Common People: A lyrical discussion/dissection

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For reference:

She came from Greece she had a thirst for knowledge,
she studied sculpture at Saint Martin's College,
that's where I,
caught her eye.
She told me that her Dad was loaded,
I said "In that case I'll have a rum and coca-cola."
She said "Fine."
and in thirty seconds time she said,

"I want to live like common people,
I want to do whatever common people do,
I want to sleep with common people,
I want to sleep with common people,
like you."

Well what else could I do -
I said "I'll see what I can do."
I took her to a supermarket,
I don't know why but I had to start it somewhere,
so it started there.
I said pretend you've got no money,
she just laughed and said,
"Oh you're so funny."
I said "yeah?
Well I can't see anyone else smiling in here.
Are you sure you want to live like common people,
you want to see whatever common people see,
you want to sleep with common people,
you want to sleep with common people,
like me."
But she didn't understand,
she just smiled and held my hand.
Rent a flat above a shop,
cut your hair and get a job.
Smoke some fags and play some pool,
pretend you never went to school.
But still you'll never get it right,
cos when you're laid in bed at night,
watching roaches climb the wall,
if you call your Dad he could stop it all.

You'll never live like common people,
you'll never do what common people do,
you'll never fail like common people,
you'll never watch your life slide out of view,
and dance and drink and screw,
because there's nothing else to do.

Sing along with the common people,
sing along and it might just get you through,
laugh along with the common people,
laugh along even though they're laughing at you,
and the stupid things that you do.
Because you think that poor is cool.

I want to live with common people,
I want to live with common people etc...

feel free to answer my Korn Kuestion (HI DERE), Friday, 3 September 2010 15:52 (eight years ago) Permalink

Good lyrics.

Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 3 September 2010 15:53 (eight years ago) Permalink

A fun song to dance to

Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 3 September 2010 15:53 (eight years ago) Permalink

they do lack nuance, i will say that much.

strongohulkingtonsghost, Friday, 3 September 2010 15:53 (eight years ago) Permalink

so that p4k list has now spawned discussions on 4 different threads now. but we don't care about p4k.

a cankle of rads (Gukbe), Friday, 3 September 2010 15:53 (eight years ago) Permalink

An even better karaoke number

(but not as good as "Disco 2000")

Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 3 September 2010 15:53 (eight years ago) Permalink

there's also this bit in the album versh:

Like a dog lying in a corner,
they'll bite you and never warn you.
Look out.
They'll tear your insides out.

'Cause Everybody hates a tourist,
especially one who thinks
it's all such a laugh.
Yeah, and the chip stains' grease
will come out in the bath.
You will never understand
how it feels to live your life
with no meaning or control
and with nowhere left to go.
You're amazed that they exist
and they burn so bright,
while you can only wonder why.

i am legernd (history mayne), Friday, 3 September 2010 15:55 (eight years ago) Permalink

Never realised there was that extra bit before.

seandalai, Friday, 3 September 2010 15:56 (eight years ago) Permalink

A couple of things about this song:

- I don't actually get why Karen/K@te is identifying with the rich culture tourist and not the narrator, who appears to be the "poor person at the posh school" archetype

- I totally get why Lex would hate a song that is a vituperative tirade against a slumming Paris Hilton-type

- I encountered this song LONG after it actually mattered but, had I heard it in my formative years, I would likely have bought every Pulp album

feel free to answer my Korn Kuestion (HI DERE), Friday, 3 September 2010 15:56 (eight years ago) Permalink

This is our version from American, what do you think?

Wake up kid
Its half past you think
Nothings really changing but the date
You a grand slammer but you no Babe Ruth
You gotta learn how to relate
You'll be swinging for the pearly gates
Ohh I got all answers, lo and behold
You got the right key baby but the wrong key hole, yo

Well I woke up this morning
On the wrong side of the bed
And how I got to thinkin'
About all those things you said
About ordinary people
And how they make you sick
And if callin' names kicks back on you
Then I hope this does the trick

'Cause I'm sick of your complainin'
About how many bills
And I'm sick of all your bitchin'
'Bout your poodles and your pills
And I just can't see no humor
About your way of life
And I think I can do more for you
With this here fork and knife

(Chorus)
Eat The Rich
There's only one thing that they are good for
Eat The Rich
Take one bite now - come back for more
Eat The Rich
I gotta get this off my chest
Eat The Rich
Take one bite now - spit out the rest

So I called up my head shrinker
And I told him what I'd done
He said you best go on a diet
Yeah, I hope you have some fun
And a don't go burst the bubble
On rich folks who get rude
'Cause you won't get in no trouble
When you eats that kinda food

Now they're smokin' up their junk bonds
And then they go get stiff
And they're dancin' in the yacht club
With Muff and uncle Biff
But there's one good thing that happens
When you toss your pearls to swine
Their attitudes may taste like shit
But go real good with wine

Chorus

Believe in all the good things
That money just can't buy
Then you won't get no bellyache
From eatin' humble pie
I believe in rags to riches
Your inheritance won't last
So take your Gray poupon my friend
And shove it up your ass

Chorus

Eat The Rich
There's only one thing that they are good for
Eat The Rich
Take one bite now - come back for more
Eat The Rich
Don't stop me now, I'm goin' crazy
Eat The Rich
That's my idea of a good time baby

olivia tribble control (kkvgz), Friday, 3 September 2010 15:58 (eight years ago) Permalink

cut your hair and get a job.

crazy lower classes with their hair and their jobs

ledge, Friday, 3 September 2010 15:59 (eight years ago) Permalink

The attitude described in "Common People" is such an amazing encapsulation of certain facets of the Ivy League experience, it's stunning.

feel free to answer my Korn Kuestion (HI DERE), Friday, 3 September 2010 16:00 (eight years ago) Permalink

Haha. Holiday in Cambodia's in the same vein as Common People, especially the lines about ethnic jazz and "bragging that you know how the niggers feel cold", though Jello's target is a different social type.

Haunted Clocks For Sale (Dorianlynskey), Friday, 3 September 2010 16:02 (eight years ago) Permalink

kind of but the narrator of 'common people' thinks the slums got so much soul:

"You're amazed that they exist
and they burn so bright,
while you can only wonder why."

i am legernd (history mayne), Friday, 3 September 2010 16:03 (eight years ago) Permalink

The attitude described in "Common People" is such an amazing encapsulation of certain facets of the Ivy League experience, it's stunning.

― feel free to answer my Korn Kuestion (HI DERE), Friday, September 3, 2010 9:00 AM (1 minute ago)

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 16:03 (eight years ago) Permalink

"burn so bright" can also mean the slums are burning. It's all about the hysteria in Cocker's voice.

Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 3 September 2010 16:07 (eight years ago) Permalink

Oh definitely - just acknowledging that the target of Holiday in Cambodia is more of a jock. Again, it's a very specific song - about certain students at the University of Colorado in the late 70s. Both songs have the details that only come from real observation of individuals rather than attacking a type, a la Eat the Rich.

I'll put a word in for Cocker's vocal performance here - the way he ramps it up from wry satire in the first verse to screaming rage and contempt by the end. The song reminds me a bit of Transmission - the music just builds and builds while the vocal becomes increasingly ragged and unhinged.

Haunted Clocks For Sale (Dorianlynskey), Friday, 3 September 2010 16:10 (eight years ago) Permalink

Ah, I see Alfred already got there re: the vocal hysteria.

Hard to think of another 90s UK top 3 hit with such howling rage.

Haunted Clocks For Sale (Dorianlynskey), Friday, 3 September 2010 16:12 (eight years ago) Permalink

i always interpreted cocker's character as being middle class - like he's not really a part of either of those worlds - but maybe that's me projecting

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 16:12 (eight years ago) Permalink

This song's a jam. I can't relate to either the narrator or the girl, nor really to anyone else in the song's vicinity. But it's a great "fuck you" song & that's a classic pop trope.

Would my view be different if I thought the "fuck you" was to me? I dunno. My love of pop music has a lot to do with role playing, & I love my enemies as myself.

Euler, Friday, 3 September 2010 16:13 (eight years ago) Permalink

i always interpreted cocker's character as being middle class - like he's not really a part of either of those worlds - but maybe that's me projecting

^^^ ditto

feel free to answer my Korn Kuestion (HI DERE), Friday, 3 September 2010 16:13 (eight years ago) Permalink

i always interpreted cocker's character as being middle class - like he's not really a part of either of those worlds - but maybe that's me projecting

― sarahel, Friday, September 3, 2010 5:12 PM (35 seconds ago) Bookmark

you're better off not delving into it tbh!

'middle class' covers a hell of a lot in this intricate class system of ours

i am legernd (history mayne), Friday, 3 September 2010 16:14 (eight years ago) Permalink

the narrator knows 'common' folk but is not one of them -- *you're* amazed that *they* exist. and he's at art school in that london. i guess he's taken her back home or something? n e ways, he is probably 'lower middle class'.

i am legernd (history mayne), Friday, 3 September 2010 16:15 (eight years ago) Permalink

probably working class but was an outcast from that society, so he feels the need to disparage the rich girl for slumming it even though/because he loathes it himself.

a cankle of rads (Gukbe), Friday, 3 September 2010 16:17 (eight years ago) Permalink

i always interpreted cocker's character as being middle class - like he's not really a part of either of those worlds - but maybe that's me projecting

This, in a nutshell, is why I'm never trying to explain this song to an American, ever again.

And I did it many, many, many times, in anglophile circles, in the States, during the 90s.

Anyway, I've said pretty much every thing I need to say about this song on the other thread.

I don't think it's really related to pitchfork, though, I think it's more to do with that Different Class poll that's been hanging around new answers, but I'm never never going to post on a Pulp thread because I really quite dislike Pulp. (And it's probably more to do with very specific fans I have known than the band itself.)

Now I'm going to bow out.

cymose corymb (Karen D. Tregaskin), Friday, 3 September 2010 16:19 (eight years ago) Permalink

i think i got the album my last year of college, and was totally obsessed with listening to it after i graduated and was living in SF working crappy temp jobs, so it was definitely a reminder of the limits of class mobility provided by a "good education," contrary to the mythology surrounding it. But, in a way, i was also kinda slumming - i mean, i could have gone into a more secure, lucrative profession. So, when i listened to the song, i'd alternately put myself in the position of his character, as well as the girl's. I mean, i'd be totally dishonest if i told myself that if i was totally broke that i couldn't call my parents and they'd buy me a month's work of groceries or help me out some on the rent.

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 16:20 (eight years ago) Permalink

I understand the British class system and I don't understand why you find that view so woefully incorrect. xpost

a cankle of rads (Gukbe), Friday, 3 September 2010 16:21 (eight years ago) Permalink

the narrator knows 'common' folk but is not one of them -- *you're* amazed that *they* exist. and he's at art school in that london. i guess he's taken her back home or something? n e ways, he is probably 'lower middle class'.

― i am legernd (history mayne), Friday, September 3, 2010 9:15 AM (4 minutes ago)

that was my assumption as well, based on the literal narrative.

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 16:22 (eight years ago) Permalink

u cld argue that college makes u middle class as a matter of fact regardless of background, but i wouldn't go that far, plus i think the switch to "they" may be just a rhetorical decision

zvookster, Friday, 3 September 2010 16:24 (eight years ago) Permalink

the working/middle class distinction in britain has little to do with income. it tends to be about where you're from. which is why I like how complicated the relationship to class is on Common People and the album as a whole.

a cankle of rads (Gukbe), Friday, 3 September 2010 16:26 (eight years ago) Permalink

i remember they did t-shirts saying 'i'm common'... could never really get on board w. that, especially since they dropped 'mis-shapes' about two months later

it's a complicated song for a complicated society

u cld argue that college makes u middle class as a matter of fact regardless of background, but i wouldn't go that far, plus i think the switch to "they" may be just a rhetorical decision

― zvookster, Friday, September 3, 2010 5:24 PM (32 seconds ago) Bookmark

well, yes. but! it's art college, which isn't like college. but! it's st martins, which is hella posh (MIA went there).

i am legernd (history mayne), Friday, 3 September 2010 16:26 (eight years ago) Permalink

the working/middle class distinction in britain has little to do with income. it tends to be about where you're from. which is why I like how complicated the relationship to class is on Common People and the album as a whole.

a cankle of rads (Gukbe), Friday, 3 September 2010 16:26 (eight years ago) Permalink

the working/middle class distinction in britain has little to do with income. it tends to be about where you're from. which is why I like how complicated the relationship to class is on Common People and the album as a whole.

a cankle of rads (Gukbe), Friday, 3 September 2010 16:26 (eight years ago) Permalink

in a way, art school students are more likely to have roaches climbing the walls than people with short hair and jobs. i think?

i am legernd (history mayne), Friday, 3 September 2010 16:28 (eight years ago) Permalink

'lower middle class'

It's important to note that HM means English lower middle class which is diff than American middle class.

I agree with all those that said he's not a part of either groups described in the song.

God I love this song.

o sh!t a ˁ˚ᴥ˚ˀ (ENBB), Friday, 3 September 2010 16:28 (eight years ago) Permalink

America doesn't have 'classes' btw didnt u kno

a cankle of rads (Gukbe), Friday, 3 September 2010 16:29 (eight years ago) Permalink

history mayne - is it the kind of thing where lower middle class families are more likely to encourage/let their kids go to art school than solidly middle class ones? There's a bit of that here in the U.S. - there's this basically pay-to-play art school in SF called the Academy of Art University (née college) where most of the students are either from foreign countries and just want to be in America or seem like they're from lower-middle class backgrounds.

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 16:31 (eight years ago) Permalink

x-post

Waht?

o sh!t a ˁ˚ᴥ˚ˀ (ENBB), Friday, 3 September 2010 16:32 (eight years ago) Permalink

probably working class but was an outcast from that society, so he feels the need to disparage the rich girl for slumming it even though/because he loathes it himself.

OTM. I think he definitely identifies as working class, not even lower middle class, but suddenly finds himself in a privileged environment and projects some of his own discomfort onto the girl. On the one hand, yes, he doesn't have a financial cushion so if he fails to make it (as Jarvis did for many years) then nobody's going to bail him out, so he genuinely resents this girl and most of her contemporaries. BUT the hysteria in his voice when he's describing working-class life suggests that he's happy to be away from it. Economically he is "one" of them but culturally and intellectually he feels apart. It's not uncommon for a bright, hungry, working-class student at a good university to feel at once relieved to be in a comfortable environment and awkward/guilty/resentful about it, and to take this huge ambivalence about what they've left behind out on someone who represents brainless entitlement.

Haunted Clocks For Sale (Dorianlynskey), Friday, 3 September 2010 16:32 (eight years ago) Permalink

It's not uncommon for a bright, hungry, working-class student at a good university to feel at once relieved to be in a comfortable environment and awkward/guilty/resentful about it, and to take this huge ambivalence about what they've left behind out on someone who represents brainless entitlement.

this happens in America, too - you see it more pronouncedly in African-American and Chicano students

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 16:34 (eight years ago) Permalink

It's not uncommon for a bright, hungry, working-class student at a good university to feel at once relieved to be in a comfortable environment and awkward/guilty/resentful about it, and to take this huge ambivalence about what they've left behind out on someone who represents brainless entitlement.

Hopefully, you could also understand why someone who has been used as a scratching post to represent "brainless entitlement" by persons in that position could grow to really really REALLY resent the song.

Not trying to be all "wah, feel sorry for me" honest, but more "can you see why that would make someone hate it, not love it"?

cymose corymb (Karen D. Tregaskin), Friday, 3 September 2010 16:35 (eight years ago) Permalink

(ok I just noticed the other discussion that spawned this thread)

o sh!t a ˁ˚ᴥ˚ˀ (ENBB), Friday, 3 September 2010 16:38 (eight years ago) Permalink

There's also the political backdrop here - how the working class were fought over by both the Tories and the unions/Militants in the 80s, how the 90s was meant to be the era of the classless society, etc - but that would take a long time to break down for any non-UK folk.

Karen, I can totally see why that experience would turn you against the song. I had a friend who tried to do that but it turned out that he was just a barmy fantasist whose dad, it transpired after two years of his asserting his working-class bona fides, was a lawyer in Cheshire.

Haunted Clocks For Sale (Dorianlynskey), Friday, 3 September 2010 16:38 (eight years ago) Permalink

so basically the UK in the 90s was supposed to be like America?

sarahel, Friday, 3 September 2010 16:39 (eight years ago) Permalink

There's also the whole second part of my explanation of why I dislike this song (the common vs. posh and common vs. uncommon dichotomy) which has kind of been completely missed in all the class warrior and "americans vs. brits: you doing class rong" stuff.

cymose corymb (Karen D. Tregaskin), Friday, 3 September 2010 16:40 (eight years ago) Permalink

there are two threads on the board at the moment with some previous discussion on this

for reference
Pitchfork: The Top 200 Tracks of the 1990s: 20-01
"Please Understand. We don't want no trouble, we just want the right to be different. That's all." PULP - D.I.F.F.E.R.E.N.T.C.L.A.S.S poll

zvookster, Friday, 3 September 2010 16:41 (eight years ago) Permalink

wow, really?

feel free to answer my Korn Kuestion (HI DERE), Friday, 3 September 2010 16:42 (eight years ago) Permalink

history mayne - is it the kind of thing where lower middle class families are more likely to encourage/let their kids go to art school than solidly middle class ones? There's a bit of that here in the U.S. - there's this basically pay-to-play art school in SF called the Academy of Art University (née college) where most of the students are either from foreign countries and just want to be in America or seem like they're from lower-middle class backgrounds.

― sarahel, Friday, September 3, 2010 5:31 PM (2 minutes ago) Bookmark

actually kind of, yeah. HOWEVER the LONDON art schools mix(ed) up talented misfits from the provinces with posh girls (who didn't used to go to university... of course they did by jarvis's time though).

i dunno about the 1980s, but it used to be that the london colleges were basically postgraduate institutions; you went there after your stint at one of the provincial art schools.

in the period the song is about it was more complex because you had this whole other stratum of higher education institutions that are now redesignated universities... and another however is that since the sixties art schools have been pressured more and more to produce 'people who are needed in the jobs market'.

i am legernd (history mayne), Friday, 3 September 2010 16:42 (eight years ago) Permalink

(there's a huge wall, I think, between the kind of school where pressure to conform aesthetically took the form of physically hitting you and where it didn't - people act like these are the same thing but they 100% aren't)

Gravel Puzzleworth, Sunday, 5 September 2010 11:59 (eight years ago) Permalink

That's a good post, ithappens, and informative!

Gravel Puzzleworth, Sunday, 5 September 2010 12:01 (eight years ago) Permalink

I was at high school a few years earlier than Lex, '87-94, and it was definitely not the usual thing to be into indie or proto-Britpop at that time - most of the kids were into Guns'n'Roses/Aerosmith/hair metal or U2/INXS/Queen. I didn't get much shit for liking indie though, that was mostly reserved for hip hop or house.

a fucking stove just fell on my foot. (Colonel Poo), Sunday, 5 September 2010 12:02 (eight years ago) Permalink

high school for me was '93-'00 - it was an oddity in that it was a specialist music school, and once in sixth form the dynamic of the year changed completely, due to lots of musicians (previously a minority group in the year) arriving on scholarships, and the...less academically inclined local farmers' kids leaving. sixth form was really great as far as aesthetic tolerance went tbh. prior to that it was britpop all the way with a smattering of, like, nirvana and pearl jam. don't remember hip-hop getting much play but then i hadn't got into it yet at that point either. i was intro trip-hop, female singer-songwriters and r&b, none of which was considered acceptable to go on the house common room - i remember sneaking into the girls' houses a few times, which was mostly forbidden, just so i could listen to, like, en vogue and madonna with friends. amusingly, that was before i came out.

my most triumphant common room stereo battle was when i put erykah badu's first album on one day, not long after it had come out and BLOWN MY MIND - a group of some of the nastier elements in my house turned up not long after that and the usual hostility ensued. (beating people up wasn't really something that happened in my school, at least not to me, but physical scuffles did, including THROWING MY CD ACROSS THE ROOM. hateful cunts!) anyway there also happened to be some sixth-formers there who i didn't know (rare, sixth-formers didn't use that common room much), one of whom happened to be a musician specialising in jazz piano, ie someone who could actually appreciate good music, and he marched over to the little cunts who were bothering me and literally picked the ringleader up by his collar and told him not to ever fuck with a) me b) erykah badu ever again. then he put the cd back in, turned the volume up ten times as loud as it was, and we jammed to this -

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9Wa4tIofqU

<3

لوووووووووووووووووووول (lex pretend), Sunday, 5 September 2010 12:44 (eight years ago) Permalink

Starting to understand Jarvis' complicated defending-despite-hating relationship with the working class in regards to my countrymen, what with all the America comments on this thread.

a cankle of rads (Gukbe), Sunday, 5 September 2010 14:08 (eight years ago) Permalink

I was at high school a few years earlier than Lex, '87-94, and it was definitely not the usual thing to be into indie or proto-Britpop at that time - most of the kids were into Guns'n'Roses/Aerosmith/hair metal or U2/INXS/Queen. I didn't get much shit for liking indie though, that was mostly reserved for hip hop or house.

I was in high school '83-'87, and something so innocuous as liking Prince or Madonna -- which I did, and at the time when they were like two of the two top four or five artists in the music industry -- was sufficient to get you called "faggot" and threatened with ass-beatings constantly.

Shock and Awe High School (Phil D.), Sunday, 5 September 2010 14:47 (eight years ago) Permalink

High school was '92-'99 for me and while britpop definitely led to an increase in people listening to indie/guitar type music, it didn't dominate to any extent - maybe it's the sort of school I went to but there was never really any consensus regarding music. For the first couple of years I definitely felt that there were divisions ('moshers' vs. 'ravers' or whatever) but after a while you realised that peoples' tastes were often more complex than you thought. We never had a common room until the sixth form - I never put anything on it but most of the stuff played was decent (notable exception: Ian Brown's solo album).

Gavin in Leeds, Sunday, 5 September 2010 15:01 (eight years ago) Permalink

Sorry should be "put anything on in it"

Gavin in Leeds, Sunday, 5 September 2010 15:02 (eight years ago) Permalink

The building at my school containing the common room was destroyed in a storm before we inherited it, so we were allocated a tiered lecture theatre as a replacement. Not a very relaxing place to chill out and nobody bothered putting in a stereo or anything. Some idiots smashed the place up on our last day, so that was probably a good call. Only a handful of kids were really into music anyway as I recall, so we set the agenda pretty much unopposed.

Ismael Klata, Sunday, 5 September 2010 15:19 (eight years ago) Permalink

I was in high school in the Midwest from '82-'86. No common room, but art studios and a radio station with a 'classic rock' format - which was fought over by metalheads and punks. You were highly unlikely to be called queer for liking Prince in the Twin Cities, and luckily we had a posse of punk girls who'd been precocious gig-goers that Husker Du and the Replacements hung out with as peers ready to police anyone who gave people like me shit about their musical tastes, but if you liked British stuff as opposed to generic all-ages punk shit, the local flannel shirts often cried 'poseur'. The great mass of 'normal' students liked big hits (Blondie, Human League, The Police, The Clash) from certain new wavish groups but mostly listened to top 40. At a recent reunion some of the people who did give me shit about what I liked (smithscurebunnymenmarychainremcocteautwinsneworder) took me aside to say they were glad I listened to that stuff because they got into whatever I liked 2-3 years after I had.

The more I think about it, the more I've figured out that Jarvis is one of the only British people I can think of whose financial and family background almost exactly echoes my own; also there's the emotional thing of wanting to get the fuck out of Dodge because of the more conservative/conformist elements of the working/lower middle class people you call your family and neighbours. I'm sure he's also about as *eyeball roll* as I am about being told by a bourgeois that certain feelings of annoyance I have towards people who just don't seem like they think too hard about much of anything are *invalid*.

maintenant avec plus de fromage (suzy), Sunday, 5 September 2010 15:34 (eight years ago) Permalink

Eh, my high school was very rural -- nearly an hour from the nearest actual city (Cleveland) and fewer than 500 students in the entire school. I was, to my knowledge, the only student who had ever heard of R.E.M., let alone bought one of their albums, let alone any other indie rock or postpunk bands.

Shock and Awe High School (Phil D.), Sunday, 5 September 2010 16:01 (eight years ago) Permalink

LOL, another parallel is that Sheffield - as far as having a healthy music scene in the late '70s and '80s, with its smattering of people who'd reach national significance, warehouse parties, influential indie labels and unusually good record stores - was so much like Minneapolis, the Human League were very happy to come there to work with Jam and Lewis when I was a senior in high school.

maintenant avec plus de fromage (suzy), Sunday, 5 September 2010 16:58 (eight years ago) Permalink

High school 85-88 and I listened to a random mix of top 40, classic rock and KROQ/91X style programming. As did everyone at school, pretty much. I don't remember one musical argument from the time at all!

Ned Raggett, Sunday, 5 September 2010 17:10 (eight years ago) Permalink

1985-1992. Sixth form common room split between goths, Madchester/dance/hip hop types and classic-rock musos with strained tolerance the norm and occasional bursts of mutual admiration - the early 90s was a good time for crossover because of all the hip hop and indie-dance going on. I remember the real conflicts happening at house parties - we got evicted from a metal-dominated party for slipping on a tape of dance music. We deliberately started with 808 State's Cubik and In Yer Face in an attempt to woo the metalheads, to no avail.

Haunted Clocks For Sale (Dorianlynskey), Sunday, 5 September 2010 17:37 (eight years ago) Permalink

In my latter years at secondary school, five of us in a sixth form of 100 odd liked indie. Jazz funk dominated. Indie types too small a number for anyone else to give a shit either way. But the dominance of the Smiths over indie in the mid-80s meant the music was characterised as crybaby stuff for bedwetters.

ithappens, Sunday, 5 September 2010 17:56 (eight years ago) Permalink

Hi. I like this song and this thread.

I got a hold of this album right when it came out. I was probably in my second year of high school.

I always identified with the narrator of the song even though I wouldn't even know how to begin talking about talking about my own relationship with class without numerous paragraphs that would be of very little interest to many.

I just wanted to say, at the risk of taking this thread back a few hundred posts, that, contrary to a few people above, and maybe the spirit of this thread, I do appreciate Marx's focus on ownership as the primary factor in determining social class, even as the more stringent categories he lays out for class distinction do tend to obfuscate the value of the numerous paragraphs each of us could write about our own backgrounds.

A few posters have brought up the importance of choices, possibilities, etc. and how important one's sense of what is out there and what is possible might be in determining class. While this is certainly important, what is more important is that there are those who are able to actually determine what those choices and possibilities are.

What does this have to do with the song? Maybe(!) its the obliviousness to this fact on the part of both the wealthy and the working class that perpetuates the cult of working class authenticity that is distasteful to the narrator. On the one hand, Cocker has to resent that someone who may be of the class of people that could change the material conditions of the lives of the people would actually want to live like them, not out of political solidarity, but out of a twisted vision of social prestige but, on the other hand, he probably dislikes as well, even if he reinforces somewhat, the fatalism of working class culture and weird pride some have in their fatalistic view. The discomfort in the song comes form having to be mediator between the two*, though ultimately, he has to choose a side and he does, perhaps partially out of solidarity but also just because of the ethics of the situation.

*(and others have described above the feeling of having, due to circumstances out of one's control, to become a representative of a group one does not identify with out of choice - it is not a comfortable feeling - I know it as someone raised Jewish who is not Jewish and rather far to the left and not supportive of Israeli policy but also aware of the fact that simply because "I am Jewish" to other people, my thoughts will usually be assumed before being heard, I will usually be seen as speaking form a certain perspective that is not entirely my own, etc. and a sense of solidarity will be re-established between myself and other Jews/"Jews" purely out of being "put in my place")

Shh! It's NOT Me!, Sunday, 5 September 2010 18:13 (eight years ago) Permalink

1996-2001. Oasis, other Britpop and East 17 popular at first, then came dance/trance dominance. All of the various rock/indie subcultures got lumped into the one category. UK Garage came after but was never really as popular.

I remember a lot of guys switching their allegience from dance to rap towards the end, especially after Eminem.

Duane Barry, Sunday, 5 September 2010 18:27 (eight years ago) Permalink

I wonder what Sarah Palin would think of this discussion.

Naive Teen Idol, Sunday, 5 September 2010 18:40 (eight years ago) Permalink

82-87. Metal, electro/old school hip hop, post punk/punk/goth

I don't remember music ever being an issue at school. Even if you liked the Smiths. All the violence and aggravation was all about football, rugby, the brand of your trainers, the tightness of your jeans and for the unfortunate minority, the colour of your skin. My school was a terrible hive of cuntery but I will give them musical open-mindedness. Even the house breakers were bong loaded Zappa and Neu! fans.

Duran (Doran), Sunday, 5 September 2010 18:57 (eight years ago) Permalink

And yeah, it is just a weird song, the way it starts as a story and ends as a rant and I don't know that those two halves hang together particularly well.

This is partly why it's great. There isn't even a story past the first two verses - trip to the supermarket and then it's all rant. The last thing the girl does is laugh at him taking the poverty tour guide stuff too srsly, and then it's a feverish speculation that allows her to vicariously experience the frisson of dirt and lust and torpor while he gets fucked up about it.

The reasons to dislike are centred around other people miseading the lyrics as a proletkult apology and the general dishonesty and shittiness of the britpop era. The ~ song itself ~ is pretty singular and great rly.

no time for the prussian death cult (nakhchivan), Wednesday, 8 September 2010 00:27 (eight years ago) Permalink

one month passes...

I feel like I will never go thru a hardcore drug addiction phase
Will never live in a shithole crack den meth lab apartment
Do drugs that involve needles
have sex in a graveyard
communicate with spirits
Have my bros crucify me just 4 shits
Sell my body for drugs
Contract some sort of infection/STD/terminal illness

Just dark ass shit

Feel like I'm always gonna be kinda mnstrm
and I won't ever be that dark

nakhchivan, Wednesday, 20 October 2010 23:23 (eight years ago) Permalink

three weeks pass...

that 'story of Common People' doc is on You Tube it appears.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ltodth1h1Oo

piscesx, Thursday, 11 November 2010 12:49 (eight years ago) Permalink

terrific blog by Dorian: http://33revolutionsperminute.wordpress.com/2010/11/11/the-rage-of-common-people/

ithappens, Thursday, 11 November 2010 12:58 (eight years ago) Permalink

seven months pass...

Has anyone read Owen Hatherley's book "Uncommon"?

Gukbe, Wednesday, 15 June 2011 18:14 (seven years ago) Permalink

wow, somehow i completely missed this thread the first time around. i've been reading for 20 minutes and have barely scratched the surface.

it's amazing to me that so many people are new to this song!

to my mind it's one of the best pop (rock?) songs of the 90s. maybe the best? at any rate it's one of the few pop (rock?) songs in recent memory where the snarling, desperate, animal energy of the vocals actually has a convincing basis in the lyrics. i just don't believe singers when they get all angry or excited usually, cause what are they singing about? who knows.

also i just want to take this opportunity to mention that an unremarkable baseball card from a particular year - a card that doesn't command any sort of price above and beyond the rest of them - is called a "common". i always felt sorry for the players pictured on them.

40% chill and 100% negative (Tracer Hand), Wednesday, 15 June 2011 19:34 (seven years ago) Permalink

lol @ "recent memory" being.... 15 YEARS AGO

40% chill and 100% negative (Tracer Hand), Wednesday, 15 June 2011 19:35 (seven years ago) Permalink

Hatherley wrote a pretty basic piece for The Guardian about their festival performances though really it's just a primer for the book.

Gukbe, Wednesday, 15 June 2011 20:56 (seven years ago) Permalink

pulp were just ridiculously good at primavera. forget suede or blur - this is the really essential britpop reunion you need to be at.

I'm A Genius, Too! (Jamie_ATP), Wednesday, 15 June 2011 21:03 (seven years ago) Permalink

I wouldn't agree with a lot of the above. The song doesn't set our narrator "above" the Greek girl. By the end of the song our narrator has reached the same position that she holds at the start, claiming to want to live with common people "like you", except before the song's end he's stooped lower than she has.

He catches her eye *because* she studies "sculpture" - that's what he is to her, an object of some aesthetic interest, but without, ultimately, any sexual interest. Not "poor" enough, nor (therefore) "cool" enough, or so he'd like to think.

The rejection sends our narrator off on his rant, which is more about his *own* fascination / revulsion for the "common people" than it is about hers (if indeed she has such strong feelings).

By the point at which he's calling the "common people" as witnesses to the Greek girl's failings, he's not only romanticising them and aestheticising them, as she does, he wants them to sing along with his own condemnations. Which is spiteful, cheap, and nasty - but these qualities are, perhaps, not uncommon.

Neil Willett, Wednesday, 15 June 2011 23:05 (seven years ago) Permalink

I just hope that the guy got a chance to bone down after he was done freaking the fuck out.

the deee-lite psa (kkvgz), Wednesday, 15 June 2011 23:50 (seven years ago) Permalink

pulp were just ridiculously good at primavera.

this.

his name was rony. rony from my cage. (stevie), Thursday, 16 June 2011 19:41 (seven years ago) Permalink

I wouldn't agree with a lot of the above. The song doesn't set our narrator "above" the Greek girl. By the end of the song our narrator has reached the same position that she holds at the start, claiming to want to live with common people "like you", except before the song's end he's stooped lower than she has.

He catches her eye *because* she studies "sculpture" - that's what he is to her, an object of some aesthetic interest, but without, ultimately, any sexual interest. Not "poor" enough, nor (therefore) "cool" enough, or so he'd like to think.

The rejection sends our narrator off on his rant, which is more about his *own* fascination / revulsion for the "common people" than it is about hers (if indeed she has such strong feelings).

By the point at which he's calling the "common people" as witnesses to the Greek girl's failings, he's not only romanticising them and aestheticising them, as she does, he wants them to sing along with his own condemnations. Which is spiteful, cheap, and nasty - but these qualities are, perhaps, not uncommon.

― Neil Willett, Thursday, June 16, 2011 12:05 AM (21 hours ago) Bookmark

more interesting than owen hatherley's reading at any rate -- i don't think we should identify with the narrator rly.

idk, im middle-class, i've never pretended to be otherwise, 'common people' is directed against people who do; so i guess i can go on my merry way? i don't mind people liking this pretty mediocre piece of music. never liked the 'deliberately tinselly' vibe of 95-era pulp.

underrated mountain goats bootlegs I have owned (history mayne), Thursday, 16 June 2011 20:34 (seven years ago) Permalink

i don't mind people liking this pretty mediocre piece of music.

people everywhere breathe a sigh of relief

And the piano, it sounds like a carnivore (contenderizer), Thursday, 16 June 2011 21:05 (seven years ago) Permalink

it's so refreshing when history mayne just agrees to disagree rather than call his opponents fucking idiots.

sarahel, Thursday, 16 June 2011 22:33 (seven years ago) Permalink

well, people i like like pulp

and i liked pulp before they did

underrated mountain goats bootlegs I have owned (history mayne), Thursday, 16 June 2011 22:36 (seven years ago) Permalink

I have a cookie here for you.

The Edge of Gloryhole (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 16 June 2011 23:03 (seven years ago) Permalink

sometimes, very rarely, but sometimes, it's good to be american

strongo hulkington's ghost dad, Thursday, 16 June 2011 23:07 (seven years ago) Permalink

Someone should compile these interpretations and hand them to Jarvis.

Particularly:

By the point at which he's calling the "common people" as witnesses to the Greek girl's failings, he's not only romanticising them and aestheticising them, as she does, he wants them to sing along with his own condemnations. Which is spiteful, cheap, and nasty - but these qualities are, perhaps, not uncommon.

.. which is wrongy, but funny too.

Mark G, Friday, 17 June 2011 09:18 (seven years ago) Permalink

wow, just realised all these years I've been hearing this great line " the tube station grease will come out in the bath." which actually erm sort of isn't in the song.

sometimes all it takes is a healthy dose of continental indiepop (tomofthenest), Friday, 17 June 2011 10:12 (seven years ago) Permalink

one month passes...

this is a really great song

van ingalls wilder (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Friday, 22 July 2011 23:02 (seven years ago) Permalink

this thread's so bizarre. had no idea there were ppl out there who were actually offended by this song.

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Sunday, 24 July 2011 00:25 (seven years ago) Permalink

three years pass...

As good a place as any to ask:

Like a dog lying in a corner,
they'll bite you and never warn you.
Look out.
They'll tear your insides out.

Does anyone know what the backing vocals are here?

Andrew Farrell, Sunday, 18 January 2015 21:09 (three years ago) Permalink

http://www.pulpwiki.net/Pulp/AskDrPulp

Jan/Feb 96

Steve Bayliss is from Widnes and he's interested to find out just what Jarvis is going on about in Common People in the "Dog lying in a corner" bit. Is it too obscene to publish, he asks?

The Doc says, whilst recording the acoustic guitar track, Jarvis' headphone level was too loud, and he was asking for it to be turned down. The "Dog lying in the corner" bit is Jarvis wittering on as only he can, while the levels were corrected. The group thought it sounded good anyway and kept it.

Eyeball Kicks, Monday, 19 January 2015 17:29 (three years ago) Permalink

Thank you!

Andrew Farrell, Tuesday, 20 January 2015 14:52 (three years ago) Permalink

three months pass...

http://www.factmag.com/2015/05/07/pulp-common-people-greek-girl-identity/

Please let this turn out to be the right person it would just be too perfect a punchline.

Matt DC, Thursday, 7 May 2015 14:14 (three years ago) Permalink

Excellent.

Cram Session in Goniometry (Tom D.), Thursday, 7 May 2015 14:27 (three years ago) Permalink

good song

thoughts you made second posts about (darraghmac), Monday, 25 May 2015 16:23 (three years ago) Permalink

three years pass...

Hour-long BBC 10th anniversary doc The Story Of Common People, from 2006 is now on the iPlayer.
Hasn't been shown much in the last decade. It's really good.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0074fbj#credits

piscesx, Thursday, 11 October 2018 10:15 (one month ago) Permalink

nice, thanks

niels, Friday, 12 October 2018 14:54 (one month ago) Permalink


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