to admit that I can't really imagine being from anywhere else. I think it's the unpleasant things about Britain that force people to create the good things. The reason that Britain has produced so much innovative music is that if you come from a crappy nowhere town (and most of the best music does) you have to create something to compensate for the lack of anything going on. The key to Britain's musical prowess is boredom. Music is probably the biggest area in which we piss on the competition, but in the world of art, books and design I think we're ahead too.

Pity about the food.

Click on the images to enlarge...


Terence Donovan's iconic photographs helped Jarvis re-assess the way fame had affected him. Less than a year after GQ's 'Cool Britannia' issue, Jarvis said the following in an interview with The Face magazine:

"He [Terence] was really nice, but those pictures convinced me that I had to disappear for a long time. I've never been able to bring meself to look at them. I look like some kind of bloated... mess. I just look vacant. Like I've had something sucked out of me. The way I think of it is in terms of the placards you have in a hairdresser's window, with the pictures of the hairstyles that you can get inside. And they're in colour, but then they've been in the window for ages and all the colour drains out and you're left just with light blue - blue seems to be the last layer of the printing process and you're just left with these faded blue pictures. And it's like that, you know? It's like you're subjected to this glare of relentless scrutiny, and if you don't apply a bit of shade to yourself, then you'll just fade and eventually you won't have any personality left. So you have to keep something back for yourself. Which was never a problem before. I had loads left back for meself, because nobody was arsed about who I was. It wasn't an issue then. But it is an issue now. You have to remain a human being. I think that's quite important."

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