The Day That Never Happened (Live film – 10th July 1985 – Gotham City Club, Fascinations Nitespot, Chesterfield)
The Day That Never Happened on Pulpwiki
Details about the lost tape on “The Beat is the Law” website
Some groups like to mythologise their past. Some release CDs of over a hundred live concerts. Others put out box sets of every note they’ve recorded (with a few tracks left out). Pulp are not this sort of a band. Early recordings and films remain firmly locked in Jarvis’s attic. Even getting him to talk about their first decade is a rarity. There’s no nostalgia for this time, and no contempt – just a vague, uninterested dismissal and a self-deprecating embarrassment.
Russell, though, is a (slightly) different case. The mid-80s was his high water mark of influence within the group, and he’s proved willing to talk about the era and even go digging for rarities from time to time. When Sheffield Vision were researching their documentary about the 80s scene in Sheffield, Russell helped them out by going through boxes full of Pulp stuff with director Eve Wood. Among the fliers and posters they discovered an old videotape – a record of a long-forgotten concert in 1985, filmed by a friend of the band in an already obsolete format – ½ inch EIAJ video. At the time they’d been attracted by the ghostly 60s live sci-fi TV look of the format (see the music video for Portishead’s ‘All Mine’ to see they may have had a point) but the failure of the group to convert their tape to a readily usable format meant that, by 2007, it had deteriorated badly and could only be converted by a single expert in the entire UK with a serious risk that the whole thing would simply disintegrate.
The resulting clip, while not exactly being the best quality possible, is nevertheless a massive leap forward in the visibility of Freaks-era Pulp. There are five songs on the edited portion made available. Four – There’s No Emotion, 97 Lovers, The Mark Of The Devil and Anorexic Beauty – are standards of the time, available on any number of compilations. The second track on the clip, on the other hand, was ‘The Day That Never Happened’ – a song so obscure that even the group’s biographers had previously been unaware of its very existence. And it’s not a bad one either.
The closest relative to ‘The Day That Never Happened’ is probably ‘Snow’ – both have that eerie, winter wasteland feel and a slow build to a fairly intense climax – but TDTNH is more of a pop song, with some fairly catchy hooks and an impressively funky bass-line from Manners. Jarvis puts his all into the performance, at turns swaying around clutching the microphone and jerking himself around the stage like a cross between Ian Curtis and Kenneth Williams.
What the song is about, and how well it would’ve stood up in the studio are open questions we may never find the answer to – but its fair to say that it’s a nice little addition to the cannon, despite the rough edges. That single performance was all that was heard of TDTNH, at least until about three years later, when its title would become something much, much bigger, but somehow also much less impressive, a fiasco which managed to taint the name forever. We’ll come to that in time.