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Alternative History

The Story of Pulp’s Common People

pulp common people

Pulp’s Common People was an unlikely Brit-Pop anthem delivered from an unlikely source. The Jarvis Cocker fronted had released several critically-acclaimed records. But, they had to wait until 1995 for Common People to strike a chord with Britain’s working class.

Here’s a brief look at its story.

How Pulp upstaged the Britpop heavyweights

The 1990s Britpop scene was dominated by bands creating an anthemic sound. In the end, the era’s biggest anthem belonged to Pulp, unlikely working-class heroes. Common People, for many, is still one of the most powerful songs of all time, despite being written decades ago.

The mid-’90s cultural movement in British pride was defined by the battle between Oasis & Blur. Finally, Pulp with their disco-influenced pop-rock sound made it into the zeitgeist. Consequently, it’s a song that’s been etched in history.

The song is thought to be inspired by Jarvis Cocker’s meeting of a girl singer at the St. Martin’s sculpture course. Jarvis said that they never had a relationship and that he only overheard her saying that she wanted to live in London’s East End. Many believe Jarvis’ thoughts are reflected in the song since he is not from a working-class background.

Speculation about the identity of the girl has persisted. Many believe that the character is Danae Stratou, wife of a former Greek finance minister. Others point to the universal message of the song. The struggles and worries described in the tune could belong to most young people living in the U.K. at the time.

The legacy of Common People

This was the commercial breakthrough that Pulp had long been seeking. The band was founded by Jarvis Cocker when he was 15 years old, back in 1978. Cocker stated this in Q magazine.

It was clear Common People was a significant song. Eight other songs on the album were written while it was in the charts. Knowing that you had a mass audience for once in your life gave me the confidence to bring certain things out of myself.

Jarvis produced the video for the song, which featured access Sadie Frost. Cocker holds a degree from St. Martins College of Art in film-making. Meanwhile, Jarvis Cocker created a dance routine for this song because it was such a poppy, upbeat tune.

The song was, subsequently, released prior to the completion of the album, the widely acclaimed Different Class. This is a rare find in today’s music industry.

This song was first performed by Pulp at the 1994 Reading Festival. Later, Pulp delivered a memorable live performance of Common People when they headlined Glastonbury. It helped it reach #2 on the UK charts. Robson Green’s and Jerome Flynn’s versions of Unchained Mellody deflected the song from the top spot.

Listeners of BBC Radio 6 Music voted it as the greatest British anthem back in 2014. Oasis’ Don’t Look Back In Anger was third, and Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony came in second.

As for Jarvis Cocker, his affection for the song has not dimmed. Pulp played Common People at their 2001 reunion show. Cocker noted that he is fine with the tune being the most famous in the band’s oeuvre. “If Pulp are only ever remembered for this song, I don’t care, it’s a good song. Black Lace are only ever remembered for ‘Agadoo,’ could be a lot worse!

About author

Eduard is a writer, blogger, and musician. As a content writer, Eduard has contributed to numerous websites and publications including FootballCoin, Extra Time Talk, Fanatik, Sportskeeda, Nitrogen Sports, Bavarian FootballWorks, etc. He runs and acts as editor-in-chief of the alternative rock music website Eduard is also a musician, having played and recorded in various bands and as a solo artist.
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