Press: Brit Awards '96

Melody Maker, 2nd March 1996:

JARVIS COCKER is crediting Pulp keyboardist Candida Doyle for the moment of madness that led him to jump onstage during Michael Jackson's performance at the Brit Awards in Earl's Court last Monday (February 19).

Jarvis claims that Candida egged him on and dared him to "do something" as they both grew more and more exasperated during Jackson's embarrassingly over-the-top performance of "Earth Song".

Jarvis' spur-of-the-moment action was the subject of comment and investigation from the heavyweight press as well as the tabloids throughout last week.
However, because of his avowed dislike of the tabloids following the Daily Mirror's trouble-making coverage of "Sorted For E's And Wizz", the Pulp frontman refused to talk to any of them.

But he broke his silence for Melody Maker.

Jarvis told us that the idea came to him "approximately 10 seconds" before he jumped up onstage.

He explained he'd become annoyed at Jackson while watching him rehearsing his performance earlier in the day.

"I'd seen the run-through and I'd found it extremely distasteful and crap. But it wasn't until he was going on and on that something within me snapped. Candida was there and she was egging me on. I was saying, 'Look, we could do something here, 'cos we're really near.'

"And she was saying, 'Oh, you'd never do it.' So she was egging me on. I blame her!"

Jarvis' mother, Chris, said last week that the final straw for her son had been when Jackson appeared as a Christ-like figure giving blessing to a Rabbi.

"I don't know if there was a final straw," Jarvis explained.

"It just really irked me that there were all these people with rags on and him healing them all.

"I can't really believe that I did it now. It really was just something that happened on the spur of the moment." The Maker has seen video footage which shows Jarvis walking determinedly past a cameraman to the left of the stage, climbing onstage, dancing, pointing and lifting his top for about 15 seconds before a caped figure, possibly a dancer, makes an attempt to grab him.

"It just felt weird to be up there," Jarvis said. "Once I was up there, I didn't know what to do. I didn't really think, What have I done? What am I doing up here? until afterwards.

"I never saw the security, I was just there, then somebody kind of lunged at me, and I remember side-stepping them and kind of legging it over that white, semi-pyramid thing at the back of the stage.

"The guy that chased me offstage seemed to be part of the dancing troupe. He was part of the dancers, but maybe he was in there for safety reasons as well, a dancer-cum-bodyguard.

"I just sort of walked off, went back to my table and sat down. Then people started coming up to me saying things like, 'Well done. Somebody should have done that ages ago.'"

The following morning's tabloids speculated on possible legal action against Jarvis by the parents of several children who were appearing as part of Jacko's stage show and who were allegedly injured during the fracas.

"I don't know who knocked over the kids.

"It certainly wasn't me," Jarvis said emphatically.

"That's the only thing that's got on my nerves about the whole thing, all those allegations that were in the papers the next day.

"Unfortunately some people do actually believe what they read in tabloid newspapers and so I wasn't happy about people thinking I'd got up onstage and hit some kids and chucked 'em offstage.

"Brian Eno was one of the first people to come over to my table and he's been very helpful through the whole thing, taking my side, so I was really pleased with that.

"That's been the good thing about it - lots of people have sent faxes and letters of support, saying well done and stuff like that. "It's been good to have had support from people and not to feel isolated.

"Even Wilko Johnson [from Seventies pub rockers Dr Feelgood] sent one."

However, Jarvis' moment of glory was short-lived. The police arrived and Jarvis, nominated with Pulp for several awards, was held for two hours in his dressing room.

He was questioned about the alleged assault of the children. Two of the cops accompanied him to the toilet at one point.

Backstage, Martin Clunes and Neil Morrissey started a "Free Jarvis campaign", while Bob Mortimer, a qualified solicitor, offered to take care of the legal side of the situation.

Jarvis was taken to Kensington police station for further questioning and released without charge somewhere between 3am and 5.30am, depending on which of the differing reports are accurate.

He was bailed to return to the station on March 11.

Over the weekend, Jarvis appeared on TV to tell his story.

He was seen live from Manchester on Chris Evans' "TFI Friday", where Patsy Kensit had earlier described him as "brilliant" and the audience in the studio bar had voted massively for him in a debate about the escapade.

Evans also showed a new piece of video, filmed from the front row at the Brits, which confirmed Jarvis' version of events.

Jarvis also talked about the incident on children's Saturday TV show "Live And Kicking".

NME, 2nd March 1996:

Pulp Friction

JARVIS COCKER, speaking about his invasion of Michael Jackson's set and subsequent arrest following the Brit Awards on Monday, February 19, says that he did not hurt anyone and that he hopes to be exonerated. He has also written to Michael Jackson's record company Sony demanding an apology for comments and accusations that he injured children made in a statement by Jackson the following day.

"I couldn't really see what the police were arresting me for, and then they were saying that this was for throwing kids offstage. As far as I can remember, I made no physical contact with anybody," Jarvis told NME.

NME has seen video tapes of the Jackson performance at the Brits where Jarvis and former band member Pete Mansell launched their stage invasion. The footage clearly shows that Jarvis did not attack or otherwise injure the children who were on stage with Jackson, despite reports of "screaming" and "bleeding" kids huddling together in "terror".

One eyewitness described what happened: "Jarvis and another guy were on the stage dancing around. One guy made a lunge for Jarvis and missed. That's who got one of the kids."

The incident itself was over in less than a minute. During his mimed performance of 'Earth Song', Jackson was hoisted aloft on a crane with a wind machine blowing his hair. Jarvis entered from stage right, walked to the middle and looked out at the audience. He was chased back by a security guard, but eluded him and ran back to centre stage. A security guard dressed as one of Jackson's dancers made a grab for the Pulp singer, attempting to push him offstage. Cocker avoided him, ran back to the wings and then offstage.

Having returned to his table in the audience, Jarvis decided to leave. The police were called 30 minutes after Jackson had left the stage; the Pulp singer had legal representation within the hour.

Jarvis told NME: "As I was trying to leave, one of the organisers came up with a policeman and said, 'It's better if you talk about it'. What 'talk about it' actually meant was going to a room and being arrested."

He was arrested by a uniformed police officer and taken to Kensington police station where [he] was charged with actual bodily harm and questioned until 3am. He was released on bail until March 11 when he will return to the police station.

"The police weren't bad actually. In fact, I felt very happy that this happened in England rather than America. I think if it had happened in America, I'd really be in trouble."

Asked if this was his first night in the cells, Jarvis said: "Oh yeah. lt weren't a bad cell, though. It had a flushing toilet. It even had a bit of padding on the bench. From what I've heard of police cells, it was apparently quite a luxury one."

The next day, Jackson's record company, Epic, issued a statement attacking Jarvis:
"Michael Jackson respects Pulp as artists but is totally shocked by their behaviour and utterly fails to understand their complete lack of respect for fellow artists and performers," it read.

"His main concern is for the people that worked for him and the fact that children should be attacked. He feels sickened, saddened, shocked, upset, cheated, angry, but is immensely proud that the cast remained professional and the show went on despite the disgusting and cowardly behaviour of the two characters that tried to disrupt it. Even though the evening ended on a sad note, he wants to thank all his friends and the media for their understanding and support."

The Brits committee issued a terse statement which seemed to endorse the Jackson version of events, although it was worded in such a way that neutrality appears to have been its aim.

It said: "We are extremely concerned that Jarvis Cocker's actions last night resulted in injury to three children who were performing with Michael Jackson.

"Whilst the Brit awards is an exuberant, high-spirited occasion, it is totally unacceptable for any artist to disrupt another artist's performance. To do so with apparent disregard for the safety of the performers onstage, the production crew and the audience was dangerous and irresponsible."

Angered by Jackson's statement, Jarvis issued his own statement through PR company Savage And Best on February 21.

"My actions were a form of protest at the way Michael Jackson sees himself as some Christ-like figure with the power of healing," it read.

"The music industry allows him to indulge his fantasies because of his wealth and power. People go along with it even though they know it's a bit sick. I just couldn't go along with it any more. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision brought on by boredom and frustration. I just ran onstage and showed off. I didn't make any physical contact with anyone as far as I recall. I certainly didn't push anybody offstage.

"I find it very insulting to be accused of assaulting children. All I was trying to do was to make a point and do something that lots of other people would have loved to have done something if they'd dared."

NME asked Jarvis if he knew what Jackson was going to do before he went onstage.

"I saw the run-through and I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing then," he said. "So yes, I knew what to expect. It was just when it was going on and it seemed to me that quite a lot of the people there were not quite into what was going on either. They were thinking, 'What the hell is going on?' It was all being allowed to happen because of who he was. They even invented a new category for him, Artist Of A Generation, just so that he'd come over. And it was getting on my nerves... sometimes you make a snap decision and you go and do something and afterwards you think that wasn't the greatest idea, but it happened."

Asked if he thought that Jackson's show was an attempt to publicly exonerate himself from the charges of child molestation levelled at him in the recent years, Jarvis said: "I think it was so obvious that that's what he was trying to do."

LAST TUESDAY and Wednesday, every national newspaper had covered the Jackson/Pulp debacle. All of the tabloids came down firmly on Jackson's side. Headlines screamed: 'The night our young dreams were Pulped' and 'Boy's true grit at the Brits' (Daily Mail), the articles sympathetic to the children whose appearance with Michael Jackson, "turned into a nightmare". Many ran quotes from their angry and outraged parents. The Daily Mirror firmly backed Jackson with 'Jacko Rages At Yob Rocker' and 'We'll Sue Pulp Lout' with further quotes from the outraged parents of the sobbing, bleeding children.

The story was even picked up on prime time US TV news and entertainment shows including Extra, Inside Edition and Hard Copy. US newspapers including The Daily News and New York Post also ran coverage the next day. The New York Post, a leading city tabloid, ran the headline, 'Rocker Beats Up Jacko's Kiddie Choir'. It called Cocker, "a relatively obscure British pop singer".

The British broadsheets were more sympathetic to Cocker. Most ran editorials in support of the Pulp singer's motives, if not his actions, and The Guardian went so far as to canvass the industry, including NME, in an attempt to fill its letters page with the controversy. Bernard Butler, Ben Watt and Tracy Thorn responded on Cocker's side.

Last Tuesday night, Pulp kicked off their UK tour at Brighton Pavilion where Jarvis asked the crowd: "Any Michael Jackson fans in?"

There was a big cheer.

"I'd just like to say one thing about that. Whatever happened onstage last night, I don't like people writing that I punch kids. That was no part of it. That's not a very nice thing to say about someone."

Introducing 'Sorted For E's And Wizz', he said: "This is about something real. Not something overblown and poncey."

The following night in Cardiff, Cocker had more to say concerning the incident.

"I haven't got a personal crusade against Michael Jackson," he told the crowd. "I'm not even religious. But when someone appears onstage and wants to be Jesus, I think it's a bit off. But I'd love to kiss a Rabbi..."

This refers to the part in Jackson's performance where he kisses a Rabbi — an act which, as a Guardian columnist pointed out, was almost like Jackson forgiving the entire Jewish community for being outraged at the allegedly anti-Semitic lyrics that were subsequently excised from Jackson's last LP, 'HIStory'.

"This is something I spoke about last night, about my friend Michael Jackson," Jarvis said.

"Hopefully, the truth about the whole thing will come out tomorrow. But in the meantime, the thing that was bad about it was they said I got in front of the stage, got hold of some children and threw them around by the neck.

"I ask you... is that the sort of thing I would do?

"One person has been accused of tampering with children and one person hasn't."

He then dedicated 'Do You Remember The First Time' to Jackson.

Speaking to NME on Friday, Cocker did not seem worried about the incident, although he was unhappy with accusations in some quarters that it was a publicity stunt.

"That gets on my nerves, because it was something that just happened on the spur of the moment. There was no forward planning or anything. I'm not that desperate," he said. "To be honest, I know it sounds a bit daft, but I haven't been thinking about it too much because we're in the middle of a tour, and it's more on my mind doing these shows."

The Pulp mainman also said that he had received overwhelming support for his actions.

"Loads of people have been very good. Loads of people have sent faxes, and not just from people in the music business just everybody really," he said.

NME has been inundated with letters in support of Jarvis, a selection of which will be run in next week's Angst.

Page last modified on November 16, 2012, at 11:39 PM