Common People: A lyrical discussion/dissection

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makes sense, especially to the extent that conservatives whip up anger among the less well-to-do working classes against the poor (when they actually share a great many interests in common)

ding ding ding!

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 23:16 (4 years ago) Permalink

This is the part where I point out that Jesse Ventura was the mayor of a large suburb before running for state office, so the comparison with Arnie isn't quite level.

maintenant avec plus de fromage (suzy), Friday, 3 September 2010 23:23 (4 years ago) Permalink

and a Californian might point out that Jesse was pwned by the Predator and Arnie kicked his ass

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 23:25 (4 years ago) Permalink

at least arnold's not a ron paul fan

iatee, Friday, 3 September 2010 23:28 (4 years ago) Permalink

maybe suzy should tell us more about Jarvis

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 23:29 (4 years ago) Permalink

i.e. we're way off topic right now

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 23:30 (4 years ago) Permalink

yeah, i liked that part

xpost

having taken an actual journalism class (contenderizer), Friday, 3 September 2010 23:31 (4 years ago) Permalink

I did not vote for Jesse Ventura but I did like the 'thinker' ad very much.

The first time I heard this song was the first time Pulp ever played it live (I went to see most of their London shows, and saw the final one in Rotherham). I actually read the whole thread to make sure nobody had posted about Sophia - Wiki says it's another woman who's Cypriot, but I'm not certain they're right, because S. is really Greek, really a sculpture grad, and knew Jarvis. It still brings me LOLs that after this song, Jarv basically had a case of Lucky Jim syndrome and dumped his long-term partner for a very posh fashion person.

maintenant avec plus de fromage (suzy), Friday, 3 September 2010 23:48 (4 years ago) Permalink

I thought goole's reading was the obvious and OTM way of interpreting the lyrics, wasn't aware that there were other ways to read the song. this thread is really confusing.

shorn_blond.avi (dayo), Saturday, 4 September 2010 07:02 (4 years ago) Permalink

Sometimes when I'm unpacking the boxes I feel bad for the theoretical co-worker that doesn't have an earner as a spouse or parents to pay for the dental work. then I look around and it's just me and her, and it's all good. those theoretical guys work at different locations.

I hurt for them.

DON'T YOU SEE THE WALR (Zachary Taylor), Saturday, 4 September 2010 08:44 (4 years ago) Permalink

damn. Ignore me. This is a fascinating discussion about music and class. Lurking threads like this is among the things that's brought me to this site.

I don't have a good posting style or discussion technique. I like this song. The first time I saw the video, it stuck with me and I hunted down the cd. It's one of the pop highlights of that decade. I don't really require anymore depth or meaning out of it than I would from other British pop hits of the past, "Play With Fire", "Substitute", "Remote Control", "If You Wanna Be My Lover" .

The whole slumming, and resentment of it, aspect of the lyrics trigger all sorts of anger and memories from my own life, but they are American ideas rooted in self-pity or shame.

It's a nice rant, and fuck those people who are like that.

DON'T YOU SEE THE WALR (Zachary Taylor), Saturday, 4 September 2010 09:05 (4 years ago) Permalink

contenderizer i think you have it exactly backwards -- .

― goole, Friday, September 3, 2010 4:03 PM (Yesterday) Bookmark

c+ping this for later

the embrace of waka flocka is v pertinent (deej), Saturday, 4 September 2010 10:06 (4 years ago) Permalink

so it seemed a lot of the song's defenders actually agree that the narrator is pretty dislikeable? that's still the most major problem i have with the song, he doesn't actually succeed in portraying the greek girl as an unsympathetic character (when surely it wouldn't have been hard to do this), so the vitriolic rant seems bitter and baseless.

لوووووووووووووووووووول (lex pretend), Saturday, 4 September 2010 10:53 (4 years ago) Permalink

I didn't really "get" how good this song was until it was recontextualised by Bill Shatner.

village idiot (dog latin), Saturday, 4 September 2010 11:00 (4 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

Even in the bygone era it was never purely abt money -- plenty of broke toffs back in the day. The link between money and class is, I think, also related to how you spend it rather than how much you have. Know builders who drop £1000 on a chihuahua and toffs who drive the same car fr 20 years.

OK it's hard to still *say* you're working class if you're making sums wildly outside the norm and parking yr Rolls outside yr 2up/dwn, but with the whole WAG thing it feels like people are just shooting for an offshoot of working class: that Posh/Becks setup of more money than God but still having HP sauce on the table.

Wonder how Common People wld go aimed at that sort -- hard to slum when you're already buying pot noodles, only from Waitrose.

stet, Saturday, 4 September 2010 11:03 (4 years ago) Permalink

he doesn't actually succeed in portraying the greek girl as an unsympathetic character

totally hadn't got this until you pointed it out in the other thread (and Kate smthg similar upthread). Is a really gd point that if you're not already all righteously bristly just at the setup he doesn't go very far to persuade you that she's a terrible person. The funniest rants can be levelled at the least deserving, all the same.

stet, Saturday, 4 September 2010 11:05 (4 years ago) Permalink

yeah the fact that the greek girl seems like a perfectly fine person makes the song more...ripe for discussion, i guess (a quality that's often confused with a song being good), but

t if you're not already all righteously bristly just at the setup

^^is why so many people i've known appreciate the song. "slumming it" takes many forms, not all of them bad, so just the fact of the set-up isn't remotely offensive; to find it so is on a par with the still-prevalent kneejerk posh-hatred i see so often (most often from people who are SOLIDLY MIDDLE CLASS who seem to be totally unaware of their own privilege, maybe because they're so aware that they could never actually pass for someone genuinely posh)

لوووووووووووووووووووول (lex pretend), Saturday, 4 September 2010 11:13 (4 years ago) Permalink

Wonder if that kneejerkery was more prevalent during that horrible britpop era when everyone wanted to be a laaad. Jarvis could just go "posh lass wants to be common" and it was a signifier for the whole setup.

stet, Saturday, 4 September 2010 11:19 (4 years ago) Permalink

yeah, i think that misreading was touched on in the other thread, i think the song was seen as an anthem for "common people" against poshos. which is obv wrong - also, as i think k8 said upthread, the song's unpleasant stereotypes go in the other direction as well - the narrator's attitude to working class life is reductive and superior; he doesn't just make the fair point that being poor is a bit shit and shouldn't be fetishised, there's a contempt there for his fellow working class people who actually seem content with their lives, and the judgmentalism of assuming that people who love to dance and drink and screw can't possibly have anything else worthwhile in their lives.

(one of my least fav things is the straight white man who makes a huge deal out of how hard life was/is because he's a bit "different", who loves to revel in being a "misfit" and even an "outcast" without actually knowing anything about the sorts of differences that go beyond, like, one's taste in clothes.)

لوووووووووووووووووووول (lex pretend), Saturday, 4 September 2010 11:24 (4 years ago) Permalink

BACK X-POSTS GALORE IN TEH TIME IT'S TAKEN ME TO WRITE THIS OUT

OK, so this thread has gone through 200 posts of "America: does it have a class system?" I guess and I'm not going to go back and read that until some day I'm really really bored at work.

Going back to the song for a minute, and again, my discomfort with it. And part of that is (as I've repeatedly said) how his anger (although it might be righteous) is completely displaced by being applied towards this (somewhat clueless) posh girl.

First part of that is, you're not getting angry at the person you are actually angry at - or (thinking back to that shallow pedantic thread) are you getting angry at someone who can do something about the situation? How would the song - how would his *reaction* be different if her were speaking to, say, her *father* - would he be quite so willing to get so angry, eh, big man, if he was picking on someone his own size? What if the gender roles in the song were reversed? If it were her wealthy brother coming and trying to pull a poor but arty *girl* wouldn't this be painted as some kind of fairy tale happy ending where he's somehow noble for choosing the poor girl? (You know, like archetypical romance stories for the past 2000 years or so?)

Second is this idea of *tourism*. And this is where I leave the song a bit behind, but actually get into "how does this play out IRL?" How do you teach social justice issues to the very wealthy, or, as in this case, the children of the very wealthy? (this has not been an entirely academic issue for me.) There's this anger at a posh girl "slumming it" - but what do you do in cases where there is an actual genuine sense of trying to learn, even in a clumsy and clueless way? That's the difference, for me, between this song and something like Holiday In Cambodia, that the girl in this song seems like even if she doesn't comprehend (the "ha ha you're so funny" line) she seems willing enough to learn that she went to the supermarket with him in the first place. And yet she's exposed to mockery and laughter - is that really the best way to teach or change someone?

Again, this is where I veer away from the song to personal experiences, but that "open wound" analogy seems apt. Like, they have so much invested in their hatred and blame they don't want to change the existing systems, they just want someone to vent their anger at. (Thinking of parallels of women who have gone over to the Dark Side of feminism, and have actually started hating men, they have no interest in the "patriarchy hurts men, too" arguments because they have this worldview that *requires* men to be evil.) It's much easier to hate someone for "slumming it" than it is to try to change their minds or their worldviews and send them back to daddy's mansion with a real understanding and real chance to change something. I'm not saying "oh noes, won't someone think about the poor heiresses!" because several of the heiresses I've known have been pretty annoying people - though not *all* of them - there are people in that position who are "holy shit, I have a brain and a vague sense of social justice, but what the *fuck* can I do and how the fuck am I going to learn to do something about it?" It seems to be a better idea to try to get those kinds of people (and they do exist) on side in a meaningful way than it is to sneer at them and mock them until they go away.

But you know, sneering makes for the "funnier" song, I guess. But that doesn't mean I have to like that song.

cymose corymb (Karen D. Tregaskin), Saturday, 4 September 2010 11:24 (4 years ago) Permalink

She isn't a fine person. She's lumped Jarvis in with the 'common people', thereby dismissing all his personal signifiers in having got away from there. She's denying his individuality, treating him as a cipher of something that's painful to him and just a whim to her.

He's also aware of the fact that he's moved away from the lumpen common people, so he's trying to recreate them but getting it quite right either because his image is bound up with his own resentment of them - being bitten without being warned, for example. But the killer is that if it goes wrong they're all he's got to go back to, while she has her assurance and her money and her dad and his contacts - the very things that keep him out of the upper classes and mean he's got to identify with the common people, because however much he dislikes them they're all he's got.

Ismael Klata, Saturday, 4 September 2010 11:29 (4 years ago) Permalink

See Arctic Monkeys' 'A Certain Romance' for a more affectionate take on essentially the same idea.

Ismael Klata, Saturday, 4 September 2010 11:31 (4 years ago) Permalink

Ismael OTM. Point of divergence here seems to be that Karen and Lex see nothing wrong in the Greek girl's condescending attitude and unthinking privilege. If you think she sounds lovely, then no wonder you don't appreciate the song's rage but I think you may be in the minority there.

Haunted Clocks For Sale (Dorianlynskey), Saturday, 4 September 2010 12:12 (4 years ago) Permalink

How would the song - how would his *reaction* be different if her were speaking to, say, her *father* - would he be quite so willing to get so angry, eh, big man, if he was picking on someone his own size?

This has an underlying assumption that women can't stick up for themselves, which I'm not very happy about.

If it were her wealthy brother coming and trying to pull a poor but arty *girl* wouldn't this be painted as some kind of fairy tale happy ending where he's somehow noble for choosing the poor girl?

No. No, it wouldn't.

emil.y, Saturday, 4 September 2010 12:14 (4 years ago) Permalink

(one of my least fav things is the straight white man who makes a huge deal out of how hard life was/is because he's a bit "different", who loves to revel in being a "misfit" and even an "outcast" without actually knowing anything about the sorts of differences that go beyond, like, one's taste in clothes.)

You don't understand the pressures of being a straight white man!!

gr8080 State (King Boy Pato), Saturday, 4 September 2010 12:16 (4 years ago) Permalink

Also, A Certain Romance is a great point of comparison because Alex Turner, unlike Jarvis or Morrissey, has a diverse range of friends and sees a certain kind of working-class misbehaviour in a more sympathetic light as a result - he's not an outcast, he's on the fringes, moving between cliques, critical but not damning. His real finger-pointing venom (on Fake Tales) is reserved for indie-scene poseurs. I'd forgotten how beautifully nuanced and candid A Certain Romance was.

Haunted Clocks For Sale (Dorianlynskey), Saturday, 4 September 2010 12:17 (4 years ago) Permalink

Turner, like Mike Skinner, has that "I am a camera" approach where he's both observer and participant, largely withholding judgement. They have none of the rage of Jarvis or Morrissey, which might be as much down to generation as personality.

Haunted Clocks For Sale (Dorianlynskey), Saturday, 4 September 2010 12:22 (4 years ago) Permalink

which might be as much down to generation as personality.

It's 99% about coming from a different generation if you ask me

Tom A. (Tom B.) (Tom C.) (Tom D.), Saturday, 4 September 2010 12:24 (4 years ago) Permalink

Was going to say, Jarvis's age is pretty important here, I assume he was born the early-to-mid 60s and so grew up in the 70s, so to speak

Tom A. (Tom B.) (Tom C.) (Tom D.), Saturday, 4 September 2010 12:27 (4 years ago) Permalink

so it seemed a lot of the song's defenders actually agree that the narrator is pretty dislikeable? that's still the most major problem i have with the song, he doesn't actually succeed in portraying the greek girl as an unsympathetic character (when surely it wouldn't have been hard to do this), so the vitriolic rant seems bitter and baseless.

the narrator alleges that his target has said, in conversation with him, "I want to live like common people; I want to do whatever common people do." if we take him at his word that she said this, then actually yes, she has said something that makes her quite unsympathetic to me anyway, fuck people who say shit like they. they must be yelled at in song.

(one of my least fav things is the straight white man who makes a huge deal out of how hard life was/is because he's a bit "different", who loves to revel in being a "misfit" and even an "outcast" without actually knowing anything about the sorts of differences that go beyond, like, one's taste in clothes.)

underrated randy newman jam:

I'm different and I don't care who knows it
Somethin' about me
It's not the same yeah
I'm different and that's how it goes
Ain't gonna play your goddamn game

Got a different way of walkin'
I got a different kind of smile
I got a different way of talkin'
Drives the women kind of wild
Kind of wild

(choir: He's different)
And I don't care who knows it
(choir: Somethin' about him)
It's not the same
(choir:He's different)
And that's how it goes
(choir: And he's not gonna play your gosh darn game)

I ain't sayin' I'm better than you are
But maybe I am
I only know that when I look in the mirror
I like the man
(choir: We like the man)

I'm different and I don't care who knows it
Somethin' about me
Not the same
I'm different and that's how it goes
Ain't gonna play your goddamn game

When I walk down the street in the mornin'
Blue birds are singin' in the tall oak tree
They sing a little song for the people
And they sing a little song for me

(choir: He's different and he don't care who knows it
Somethin' about him
Not the same
He's different and that's how it goes
And he's not gonna play your gosh darn game)

I'm different and I don't care who knows it
Somethin' about me
Is not the same
I'm different and that's how it goes
Ain't gonna play no boss man's game

gross rainbow of haerosmith (underrated aerosmith albums I have loved), Saturday, 4 September 2010 12:34 (4 years ago) Permalink

Definitely - there's a big difference between songwriters who remember the class battles of the late 70s and early 80s and those born too late. When people talk about Turner and Skinner in relation to earlier socially observant songwriters they often gloss over that crucial divide. There's always turmoil and tension in the Smiths, the Specials, Pulp, etc, whereas the 00s variant is more like "Tsk, there's nowt so queer as folk."

Haunted Clocks For Sale (Dorianlynskey), Saturday, 4 September 2010 12:34 (4 years ago) Permalink

Also I'm surprised Kate hates this song so much 'cos it's always kinda reminded me of La Dusseldorf

Tom A. (Tom B.) (Tom C.) (Tom D.), Saturday, 4 September 2010 12:37 (4 years ago) Permalink

They played a convincing krautrock version during the We Love Life tour.

Haunted Clocks For Sale (Dorianlynskey), Saturday, 4 September 2010 12:39 (4 years ago) Permalink

cut your hair and get a job.

crazy lower classes with their hair and their jobs

― ledge, Friday, September 3, 2010 3:59 PM (Yesterday) Bookmark

Also Sadie Frost already has quite short hair.

rhythm fixated member (chap), Saturday, 4 September 2010 12:56 (4 years ago) Permalink

Point of divergence here seems to be that Karen and Lex see nothing wrong in the Greek girl's condescending attitude and unthinking privilege. If you think she sounds lovely, then no wonder you don't appreciate the song's rage but I think you may be in the minority there.

Um, NO.

If you want to believe that's what we said, then that says more about your prejudices that you want to construct a straw man.

I never said she was "lovely". She sounds, to me, ignorant, naive, and clueless.

It is Jarvis's discomfort (and, clearly, yours) which reads that ignorance, naivete and cluelessness as being *automatically* condescending.

In fact, the way the lyrics read to me, it seems like she's someone who has just moved to England and discovered that such a thing as class and privilege even exist. It's not that she has "unthinking privilege" it's that she has only just discovered that it exists, and is trying to work out what it means. (The fact that she's even picked up some notion that "working class life" as opposed to her life, is somehow more "authentic" means that she has worked out that her privilege and wealth exist.)

It is Jarvis who comes in, with all of his class resentments and discomfort with his own class (as pretty much evidenced by his stereotypical and negative descriptions of working class life) who tells *us*, as narrator, that he thinks this girl is condescending or has *unthinking* privilege. She is, "smiling and holding his hand" really just kind of a cipher for him to project his anger onto.

I think Lex and I have made it pretty clear that we don't think either of them are particularly sympathetic. It's that Jarvis, as narrator, comes off the worse - probably because I think that choosing bullying is worse than being born clueless.

And also that a *lot* of people who love this song are identifying with Jarvis and his rage, when really, they are totally blinkered when it comes to their own privilege. It's much easier to point out splinters in other people's eyes than it is to recognise logs in your own. At least I am honest enough to *recognise* my privilege and admit that I can see where the girl is coming from. A lot of people love this song and identify with jarvis when really, they are as clueless as the girl.

cymose corymb (Karen D. Tregaskin), Saturday, 4 September 2010 13:35 (4 years ago) Permalink

i like butts

funky brewster (San Te), Saturday, 4 September 2010 13:36 (4 years ago) Permalink

fuck wrong thread

funky brewster (San Te), Saturday, 4 September 2010 13:37 (4 years ago) Permalink

Ha ha ha! Hilarious.

But, erm, in the spirit of full disclosure, and kind of in keeping with your accidental interjection ...

I do not Jarvis Cocker, as a public figure. I disliked him even before this song - I always thought of him as this really quite horrible creepy sex pest. So it's going to be really hard for me to like a song which is a clumsy analysis of class dynamics as written from the point of view of a creepy sex pest.

I have never liked Pulp (even though I've had to listen to this album many, many times, due to knowing and dating quite a few Pulp fans) and the biggest reason for that is creepy sex pest Jarvis. The man just seriously skeeves me out and always has, and nothing he's ever done has ever counteracted that feeling.

cymose corymb (Karen D. Tregaskin), Saturday, 4 September 2010 13:52 (4 years ago) Permalink

And also that a *lot* of people who love this song are identifying with Jarvis and his rage, when really, they are totally blinkered when it comes to their own privilege. It's much easier to point out splinters in other people's eyes than it is to recognise logs in your own. At least I am honest enough to *recognise* my privilege and admit that I can see where the girl is coming from. A lot of people love this song and identify with jarvis when really, they are as clueless as the girl.

― cymose corymb (Karen D. Tregaskin), Saturday, September 4, 2010 9:35 PM (15 minutes ago) Bookmark

sure, but you don't have to identify with jarvis in order to be critical of the girl. a lot of the discussion itt has been centered on the fact that jarvis's class hangups are just as despicable and reprehensible as the girl's, and that's part of the songs fun. but that doesn't extend the girl a get out of jail free card.

shorn_blond.avi (dayo), Saturday, 4 September 2010 13:53 (4 years ago) Permalink

i will say jarvis's michael jackson protest was pretty ironic

funky brewster (San Te), Saturday, 4 September 2010 13:55 (4 years ago) Permalink

Well, it really kinda says something about just how creepy Jarvis is, that I actually sympathise with the girl more than him, then.

I guess the thing is, I've known quite a few people like the girl, and some of them did turn out to be alright in the end, that they were capable of growing and learning to not be completely clueless. The people I've known who were more like Jarvis ended up pretty much choking on their own bitterness. But this is really projection based on mine own life, not anything to do with Jarvis or the Greek girl.

(But, works of art can be successful or fail, based on how closely they reflect or describe experiences you've been through. Probably the same things that make others like the song make me hate it, because of this. I guess? Dunno.)

cymose corymb (Karen D. Tregaskin), Saturday, 4 September 2010 13:57 (4 years ago) Permalink

In fact, the way the lyrics read to me, it seems like she's someone who has just moved to England and discovered that such a thing as class and privilege even exist. It's not that she has "unthinking privilege" it's that she has only just discovered that it exists, and is trying to work out what it means. (The fact that she's even picked up some notion that "working class life" as opposed to her life, is somehow more "authentic" means that she has worked out that her privilege and wealth exist.)

I believe that jarvis' intent was to create a dislikeable slumming rich girl, not a innocent curious foreigner. you can argue that he failed at this attempt, but by defending this fictional character you are basically sticking up for his strawman.

iatee, Saturday, 4 September 2010 13:58 (4 years ago) Permalink

I mean what if he added a line "also she molests children" - now this is a clearly dislikeable person and rich people are now bad, right?

iatee, Saturday, 4 September 2010 14:00 (4 years ago) Permalink

im p sure they have poor people in greece

i am legernd (history mayne), Saturday, 4 September 2010 14:00 (4 years ago) Permalink

One point made over and again in this thread is the different ways of expressing/dealing with/discussing class systems in different countries. US, UK, and various Euro countries having notably different systems.

Also - I think that the art school bit of it is quite U&K to this, in that art school, in Britain, *is* where people from both ends of the spectrum encounter each other for the first time. I think it's actually pretty common for people to through their childhood and lower schooling without ever encountering someone from another class. In fact, *very* common in upper classes, and they go to great lengths to keep it that way. Not defending this in any way, it's to the detriment of all, I think. But yeah, I don't think it's that uncommon.

But I think the point is that lazy bad songwriter Jarvis knows that he can say "rich girl" and people will automatically supply "dislikeable" so he doesn't have to work very hard at characterisation. And he didn't. But the problem is, if you have someone who can hear the term "rich girl" without thinking "dislikeable" the song falls apart pretty quickly.

cymose corymb (Karen D. Tregaskin), Saturday, 4 September 2010 14:16 (4 years ago) Permalink

But the problem is, if you have someone who can hear the term "rich girl" without thinking "dislikeable" the song falls apart pretty quickly. - Kate I was exactly like this girl for much of my adult life, and I love this song - I think it's spot on about what I was missing! I think there's a lot to what you said earlier about the gender aspect.

Gravel Puzzleworth, Saturday, 4 September 2010 14:20 (4 years ago) Permalink

> because I think that choosing bullying is worse than being born clueless.

How is he bullying? All he did with/to her was take her to a supermarket and let her buy him a drink.

(send me upthread if you already covered it...hard to scan it all!)

john. a resident of chicago., Saturday, 4 September 2010 14:58 (4 years ago) Permalink

How is he bullying?

it gets a bit weird when he starts saying all that stuff about the dog imo

i am legernd (history mayne), Saturday, 4 September 2010 15:09 (4 years ago) Permalink

yeah, the bit about the dog - the language of violence - i dunno, but i read that as "this is what happened to me" as opposed to "this is what they will do to you, attractive wealthy heiress" - and probably i get that impression based on gender.

it is a little off-kilter that he takes her to a supermarket as opposed to a bar or some sporting event where one would observe "common people" in their natural habitat - i mean, the supermarket, you'd probably find something more approximating a cross-section of classes

sarahel, Saturday, 4 September 2010 17:23 (4 years ago) Permalink

I think the assumption is that posh people probably shop at whole foods or waitroses or whatever the UK equivalent is. by supermarket I think he means your absolute bottom-of-the-line save-a-lot or whatever.

shorn_blond.avi (dayo), Saturday, 4 September 2010 17:24 (4 years ago) Permalink


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