"I've always wanted to become part of the mainstream, and be accepted, but without changing."
Jarvis Branson Cocker was born on September 10, 1963 in Sheffield, UK, to a lower middle class family. Cocker formed his first band at age 13, although none of them played any actual instruments. While his weird looks today make the 6'2" Cocker a charismatic but unlikely sex symbol, back then they just made him unpopular, so in order to become accepted by his classmates the 15-year old Cocker decided to form another band, this time with instruments. He called his band Arabacus Pulp (a name which he supposedly gleaned from one of this textbooks), and recruited fellow City Comprehensive students Mark Swift, David Lockwood, and Peter Dalton to provide him with instrumental accompaniment. (While Jarvis mainly wrote the lyrics and did the vocals, he is a more than adequate musician, and has operated a number of instruments and synthesisers for subsequent Pulp albums, including the Hohner Clavioline; Gibson J-45 Acoustic Guitar; Ovation 12 String Guitar; Jerry Jones Baritone Guitar; Vox Marauder Guitar; Banjo; Roland SH-09 Synthesizer).
In what would become a long-serving tradition, bassist David Lockwood soon left the band and was replaced by Philip Thompson. Since the band's formation in 1978, there have been 24 musicians who have at one point been band members, Jarvis being the only remnant from the band's original incarnation. As Jarvis later put it, he "only formed the band so that girls would like me, because I had glasses, bad teeth and wasn't any good at sports at school." While being in a band helped his situation very little in the short term, his difficulties eventually paid off for the band as a source of the sexually frustrated sort of lyrics that Jarvis is now known for.
In July 1980 Pulp played their first gig, which was at the Rotherham Arts Centre. By this time Mark Swift had left the group to be replaced on drums by Jimmy Sellars, who soon wandered off himself and was replaced by Wayne Furniss. Bassist Philip Thompson had also left, and was succeeded by Jamie Pinchbeck. It was this lineup who recorded a demo which was then sent to John Peel at Radio 1. The result was that the band ended up doing a session for the John Peel radio show, which in turn resulted in a Pulp single ("What you say") being included on a 1982 compilation album called Your Secret's Safe With Us.
That summer, both Jamie Pinchbeck and Peter Dalton left the band to attend university, while Jarvis supplemented his struggling music career by working various jobs, including being a fishmonger's assistant, and a caregiver for deaf children. Both Dalton and Pinchbeck were replaced, and the band acquired some new members, relasing the album it by Christmastime on Red Rhino Records. Band members at this time included Jarvis, Wayne Furniss, Peter Boam (bass), Simon Hinkler (keyboards), David Hinkler (keyboard/trombone), Gary Wilson (drums), Barry Thompson (clarinet, flute), with Gill Taylor and Saskia Cocker (Jarvis's sister) recruited for backup vocals.
Jarvis today considers that album to contain some of his most embarassing work. The jauntiness of Love Love was excused by Jarvis saying that he was still a virgin when he had written the song (at 22 years of age), while the disastrous Everybody's Problem came as a result of their manager encouraging the band to try and sound more like Wham! (Everyone's Problem apparently embarassed Cocker so much that it was left of the re-issuing of the album, as per his request). Their first album was something of a disappointment, and following its release Pulp broke up. Jarvis became involved in some new oddly named side projects, including Heroes of the Beach, Repressive Minority, Michael's Foot, and the Jarvis Cocker Explosion Experience.
Luckily for Jarvis's fans, the breakup proved to be more of a hiatus and Jarvis would later revive the band with the aid of Russell Senior, whom he had met during a Pulp gig in 1980. Magnus Doyle and Peter Mansell were recruited soon after for drums and bass respectively, while Tim Allcard came on board as keyboardist and poetry reader. This incarnation of Pulp proved even less successful, as Allcard's poetry readings in between songs weren't exactly well-received. Allcard would later leave the band to be replaced on keyboards by Magnus's sister, Candida. During her first gig with the band they were signed by Fire Records, with whom they realeased two largely ignored singles (Little Girl With Blue Eyes, Dogs are Everywhere, etc.) in December 1985 and July 1986. Also, in July the band recorded their second album, Freaks which was finished in a week as a result of an extremely small budget. The album wasn't released until May 1987, by which point Pulp, being Pulp, had split up again.
Jarvis and Russell were the only band members at this point, although they were occasionally accompanied by someone credited as Captain Sleep on the keyboards. Later that year, Candida rejoined the band, followed by new drummer Nick Banks and Steven Havenheand on bass, who was later fired for playing too quietly and replaced with Anthony Genn. While they at least had a band at this time, they definitely lacked fans, and a frustrated Jarvis took off to London to attend film school. There he met up with Steve Mackey, who returned with Jarvis as a replacement for Anthony Genn, who had left the band. In 1989, Pulp recorded their third album Separations, but Fire Records again hesitated to release the album.
Their first single off the album (My Legendary Girlfriend) didn't hit radiowaves until March 1991, but following its release it was hailed as NME's Single of the Week. Frustrated by Fire's stalling on the album, Pulp left the label and signed with Gift records. Separations was finally released following the band's departure, in July of 1992.
"Any group that takes 15 years to become popular shouldn't give advice to anyone, should they?"
During the next two years Pulp released a number of singles on the Gift label (O.U. (Gone, Gone), Babies, Razzmatazz, etc.) which would later constitue the Intro album. The band then signed with Island records, with whom they released Lipgloss in November 1993, their first Top 50 single. His 'n Hers, their fourth album, was completed in February 1994 and released by Island in April. The album was quite well-received, and reached as high as number 9 on the UK charts. Fire Records then decided to cash in on Pulp's success, reissuing it and releasing a compilation album entitled Masters of the Universe.
May 1995 saw Pulp's big break when the single Common People hit the airwaves, becoming one of britpop's definitive anthems. Filling in as a last-minute replacement for the Stone Roses at the Glastonbury festival, Pulp finally got their first taste of the big time. With Mark Webber now fully integrated into the band's lineup, the album Different Class was released in October 1995, becoming the band's first number 1 album.
Pulp won the prestigius Mercury Music Prize for it, which a drunken Jarvis proudly renamed the Pulp Award, before re-bestowing it on the Warchild album. Compared to what went down in January 1996, though, Jarvis's drunken acceptance speech was relatively tame. Cocker was alternately condemned and revered by international tabloids when accompanied by ex-band member Peter Mansell, he stormed the stage during Michael Jackson's performance at the Brit Awards and wiggled his bum at him.
The band began working on a follow-up album, which was later derailed when both Russell Senior and Jarvis took off. Jarvis's frustration led him to New York, where he spent three weeks in order to clear his head, while Senior never returned to the band. A year later, the first single from This is Hardcore was released. The album itself, released in March 1998, was well-enough received, but did not garner the same amount of attention as its predecessor had.
Following This is Hardcore, the band went on a lengthy hiatus, leading many fans to believe they had broken up. Their next album, We Love Life, was not released until 2001. Like This is Hardcore, it was not in the same glam-rock mold as Different Class and His 'n Hers, and while it contained some truly great work, it wasn't as great of a commercial success.
Unfortunately, the release of the album was soon followed by the news that Pulp would be going on yet another hiatus, this one possibly being permanent. Jarvis's focus has definitely shifted, as is evidenced by his wedding to longtime girlfriend stylist Camille Bidault-Waddington this past July, and his upcoming emigration to France. Cocker is also expecting a child sometime this year.