Common People: A lyrical discussion/dissection

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oh, there's definitely a category of middle class people in the US according to lifestyle/income/cultural signifiers that feel insulted when called middle class, even if/when their parents were middle class, but a generation back they were working class. Like middle class is a pejorative term, like hipster.

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 19:38 (3 years ago) Permalink

all that business is why it's such an interesting song btw

a cankle of rads (Gukbe), Friday, 3 September 2010 19:39 (3 years ago) Permalink

otm

Donovan Dagnabbit (WmC), Friday, 3 September 2010 19:40 (3 years ago) Permalink

a question for Britishers - is it normal for middle class people from the provinces who aspire to hip urbanity to take working class jobs in order to live somewhere like London? Like art school janitor, or record store clerk, or bartender?

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 19:41 (3 years ago) Permalink

yes, but that doesn't make them working class.

a cankle of rads (Gukbe), Friday, 3 September 2010 19:42 (3 years ago) Permalink

shit, i was a kitchen porter last year. i wouldn't consider myself working class though.

a cankle of rads (Gukbe), Friday, 3 September 2010 19:42 (3 years ago) Permalink

no, exactly - that's how it is here, too, though some of them will refer to themselves as working class, when in fact, their parents have houses with paid off mortgages and paid for them to go to college, etc.

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 19:43 (3 years ago) Permalink

Class is (vast generalisation) simply more persistent in the UK and more mobile in the US, that, like, you can change class in the US within a generation.

And it cuts both ways, in that it's weird how you can persist in being "posh" in the UK even as you're penniless, on account of things like who your grandparents were and what education you had. Being posh is no actual guarantee that your "dad can stop it all" (though maybe he can just about send you a cheque for $200 if you threaten to sell your ovaries, but it means he's got to keep the garage door closed for the next few months so his car doesn't get repossessed)

But blah blah speaking of reinforcing stereotypes blah blah blah etc.

cymose corymb (Karen D. Tregaskin), Friday, 3 September 2010 19:44 (3 years ago) Permalink

class in America tends to be more fluid. it's less of an identity thing. America likes to think of itself as a classless society a lot of the time.

a cankle of rads (Gukbe), Friday, 3 September 2010 19:45 (3 years ago) Permalink

So what was the deal with the other Pulp song, Mis-Shapes?

olivia tribble control (kkvgz), Friday, 3 September 2010 19:46 (3 years ago) Permalink

Maybe this song is just a giant lens through which we can project our own insecurities about class.

So yeah, it is effective on that level. Still doesn't mean I like it, mind you.

cymose corymb (Karen D. Tregaskin), Friday, 3 September 2010 19:46 (3 years ago) Permalink

America likes to think of itself as a classless society a lot of the time.

HAH!

(sorry, did I say that aloud? issues...)

cymose corymb (Karen D. Tregaskin), Friday, 3 September 2010 19:46 (3 years ago) Permalink

i think Americans just aren't as comfortable/used to discussing class - it's easier to talk about money - there is definitely more mobility in a lot of spheres, but there is also a lot of denial and delusionality about it

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 19:46 (3 years ago) Permalink

class in the UK is a holdover of a bygone era these days. plumbers can make twice as much as a university lecturer, but the former would still say they're working class and the latter would say they were middle class (or even upper, if they're from the right breeding). and the derision against other classes works all ways.

a cankle of rads (Gukbe), Friday, 3 September 2010 19:47 (3 years ago) Permalink

HAH!

(sorry, did I say that aloud? issues...)

it's true!

a cankle of rads (Gukbe), Friday, 3 September 2010 19:49 (3 years ago) Permalink

America likes to PRETEND that it doesn't have class.

My parents were stupid enough to actually buy the myth that America was a "classless society" when we emigrated there, and my god, was that a rude awakening.

cymose corymb (Karen D. Tregaskin), Friday, 3 September 2010 19:50 (3 years ago) Permalink

hence the "likes to think of itself"

a cankle of rads (Gukbe), Friday, 3 September 2010 19:50 (3 years ago) Permalink

i don't think the political affiliations / subtle gradations of "working class" and "middle class" are really present in the song at all. those distinctions are elided by both the girl and cocker into "common people", who exist far below the strata of person the greek girl is anyway.

the whole point of the song is that resources and possibilities determine attitudes and culture ("you'll never get it right")

the girl wants to live a funny little common person life, because it sounds charming. and he's railing at her that a) it only sounds charming because she can check out and go back to rich-land whenever she wants, and more importantly b) the very components of life she wants to play around with -- dancind-drinking-screwing, chip shops -- are borne out of a type of life with no escape

xps in the US, that, like, you can change class in the US within a generation.

^^ fwiw in real money terms this is totally wrong, class mobility in the US is shockingly constrained, compared to the rest of the oecd. but this is another whole set of myths...

goole, Friday, 3 September 2010 19:50 (3 years ago) Permalink

i just remember in junior year of high school, discussing The Great Gatsby. Our english teacher was from Connecticut - her father was a professor at Amherst - and she was trying to get the class to see the class difference between the Buchanans and Gatsby - and my classmates just could not grasp that they weren't of the same class because the characters all were rich.

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 19:51 (3 years ago) Permalink

lol your classmates sounded like the were on to something, rather than missing the point, to me

goole, Friday, 3 September 2010 19:52 (3 years ago) Permalink

I'd agree with all of that, but the guy's view on/representation of the 'common people' adds another level.

a cankle of rads (Gukbe), Friday, 3 September 2010 19:53 (3 years ago) Permalink

xpost to goole

a cankle of rads (Gukbe), Friday, 3 September 2010 19:53 (3 years ago) Permalink

old money vs new money in the US. a distinction that only really matters to the old money tbh.

a cankle of rads (Gukbe), Friday, 3 September 2010 19:53 (3 years ago) Permalink

lol your classmates sounded like the were on to something, rather than missing the point, to me

― goole, Friday, September 3, 2010 3:52 PM (44 seconds ago) Bookmark Suggest Ban Permalink

otm this is my pet peeve about discussions of class

horseshoe, Friday, 3 September 2010 19:54 (3 years ago) Permalink

(in America; i guess i don't really get England)

horseshoe, Friday, 3 September 2010 19:54 (3 years ago) Permalink

uh, actually no - it really doesn't work that way with certain strata of American society - they'll be polite and attempt to stifle condescencion (or not) - but it'll be obvious whose in the metaphorical old boys club and who isn't.

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 19:55 (3 years ago) Permalink

there isn't any old money anymore

goole, Friday, 3 September 2010 19:55 (3 years ago) Permalink

uh, yeah there is.

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 19:56 (3 years ago) Permalink

a question for Britishers - is it normal for middle class people from the provinces who aspire to hip urbanity to take working class jobs in order to live somewhere like London? Like art school janitor, or record store clerk, or bartender?

― sarahel, Friday, September 3, 2010 8:41 PM (1 minute ago) Bookmark

it's kind of an interesting qn coz i'd reckon that now more than 25 years ago (when jarvis moved to london) these 'working class jobs' are done by minorities/immigrants who don't really feature in pulp's class landscape

i shd have clarified earlier re 'if you called your dad he could stop it' -- i guess for a large-ish number of people, perhaps more than in jarvis's day, even, it's more like, if you called your dad he could 'help out' because entry-level positions in arts admin/the media/______ are s0 hard to come by.

i am legernd (history mayne), Friday, 3 September 2010 19:56 (3 years ago) Permalink

and even among the middle classes - there is a tension about people who have similar income and live in their neighborhoods that are "coming from" a lower class, because there are often different values

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 19:57 (3 years ago) Permalink

there most certainly is. but it's interesting where the cut-off point is. the closes to blue bloods you had for the longest time i think were DAR type people. then industrialists came in and, after a number of generations, were accepted into that society. i mean, how many generations are the Kennedy's removed from their origins as the bootleggers? and yet they'd be deemed 'aristocratic'.

xxpost

a cankle of rads (Gukbe), Friday, 3 September 2010 19:58 (3 years ago) Permalink

Class in the UK is about identity, not so much money. Seriously.

― cymose corymb (Karen D. Tregaskin), Friday, September 3, 2010 12:34 PM (15 minutes ago) Bookmark

yes, but it's also about the money. and this song is more about the underlying realities of class, about crushing poverty that one can't escape, or comes to feel somehow that one can't escape. someone said upthread that it attempts to cut through the class = culture baggage to get at money issues at the heart of it, and that's otm, afaic.

it's a burning hate letter to those who don't have to worry about surviving, and it's deliberately delivered in such a way as to exacerbate class tensions, it delights in its rage against the posh & empowered, and i can see as how one might dislike it for that reason, but there's more to the song than one-sided aggression. it critiques itself, ultimately lacerates its own narrator more than this harmless-seeming greek girl.

having taken an actual journalism class (contenderizer), Friday, 3 September 2010 19:59 (3 years ago) Permalink

oh it's relative - different regions have different old money - new england old money behaves a bit different than midwestern old money vs. southern old money ...

and there's also the current issue in America w/r/t the new urbanism where you have middle class and upper middle class people settling in working class neighborhoods and you see some definite clashes

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 20:00 (3 years ago) Permalink

So what was the deal with the other Pulp song, Mis-Shapes?

― olivia tribble control (kkvgz), Friday, September 3, 2010 8:46 PM (9 minutes ago) Bookmark

this was a pretty basic 'alts takin over' narrative. britpop kind of felt like indie music 'breaking into the mainstream'. i h8d because britpop *really* meant that all the lamestreamers were listening to 'our' music or an increasingly formulaic version thereof. now i just lol coz it's not like any of it was ever particularly challenging.

i am legernd (history mayne), Friday, 3 September 2010 20:00 (3 years ago) Permalink

there isn't any old money anymore

― goole, Friday, September 3, 2010 3:55 PM (3 minutes ago) Bookmark Suggest Ban Permalink

uh, yeah there is.

― sarahel, Friday, September 3, 2010 3:56 PM (2 minutes ago) Bookmark Suggest Ban Permalink

there kind of is, i guess, but the only place these people's lives have ever intersected with mine was at college, because i went to a pricey ivy league one, and since they just made themselves up and decided they were "old noney" and there are like three of them, metaphorically speaking, i have to wonder whether it matters. for the purposes of most discussions of class, again, what matters is how much money you make. ftr wrt gatsby, the made-up-ness of American aristocracy is the whole point.

horseshoe, Friday, 3 September 2010 20:01 (3 years ago) Permalink

i mean what really distinguished those people in college from me was that their parents had an insane amount of accumulated wealth, not that they were aristocratic in some way.

horseshoe, Friday, 3 September 2010 20:02 (3 years ago) Permalink

who really is 'old money', anymore, in 2010? someone with a dutch name living off central park? that's like twelve people anymore. i think it's a whole conceptual framework that capital & management has completely discarded, certainly past the 90s and globalization. it seems to live on in literature studies tho.

goole, Friday, 3 September 2010 20:02 (3 years ago) Permalink

otm

horseshoe, Friday, 3 September 2010 20:03 (3 years ago) Permalink

i'd agree that it's breaking apart, but there were sections of my hometown in Alabama that were walled off, old money. they mixed with the new money, of course, but also had (basically) hereditary positions in clubs and charities and what have you. new money had to be invited.

a cankle of rads (Gukbe), Friday, 3 September 2010 20:03 (3 years ago) Permalink

Listening to this song now, immediate thought (and banal): lyrics only make sense in context of the song.

Neil S, Friday, 3 September 2010 20:04 (3 years ago) Permalink

well I think there definitely was a period of time where there was a discernable American aristocracy (hi dere Vanderbilts) but I think the culture window has narrowed significantly over the last 100 years, largely via entertainment, fashion and technology

not to say there still aren't "old money" ppl because there certainly are; there just aren't that many of them

xp: oh damn you all said all of this already, explicitly and implicitly

feel free to answer my Korn Kuestion (HI DERE), Friday, 3 September 2010 20:04 (3 years ago) Permalink

college was the big intersection for me, but i used to do audio-visual work at hotels, and listen to/interact with the clients, and there definitely are class differences w/r/t how "the help" is treated, and what the people talk about.

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 20:05 (3 years ago) Permalink

definitely in the U.S. who qualifies as "old money" is fluid in a lot of areas, but the concept of nouveau riche exists, and has existed for at least a couple centuries. How powerful a determinant old vs. new is in this country is up for debate, and it depends on where you live, what industries you work in, etc.

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 20:08 (3 years ago) Permalink

new money vs. old was ever anywhere near as powerful a cultural divider in the US as wealth vs. class was in england. kind of a wan new world reenactment of the old, and i'm sure it still persists (i know people for whom it does), but not in a terribly meaningful manner. gatsby's tragedy lay more in what he desired than what he was actually denied.

having taken an actual journalism class (contenderizer), Friday, 3 September 2010 20:14 (3 years ago) Permalink

wrt Jarvis as northern, working-class guy who lucked into college/london but still felt these class constraints, this line from mis-shapes:

"Oh we weren't supposed to be, we learnt too much at school now we can't help but see/That the future that you've got mapped out is nothing much to shout about."

and this one from "glory days":

"When you've seen how big the world is/how can you make do with this?"

Seem to back that reading up. He's describing this aspirational class that's educated and cultured, but still very much materially, like in terms of economics, stuck. "Common People" resonated like crazy with me because of this.

like a musical album. made by a band. (fucking in the streets), Friday, 3 September 2010 20:16 (3 years ago) Permalink

i'm just saying that class differences in the U.S. exist and are noted - though often (?) are not spoken of as being related to class.

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 20:17 (3 years ago) Permalink

and i wonder if we're deliberately avoiding working class American attitudes towards class, and those of people of other classes, because it would involve a discussion about race

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 20:19 (3 years ago) Permalink

US often conflates class with race

a cankle of rads (Gukbe), Friday, 3 September 2010 20:19 (3 years ago) Permalink

for the sake of Dan's productivity, we might not want to go down that path.

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 20:20 (3 years ago) Permalink

N.B Please do not read the lyrics whilst listening to the recordings.

like a musical album. made by a band. (fucking in the streets), Friday, 3 September 2010 20:23 (3 years ago) Permalink


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