Tag Archives: murder

#46 – Maureen

21 Jul

Maureen (Sudan Gerri Demo)
Maureen at Pulpwiki

A car crash harnesses elements of eroticism, aggression, desire, speed, drama, kinaesthetic factors, the stylizing of motion, consumer goods, status — all these in one event. I myself see the car crash as a tremendous sexual event really: a liberation of human and machine libido (if there is such a thing).
J.G. Ballard – Interview in Penthouse, September 1970

What a mess of contradictions we have here. Maureen is famously Pulp’s lost classic, but I somehow have five different versions of it in front of me. Listen to the chorus and it’s a straightforward love song, listen to the verses and it’s a perverse, well- developed fantasy about being knocked down by your lover’s car. It was, for a time, the band’s signature song, but it predates the line-up and never got a proper release. Most confusingly, there’s no “proper” version.*

This is a song with quite a bit of history, so let’s start at the beginning. Originating in Russell’s previous groups The Nightmares and Rachael Tension and the Disruptives, it was reworked by Jarvis, who added the bizarre lyrics about “someone who gets a sexual thrill out of being run over by the woman he’s in love with.” After featuring in The Fruits of Passion, it was recorded in each of the band’s three 1984 recording sessions, clearly intended as a first single. A music video was made with the help of “someone from Sheffield Art College,” but proved to be a botch job – a last-minute re-edit to make the tempo of the song match the style of the film apparently failed to save it. One of the few screenings this video ever got was as a presentation to Fire Records. The label signed them soon after, but were unconvinced by the band’s pleas to release ‘Maureen’ as a single, and put out Little Girl (With Blue Eyes) instead. While remaining an occasional part of the band’s set, the song’s time had been and gone, and a professional recording was never attempted.

Ignore all the nonsense, though, and check out what a song it is – like a breath of fresh unchained air after the professionalism and self-control of ‘It’. We start with Magnus’s irresistible lolloping drum-beat, then there’s a massive release of pent-up energy as the rest of the group dive into a garage-rock / psychobilly thrash. If it sounds like anything it’s one of The Cramps’ fast ones, only with a growling bass line undercutting the treble. Magnus and Manners are the stars here, driving the song forward with palpable energy and aggression. Without their sudden shifts in tempo the drama in the track would quickly dissipate.

The strangest thing about ‘Maureen’ should be the lyrics, and while they are both odd and fairly well-written, they fail to shock, or worse they try to shock, but fail. It’s unclear whether Jarvis had read J.G. Ballard’s ‘Crash’, but it’s clear that this he’s not a genuine sufferer of symphorophilia. Instead of genuinely perverse images we have faux-poetic allusions about “your red car is a hearse / and your red dress my shroud”. Hearses aren’t red, neither, generally, are shrouds. The only time we reach beyond sixth-form poetry is the third verse, with tyres shredding skin and a recurring motif of a red dress, a red car, and of course blood. But the words are not important here, nervous energy is all we need.

* For the sake of sanity I’m basing this on my favourite version – from the “Sudan Gerri” demo of November ’84 – and there’s a good case to be made for other takes, especially the notorious “Bad Maureen” which gave its name to the band’s first session.

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#13 – I Scrubbed The Crabs That Killed Sheffield

17 Mar

I Scrubbed The Crabs That Killed Sheffield
The Pulp Story (song audible under interview)
I Scrubbed The Crabs That Killed Sheffield – Pulpwiki

By 1980 17-year-old Jarvis was the singer in a band who were regularly playing live at venues around Sheffield. Personally speaking, I’d say that constitutes a healthy enough social life – at that age I was still mainly staying in, watching The Beiderbecke Affair and playing Civilization II – but for Jarvis’s mother it still seemed that he still needed help making friends, so she took the action any responsible mother would and got him a job in the market, selling fish for an (allegedly) alcoholic fishmonger.
It was a bit of a mixed bag for Jarvis. On one hand he was going to plenty of parties, and rather than improving his social skills he was hampered by a lingering odour of fish, which had to be scrubbed out with bleach at the end of each working day. On the other hand he turned out to be a very talented fishmonger, so much so that future Pulp stalwart Russell Senior would stop by to watch him at work.

“He had a very convincing patter for selling fish, with lots of sexual innuendo around it. People would ask, ‘Have you got any crabs on you, cock?’ and he’d say, ‘Ooh missus, the trouble with me,’ and scratch himself, or, ‘I’ve got a lovely piece of tail end for your husband, love.’ He was one of the best performing fishmongers I’d ever seen. He’d charm all these old ladies into buying more crabs than they needed and things. They loved him: he’d be, like, ‘Would you like an extra claw, Mrs Hayworth?’ – so the sexual innuendo was there at an early age, really. That was what brought us together. He was a very good fishmonger.”

One day Jarvis arrived at work to find that a consignment of crabs had been delivered early and left in stagnant water overnight. Naturally they had started to rot, but despite the smell being noticeably bad, the crabs still went on sale to the public, and a few had already been sold before a health inspector arrived to condemn them all.
Jarvis used this story as the basis of perhaps the most famous early Pulp track, “I Scrubbed the Crabs That Killed Sheffield.” In this version, things start much the same.

Early on a Saturday morning
Sometime after eight o’clock
I received a vile warning
It all came on as a bit of a shock
There were crabs all around me
Hundred, thousands; well quite a lot
They’d been put in water; left them through the night
Now that they’d died they had started to rot

Instead of selling just a few, though, the crowd seems to be attracted by the crabs’ pungent odour, and though they complain, they gather round and buy the things, driven by some terrible mob instinct, which drives the fishmongers to sell them the poisonous crustaceans.

The stenches were quite amazing
Still I had a job to do
Later on I heard some people complaining
But the terrible smell just grew and grew
Eventually they had finished boiling
A crowd began to gather round
Well, we took them out and put them under the counter
And we sold them off; 28 pence a pound

As the song comes to an end the protagonist wails in regret at the results of his actions.

I didn’t mean to kill them
Just did as I was told
All those women and children dead
Because of the crabs that we’d sold

For many years the only circulating clip of this song was a muffled scrap of a live recording which was broadcast, barely audible, under part of Radio 1′s “The Pulp Story” in 1998. Since I first wrote this piece the full version has emerged, apparently recorded at the January 1982 concert at Bath University organized by one Russell Senior. It’s a funny crowd-pleasing little ska-punk-pop song, all trebly high speed guitar and trebly high speed organ. Bass and drums are barely audible until the instrumental break, when they transform this funny little song into a bit of a classic simply by repeating the same chords. It sounds messy but well-rehearsed, the band holding themselves in time by sheer force of nervous energy. The strangest thing about it is Jarvis’s voice – he sounds aggressive, almost belligerent and exaggerates the Northern and working class in his accent. This was the band’s first live date in the South of England, and from the introduction it seems as if he’s playing this part, winding up the soft Southern mummy’s boys in the audience. Barely 18 years old, he’s already showing himself to be a natural frontman.

#13 – I Scrubbed The Crabs That Killed Sheffield

28 Jan

The Pulp Story (song audible under interview)

I Scrubbed The Crabs That Killed Sheffield – Pulpwiki 

By 1980 17-year-old Jarvis was the singer in a band who were regularly playing live at venues around Sheffield. Personally speaking, I’d say that constitutes a healthy enough social life – at that age I was still mainly staying in, watching The Beiderbecke Affair and playing Civilization II – but for Jarvis’s mother it still seemed that he still needed help making friends, so she took the action any responsible mother would and got him a job in the market, selling fish for an (allegedly) alcoholic fishmonger.
It was a bit of a mixed bag for Jarvis. On one hand he was going to plenty of parties, and rather than improving his social skills he was hampered by a lingering odour of fish, which had to be scrubbed out with bleach at the end of each working day. On the other hand he turned out to be a very talented fishmonger, so much so that future Pulp stalwart Russell Senior would stop by to watch him at work

“He had a very convincing patter for selling fish, with lots of sexual innuendo around it. People would ask, ‘Have you got any crabs on you, cock?’ and he’d say, ‘Ooh missus, the trouble with me,’ and scratch himself, or, ‘I’ve got a lovely piece of tail end for your husband, love.’ He was one of the best performing fishmongers I’d ever seen. He’d charm all these old ladies into buying more crabs than they needed and things. They loved him: he’d be, like, ‘Would you like an extra claw, Mrs Hayworth?’ – so the sexual innuendo was there at an early age, really. That was what brought us together. He was a very good fishmonger.”

One day Jarvis arrived at work to find that a consignment of crabs had been delivered early and left in stagnant water overnight. Naturally they had started to rot, but despite the smell being noticably bad, the crabs still went on sale to the public, and a few had already been sold before a health inspector arrived to condem them all.
Jarvis used this story as the basis of perhaps the most famous early Pulp track, “I Scrubbed The Crabs That Killed Sheffield.” In this version, things start much the same.

Early on a Saturday morning
Sometime after eight o’clock
I received a vile warning
It all came on as a bit of a shock
There were crabs all around me
Hundred, thousands; well quite a lot
They’d been put in water; left them through the night
Now that they’d died they had started to rot

Instead of selling just a few, though, the crowd seem to be attracted by the crabs’ pungent odour, and though they complain, they gather round and buy the things, driven by some terrible mob instinct, which drives the fishmongers to sell them the poisonous crustaceans.

The stenches were quite amazing
Still I had a job to do
Later on I heard some people complaining
But the terrible smell just grew and grew
Eventually they had finished boiling
A crowd began to gather round
Well, we took them out and put them under the counter
And we sold them off; 28 pence a pound

As the song comes to an end the protagonist wails in regret at the results of his actions.

I didn’t mean to kill them
Just did as I was told
All those women and children dead
Because of the crabs that we’d sold

Yes, it’s not the most subtle or serious of songs, but at least it’s quite funny, and had a bouncy ska-punk tune which still sounds ok today, as far as I can tell from the muffled scrap of a live recording which was broadcast as part of Radio 1’s “The Pulp Story” in 1997. It’s impossible to get much of an impression from this brief clip, but as it stands this is the earliest extant bit of Pulp, and someone out there has a full recording.