As the frontman of 90s band Pulp releases his life story, we look at the many layers of Jarvis Cocker.

When Jarvis Cocker was trawling through his loft during the pandemic, he uncovered several forgotten objects that sent him straight down memory lane. Good Pop, Bad Pop, his new autobiography, is the result of that journey.

Through the accumulated debris of his lifetime, he says, his creative process is revealed. The book examines his ‘writing and musicianship, performance and ambition, style and stagecraft’.

Jarvis Cocker was born in Sheffield in 1963. His father, a DJ, abandoned the family and fled to Australia when Cocker was seven. He and his sister Saskia were brought up by their mother, who became a Conservative councillor (though Cocker has always voted Labour).

While he was a pupil at The City School, Sheffield, he set up the band that became Pulp. By 1995 it was a Britpop sensation, and fast became a cultural icon. With his lanky six-foot one frame, kooky glasses and vintage suits, he is as recognisable now as he was then. (A piece about him that was recently published in The New Statesman said: ‘He is the only pop star that most people under 80, regardless of their artistic ability, could have a crack at drawing.’)

He has been busy in the intervening years. Behind the scenes, he never stopped writing music. He combined a solo career with a rich life spent broadcasting, producing and quietly performing. He and his wife Camille Bidault-Waddington (whom he has since divorced) moved in 2003 to Paris and had their baby son Albert there.

For seven years Cocker presented a show on BBC Radio 6. He had a role in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and voiced a character in Fantastic Mr Fox. He wrote songs for Wes Anderson’s 2021 movie, The French Dispatch and for the hit BBC series This Is Going to Hurt. He has an Honorary Doctorate from Sheffield Hallam University.

Here, we look back at Cocker’s best bits.

Main Image: Mariel Argüello, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

MTV Interview, 1993

This early interview is a glimpse at a softly spoken, sombre and thoughtful Jarvis. He presents as a very shy person, not yet comfortable talking to camera. But there are hints of the public persona to come. Watch this clip for heavenly, unfamiliar early Pulp footage. Two years later, the band would explode with the release of their single, Common People. Watch it here.

Glasto, 1995

Young and Bambi-limbed, with a scruffy A4 sheet of notes about what he wanted to say to the crowd, Cocker lit up Glastonbury Festival with his rendition of Common People. Everyone knew the words. He has said of it: ‘That was the moment that made the success a concrete fact.’ Too good. Watch it here.

Brit Awards, 1996

Michael Jackson performed his Earth Song during the Brit Awards ceremony in 1996. Fed up with what he saw as Jackson’s self-righteousness, Cocker mounted the stage during the act and wiggled – but did not bare – his bottom to the audience. He was detained, interviewed by police and accused – and later acquitted – of assault. A major media furore ensued, with t-shirts bearing the logo ‘Justice for Jarvis’ selling out. He doesn’t like talking about the incident but has said: ‘My actions were a form of protest at the way Michael Jackson sees himself as some kind of Christ-like figure with the power of healing.’ Watch it here.

Desert Island Discs, 2005

Perhaps because it is a radio interview, and therefore he isn’t being watched, Cocker is wonderfully relaxed and open during his slot on Desert Island Discs, which means we learn masses about him. He talks of being a ‘mistake’, his father’s disappearance, the lederhosen his mother made him wear to primary school and his failure to get into Oxford. He sounds charming. He doesn’t think he’d last long on a desert island because, he says in his soft Sheffield lilt: ‘I’ve not got many practical skills.’ Watch it here.

Common People Official Video

This was always going to be a compulsory entry on our list, because nothing Cocker did before or has done since resonates in popular culture as powerfully as this song. If you were a teenager in the mid-nineties in the UK, it was your anthem. Sadie Frost stars as the posh girl. If you know, you know – but watch out because the pangs of nostalgia that hit as you watch this video are potent. Watch it here.

Interview With Music Website, The Current, 2020

Here we have Cocker the grown up. With his grey beard and tweed jacket, he is as earnest about his music as a professor of philosophy might be about metaphysics. It is a very good encapsulation of all that he is and has become – which is a true renaissance man. Watch it here.

By Becky Ladenburg
May 2022

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Becky Ladenburg

Features Editor

As the GWG's features editor, Becky has her discerning finger on the cultural pulse. She's also our go-to expert on the property market.