Common People is a song by the pop group Pulp. It was released on May 6, 1995 as a single, and later appeared on their October 1995 album Different Class.
Common People b/w Underwear
Released May 6, 1995 in the UK by Island Records
Peaked at #2 on the singles chart, residing at that point from May 13, 1995 to May 27, 1995. (The #1 song during this stretch was Robson Green and Jerome Flynn's cloying cover of Unchained Melody)
Other b-sides on later versions of the single include Razzmatazz, Dogs Are Everywhere, Joyriders, Whiskey in the Jar, 59 Lyndhurst Grove, Babies, Do You Remember The First Time?, and Mile End.
As usual for Pulp singles, the sleeve had an interesting comment on it: There is a war in progress - don't be a casual(ty). The time to decide whose side you're on is here. Choose wisely. Stay alive in `95.
The single was Island Records' first attempt at releasing multiple versions of the single in order to increase sales. When the single debuted at #2 on the singles chart in May 1995, Island immediately released "alternate" versions of the single to sustain the single's chart life. This tactic explains the long list of "alternate" b-sides listed above.
Where can one even start?
This song is fantastic in pretty much any way a pop song can be. The music of the song is constructed from oft-repeated elements, borrowing from the history of pop music as much of the better British pop music of the 1990s did: New Wave keyboards, 1970s-style rock drumming, fuzzed-up glam guitars - this song echoes David Bowie and The Who and everything in between.
But yet each element is directed and focused and they intermix together to produce something that still sounds new to my ear even as I listen to it almost ten years later. The instruments all fuse together to create a new sound, in which the tempo builds up throughout the song to a peak, where Jarvis Cocker begins to scream/shout/sing You will never understand / How it feels to live your life / With no meaning or control / And with nowhere else to go
And amazingly, the lyrics of the song somehow get past the instrumentation and make a point on their own. The song is ostensibly about a upper class female who is "slumming it" with a lower class male, with the male obviously providing the narrative point of view. But when you start digging into the song, more and more layers reveal themselves.
Peel away a layer and the song is about class conflict, and the outright mistrust that the lower classes have against the upper classes. Quite simply, no one likes to be downtrodden, and thus often people in the upper classes seemingly have forgotten what it is like, and the lower classes resent it.
Peel away a layer and the song is about a lack of control, about a situation slipping away because of the context of the life surrounding it.
Peel away a layer and the song is about the true plight of the poor, in that they often are in a life "with no meaning or control and with nowhere else to go," and how the upper class doesn't see this problem at all, merely seeing it as a lack of economic resources or, often, having no clue what the problem is at all.
Peel away a layer and the song is about an outright hatred for stupidity in all forms. The stupidity of the upper class to think that they understand the plight of the lower class, and the stupidity of the lower class for falling into the same old traps without trying to better themselves. Both perspectives eschew stupidity, and stupidity is the real villain here.
It is a well-written and profound piece on the class structure in most of the first world strictly from a lyrical perspective; it makes its point very well in the structure of lyrics.
But when you combine it with the instrumentation... you have an amazing song.
I suppose I identify with Common People greatly. My family's background is blue collar, while I am engaged to someone whose background is, if not strictly white collar, at least significantly better off than my own. I often feel very ... poor when I visit them and spend time with them.
And the reverse is true. When we visit my family, it is clear that the often terrific plight of some of my family members, who are often completely lost in their own paths, is completely and totally missed. Also, it's safe to say that I'm the one with any degree of budgetary sense in our relationship; money is often not a tangible concept, I don't think, for my significant other.
I guess when I hear this song, to a large degree, I hear myself.