Do I? I could tell you every detail about what I was doing, down to the clothing I was wearing. It was the 6th February 2019, around 6:30pm. I was drinking a hot chocolate, about to cram in some more revision as I was a sixth form student at the time. Out of nowhere, I got a message from someone I had never talked to, but I was ‘mutuals’ with on Twitter. They had sent me the Spotify link to Common People. “Heres a music suggestion for you…”
Now, I have no idea how Pulp had passed me by. I had forced myself into liking other Britpop bands my Britpop obsessed friends liked, as seemed the cool thing to do. I knew nothing before I first hit that play button, and that made it all the more special.
The only way I can describe how it was to hear Common People for the first time was like a head-rush on a fast paced rollercoaster downward spiral. I truly felt completely taken aback. I have never forgotten how I froze in my chair whilst hearing the ‘you’ll never understand…’ line for the first time. My feelings that I was just beginning to feel at the time, I understood that evening, were valid, and others experienced that anger too. I felt valid and represented. I knew, right there and then, that my life had fundamentally changed.
A bit of context is needed here. I was severely bullied at school for being shy and unconfident. I, like many others, quickly realised that a way to counter this and make myself feel better was to bury my head in school textbooks and achieve highly. I went to my local school that had been placed in special measures a month before I started there and I lived in a small town that felt like an outer space vacuum; nothing seemed to happen, and it wasn’t expected to.
I then progressed on to my local sixth form of the same school branch, and during that first year was when I found Common People and ultimately Pulp. They would, and of course they still do, soundtrack my life. I listened to Inside Susan on the bus home. I listened to Mis-Shapes whilst walking through town. Finally, there seemed to be a band that understood how I was feeling but also put working class intricacies and stories so well into words. I felt represented. Seen. Understood.
Eventually, thanks to over 80 hours of self imposed studying per week, I became the first ever student from my sixth form to achieve a place and go to the University of Cambridge. I dropped out soon enough. I met far too many people similar to the girl from Greece in Common People, but it was more than that. I wanted a Different Class: I didn’t want to be stuck in my small town forever, but I felt sick at the thought of wearing a gown and attending toffy dinners and balls with people who just *didn’t understand.* I couldn’t stand walking through the centre of Cambridge: I felt like I had been flung into a culture that wasn’t for me, and didn’t like me due to my class. I felt consistently aware of my typical East Anglian accent and when I cut the ‘g’ off ‘-ing’ verbs, compared to their Received Pronunciation. I felt ostracised when they talked about their affluent lives, and felt insulted when they pretended to care about social struggles whilst simultaneously mocking the homeless on the street at any opportunity they got.
Throughout all of this time, Pulp carried me with their music and words. Through so much despair, sadness and confusion. and then they carried me through my subsequent period of self discovery.
My first Pulp concert was Bridlington Spa on the 26th May 2023. Yes, I’m the person who queued from 5:30am. You’ve probably heard of that story by now; everyone seems to have done! That’s not the first time I ever *heard* them play live, though. I walked into Bridlington Spa the day before the gig and they were soundchecking! A very nice lady from the Spa Cafe came over to check on me and offer me a cup of tea, as I started (happy) sobbing when I heard Glory Days.
I ultimately did 10 dates on the ‘Encore’ tour. I’m still suffering from the financial impact of that now but was it worth it? Every single second. I would have done double if they did. Following the tour was the best experience of my life and it felt so gratifying. Everything that I had gone through with this band, the periods of complete despair and sadness, had all been worth it to get to hear these special songs live. I burst into tears like a baby when the opening chords started at Brid. It felt like the past 4 and a bit years had been building up to that moment.
So yeah, I guess I do remember the first time. Vaguely.