Lifestyle Of The Rich & Famous
Words: Adam Higginbotham, Photographer: Neil Cooper
Taken from Select Magazine, October 1995

Sixteen years on its trail. And now Pulp have fame grasped firmly by its slippery lamé tail. It's all theirs - Pop Quiz, platinum discs, Savile Row safari suits. But what do the years ahead hold for Britain's ultimate pop group. Join them as they negotiate a FuturePulpWorld of unimaginable possibilities...

On a hot July day, Jarvis Cocker closes the door of his house and walks slowly across the street to the newsagents. Inside, he glances across the shelf and finds the magazine he wants. His photograph is on the cover. There he is, as pain as the nose on your face, wearing a lime green shirt, sunglasses on his head, holding a small sign that says, 'Follow Me'.

"Oh," says the woman behind the counter as Jarvis proffers a handful of change, "is that you?"

"Oh, no. No." Replies Jarvis without hesitation. She's not convinced: "Hmm. It looks like you."

"Yes," offers Jarvis, examining the picture, clearly noticing the resemblance for the first time. "Yes. I s'pose it does. But it's not."

Later that day, as Jarvis is buying fish and chips, another customer approaches him and starts talking to him about Glastonbury. Today, his six-foot-something frame propped in a corner of Townhouse studios like a badly-folded deckchair, he briefly ponders the nature of fame. "I s'pose I am becoming a star," he murmurs. "When people recognise you in chip shops, you can't deny it, I suppose. Can you?"

Jarvis Cocker doesn't want to be recognised near where he lives. People, he says, might think he's got money. Something worth nicking. He hasn't, of course: "The video cost a fiver from a Labour Party jumble sale and it chews the tapes all the time. The telly isn't even colour." But try as he might, there's no denying that he's famous. After all those years of signing on, falling out of windows, making records that wouldn't be released and releasing records nobody wanted to hear, Pulp have finally made it. In the wake of 'Common People', everyone knows who Pulp are. And, more importantly, everyone loves them. He's spent a good ten years warming up. Now what's it like to be Jarvis Cocker, superstar?

In person, El Jarvo is a strange mixture of the urbane and the urban. He's wearing a brown tweed-effect safari suit and jelly sandals. He speaks with the mannered poise of the saloon bar louche, but hands down his aphorisms illustrated with words like 'knob' and 'knackered'. "This is our listening room," he mocks, adopting the condescending tone of landed nobility, as he puts on a tape of the demos from the new LP, which may or may not be called 'Different Class'. "Come this way, take a seat. We'll be with you in a moment." And then: "Let me take a piss first."

He's immensely likeable not only because of his self-deprecation and wry charm, but also because he talks exactly like you would if you were clever enough. He's a timeless notion of what a pop star is supposed to be like, as likely to dip into the contemporary hipsters' lexicon of 'Vibe's, 'cool's or 'funky's as he is to throw a flattened cardboard box on the floor and start breakdancing. As the songs start, with the new double A-sided single 'Sorted For E's And Wizz' / 'Mis-Shapes', Jarvis sits on the floor, fingers raised nervously to pursed lips. A triptych of lyrical bitterness and sumptuously tacky glitterball tunes, the tape ends with the breathtakingly vicious 'I Spy': "I spy for a living / I specialise in revenge / I'm taking the things I know will cause you pain / I can't help it, I was dragged up / My favourite parks are carparks / Grass is something you smoke / Birds are something you shag / Take your Year In Provence / And shove it up your ass...' It's great. "It's alright," mutters Jarvis.

Everyone loves Jarvis Cocker. He's the one pop star that no one from PJ and Duncan to your gran has a bad word to say about. And it's because he's the quintessence of everything that's great about British popular culture. He's always up for a laugh - not least at himself - he can ruminate amusingly about any subject you care to bring up, he'll wear stripey pyjamas on The Big Breakfast and he's not afraid to write songs about pants and trainer bras.

The British are always slightly embarrassed and alienated by the sweeping psychodramas of furrow-browed rock stars who turn their careers into public therapy for ruined childhood and smack problems. Let's face it - it's a bit too serious isn't it? And even if Eddie Vedder was prepared to appear on Pop Quiz, he couldn't turn up pissed and make it into a moment of career defining genius. But give us someone who writes about snobbery, class, petty jealousy and repressed sexuality and we're right at home. Especially if it all takes place in Sheffield and it's all ironic anyway.

This ideal combination - the stage-presence of peak period Alvin Stardust and the withering deadpan wit of Alan Bennett in the body of Kenneth Williams - makes for something freakish about Jarvis. This is partly down to the idealised no one's-like-that-really persona pitched somewhere between Smash Hits and Readers' Wives. But most importantly it's because he keeps it up all the time. There is no off-duty Jarvis. He goes to the shops like Jarvis From Pulp. He watches TV like Jarvis From Pulp. He neglects the washing up like Jarvis From Pulp. And he's adamant about it. It's in the pop star's job description.

"I think people should be made to do that," he says. "You can't be a part-timer, you know. You've got to mean it. I've always thought that. Even when I was only a pop star in me head I considered it my duty to be like that all the time. I don't, own any casual clothes. You never know who you're go to bump into." This might make him Frankenstein's pop star: over the years bits have been grafted on and torn off him to concoct a personality so specialised for appearances on Top Of The Pops that it's unnatural. But this is how Jarvis wants it: like David Carradine in Kung Fu, he's spent his whole life training for this moment. However disconcerting his full-time pop star personality might be, Jarvis From Pulp is all his own creation.

"I don't know what a pop star personality is. But I always wanted to be in a group from a really early age and used to pretend that I was. When I was about 12 or 13, at school, there was a gang of about five of us and we were all in a group. I'd say, I'm the singer, he's the drummer, and stuff like that... I wouldn't tell them. It just made it seem more interesting when you were walking down the corridor, imagining that we were a group and all the kids were clapping us.

"There are sides to me that I don't make use of in a musical context. In the same way that I'd hope never to write a song about being on the road, or being in a hotel room. Although it's what I do most of my life now, I don't consider it valid subject matter to write about. There are bits of my personality that I don't consider fit for human consumption. People are better off not having it. They're not good. I don't consider them to be worth burdening anyone with. It wouldn't be fair."

Jarvis talks offhandedly of his "defective" personality, and it's this, rather than any need to conform to anyone else's idea of how he should behave, that makes him what he is. As a kid, he always used to imagine there was a camera in his head that people could tune into and watch what he was doing. And he never grew out of it. "I've got a very pronounced fear of boredom or of being boring. I always think that if you allow yourself to do something really rubbish, then there's somebody watching and thinking, I knew it. I knew he was a fake all along. Your life is the biggest creative thing you've got, isn't it? When you're incapacitated and you're lying on a bed about to die, that's what's going to be playing in your head. And if you've got these long bits of sitting in watching telly doing crap things, then they're the bits that come back to you. So you have to work on your life and make it worth replaying when that moment comes."

Jarvis spent most of his teenage years convinced that life was like a movie where everyone he met had a role to play in shaping the plot, and everything would be alright in the end. And even after he'd left school and found himself on the dole, playing in bands while all his friends went to university, he still thought like this. "It wasn't conscious, but something lodged in the back of me head, that it was alright because eventually life was going to take on some meaning or something. But then you get this horrible dawning realisation in the middle of the night that maybe it won't. Maybe this is it: that you're going to be looking into this saucepan of reconstituted dried food for the rest of your life, or getting up at two o'clock every afternoon, and that's it. You could just go all through your life on supplementary benefit and then, just at the end, get a pension and that's it. And it was a scary thing when I realised that that could happen unless I did anything about it."

So he doesn't think life is like a film any more, but he' still like someone living in a fantasy world. "Well..." he says, with the disconcerted pause of a man who's just noticed that he's talking to someone who doesn't cast a shadow, " some ways probably... I mean, I'm interested in reality." As part of his constant quest to make life less bleak, Jarvis began to look at things through a curious, fantastical self-help worldview-finder. "Rather than it being a fantasy, I think you can apply your imagination to real life and make it more exciting, You can be conscious of the fact that really you're making it up, and that the bloke in the supermarket isn't a Russian agent, and he's really just a bloke buying some Ajax. But you can play little games with yourself to make life more interesting. Just for your own entertainment."

And it's this that makes Pulp records so great: they recontextualise a grim reality in a gaudy framework of plastic melodrama and tight-fitting camp. "Our songs are always based on real events. They're always about normal things. But through putting music to it, it does dramatise it so it's not just kitchen sink, Let's all wallow in the despair of late 20th century existence stuff. It is changed in a way. That's what I've always been after."

With this in mind, Jarvis now turns to considering what the years of Pulp's imminent intercontinental fame might hold: the groupies, the ridiculous tour-riders, the merchandising, the acrimonious break-up and the failed string of boutiques. Will success spoil Jarvis Cocker? "Oh good," he says, possibly cocking an eye-brow, "I like using my imagination."

It can only be a short time before the darlings of the gutterpress exhaust their years of glory, and its time for the sordid revelations... The trusted chauffeur, the keep-schtum bodyguard and the glamour model you met in the toilets at Stringfellows all come out of the woodwork to collect their cheques...

"There's not much scandal in my life. I s'pose you can get caught shagging somebody you're not supposed to. But that wouldn't be much of a scandal 'cos I'm perceived to write about that kind of thing anyway. People wouldn't be very surprised. It's not like, say, if Les Dennis were to get caught in a coke and sex scandal. With me it would be, Jarvis Cocker has been married for the last 15 years and has three children. He's very interested in gardening and watching televised snooker. That would be the scandal: so-called sex symbol Cocker has been celibate for the last nine years, sleeping in separate beds in a semi-detached house, with his'n'hers matching towels and a telephone cover. It'd be like 'BINGED on fitted kitchens! DRANK milky drink at night to get to sleep!' I'd be quoted as saying, 'I apologise to all my fans for leading such a double life. It's all been a sham. And I'm actually 42. I promise never to go to IKEA again."

Always the first cheapskate contractual obligation tool to be used by the band who spend all their time playing enormodomes and can't find enough time to write any new material...

"Live albums are just quite bad, aren't they? We could do one that doesn't actually have any songs on, just the bits of talking in between. It'd be all spoken word, and when the song started it'd fade out and go on to the next bit of talking. I wouldn't listen to it, because I always find what I say intensely embarrassing. But it's always meant at the time. That's what makes live albums interesting. Lou Reed's 'Live Take No Prisoners' is interesting 'cos he's going on about a right load of rubbish in the songs and they all go on ten times longer than they should. And there's one that might be by Iggy Pop where he gets beaten up in the middle of it. This concert's not going so well, so he starts calling the audience faggots and queers. And they're bikers. You hear the sound of a bottle smashing, and then his voice goes all mmmfmmmf, so he's obviously got a split lip. That's all interesting, isn't it? But otherwise live albums aren't worth doing."

Top celebrities from Sting to Reeves & Mortimer are inundated with endorsement requests, carefully picking the product they give their name and face to, bearing in mind their image and responsibility to their audience.

"I'd do Marmite. But I'd make them reinstate the metal lid, which they phased out in 1983. Advertising's gone a bit far now, it's being treated like an art form. It should be more blatant just, Buy this! Buy this! Buy this! I'd have one where I just shove a jar of Marmite at you and say, Cop a load of this! It's alright! Or, Buy this! It'll make your tail grow six inches! 'Cos if somebody's stupid enough to think that eating Marmite's going to make your cock get bigger then they deserve everything they get. In my book. So I'd lie, basically."

After the sad demise of the real thing, a nation of adoring fans - or the subsidised lager Freshers' Week circuit, at least - will be crying out for more live performances from their favourite group.

"That would be amusing. What would they call it? They've got the Australian Doors and the Bootleg Beatles... The Piss-Poor Pulp. Where would they come from? Mental hospitals. The Pretend Pulp would be the best name, I suppose. They'd have to buy some really bad equipment that didn't work properly. I'd go and watch'em. I think you'd get quite a wide age-range. We've had people from eight to 92 see Pulp. We met an eight-year-old fan at Leeds. Someone told me that their great grandmother watched Glastonbury on TV and we were the only ones she liked. She said, Well, at least you can tell what he's saying."

Pitched to take advantage of the under-nines teeny pop market, the specially designed limited edition Take That version of Risk or the indie-world version of Cluedo is an essential marketing device.

"You want to talk to Russell about that. He actually has devised a board game called The Housing Ladder. Which is based around buying a house and getting a mortgage. I've not played it, but it's all about finding a house and bidding for it, and then you might get gazumped. I've heard it's just like the real thing. The trouble with a Pulp boardgame is, if you wanted to make it realistic it would be terrible because it would take longer than Monopoly. But if you wanted to mimic that 15-year wilderness period, people would lose interest. A Menswear game would be exciting. But for us it would be too complicated and bore people to death. Nobody would ever get to the end of it.

I'd like to have it like Haunted House used to be, where you drop a ball-bearing into the middle and you don't know where it's going to come out... There were loads of ways of getting knackered by this ball-bearing. I'd have that random element, but I'd have it loaded so good things would only happen once out of a hundred times, so the ballbearing would keep landing on 'You sign to Fire Records' or 'You fall out of a window'. It would be very tedious. But realistic."

Abba did it, the Pet Shop Boys did it, Elvis did it more than anyone else. Once the First Band In Biker Bar cameos are out of the way everyone's got a semibiographical vanity movie in them. Even if they're not up to the dizzy thespian heights of Bowie, Sting or, ah, Michael Hutchence in Dogs in Space...

"I can't act, so that'd soon put a stop to anything like that. I'd be behind the camera. I'd prefer it to be adventure-based rather than music-based. A bit of sci-fi. Where each band member had special powers: Russell's piercing stare could turn people to glass; Candida's magic ring could make her invisible. That would be better than the sad story of somebody who chokes on their own vomit in a bathtub or something. You can get all that at home, can't yer? I'd have special effects, but I'd make sure that there was a lot of dialogue. Dialogue usually drives me mad in films because it's not very realistic. That's why I like Pulp Fiction, because people just talk rubbish a lot of the time. People aren't actually very articulate. So I wouldn't have people delivering these perfect speeches: 'You never loved me even from that moment when we first met by the cabriolet'. I'd try to make it more realistic: 'Err.. errr.. What... fuck, I don't ohhhh... dunno'. And I've always wanted to see a film where the subject matter was fantastical but the people in it reacted in a real way. Like if this big three-headed thing came out of the sea, they'd say, 'Fuckin' 'ell. Look at that!"

Where everyone who has become Famous For Being Famous washes up, shortly before taking up that residence on Celebrity Squares or Blankety Blank - see, for example, Gloria Hunniford, Selina Scott or Danny Baker...

"It's my nightmare that I'd end up hosting an abomination like Tarby Late, where Jimmy Tarbuck's interviewing George Best and at the end he goes, 'Ladies and Gentlemen, I loved him as a player and I love him as a friend - George Best!' I hate that stuff. It makes me flesh crawl. When I've gone on telly, I've thought it was important because people from groups like ours didn't go on telly. It was all part of that, 'Don't bother having those indie people on, they can't talk. All they'll do is say (in low-end monotone): 'Yeahthealbumsgoingreallywellwe'vegotagoodvibegoingit'sreallybrilliantifanybodyelselikesusit'sabonus' All that's true, but music doesn't exist in a vacuum. If you do it, you shouldn't think, I'm here as a musician, you've got to think I'm here, and on the other channel is Coronation Street. You're part of a programme, and your duty is to make it as interesting as possible."

"Anybody on my chat show wouldn't be allowed to talk about their latest book. I'd only let them on if they were interesting, and I'd want to ask about things that didn't have anything to do with their public life. I'd have people like Mike Leigh and Martin Amis. And people I didn't like much. Derek Jameson. I'd like to ask him why he's such a c***."

The high-fashion signature couture line is only for the top names - Prince, Jacko, Kim Gordon of Sonic Youzth... And Jarvis.

"That'd be handy, because they could make clothes for me. I always have difficulty finding things. I'd have me own label, but they'd only be available in my size, they'd only fit people with the same measurements. The kind of clothes I wear wouldn't look right on somebody who was 15 stone. I could market my own diet drink, like Complan. Jarvplan, to help people attain that figure. The clothes would only be available on street stalls. And called, er, Jarv's Gear. Or maybe all one word, Jarvgear. That'd be alright."

"Accessories? Shoes, clutchbags underwear, obviously. I don't like skimpy underwear. Something substantial. The trunks style for men. For women, larger ones - they look better. Nothing exotic, because that usually looks tacky. Something nice and comfortable, but attractive. And navy blue. You don't have to change it so often. Generally I don't like raunchy clothes. I wouldn't have rubberwear or anything like that. I'd have pencil skirts. Pencil skirts and Polyveldts were in when I was at school, at the time when I really wanted a girlfriend but never did. I could make up for it by seeing girls wearing pencil skirts and Polyveldts again."

As with every global pop phenomenon from The Beatles to Take That, so with Pulp: the gaudily-boxed nine-inch effigies that all look like Alan Hansen. Collect the set!

"I'd like dolls. We were given a set the other day by some people in Leeds. They'd made one of everybody. I'm really pissed off 'cos I can't find mine. It even had sunglasses sewn on the head. I'd like it to do something - like Action Man had Eagle Eyes, you'd be able to press mine at the back and its arm would come up like that (limb jerks up in Elvis Vegas-years fashion). The leg could flick up, maybe a bit of a moving finger or something. And you could have little samples in it so it would go, 'Ooh!'. Accessories? A little wheelchair, lots of shoes. A base would be good, too. With a sink full of washing-up. A telly that doesn't work. It would be marketed very cheaply - through Poundstretcher shops and maybe garages. It would be dangerous. It would be one of those where the head comes off and a spike goes straight through a child's... liver. Definitely quite shoddy."

And with that, Jarvis is back off to the control room to finish off the LP that will make this all possible. In the studio canteen down the hall, aridly humoured guitarist Russell Senior stares into his tea. He's thinking about Sheffield. About being on the dole. About spending a decade and a half waiting for everyone to notice that Pulp were stars. And he's thinking he doesn't want any of it back. "We always wanted fame," he says. "We never kidded ourselves when we were unsuccessful that we wanted to be 'undergound'. We were mortified that we weren't on Top Of The Pops when we were on Fire Records and selling 73 records, and doing quite well in Norway because we sold 85. So we've got every right to say, This is success - we like it."

>>> Pulp Starfile <<<

Candida Doyle

Instrument: Keyboards, Birthday: August 20, Sign of Zodiac: Virgo
What do you like most about being famous?
You can act like a spoiled bugger. I don't want to start behaving like a famous pop star. I like to keep hold of reality. If it all ended I could be left there thinking, Who am I?
What do you miss about not being famous?
Nothing. Certainly not spending six years carrying around our own equipment. Sometimes I miss not having a proper job. People in the music business aren't really my type. I used to work in a toyshop.
When was the last time your family asked, When are you going to get a proper job?
About five years ago. I've thought it myself more recently.
What will your solo LP be like?
Not very rock. Gentle ballads. A kind of Spiritualized thing. Or a bit like Love. But I'm crap at writing lyrics, it would just be called 'Candida'.
Which internationally renowned celebrities would you hang about with?
Steve Coogan because he's really funny. I would have said Jack Nicholson, but he's too old now.

Russell Senior

Instrument: Guitar / Violin, Birthday: May 18, Sign of Zodiac: Taurus
What do you like most about being famous?
Bizarre things happen to you. Because you're on tour, say, you'll find a porcupine in a bucket. And it's a good way to travel and meet people.
What do you miss about not being famous?
We had a long period out of not being famous and there's nothing glamorous about that. It's better than failure, success. And you don't have to be recognised. I had a mate in The Mission who'd get really hassled. I said to him, Stop wearing the cowboy hat. That's going to help.
When was the last time your family asked, When are you going to get a proper job?
Very recently. But my dad came to see us in Leeds the other day and there were 80,000 people there. And now he wants to come on tour.
What will your solo LP be like?
It's called '24 Carat Steel'. It's quite Eastern European influenced. P'raps some influences from Kraftwerk, DAF, Wagner. It's the first popular music LP to put Wagnerian concepts into the three-minute pop song by cutting out the waffle and going straight to 'duh-duh-duh-deeer-DEER'. There are vocals. But not in English. Who'll buy it? No one.
Which internationally renowned celebrities would you hang about with?
I'd rather hang out with Roger, our production manager. He appreciates good wine, he's not a big egotist and he doesn't wear gold lamé jackets.

Nick Banks

Instrument: Drums, Birthday: July 28, Sign of Zodiac: Leo
Do you miss anything about not being famous?
Not really. Only that the time taken up by being in a group means that I don't have so much time to sit on my arse watching TV.
When was the last time your family asked, When are you going to get a proper job?
A couple of years ago. When we signed to Island and reached the status of Not Signing On, it was like, Oh! But it was still a bit begrudging. Since we've had some hits, aunties and uncles have started coming out of the woodwork for autographs.
What will your solo LP be like?
I'd be tempted to do it without any drums on. 'Cos Ringo's solo work wasn't too sparkling, was it? And you've got your Cozy Powells who had one good record, 'Dance With The Devil' - follow up not so good. I'd like to make it very strange, I don't think I could handle singing. I'd like a drum-kit just made of cymbals. And finger symbol. Not actual drums at all, and just some noises - a telephone ringing, or some dialogue. It would be quite soothing. I think people would expect something laddish: lots of bashing about, noisy. So I'd steer clear of that. It'd be called 'Fingers'. It's got so many connotations: there's the cymbals; there's the abusive way, the sexual way...
Which internationally renowned celebrities would you hang about with?
Jack Nicholson would be fun to hang round the pool with. I bet he could get into some scrapes. He's got that mischievous look about him.

Steve Mackey

Instrument: Bass, Birthday: November 20, Sign of Zodiac: Scorpio
What do you like most about being famous?
You have access to people and situations you wouldn't have otherwise. People are more receptive to talking to you. Robbie ex-of Take That came up to talk to me. I met Damien Hurst and he was fascinating, as well as being a really good laugh.
What do you miss about not being famous?
I enjoy success more than fame. It means I have enough money to do what I want. But I can't think of anything worse than being a celebrity.
When was the last time your family asked, When are you going to get a proper job?
They never said it. In a way I've achieved something they can be proud of - my MA in film. They've always backed me up. And they weren't middle class arty types letting me indulge my passion - I was brought up on a council estate.
What will your solo LP be like?
Last year I got introduced to '60s minimalism - Steve Reich and John Cage. I'd do something like that. Most people see it as pseudo intellectual art wank bullshit - I did until I listened to it. So my LP would be long drones on synthesizers in Eastern harmonic scales. It would last four hours and be called 'The 17th Harmonic Of The Fourth Inversion Of The Harmonic Scale'!
Which internationally renowned celebrities would you hang about with?
Han Solo. He always had a good time, and the best spaceship in the galaxy.

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