Mark Webber, man of extensive nail polish collection, Pulp's own baby and the fan turned member, is reminiscing about the early days:
I met them in January 1986 when I was doing a fanzine called "Cosmic Pig". I went and did an interview with them even though I'd only heard one of their songs, and they were just the weirdest bunch of people I'd ever, ever met. I did the interview and stayed and watched the concert, and it was like nothing I'd ever seen. It was great, not at all what they're like now - they used to be quite arty and avant garde.
Mark (by then 15 and a half, and a confirmed Pulp fan) kept in touch with the band "because they lived nearby, and used to play a lot, around Sheffield". He went to all their gigs, and began to get acquainted with their eccentricities:
When me and my friends used to go shopping in Sheffield, we used to go round to Russell's house. In his room he had a big frieze of photographs of industry in Eastern Europe, and a display of cigarette boxes from Russia stuck on his wall. Every time we went round he used to make a different flavour of tea for us and we had to guess what flavour it was, and he always used to pretend that it was something weirder than what it was. That was kind of how I got to know them.
For six years the small boy from Chesterfield ("a small town which seems to be full of old people catching buses") hung out with the then minor celebrities, "writing fanzines, organising clubs and generally messing around with music without making any money, or doing it seriously," and playing in his own bands which included the fantastically named "Siegfreid's Magick Box" who covered "Waiting for the man" and supported Pulp at the highly unlikely Sheffield Library Theatre in May '86. Then four years ago Mark was asked to play Stylophone on "O.U.", graduated to guitars and keyboards on other songs, and was soon playing on all songs in live sets, as well as tour managing and running the fanclub. Nine months ago the question of Mark's employment status came to a head.
It was becoming more and more complicated as to what my role was. I was there all the time but I didn't do much on the recordings and I didn't do interviews or photoshoots; apart from that I was doing as much as everyone else. Then I started writing with them and it just became a point when they decided that they had to do something about it.
So, during the recording of "Different Class" the band had a meeting, resulting in Jarvis announcing that "they'd decided to make me a once in a lifetime offer.
They asked me if I wanted to join the group equally with the rest of them. And I still haven't formally said yes. I think it's generally assumed that I wasn't saying no.
What's it like to have gone from being a fan to a bona fide member?
It's very bizarre, and I've not entirely lost respect for them all... It doesn't really happen, does it.
Finally, after more than 15 years of suffering public ridicule for their style of dress and no public recognition what so ever for their brilliant songs, Pulp have attained stardom, top five glory and are national heroes.
It all happened very gradually, over such a long period of time. It's like when you have a cat, you don't notice it getting bigger, but if you know someone who has a cat, and you only see it once every six months, you notice quite a big change. It took so long that we just got used to the various stages, and I don't think it's dawned on me yet that we're as big as we really are; that sad kid from Chesterfield is in a band that has had a number one album, a number two single, and been on Spitting Image.
A satisfying feeling though?
Yeah. I was quite frustrated for a while that I was doing stuff, and no one really knew that I was doing it, so it's nice that people realise that I'm there now. Actually, I'm a bit worried about not appreciating it enough... that pretty soon it's all going to be over, and I'll be thinking 'well I really blew it there and missed my chances.'
So what should you be doing? All night champagne and cocaine sessions at Grouchos? Divine decadance at every opportunity?
Yeah.. spending lots of money, and getting wasted, and going to New York with a model. Things like that.
What was your best moment, so far?
Playing on "Richard and Judy". I used to watch it when I was on the dole at home, and I do quite like it, it was funny being there with them.
What about the others? How do they feel about having finally made it after such a long wait?
Vindicated, satisfied that they were right to carry on doing it... relieved that they're making some money at last - they've been doing it for so long now they probably couldn't get a proper job even if they wanted to.
How do you feel about fans?
They're great, I love them all. I know exactly how they feel [tongue firmly in cheek].
We don't get groupies, well I don't see them, anyway. That was something that I always looked forward to and am constantly disappointed by the lack of!
None at all?
Not like the groupies you had in the sixties, the good old days.
But plenty of adoring fans dressed in identikit pulp costumes.
Well, it's nice that people make the effort.
Which brings us to the subject of Pulp's image; as plagiarised now as it was individual and ridiculed once.
Jarvis used to get hassle just walking down the street because he looked funny and dressed funny. The strange thing is, most of the people going to our gigs now would've beaten us up in the street ten years ago.
Is the image planned, or is it what you're all like naturally?
It's what the others are like naturally; I'm not sure where I fit into it. I've always dressed the same - now I can afford to dress slightly better, but I generally just wear brown corduroy.
But were you wearing them five years ago?
Jarvis wore them five years ago and ten years ago. I am a recent convert. Perhaps only two years.
What about the nylon and acrylic obsession?
I'm afraid I don't really know the advantages and disadvantages of natural versus man made fibres.
You've got quite a recognisable image. Do you like it?
I don't really think about it, but if I did I think I'd like it. It's better than it was. Looking back at photos now, at what the others were wearing around the time of "O.U." when they were just being recognised as having an image, they wore some shocking things. I'm so glad that I wasn't in the group then, so there aren't any pictures of me looking like that.
Where did Jarvis get the dance moves from?
I wouldn't like to think. He's done it ever since they've made music that you could possibly dance to. Actually, the first dance music they made was quite odd, so maybe that's why he started dancing oddly.
Their music was odd and avant garde originally, and is now their own version of classic pop. Do you think that they've sold out at all?
No, they didn't sell out; it was a natural progression, a little bit forced at the beginning of this period. They were getting nowhere because their music was just too abrasive for people in general. They kind of split up, then Jarvis found a keyboard of his Granny's that had a disco beat on it, and started writing some songs. They regrouped with a different bunch of people, and started doing songs that were disco, but were still quite strange. From there it gradually turned into "Babies". And the rest is history.
And he goes, "Hot Chocolate" nail polish glinting in the summer sun ("I'm after a kind of brown foundation colour, but no one's managed to find it yet"), he knows he's not a misfit any more.