In what has become an annual Thanksgiving celebration here at Modern Vinyl, our team of writers each reflect on an album that, fittingly, they’re thankful for. These reflections are in every way a personal spin on a traditional look at a release and we’re excited to share this series of unique recollections with you throughout the week.
Very few records follow us around and remain relevant throughout our lives. Our musical preferences and tastes change and mutate over time, so the albums that stay with us are special. One such record for me is Pulp’s 1995 release, Different Class.
I think I first heard Pulp’s “Common People” at a primary school disco. I was only four when it was released as the lead single on Different Class, and whilst I had no idea about the socioeconomic issues explored in the song’s lyrics, its catchy melody grabbed me straight away. The track reached number 2 on the UK’s singles chart in the summer of 1995 and was followed up by the equally catchy “Disco 2000” later that year, another commercial hit destined to soundtrack school trips to the zoo and family days out to the beach throughout the mid ‘90s. And while the talk of the playground centered on the heavyweight Britpop boxing match between Blur and Oasis, Pulp’s quirky charm had already infiltrated my subconscious. But it would be another 10 years before I would be properly reintroduced to the album in full.
Pulp broke up back in the early 2000s, but a cameo role from frontman Jarvis Cocker in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire piqued my interest once more in the band. Although Cocker’s appearance in the film (performing on screen in the fictional wizard rock band “The Weird Sisters” alongside fellow Pulp bandmate Steve Mackey and the Radiohead duo of Jonny Greenwood and Phil Selway) lasted a matter of seconds, the timing was perfect for me. By 2005 I had been firmly invested in music for a good few years and would devour copies of the NME from front to back every week without fail. I was listening to contemporary indie bands like Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party as well as older artists such as Joy Division and the Stone Roses, but Pulp had avoided my attention somehow until this point.
Using my precious pocket money, I decided to rent a CD copy of Different Class from my local library so that I could rip the tracks onto my parents’ PC and listen to the album on my 128MB MP3 player. It felt like being reunited with an old friend. I’d heard the tracks “I Spy” and “Something Changed” a couple times previously on re-runs of the BBC music television show Later… with Jools Holland, but the rest of the record was totally new territory for me to explore. After a few listens, Cocker’s tales of kitchen sink drama and nights of hedonism resonated strongly with my teenage mind and I was hooked.
In the autumn of 2009, I moved to Pulp’s hometown to begin studying at the University of Sheffield. Whilst my dad drove me and a car full of clothes over the Pennines from South Cheshire to South Yorkshire, I listened to Different Class on the headphones of my iPod, daydreaming about my new start in the “steel city” described so vividly in Cocker’s lyrics. I wasn’t disappointed. Pulp’s influence was still everywhere to be seen in Sheffield. The Washington pub, previously owned by Pulp drummer Nick Banks during the ‘90s, would still often play “Mis-Shapes” or “F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E.” on a Saturday night, and no midweek club night at the Leadmill was ever complete without a drunken singalong to “Common People.” I was even able to walk past the “fountain down the road” from “Disco 2000” on the way home.
Much to everyone’s surprise, Pulp reformed in 2011 to play a series of festivals and big gigs around the world, but it wouldn’t be until December 2012 before I was finally able to see the band live at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena, for what would be their final ever gig. The band were on top form with a 13,000 strong hometown crowd singing along with every word. Ten of the 12 tracks on Different Class were played during a mammoth 25-song set which reaffirmed my long held love for the record and Pulp. As I transitioned from being a student to working full time in Sheffield, tracks like “Monday Morning” and “Bar Italia” would score badly judged weekends of excess and the inevitable, hungover slog in the office on Monday. I still listen to Different Class at least once a month when I’m digging through my record collection and can’t resist giving it a spin.
When asked to write about a record I’m thankful for, Different Class popped straight into my mind, having soundtracked so many of the formative years and my adult life. I eventually moved from Sheffield over three years ago, but both the city and record still hold a special place in my heart.