Anyone who knows me knows how much I love mixtapes. I love making them, receiving them, listening to them, critiquing them, dancing to them and sometimes wearing them. I even had one on my recent 30th birthday cake:
So, it was with great gusto that I got stuck into this year’s mixtape challenge with my musical twin, Tom. We’ve been doing mixtape challenges for almost two years now (woah), and this year we’ve also hopefully drummed up at least a couple of other people to get involved in our set of 13 mixtapes that we’re planning to make this year as part of #13for2013. Everything needs a hashtag nowadays. If you’re up for getting involved, leave a comment or say hello on Twitter @GemStGem and we’ll let you know what the next challenge is.
Anyway, so the first challenge of this year is The Best of Your Best, where I suggested choosing 12 tracks by your favourite artist or band to illustrate to the world why you love that act so much. The hardest part of this for me was choosing my favourite band. Yes, like everyone else, I have a selection of about ten bands that I always, always go back to, but I wanted to choose one where each song could mean something to me and that I could share with other people. I didn’t want to choose a band where the songs I love by them mean things that I wouldn’t want to put on a blog, and other bands were my absolute ‘my-heart-is-bursting-I-love-you-so-much’ favourites at one time, but they might not have stood the test of time.
I think everyone has bands like that, bands that you loved like your high-school sweetheart, bands with which your relationship was an intense, fleeting holiday romance, bands that you broke up with and couldn’t listen to again, bands that feel like coming home when you put them on. But only a few bands, acts or artists – like friends or lovers – really make that impact that means you know they’ll stay with you forever.
I love Pulp for loads of reasons. They were one of the first bands that I remember noticing as a kid, emerging into my teenage years, blinking as the bright lights of Britpop exploded across Top of the Pops. Sleeper were the gateway drug of my 90s indie education. I bought The It Girl with a voucher from HMV one Christmas and spent hours pretending I was Louise Wener in my bedroom, singing along to Nice Guy Eddie. I soon discovered Blur, Ash, Suede and Pulp and couldn’t get enough of that lovely indie stuff. Babysitting meant I could buy CD singles from Wooolworth’s (and the cassette of 1977 by Ash) and I scrabbled borrowed copies of Blur and Suede albums from my older, cooler cousins. Backstreet Boys posters on my bedroom walls were replaced slowly (although the Spice Girls remained) with pictures of Tim Wheeler, Damon Albarn and a mini-shrine to Jarvis Cocker. And when he jumped on stage at the Brits in front of Michael Jackson, I remember having a stand-up argument with a friend which resulted in us not walking to school together for a week because I insisted on his status as an indie legend. Then came cord flares and charity shop-shopping and my trips to the Steel City became more and more frequent. I never did manage to rock a pair of NHS glasses, but not for lack of trying.
Skip to the end…
Anyway, cut a long story short – move to Sheffield, fall in love with Sheffield, move to Leeds, miss Sheffield and spend lots of time back there dancing to Pulp in nightclubs, go to Barcelona and bump into Jarvis Cocker as he wanders around:
Move to London and go to a very excellent club night called Scared to Dance where they PLAY PULP SONGS ALL NIGHT. And that brings us to here.
In an idea taken from this excellent post on Tom’s blog about his Idlewild playlist, I’ll break down why I chose these songs.
Here’s the tracklisting:
1. Glory Days
I love the line in this song that goes “When you’ve seen how big the world is, how can you make do with this?” which basically summed up my idealistic youth’s mindset of getting out and going far. I made it as far as Ecclesall Road, but that suited me just fine.
2. Cocaine socialist
Jarvis accused the Labour party of ‘trying to be hip’ (a crime, for sure) back in 1998 and then wrote a song about it as a B-side to ‘A Little Soul’. It’s a great song, not least because it sounds like a reworking of Glory Days, tainted by politics. I like the fact that, despite being a staunch Labour voter, Jarvis didn’t want to get involved.
3. Do you remember the first time?
Do you? Everyone loves this song. It gets everyone up dancing, and I’m sure it’s been the soundtrack to more than a few first times doing one thing or another. This song reminds me of nights out in Sheffield with wonderful Sheffield golden uni-era folk like Rosy, Liz, Cath and Heather and always puts a smile on my face.
4. Death goes to the disco
A bit of an older track, but still rings of why I love Pulp – they’re kitsch without being ironic, I love the keyboard in this and the way it manages to sound like a disco in a Sheffield WMC, but with the abstract concept that the grim reaper will be popping in for a dance before going out to his shift where he must shove your loved ones off this mortal coil.
5. Sheffield: Sex City
Forget New York, forget Paris, when it comes to doing the deed, there’s nothing like the back drop of Park Hill Flats and the prospect of an early morning stride of pride to the Supertram to get home after the night before to get you in the mood. I love Candida Doyle’s accent in this and the fact that Jarvis picks all the rubbish places in Sheffield and makes them sound sexy. It’s a heady blend of romantic realism, kitchen sink poetry and electronica.
Another injection of spoken word here. The way the song jumps from barely a caress in the verse and bridge to a punch in the chorus gets me every time. Most Pulp songs sound like they could soundtrack a film, but this one more so than others. I’ve got some really good memories of this song and I’ve definitely sat and sang my heart out to the chorus:
“Why me? Why you? Why here? And why now?
It doesn’t make no sense no. It’s not convenient no.
It doesn’t fit my plans but I got that taste in my mouth again”
7. Mile End
Not only a brilliant pop song, when I first moved to London, this song was pretty much my life. We were living in Bow in East London temporarily and househunting desperately and I listened to this song every time I went to the gym (incidentally, it was in Mile End), where I’d look out of the window and run on the treadmill, facing the very flats that Jarvis was singing about. I was thankful that the flat we ended up finding was not a mess alright…
8. Bar Italia
Continuing on a London theme, I do want to go to Bar Italia in Soho, but I love this song more for the fact that it reminds me of a time where the lyrics:
“If we get through this alive I’ll meet you next week, same place, same time”
Have never been more applicable. One of those times in your life that you wouldn’t go back to but had an amazing time whilst you were there. I used to love going out to Razor Stiletto in Sheffield and met such an amazing group of people there, had some of the best nights of my life and learnt a lot about myself and who I am. Bar Italia just manages to capture that last bit of the night when you know it’s coming to an end but you don’t want it to finish.
9. Pencil Skirt
Classic Jarvis, I love those ‘ah’s in the chorus. Sheffield seduction at its finest.
One of my all-time favourite songs, ever. I’ve had so many great nights dancing to this song and the story in it is heartbreaking, beautiful and real all at the same time. I get a warm feeling in my chest everytime I hear Babies.
11. Common People
As in Tom’s mix, I’m not going to leave out the hits just to be hip. Far from it, I have been known to lean on barriers all day and heckle bands with ‘Sack this, play the hits’ (see also: Leeds festival 2007). So, here is Pulp’s masterpiece single in all its full-length glory. I love it because it was us, it’s where we came from, it’s two fingers up at the poshos from uni, it’s rejoicing in drinking cooking lager and knowing how to get by on a fiver a week and still have a good time. It’s a glorious, messy, beautiful ode to being young and having no money and I bloody love it. And I like doing the dance, too.
12. Like a Friend
This is definitely up there in terms of favourite songs. I love everything about it, the lyrics, the honesty, the build-up of the song, the guitar – it breaks my heart and makes it soar all at the same time. A love song if ever there was one.
And that, my friends, is it. My first #13for2013 mixtape is done.
Let me know your thoughts!