Tag Archives: bouncy

#31-35 – Missing songs – Late 1982

21 Apr

Heroes of the Beach, an on-and-off Sheffield scene 'supergroup' that Jarvis played with over the summer of 1982.

 

The autumn of 1982 showed even less activity than the summer, with the loose collection of friends, acquaintances and siblings that made up the band getting together for only a single public performance (on the 24th of October at the Crucible Theatre) and no recordings to note. The summer was over, Simon Hinkler was away, studying in Newark, and Jarvis’s efforts were presumably being focussed on preparing for the recording of ‘It’ in November.
Now that Wayne had decided to move to playing guitar, and Garry Wilson was otherwise occupied with his day-job in Artery, Pulp were in need of a drummer. The replacement was Peter Boam, another of the faintly odd artistic types who played a role in the collective around this time. A multi-instrumentalist, though not a particularly competent drummer, he would appear on stage with his hair in a bunch, wearing a dress.
Unfortunately this era is (as must be familiar by now) unrepresented by anything professionally recorded or in circulation. On a positive note, this is the last of these lists for quite a while. For the following couple of years, almost everything is available in some form, whether it deserves to be or not.

#31 The Heat of the Day

The only track from the ‘Spice’ demo which hasn’t been released in some form, The Heat of the Day is apparently an outlier on the tape, sounding unlike both ‘old Pulp’ and ‘new Pulp’. Influenced largely by The Velvet Underground’s “What Goes On,” it took the late ’82 jangly organ-rock Pulp sound, ramped up the rock, and cut down on the jangly. Ultimately Pulp didn’t go in this direction, but the song would be interesting to hear nonetheless.

#32 I Wave You Goodbye

This one was only performed at the Crucible Theatre concert before being dropped. Like ‘The Heat of the Day’ it featured David Hinkler’s psychedelic organ sound, with a roaming Stranglers-style bassline from his brother Simon. It survives only on an uncirculated practice tape.

#33 Mr Morality

Another relic of the Crucible concert, this one was slightly older, dating back to the previous year. Apparently another Jarvis/Dolly uptempo punk-pop romp, it could well be the band’s last attempt at a novelty song before they started getting very serious indeed. Mr Morality was also performed by Heroes of the Beach, a not particularly serious group consisting of whichever local musicians were up for it at the time. Jarvis sang lead vocals in the band on a couple of occasions, and Steve Genn (another singer and one of the group’s founders) would take the title of the song as the name of his own group in 1983.

#34 Stay

Very little is known about this track from the Crucible set list, only that Jarvis’s sister Saskia played flute on it. Formerly just a dancer, she was taking more and more of an active role in the group, as evidenced by…

#35 When You Cry I Cry

Saskia’s real moment came when she took to the front of the stage to perform two songs – ‘I’m Thru With Love’, a 1950s ballad most famously performed by Marilyn Monroe in the film ‘Some Like It Hot’, and ‘When You Cry I Cry’, a song she co-wrote with Jarvis and Simon. After the ‘It’ era, Saskia stopped playing a role in the band, and her songs were consequently dropped. In early 1984, in what may have been their last performance, the whole line-up made the journey down to London to record the two songs professionally. The demo was sent out to various record companies with the goal of getting Saskia a recording contract, but nothing came of it, and the two songs were never released or circulated.

#28 – Sickly Grin

31 Mar

Sickly Grin
Sickly Grin on Pulpwiki

In August 1982, a new Pulp arrived at Input studios in Sheffield to record another four-track demo. This wasn’t just a change in lineup – Dolly and Jamie, two crucial members of the group, had left to go to university. Wayne had given up drumming entirely, and would only contribute guitar and bass parts for two tracks. All that remained from the Rotherham demo was Jarvis and the Hinkler brothers. Over the summer Simon Hinkler, growing tired of splits and musical differences within Artery, had decided to spend his time mentoring Jarvis and helping him put his ideas into some kind of proper shape. Rather than just being the group’s producer, he was now sharing performance and songwriting duties. This, in other words, is the start of the ‘It’ era, though you wouldn’t know it from listening to the most un-‘It’-like “Sickly Grin.”

Sickly Grin is a pop song, and a successful one at that. The cobbled-together hit-and-miss sound of Pulp Mark 2 has been replaced with a band who are able to play together in a way that sounds both deliberate and comfortable. This is hardly surprising considering that Simon had managed to rope in Artery’s drummer, Garry Wilson. Wayne’s drumming had been haphazard to say the least – while he was able to embellish with rolls fairly well, he always struggled to keep time – and simply having the strength of a solid backbeat lifts the song up straight away. The bassline sounds like a Jamie Pinchbeck composition – all low notes and scales – but Simon Hinkler is clearly more competent and lends the track a certain cheekyness on his Fender jazz bass. To top it all off we have a woozy brass section (David on trombone and a guest appearance from Dolly on cornet) joining in for the middle eight. It all sounds very accomplished, though unmistakably just a demo – David in particular doesn’t seem 100% sure about his casiotone parts.

And for the words? Not sure if they matter that much. On the surface Jarvis is simply complaining that the relentless jollity of people he meets is a sham, and that (as Kenickie would later put it) “it’s ok to be sad.” Whether or not there exists a layer of self-awareness or parody under this message is unlear, but at least he’s found a specific thing to complain about rather than railing at the world in general. Writing wilfully miserable lyrics and building a jolly stomper of a song around them wasn’t an original idea – the Kinks had quite a few goes in the late sixties, and later on The Supernaturals tried to build an entire career out of the concept. The trick, it seems, is not to get carried away with playing up the contrast. A casual listener most likely would be too carried away with the jollity to notice how the song is fundamentally a three-minute long complaint that other people smile too much.

A sure-fire pop hit then. The fact that it would spend the following decade in a box somewhere is a really a terrible shame, and we have to thank Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne for digging the demo out for the b-side of a limited edition single in 1992 – though by that time the tape had warped a little, distorting the start of the song. It took me another decade to realise it wasn’t just my bootleg cassette that was broken.

#24-27 – The Rotherham Demo

23 Mar


A street in Rotherham, 1982. Click through for a superb ‘then and now’ photo gallery.

In the catalogue of Pulp mark one, there is little more than a few crumbs of available material in a desert of the unrecorded, unreleased and uncirculated. Given the chance to unearth one tape from this era, I suspect that most would choose the Rotherham demo. The session features four tracks, none of which are available elsewhere, recorded at a time when the band were much more well-rehearsed and professional than before, and produced by a talented, sympathetic producer.
Kaley Studios in Rotherham were a slight improvement on Ken Patten’s living room, but obviously nowhere near the standard of the BBC’s Maida Vale. It seems to have been little more than a bit of derelict office space with sound-proofing and an 8-track mixing desk. The session was produced by David Hinkler’s brother Simon, whose day-job was playing keyboards and guitar in Artery. With the help of the studio engineer he was able to get four decent recordings out of the band in the time allotted.

#24 – Why Live?

From Mark Sturdy’s description, ‘Why Live?’ sounds pretty depressing. David plays mournful spanish guitar while Dolly joins in on the xylophone. Jarvis’s lyrics sound, on face value, to be indulgent teenage whining – “To moan and whine about my life is my perogative / Pessimistic overviews are all I have to give” – but the group were self-aware enough to know how silly po-faced whining could sound, so I suspect there may be more to this song.

#25 – How Could You Leave Me?

Here we find Pulp’s one and only attempt at playing Jazz. A slow-paced, bluesy thing, with one of Jamie’s walking basslines, Wayne’s swing rhythm, Dolly’s blues guitar licks and David playing the ‘vibes’ setting on his keyboard. Jarvis sings a warbly, melancholy vocal, and Simon joins in with a piano solo at the end.

#26 – Teen Angst

Another of the band’s upbeat ska pop songs – an upbeat, bouncy thing about girls and parties, with heavy synth parts from Dolly and David.

#27 – Barefoot in the Park

An upbeat one, apparently “power pop”, heavy on Dolly’s pitch-bended moog. It’s impossible to tell what this song is about from this fragment of lyrics, but you can safely guess that it’s not particularly serious – “Alternative reality/ Reject responsibility/ We’re walking barefoot in the park/ They lock the gates when it gets dark”

This was to be the line-up’s final recording. In the following months Jarvis, Dolly and Jamie took their A-levels, and band activity had to be suspended. When the exams were passed, it was time to go to university, and while Jarvis’s mother was happy enough for him to defer his place, the other two were not so lucky. With interest in the band petering out, the end of this particular Pulp was inevitable.

#16 – Please Don’t Worry

18 Feb



Please Don’t Worry (Peel Session)

Please Don’t Worry (‘It’ sessions out-take)
Please Don’t Worry on Pulpwiki

Like most young bands trying to make it on a local scene, Pulp Mk 1 had a theme tune, a poppy crowdpleaser that everyone could get behind. ‘Please Don’t Worry’ seems to have been popular with band and audience alike – it was a staple of their set even up to late 82, when the band’s line-up and sound had changed considerably. So why does it sound so out of place now?

Play the song to an unsuspecting member of the public and they would most likely imagine the song to be an indie-pop hit from the early 90s, a chirrupy strummy thing with a silly electronic sample over the verses and a swirling organ-like keyboard riff over the chorus. The first time I heard the session (in 1995 when Jarvis and Nick visited John Peel’s house) I couldn’t quite believe that this wasn’t a new track in the vein of We Can Dance Again or Mile End* – only more silly and cheerful, a bouncy, jolly bit of light relief. The trouble with “bouncy” and “jolly”, though, is that they are apt to morph into “annoying”, and as the years have passed my enjoyment has waned and my iritation risen.

The main problem is the main keyboard riff. Eight years later the band would be experimenting with some very unusual electronic noises indeed, but it’s a credit to Candida that they always bear up to repeated listening, showing hidden layers of complexity, even when they are dressed up to be naff and tacky. The riff on ‘Please Don’t Worry”, on the other hand, sounds like someone has just bought a new keyboard, and hasn’t worked out how to play anything more complex. At once it’s the centre of the song and at the same time drowns it out.

Another issue is the drumming. Wayne Furniss, lacking any professional equipment, had bought along a syn-drum made from a plan in ‘Practical Electronics’ magazine. A schoolfriend had constructed it from an electric calculator and a burglar alarm mat as a project, and it didn’t survive the journey to London in working condition. As Wayne crouched on the floor, bashing away on the thing, trying to get some sort of sound out of it, Dale Griffin apparently put his head in his hands. Eventually the thing was fixed, but the sound produced was far from satisfactory, a basic rhythm that struggles to stay in time throughout the song.

The vocals are also problematic. There’s nothing wrong with lyrics that are sincere, surreal, simple or obscure, but here I suspect that Jarvis has adopted the technique of putting together a list of phrases that sound like they could mean something – the dark arts, in other words, and the curse of Oasis and Coldplay. One of the reasons Jarvis is generally a successful lyricist is that he resists this tactic – Please Don’t Worry may represent his only slip.

I don’t want to pretend that this song is terrible – in fact, it has quite a bit going for it – I can’t deny that it’s catchy and fun, and the “I feel fine, I’m having a good time” coda sounds satisfyingly sarcastic. but I still skip it.

This week has seen the release of another version of Please Don’t Worry, and as it’s on an official album it may well end up being the more well-known version. The recording is from a year later, during the ‘It’ sessions, when Pulp had an entirely different lineup, aside from Jarvis of course. While that lineup was a lot more musically accomplished, they also seemed to be less adaptable. The fizzy proto-britpop of the song seems to have baffled them – only Jarvis seems to be on the ball, with everyone else playing parts they have learned, but haven’t really understood or appreciated. On the plus side, this means that the song is less annoying – the broken synth sound replaced by a swirling organ, the backing staying in time, little extra fills and flourishes throughout – but in the final analysis it sounds like a cover version, and a half hearted one at that.

*Neither of which I’d heard at the time, of course.