I do not have a very diverse musical taste. New music does not capture my attention easily. This could be why I remember so clearly sitting in front of the television with MTV on the upper floor of my parents’ apartment, in the tiny hallway in front of my and my sister’s room, mesmerized by something unusual and new.
It was a very stormy period of my life. I had been sent away from the monastery the year before, I just started university. The pressure cooker of growing up gay was about to blow off the lid. A rebellion was starting, one in my bedroom, as well as deep inside me.
Maybe I was secretly looking for a soundtrack to my upcoming revolution. Maybe I was just stunned to see the representation of how I wanted to express myself, what I was feeling: flamboyance, brave femininity, outspoken sexuality and bitterness.
In May 1995, Pulp released their first single “Common People” from their upcoming new album. A catchy tune, a very colourful video and an unusual frontman took me to a parallel universe, or rather, shook me and woke me up and showed me the way to my own reality. A way which included a lot of trips to record stores in search of this band I had never heard of, and their album that featured this song. It was a long, six months wait, but when I did lay my hands on it there was no way back.
As Pete Paphides phrased it in an interview we had in 20081, “Pulp’s music seem[ed] to act as a Greek chorus to […] the most dramatic episodes of his life. As he sang along to their songs in his room, one wonders what his parents thought was going on”.
One wonders, indeed.
We could say I learnt English properly by going through the lyrics of Different Class over and over again, looking up words in the dictionary, memorizing the songs. We could say I found courage to sexual liberation after many years of agonizing and trying to deflect. We could say I felt empowered by this revolution of the nerds, femmes and weirdos. We could also say I found the perfect outlet of the bitterness and revenge that had been building up in me for years by then.
Whatever it was, there and then these twelve songs grabbed me and pulled me up from the floor and gave a torch in my hand. They may have also sort of pointed in the direction I would have to hold it to go forward.
I met Jarvis a few years later before a concert in Austria. I never told him that his songs saved my life, although I wish I did.