Welcome To Planet Jarvis
Words: Jordan Paramor, Photographer: Neil Cooper
Taken from Smash Hits, 27 September - 10 October 1995

Welcome to Planet Jarvis... Where people fall out of buildings, young men smell of fish, bespectacled 32-year-olds from Sheffield become bigger than Michael Jackson and have ambitions to rocket into space.

Jarvis Cocker walks in the room clutching his battered brown leather case and dishevelled electric blue plastic bag. He looks like a weary traveller as he begins his journey across the room. He walks with the grace and poise of a ballerina, and once he reaches his destination - the sofa - he flops down. "Blur were celebrating last night because of their No. 1, and I joined in. I'm afraid I ended up staying out until about half past five." He looks sheepish, like someone about to be told off by his mum.

The minute you meet Jarvis you notice his incredible sculptured cheekbones, superhero jaw and mile-long, string-thin legs. And every time he moves, with very feminine mannerisms, he creates a pose. He's dressed in old, tight brown cords, some black slip-on shoes and a yellow and orange striped shirt that's so bright it'd put the sun in the shade! Oh yes, only Jarvis could wear these clothes and not look a complete arse!

Jarvis is an extraordinary-looking man. He saunters around the room chatting to people, full of boyish charm, hands on snake-like hips. Jarvis walks and talks slowly and methodically, as if each and every movement and word is carefully thought out. He appears incredibly self-assured, and at the same time he's childlike and conscious of himself, especially when every now and again he looks intently, over the top of his glasses, like a puppy seeing snow for the first time. Although he very rarely smiles, he somehow manages to radiate happiness, and has a very relaxed presence. Especially now, as he stretches out on the bright green plastic grass contentedly munching on a sandwich, having his toenails painted silver and indulging in intense conversations with whoever's around.

The life of a pop star is certainly a bizarre one. Life hasn't always been the whirlwind of celebrity craziness and excitement that Jarvis has come to know and love. Once upon a time, a young Jarvis sat miserably in his room, dreaming of the day he'd be famous and everyone would love him, and he could laugh back at all the people, who over the years, had laughed at him. Fifteen years and a long struggle later, Jarvis Cocker, Mr Pop Star extraordinaire, has landed. Everyone has dreams and this is the story of one man who never really expected his to come true...

Jarvis Branson Cocker was born on September 19, 1963. He grew up in the suburbs of Sheffield with his mum and his younger sister Saskia. His earliest childhood memory is of his mum breast-feeding Saskia. "I remember asking for some and my mum told me I was too old. I felt really left out!"

As Jarvis begins to talk about his school days, he shifts around uncomfortably on his stool, crosses his legs and leans forward. School was not a happy time. First off was the infants. "My mum made me wear dodgy Austrian leather shorts and I had long hair, so everyone thought I was a girl, and I didn't like my name at the time so... (shakes his head)... it was just terrible." Things didn't improve a great deal as time went on, and City Comprehensive secondary school proved to be even worse: it was a bullying nightmare. "I tended not to let them bother me. I just didn't react to it, that way bullies got bored and moved onto someone else."

These were lonely times in Jarvo's life; he went through his reclusive phase between the ages of 14 and 16. "I'd come home and go straight to my room. I'd listen to the radio, have my tea and go back to my room. Not a very interesting life," he explains. "It wasn't that I didn't want to see people. I did. But somehow it didn't work out that way," he mutters quietly. He sits silently for a while staring into the distance, and for a moment it's almost like he's alone again, sitting in his room, waiting for his life to start.

Having gone through the hell of sharing a bedroom with his sibling, he was thrilled when he eventually got his own room. Comics filled the floor, stickers covered the door and posters covered the walls (one of Planet Of The Apes and one of a man standing on top of a mountain). As mum's do, Mrs Cocker became worried by her son's strange, anti-social behaviour, so when he was 16, she arranged for him to work at the local fish market. "This was part of my mum's drive for me to make friends," he says dryly. Unfortunately it was around the time everyone started to have groovy parties. It was quite exciting going along to these parties and trying to snog girls, but of course smelling of fish at parties is not so good. Every night after work he would scrub his hands with bleach for twenty minutes. "But then I'd go out with these pink shiny hands that smelt vaguely of fish and bleach. Pretty sad really..."

It was at one party he met his first proper snogging partner. She had a bowl haircut and was tragically boring. They never used to talk to each other at school, but for some reason would get together at parties and pretend to be married! "I didn't really understand it." he explains. "We just used to argue like a married couple. I remember at one party she turned up with this doll saying we were getting a divorce and she wanted custody of our child!" he says, still looking confused. "It just seemed like a funny thing to do at the time!"

The relationship didn't last and Jarvis found himself invited along to a "pairing off" party, where everyone got into couples, and snogged. Much to everyone's - including his - amazement he ended up in a bedroom with a girl with a huge reputation for "doing it" with anyone. "Nobody thought I was gay or anything, I think they just thought I wasn't interested in anything to do with sex, so they were a bit surprised!" He didn't lose his virginity that night - no condoms on him - but he achieved the biggest love bite in the whole of Sheffield: "I was quite proud of that."

By this time, Jarvis had already formed his first band, called Arabicus Pulp (after an object he saw listed in an economics book), with some friends from school. But in true school band style none of them could actually play anything. However, they tried! They got a Radio 1 session in 1981, but success didn't follow. Most of the band left and got proper jobs and the ones that didn't got a hard time. "One friend did want to carry on with it, but his Dad threw his dinner at him when he mentioned it, so that was the end of that!"

Jarvis wasn't about to let anything stand in the way of his dreams and after several different line-ups, Pulp were signed to Fire Records in 1985. Shortly afterwards Jarvis fell from a window ledge and broke his pelvis while trying to impress a girl, which meant he had to perform on stage in a wheelchair! Pulp released several singles, but they all bombed. "The band was supposedly my 'career' for five years before I realised that it wasn't going anywhere," Jarvis reflects.

In 1990, Pulp's current line-up was established, and Nick Banks, Candida Doyle, Steve Mackey, Russell Senior,and of course, Jarvis, made their first TV appearance on Granada's New Sessions. In 1993, Pulp signed to major record label Island. Do You Remember The First Time? was released in March 1994, reaching No. 33 in the charts. The Sisters EP followed in May 1994; it made No. 19 in the charts, and provided an extremely excited Jarvis with his first Top Of The Pops appearance (this was the infamous incident where he opened his jacket to reveal an 'I hate Wet Wet Wet' sign stuck inside!). Pulp had arrived! Common People crashed into the charts at No. 2 last June - higher than Michael Jackson - and transformed Pulp into the mega-popsters they are today!

After 15 years that young boy from Sheffield has finally got his dream. It must feel pretty good, right? "Well, I do get invited to a lot of good parties these days!" he states proudly. "I always try to keep my feet on the ground though." He stops to think, sits back down on his stool and dramatically directs his eyes skywards. "It is hard when people tell you you're wonderful all the time though, it's not good for you... (shaking his head)... it really isn't." But there's no denying it, Jarvis is now a sex god. "Well, I like my hands," he says modestly. "I've got nice fingers. I'm not sure about the rest of me though. I don't think I'm sexy. I certainly don't look in the mirror in the morning and think (purses his lips) Mmmmm!"

Now Pulp has taken off in a big way, and Jarvis is living his fantasy lifestyle, are there any dreams left to be fulfilled? "I'd like to go into space. I don't know if you'll ever be able to, but I think it'd be amazing. I'd just like to be weightless, to have that feeling... that'd be great. That's my ultimate ambition."

If you can survive 15 years of being unknown and non-stop ridicule to become one of Britain's biggest pop stars, then getting up to space should be no problem. Because despite everything - and Jarvis knows this better than anyone - dreams can come true. Eventually.

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