Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

9. PulpDifferent Class

I remember becoming aware of them when I was living in London in ’94 when His ‘N’ Hers came out and thinking: "That’s a good band". Actually, I think it was in Select, the one that had Brett Anderson on the front cover draped in the Union Jack and it was like the "new British pop", it was quite a classic issue, and they had a little paragraph at the bottom: "…oh, and Pulp are quite good too" and it was Jarvis sitting on a deck chair. And I thought "hmm", his whole image made sense to me, so I was more open to buying His ‘N’ Hers and thinking "that’s a very good record". Then we were recording Casanova in a place called Moles in Bath, and Moles had a club underneath it and we’d go and drink in the club after a session, and ‘Common People’, the first time I heard it, was when it came on the enormous PA, it was very loud that room, I thought: "What the fuck is this?" It’s one of the greatest pop songs of all time, it’s so well-written and it’s got such an arc, such a trajectory, a real energy. So that’s where I thought "I’m desperate to hear the rest of that album", but also thought "I’m quite shocked and appalled that somebody else is making the music that I want to make myself"! So, yeah, I bought that album and thought, "yes, it really is a different class!"

I was pretty scared of him when I interviewed him [for Les Inrockuptibles in 1994] – he was older than me and much, much taller! The first time we did the photo shoot, he turned up in his usual wonderful attire, for some reason, I was having a bit of brain fart that day and I put on this crappy old Barbour jacket coat, which had probably been worn by many many tramps before me. As a result, we did a few photos and then they told us to go away and come back another time and do the photo shoot properly, with Neil dressed as he ought to be. It was quite humiliating! I heard through a mutual friend later that Jarvis had said, "You’ve got to live it". That always stuck in my head and I thought "well, what does he mean by that?" I suppose if you’re going to dress well for photographs, you’ve got to dress well the rest of the time as well, just be that person. Which I agreed with to an extent, but when you become a parent and have an ordinary life, you cease to dress well, which is a rather down-trodden middle-aged man!

I’ve met him once or twice since very fleetingly in a couple of places. The funny thing is, we were both writing for the same Charlotte Gainsbourg album [5:55] back in the middle part of the last decade. I wrote an awful lot of lyrics and when I had kind of given up because I didn’t know what they wanted anymore, they got Jarvis in to finish the job, and sure enough he did some wonderful things on that record. What I like about him is that he doesn’t filter himself as much as I or other people would, he lets the stark stuff out, and he’s not afraid of it, which I would be, being repressed!

Selected in other Baker’s Dozens: John Robins
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