A song by the Sheffield band Pulp from their album 'We Love Life'. This node attempts to explain what all the references in it mean, to those who've never seen the steel city. Noding every single reference would be blatant noding for numbers, so apologies if it appears a bit wide...
Just behind the station, Sheffield train station is an old Victorian building on the edge of the city centre, and gives visitors their first view of the place... usually of scaffolding...
Before you reach the traffic island, From the station, turn left, left again, follow the road...
A river runs thru' a concrete channel. This is about 20 yards before the River Porter flows into the River Sheaf underground, and only a tiny stretch of river is visible.
I took you there once; I think it was after the Leadmill. Sheffield club doing a range of indie, pop, cheese and dance nights.
The water was dirty & smelt of industrialisation, The steel industry as opposed to, for example, car manufacture.
Little mesters coughing their lungs up Cutlery makers of the industrial revolution, who suffered from lung disease caused by inhaling dust from their grindstones.
And globules the colour of tomato ketchup.
But it flows. Yeah, it flows.
Underneath the city thru' dirty brickwork conduits,
Connecting white witches on the moor with pre-Raphaelites down in Broomhall. The rivers Porter and Sheaf flow from the moors around the Pennine hills. There's also a shopping district called the Moor. Broomhall is a red light district.
Beneath the old Trebor factory that burnt down in the early Seventies. Trebor are a big UK sweet company.
Leaving an antiquated sweet-shop smell
And caverns of nougat and caramel.
Yeah, nougat and caramel.
And the river flows on.
Yeah, the river flows on beneath pudgy fifteen-year olds addicted to coffee whitener,
Courting couples naked on Northern Upholstery Furniture shop centred around Yorkshire.
And pensioners gathering dust like bowls of plastic tulips.
And it finally comes above ground again at Forge Dam - A playpark, small lake and cafe located in the Porter Valley, along a popular walk. The suburbs encroach on both sides of the narrow valley.
The place where we first met.
I went there again for old time's sake,
Hoping to find the child's toy horse ride that played such a ridiculously tragic tune.
It was still there - but none of the kids seemed interested in riding on it.
And the cafe was still there too;
the same press-in plastic letters on the price list
And scuffed formica-top tables.
I sat as close as possible to the seat where I'd met you that autumn afternoon.
And then, after what seemed like hours of thinking about it,
I finally took your face in my hands
And I kissed you for the first time
And a feeling like electricity flowed thru' my whole body.
And I immediately knew that I'd entered a completely different world.
And all the time, in the background,
The sound of that ridiculously heartbreaking child's ride outside.
At the other end of town the river flows underneath an old railway viaduct; The rivers Sheaf and Porter have now joined with the Don.
I went there with you once - except you were somebody else -
And we gazed down at the sludgy brown surface of the water together.
Then a passer-by told us that it used to be a local custom to jump off the viaduct into the river, when coming home from the pub on a Saturday night.
But that this custom had died out when someone jumped and landed too near to the riverbank and had sunk in the mud there and drowned before anyone could reach them.
I don't know if he'd just made the whole story up, but there's no way you'd get me to jump off that bridge.
Not a chance. Never in a million years.
Yeah, a river flows underneath this city,
I'd like to go there with you now my pretty
And follow it on for miles and miles,
Below other people's ordinary lives.
Occasionally catching a glimpse of the moon,
Through man-hole covers along the route.
Yeah, it's dark sometimes but if you hold my hand,
I think I know the way.
Oh, this is as far as we got last time
But if we go just another mile ...to the eastern outskirts of the city.
We will surface surrounded by grass and trees
And the fly-over that takes the cars to cities. Linked to the M1 motorway.
Buds that explode at the slightest touch,
Nettles that sting - but not too much.
I've never been past this point, what lies ahead I really could not say.
And I used to live just by the river,
In a disused factory just off the Wicker A district of Sheffield, quite close to Pitsmoor and not far from Meadowhall shopping centre. There are several factories here, some of them derelict (and some now being redeveloped).
And the river flowed by day after day
And "One day" I thought, "One day I will follow it"
But that day never came; I moved away & lost track
But tonight I am thinking about making my way back.
I may find you there and float on wherever the river may take me.
Wherever the river may take me.
Wherever the river may take us.
Wherever it wants us to go.
Wherever it wants us to go.
The river described in the song is mainly the Porter, which flows towards the centre of town from the west edge of the city. It starts in open countryside, before cutting a steep valley (with two of the seven hills of Sheffield on either side) through some of the more wealthy suburbs. It gives the impression of pulling part of the countryside with it, and the valley is wooded along its entire length to the point where it flattens out towards Endcliffe Park. Here, the river just... vanishes. It goes underground below a roundabout, and flows southeast, towards where the Sheaf is also passing underground from the south. The combined rivers continue underground past the station, and meet the Don very close to the Wicker Arches (a railway viaduct). This then flows along the Don Valley to eventually leave the city and head back towards the countryside.
I have found that most people from Sheffield who are now living elsewhere find the lyrics bring back intense memories of home - most of us have been to that playpark at some point, the Leadmill was a favourite indie club for sixth-formers, and the rivers underlie the identity of the city.
The song also features a sample from the film with a similar name. Apart from provoking intense nostalgia, the song is more generally a contrast of how people and places change whilst the underlying land remains the same.