Words: Chris Roberts, Photographer: Phil Ward
Taken from Melody Maker, 19 March 1994
At last! Sleazeglamour gods Pulp are about to fulfil years of critical promises. To celebrate, they have made a single and video about Losing Your Viginity.
For some, it was dark and grubby. For others, Blakean and euphoric. The loss of virginity is an event (or not) which most recall as imperfect but momentous, or at least crap but interesting.
Bob Mortimer cites an overwhelming sense of "I am about to do it, I am doing it, I have done it." Jo Brand remembers her head banging against the base of the toilet. "She was very into the Bay City Rollers," sighs Terry Hall (though not of Jo Brand), "which put me off a bit. But not enough." Jarvis Cocker didn't tell anyone about it for five years, fearing the secret might lose its magic.
We know all this because Pulp, right now Britain's most stimulating pop group, have made a half-hour film interviewing various surprisingly candid quasi-names (Justine Frischman, John Peel, Pam Hogg, Alison Steadman, etc) about their sexual awakening. The film premiered at the ICA last week and is a funny and touching - as the phrase goes - catalyst for discussion and irreverent nostalgia.
It also ties in (sort of) with Pulp's new single, "Do You Remember The First Time?", which revisits the bravado of "Lipgloss" and "Razzmatazz" and is in every way irresistible. After years of bruised suburban sonatas, Pulp - suddenly hailed across the media as sex gods and glam messiahs - are ready to be defiled by popular acclaim.
Talk about sex? Pulp have already done that more times than the average women's glossy. Yet when you ask Pulp if they sometimes think everything's been done before, guitarist/violinist Russell says, "The ancient Greeks were saying that as well, weren't they?" and mainman Jarvis says, "That would be a very defeatist attitude. Even if every experience in life has been had by someone before, it's not been had by you. Unless you believe in reincarnation, which I'm not that bothered about myself."
"We tried to make an accessible film," begins bassist Steve. "The tone of it's light, watchable, funny. We've discouraged the tabloids - there are enough quotes to bury everyone on it, taken out of context, so we've been quite careful there."
"As it stands," adds Jarvis, "anyone could watch it, even people who might find our music distasteful. I'm not obsessed with sex, don't get me wrong. It's just that so often it gets written about in an idealised way or a 'Carry On' nudge-nudge way. Then again, I don't think it would be so great if it was more open, like I imagine Norway to be, where they discuss it over the breakfast table."
"There is a lot to be said for English restraint," muses Russell. "The fact that something is forbidden makes it more exciting.
"Ah, but that's when you get your suspenders on and your orange in your mouth," interrupts Jarvis. There is some confusion.
"No, not you personally Russell; I mean that bloke. They only do that cos you have to lock yourself away in private. If it wasn't 'bad' they wouldn't be drawn to that twisted sexuality."
"There's a frisson to the whole thing," continues Russell. "So when you do break it down it seems to mean something and it's not just something you do as a matter of course. I was on a train once with this German girl and she just got changed in front of me, and, well, it didn't turn me on... I felt really insulted by it, to tell you the truth. I thought: I'm a man..."
"Maybe she was trying to tell you something," suggests Jarvis.
"No, well, she wasn't, that was the thing. It was..." Russell tails off.
Was this in England or in Germany?
"It was in the former Yugoslavia."
What comes across repeatedly in the filmed interviews is the sense of relief everyone felt from adolescent peer pressure to have "done it".
"We found quite a difference between men and women," observes Jarvis, "in that men would be more inclined to brag off about it, the thing that 'I've pulled'. Whereas a girl wouldn't run around school going 'I've had a shag'. I'm not saying that's right. I think it probably isn't, but..."
I'm certain it isn't. Women talk in much earthier terms.
"I don't know," considers keyboardist Candida. "I think women want the romantic thing more than men do. But that doesn't mean they get it. I mean, yes, women talking about men can be really... joky."
"Men talk about women on a superficial level," says Steve. "They don't say: but does she love you?"
"There's all this laddishness, which is nonsense," says Russell. "And lads know it's nonsense but it's fun, like talking about cars and football."
Candida tells a story.
"My cousin was showing me round her house last night, and there's a boy living there, and on his wall he had five pictures of cars. I've never seen that before. No pictures of women or anything. Just cars."
"I always know when my girlfriend and her friend are talking about men in the kitchen," says Russell. "You hear the noise of geese cackling."
"A lot of men do think differently to before," reflects Candida. "That comedienne Jo Brand, she's all right, but she can be just too nasty to men sometimes, I think. It's just as bad as some awful big fat boozy men going on about women. Which you don't get any more on telly. But you do get a lot of women on telly being horrible about men."
"It just sets up a 'versus' situation again, doesn't it?" says Jarvis. "You're either on one side or the other. Still. It wouldn't do for us all to be the same, would it?"
"Good God no!" we all chime.
Pulp recently finished recording what they regard as their "first album proper" with producer to the stars Ed Buller.
"For the entirety of the Eighties we had to have a whip-round to spend 15 hours in the back of a cold transit van to play to 12 people", chuckles Russell. "Don't let anyone romanticise it, it's a load of rubbish, best off out of it."
"You'd get up in the morning," remembers drummer Nick, "feeling like you'd been shat out of a horse. Or something."
Jarvis surprises me by claiming The Velvet Underground are a bigger influence on him than Barry White, and he never records while naked.
"It's usually me, but not me as I would go down to the shops. But still me."
Pulp are enjoying their long overdue lift-off.
"It's a bit sad if you get too blasť about things; cynicism cuts down your opportunities. It's the same with sex, of course. I mean you have to have a certain degree of excitement just to... get it on."
Bang a gong. Let's.