Monday, 30 May 2011

Music That Made Me #22 - Pulp - Common People

What makes a best friend? When you’re young it’s probably the amount of time you spend with someone. Yet as the years advance and life takes you in different directions or places the best friend equation is a little more complicated. For me it’s probably something like this ; amount of time known you’ve known each other + how well you still get on + common ground shared between you now + shared experiences of the past.

It’s this last factor - the shared history - that Music That Made Me is all about. Call it middle-aged nostalgia if you must, but the songs that define me are as much about the memories that they hold as the songs brilliance. In an age where music bloggers shout on a daily basis that songs they’re writing about are ‘game-changing’ and that they’ve ‘fallen in love’ with some new band that nobody has ever heard of and then a year later have disregarded the song / band / artist completely for the next new thing, it’s essential to hold on to the songs that really are important. Just like friends.

The best songs cannot be written about in isolation. Each one comes with its own back story. Which is why, when thinking about best friends and songs, it’s so hard to pick just one tune , particularly when you've experienced so much music and memories together. It’s inevitable that there’s going to be a boxful of music to recapture. In fact, a number of the tunes we’ve reminisced about in this series could easily have related to this particular friend. Even although these days we’re separated by countries, me in Portsmouth, England, him in Helsinki, Finland, and we certainly don’t see each other that often, the best friend equation holds true. Christmas and birthdays still tend to involve the giving of CD’s as presents – him some good and some not so good Finnish band he’s discovered, me something from the music scene in the UK. He even writes an (occasional) Brit in Finland blog called Holynpoly. You can find that here.

So where to start with the music? I’ll pick one, there may be more later.

Shepherds Bush Empire, London. Brit pop is starting to ebb away. Front row against the barrier. The oddest support band ever. A lead singer that is quite happy to show her pierced genitalia to us and a man wearing a toilet seat as a headpiece. An odd start. Minty left us with somewhat nervous laughter, not quite knowing where to cast our eyes.

Then the main event; I remember ringing the box office during the day to ask what time the band would be on stage. “Our heroes will be on at 9,” came the reply, and a little tingle ran through my spine. Our heroes. He was right.

A band for the geeks, the freaks and the arty kids that suddenly became cool, conquered Glastonbury and with this song became OUR band. The gig was exceptional. We both came out with big smiles on our faces. This was the music that made us.


Paul Gonella said...

I picked up the PulpIntro album back in...93 (I think) and instantly fell in love with them, it was Babies and Inside Susan in particular for me. I saw them on the main stage at Reading 94 and they were incredible.

Hoping to see them play this year, fingers crossed. Going to listen to them at work today now, thanks!

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

Ah, the intro album was great. The (much overlooked) track for me there was O.U, although Babies, Razzmatazz and Inside Susan were all incredible as well.

Paul - this may be of particular interest to you. My first experience of Pulp was actually in Southsea, long before I lived here (I was living in Surrey at the time) when I saw them supporting St Etienne on South Parade Pier, where if my foggy memory serves me well they finished with O.U

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

My first proper encounter with Pulp was watching them on The White Room in 1995: "Underwear" knocked me sidewards. I saw them live for the first time headlining the Heineken Festival at Roundhay Park near Leeds just a few weeks after their triumphalist storming of Glastonbury. It was a breathtaking experience (nearly literally for me since I had to break out from the being crushed underneath the mele at the front of the crowd). Myself and a fellow working-class traveller through Higher Education bonded hard over Pulp (both of us recognising that even/especially attending a less-than-prestigious university would leave us in a limbo between our working-class roots and not quite belonging to the proper graduate world). We would belt out the lyrics to 'Common People' with a vehemence bordering on the cathartic at expressing our understanding of the lines. Even now, I grimace when just the radio edit version is played for missing out that second verse:
"You will never understand how it feels to live your life, with no meaning or control, and with no where left to go.."

And yes: O.U. is sublime.

Scryst said...

This post is very timely with Pulps gigs happening all over again.

I'll add my few words in as well. Caught them at Glasto during their triumphant set ; was a massive Stone Roses fan seriously cheesed off that they had had to pull out and that Pulp were the meagre replacements.

Safe to say that after their set I was a full convert to the church of Jarvis.

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

Thanks for the comments guys. Good to see lots of Pulp love out there. Scryst – I was at that Glastonbury set as well. My main memories are the way Jarvis had made notes about things he had wanted to say to the audience – which was very sweet and after their set they played a remix of Common People (the Motiv-8 remix ???) and everyone just stood there and carried on dancing – there was no rush away from the stage.

It really was one of those moments when the underdogs came good .

emmdee said...

Now THAT was a gig to remember... and in my favourite ever venue too.

If I remember right I actually saw Pulp again a few weeks (?) later at Wembley Arena ... even that soul-sapping, acoustically-challenged, cavernous venue couldn't deflate the mighty Pulp in their hey-day. That gig I went with an old uni pal, N, and fittingly for this post then one of my closest friends, she now lives in New Zealand...

BTW I'm not entirely surprised PMMP aren't quite up your street musically, but if you get a chance to see Rubik live I think you'll approve. Finland isn't exactly over-run with an accessible 'indie' music scene remember... maybe I can find some more gems for you at Flow.

PS. You are hereby banned from using any examples of me forgetting my tickets in any future posts.

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

Some other friends of mine (uk based) have just seen Rubik and the word is that they were very good.

As if I would have written about you and your lost tickets :)

jingles said...

Nice song. It holds a story behind itself.