Songs in the key of life: Jarvis Cocker on
the tunes that made him a man!
Interview: Jim Wirth, Photographer: Adrian Green
Taken from the New Musical Express, 25 July 1998
The first record you can remember:
This must come from around 1968 (1971 actually - Fact Ed) and I seem to remember it being on the radio when my mum was getting me ready for school. It's a good record, actually. I'm quite pleased about that because you don't really have much choice in what songs you can remember. I'm not sure whether it had any profound effect upon my life. I suppose it's quite a depressing song about a love affair that's gone wrong. You can read into that what you will.
A song that reminds you of school:
The reason that I remember this one so well is that at our school they changed the words so it used to go: 'We had joy/ We had fun/ We had seasons in the sun/ But the sun was too hot and it burned off her mott' (Vulgar term for female pubic hair - Northern Slang Ed). My school was very much Sheffield Wednesday territory so there was also a football version about Sheffield United which went: 'We had joy/ We had fun/ We had United on the run/ But the fun didn't last 'cos the bastards ran too fast'. It was kind of a multi-purpose song. I found out years later that it was written by Jacques Brel and it's actually quite a decent song. It's another depressing one; it's about someone lying on their deathbed and saying that it's hard to die in the summer while everyone's out having a good time.
Record you fell in love to:
This is the song from the film Casablanca. This is a bit corny, but I suppose it's quite a corny song, but if you're in the right frame of mind I think this song will get to you. I have been in that circumstance before, when I met someone for the first time in a bar where there was a piano player and they played this tune. It was good that it wasn't on a jukebox because it wouldn't have got me in the same way it did. You know how sometimes you can be immune to a song and then suddenly, in the right place and time, become susceptible and every word will hit home; that's how it was with me and 'As Time Goes By'.
I was breaking up with this girl and for my birthday she had bought me this Marianne Faithfull album and this song was on it. It was very poignant music and the words go something like, 'If I never get to love you / It won't mean I didn't try'. It's about however much you might want someone, sometimes things just don't work out, which was the truth of the situation. I thought this was a real message to me from this girl, but after we broke up I asked why she bought it for me and she just said it was cheap or on offer or something - and I'd read all this stuff into it.
Record for the greatest summer of
I don't know if it was the greatest summer of my life, but the summer of 1989 was certainly memorable. This is when I started going to raves and the song that was always playing and sums up those early days of E culture for me was this. I remember especially this one open-air event when it went on all night and when the sun went up the next morning people were still dancing. Then someone put this record on and even though everyone was completely knackered they put the extra effort in for this song.
Anthem for a night on the tiles:
This comes from the same period as Rhythim Is Rhythim and it actually brings back quite an embarrassing memory. I was dancing at a rave to this song with a pair of shorts on with button flies, and I remember looking down to find my knob hanging out and swinging around all over the place. Luckily no-one noticed and I put it back in place.
Record that inspired you to form a
This was a hard one for me to choose because there wasn't really any one record that inspired me to be a musician, but John Peel was very important. What happened was that I'd heard about punk rock and it sounded interesting but you couldn't get to hear it on the radio because local radio in Sheffield wouldn't play that kind of stuff and because I was only about 13 I couldn't really go out and see any bands. Anyway, I remember that I was arsing around with the radio one night and I came across John Peel's show, which was running from ten to midnight at the time, and I started to listen to it every night. That was where I found out about kinds of music that weren't the Michael Schenker Group. I had always wanted to be in a band, but listening to John Peel made me realise that it was worth having a go.
Record guaranteed to clear the
The problem with this one is that I don't know the names of any of the tracks he plays. He plays some interesting music, I suppose, but he's really into things like Charlemagne Palestine and LaMonte Young; minimalist classical stuff, which is fine in certain circumstances, but on a tourbus, where everyone is trying to calm down and relax, isn't really the place. Actually I met LaMonte Young when I was over in New York and he was alright, so I don't want to say anything nasty about him.
Midnight on New Year's Eve, 1999:
I think this would be an appropriate one because firstly it is the dawning of a new era and secondly it's quite an aggressive song and I'd like to go into the new year in an upbeat mood. I know this song envisages quite a bleak vision of the future and I have been known to be negative now and again, but I'd like to think that things might get better.
What would you like played at your
This is probably a bit stupid, really, but I think it's a bit cruel for people to arrange to play sad songs at their funerals because it's not sad for them any more; they're out of it. I'd like to have this played because it would be impossible for people to take the situation seriously and I'd much rather they just had a laugh.