The thirtieth post in an occasional series that is intended to highlight songs that you might not have heard that I think are excellent - clandestine classics, if you will. Maybe they'll be by bands you've never heard of. Maybe they'll be by more familiar artists, but tracks that were squirelled away on b-sides, unpopular albums, radio sessions or music magazine cover-mounted CDs. Time will, undoubtedly, tell.
Is it possible for there to be a clandestine classic from a band as wildly successful as Pulp? After all, they bestrode the music scene like sage Sheffield Britpop gods, didn't they? And it was ever thus. Wasn't it? Well, not really. I'm not talking about you, Constant Reader, pleased be assured of that... but if you go back before Different Class then you lose and confuse a lot of Pulp fans.
I'm not going to go much further back though - only one album, in fact, to His 'n' Hers. This was my first exposure to Pulp. I might like to consider myself the Oracle of late 20th Century indie, but the truth is that, like many, I wasn't too up to speed with what Jarvis and his cohort had been up to for the previous sixteen years. But I'd heard Lipgloss on the radio and, armed with those three and a half minutes of archetypal Cocker-ness, I trooped off to the Folkestone branch of Our Price in my lunch break to do some CD buying. Ah, Our Price... the way we were.
It's a bit of a digression but here's the reason I remember buying this album more than most. As I offered the CD to the woman behind the counter, she favoured me with a lovely smile, nodded in appreciation and said, "This is such a good album." It was like a scene from High Fidelity... or it would have been if I hadn't been such a tongue-tied, shy fool. I fancied her, you see, with her long, corkscrewed brunette hair, her happy smile and her legs which, whilst not long, were very nice in a permanently-clad-in-leggings way. So what did I do? Here we are, in a record shop environment where I feel very comfortable, with a woman I am attracted to making conversation with me. Do I keep the conversation going, perhaps by asking what else she thinks I might like if I like Pulp? Did I try to ask her out for a drink, or get her number? Or did I just mumble something like "Oh, good," and hand over my hard-earned? What do you reckon? The more things change, the more some things stay the same...
But anyway, back to the record, or specifically back to today's Clandestine Classic because that is not the His 'n' Hers version but a Peel Session recording, since today is Keeping It Peel day (and I really encourage you to read more about that here). If anything, the session version is even more urgent, more pressing, than the album version, right from the off. There's that Morse-code evoking keyboard intro and propelling bassline, then a cracking Cocker kitchen-sink lyric which builds, as so many great Pulp songs do, to a crescendo of tumbling story-telling (check out Jarv's "Jesus" around the four minute mark), in this case the narrator trying to warn an ex off her new beau who is perhaps not treating her right. At least that's my reading of the lyric... a lyric that is layered, again like so much of Pulp's best work, with something sinister and unsettling, like:
Well you'll always be together
Cos he gets you up in leather,
And he knows your friend called Heather
But he never kissed her, never...
Blimey, "he" is a right bastard, isn't he Jarvis?
I love His 'n' Hers. This is probably my favourite track on it, and I think the Peel Session manages to add a little something more. You can find this version, unsurprisingly, on Pulp's excellent Peel Sessions double CD - frankly I can't think of many better ways to spend (at the time of writing) £8.70 of your money. Whilst you're waiting for Amazon to deliver the goods, here's YouTube.