At about 12 or 13 my Dad started introducing me to stuff that was, to be honest, probably too mature for someone who was barely out of childhood. It was often by accident while he was trying to show me something he really liked, but couldn’t remember how explicit it was. I distinctly remember being shown Pulp Fiction (not related to my discovery of the other ‘Pulp’…) and him being horrified that they were doing heroin onscreen while his 12-year-old daughter watched on. I’d also discovered his bootleg copy of ‘This Is Hardcore’ in our big tall CD stacker (or whatever you call this now-obsolete bit of furniture) maybe a couple of years before that and I remember being really scared by the cover. Or maybe just scared that I’d get caught looking at something I really shouldn’t be looking at, which was a naked half-dead girl. Naked half-dead girls were something you’re only supposed to look at after you’re at least 21.
Anyway, the point is that I didn’t get a proper introduction to Pulp until after my dad started putting on old clips of Da Ali G Show and a peculiar-looking man in a striped shirt started singing a song that, for all I could understand, was actually an earnest charity song about helping old people. To me, ‘Help The Aged’ was the name of charity shops in aid of the elderly. I remember thinking, why does this slightly shy-seeming guy care so much about the elderly? Why is Ali G doing a charity plug on his show? I couldn’t really get it. So, at some point soon after that I must have been watching it again on Youtube (since ‘Ali G’ really became my thing) and had the music video for Common People recommended to me.
I couldn’t really understand at that point just how relevant that song was going to be to my life - being from a place in Liverpool they call “two dogs fighting” Huyton because it’s so rough, being the first one in my family to go to University, it’d be another 8 years before I’d meet my own ‘girls from Greece’ (who still try and do the council-estate-chic thing, obviously) after working four of those intermittent years in the shittiest hospitality jobs in my small town and having a bit of a nothing-life waiting for something to happen. So it’s no wonder that by the time I properly picked up ‘Different Class’ it was a real come-to-jesus moment.
Badly bullied in School cos you grew up in a rough area and looked a bit different - they had that bit covered, first track on the album. Ending up in a University full of Tarquins and Tillys where you feel like the scruff and the standout for being the class’s Token Regional Accent - that’s in there as well. They even had the bit about when you first discover drinking and for a while that’s all you and your mates want to do, just go to the same 3 clubs every weekend and bother the same baldy old DJ to play your requests and then dance as hard as you can until the sun’s coming up outside and you know you’ve got to walk 40 minutes home cos there’s no bus.
I once read a funny, if slightly cringeworthy, story about how some random scouser burst into the studio off the street while Pulp were recording going “that song’s about me, yeno - no, that song’s about me” (in reference to Common People). I don’t want to say I’m in kinship with the intrusive smackhead from the story but, well, I’ve deffo had more than a bit of that feeling.
My first Pulp concert was on 28th May 2023, at the Neighbourhood Weekender festival. My 19-year-old brother snuck in a plastic flask the size of an A4 piece of paper in one of the big pockets on his cargo pants and we stood there from 4pm going through it until they came on.
I was stood second row, behind a woman who told me she’d been to 39 Pulp shows in her life, and I thought ‘wow - that’s a bit mental’. Little did I know then that I’d end up following the tour on 5 more dates over the next two months (Manchester, Sheffield, Sheffield, Hammersmith, Hammersmith) and becoming a certified ‘tour follower’, sleeping on the Megabus to London and staying at hostels with my minimum wage. When I spoke to Candida at Hammersmith on the last day of the tour she said, “I see you here almost every night. Don’t you get shoved at the barrier?” So I suppose that makes me the mental one now.
(picture attached is of Dad’s bootleg CD - now mine)