Tag Archives: unfinished

#122 – [the lobster jam]

5 Dec


Unknown song from soundcheck, 5th March 1993 – South Parade Pier, Portsmouth
5 March 1993 – South Parade Pier, Portsmouth at Pulpwiki

So, here I am again. Hello. As anyone reading this is very likely aware, I’ve left it a very long time between updates, and done my best to stoke up anticipation of the upcoming hits to be covered. The next three entries are from Different Class, two are big singles, and one is actually Common People itself. But, unfortunate as it may be, we have to cover something else first. In the year-and-a-bit since I last updated, I’ve realised that I missed a few things. Most are thankfully in the blog’s future, but this one isn’t, so, here we are. The lobster jam song from the soundcheck. Let’s get it out of the way and move on.

Pulp were always a jam band – that’s where ideas came from, that’s why everyone had equal credit for songwriting. What seperated them from, say, Phish was that they would just use these jams to generate ideas, work on them until they were actual songs, and only then start playing them before an audience. In the era we’re approaching most songs would have at least a demo recorded before they were played live at all, so the variation we’ve become accustomed to would be increasingly calculated rather than organic.

What did a Pulp jam sound like? The answer to this is locked up in Jarvis’s attic, and very unlikely to see the light of day, with one very minor exception – two minutes of a soundcheck from 5th May 1993. There’s not an awful lot to report – Steve and Jarvis amble lugubriously through a series of vaguely gothy minor-key chords while Nick keeps time, after a minute Jarvis starts to mutter incoherently about “….smell… …there was a…. …a large lobster…” before Russell finally joins in with a lead-guitar line which just doesn’t work at all, and the whole thing suddenly grinds to a halt. That’s it.

It’s barely worth listening to, let alone writing about, but it does show quite how much went on between the jam and the finished product. This two minutes sounds nothing like the Pulp we know and, well, thank god for that.

#76 – Heavy Metal

16 Feb

Heavy Metal (live at the Maze Bar, Sheffield University, 29th April 1986)
Heavy Metal at Pulpwiki

Comparing Pulp’s 1980s to their 1990s is a bit of a grim, one-sided affair. The songs are worse in almost every way, the recording is muddy and half-hearted, the lyrics are often ponderous and melodramatic and a general air of frustration hangs over the whole project. There is one upside, though – in the 80s the band would often work out new ideas in front of an audience, rather than in a recording studio, and it’s easier to see how the whole process works.

One recording, recently unearthed, gives a particular insight into the state of the band around the time they recorded ‘Freaks’. In front of a home crowd at Sheffield Uni, Pulp play a heavy, aggressive set. The supporting act were Lay Of The Land, featuring future Pulp bassist Steven Havenhand (plus the founders of Warp Records), and in the audience were Treebound Story, including a young Richard Hawley. Faced with a less-hostile-than-average crowd, they go down very well indeed, even though half the set is comprised of obscurities like ‘Heavy Metal’.

This is the only known version of this song in existence, and prior to the bootleg emerging it was unknown even to the band’s biographers. Though still not by any means a finished work, it has been developed far beyond the improvised jams used to fill in whenever someone needed to argue with the sound tech guy.

While ‘Heavy Metal’ isn’t really like anything else in Pulp’s catalogue, it’s not particularly original either. A semi-glam-stomper, semi-white-light-white-heat-homage, it winds up as a mid-tempo boogie rock along the lines of Jonathan Richman’s ‘Roadrunner‘, Denim’s ‘Middle of the Road‘ and Blur’s ‘MOR‘ – but without the chorus. Fundamentally it’s a band jam with a few added bits and pieces, including a full set of (barely audible) lyrics from Jarvis which seem to be little more than simple romantic overtures. It isn’t bad, but it’s certainly not anything special. A properly recorded version would most likely have been the kind of EP-filler the band generally went out of their way not to produce. They could be bad, or dull, certainly, but never in such a predictable way – and that’s quite possibly why the song failed to make any further appearances.