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Music / Jarvis Cocker

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"I never said I was deep, but I am profoundly shallow.
My lack of knowledge is vast and my horizons are narrow."
— "I Never Said I Was Deep"

Jarvis Branson Cocker (born 19 September 1963) originates from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, though he now divides his time between London and Paris, and can best be described as a dryly witty, spindly-legged, tweed-jacketed dabbler in everything related to his passion for the arts. His most well-known and memorable foray has been into the world of music with Pulp and his solo career, where his catchy tunes and witty, observational style of lyric writing have garnered praise from critics and fans.

Jarvis was something of a misfit even in childhood. Raised by a bohemian mother who had been an art student before she became pregnant, his odd appearance and name often caused him to be teased by his peers. At the age of five, he contracted meningitis. Though he came through mostly unscathed, the disease damaged his eyesight – necessitating the wearing of thick glasses. He was never popular, but his sense of humour caused him to be generally well-liked.

From a young age, he had dreamed of becoming a pop star, though his unconventional charms and slow progress in learning to play the guitar seemed to indicate that the fame he craved would remain forever in his dreams. Then punk rock came along, catalysing his ambitions in earnest. In 1978, when he was 15, Jarvis started a band called Arabicus Pulp. After the excision of the first word of their name, years of struggling in obscurity, a hiatus (during which Jarvis got a degree in film-making at St Martins art college in London), and innumerable membership and stylistic changes, Pulp finally came into their own and became famous in the mid-90s. Cocker gained further media attention for mooning Michael Jackson at the 1996 Brit Award. Fame was not kind to Jarvis and by the turn of the 21st century, he was recovering from drug addiction and dealing with the aftermath of nervous breakdown and general disillusionment with the nature of the music business.

After the band went on hiatus in 2001 Jarvis, feeling that he was too old to be a pop star, decided to retire from performing. However, not long after this an electro duo called Relaxed Muscle emerged – and the singer and lyricist Darren Spooner looked and sounded suspiciously like our own Mr Cocker, despite his penchant for swearing, breaking bottles, and wearing elaborate makeup and costumes.

After finding that his dabblings in writing songs for film soundtracks and for other people (including Nancy Sinatra and Charlotte Gainsbourg) did not satisfy him, he returned to music in earnest, recording and releasing his first solo album, Jarvis, in 2006. The download-only single "Running the World", which was ostensibly about the negative impact of capitalism on morality among world leaders and people in power, was a slightly out of character moment for the mild-mannered Jarvis. This album was followed by 2009's "Further complications.", its louder and more rock-oriented brother, as well as continued collaboration with other bands and artists.

In 2010, Jarvis was given his own Sunday afternoon radio show on BBC 6Music – "Jarvis Cocker's Sunday Service". This sedate and low-key two hour show blends music, spoken-word recordings, and interviews with guests as well as promising to "put the boringness back into Sunday". He aired its final show on December 31, 2017.

After a hiatus from his solo career due to commitments with the Pulp reunion and his radio show, in 2017 he first released a collaboration with classical pianist Chilly Gonzales, Room 29, then formed a new band under the name "Jarv Is". Primarily a touring outfit performing Pulp material alongside Jarvis' solo work, they also performed several new songs, and in 2020 these songs were released on an album called Beyond The Pale.

No relation to the late Joe Cocker.

Solo Discography:

  • Jarvis (2006)
  • "Further Complications" (2009)
  • Music from 'Likely Stories' (EP, 2016)
  • Room 29 with Chilly Gonzales (2017)
  • Beyond The Pale as Jarv Is (2020)

Film Roles:

Jarvis Cocker and his various works provide examples of:

  • Album Title Drop: The title of Relaxed Muscle's only album A Heavy Nite With... comes from "The Heavy", which contains the line "it's gonna be a heavy nite".
  • Alter-Ego Acting: Darren Spooner is a type 3. Jarvis, who was getting married and having a child at the time, thought that if he had a persona he could use as an outlet for negative things it would make it easier for him to settle down and become a nicer person.
  • Anti-Love Song: "Apparently":
    Well, I try my best to keep my feelings hid.
    And I'm getting good 'cos I've been practising ever since I was a kid.
    I'll hold your hand - but at arms length, you'll see.
    I've got it covered.
    Apparently, I am in love with you
  • Black Is Bigger in Bed: Implied in "Caucasian Blues"
    I've heard it said that you are hung like a white man
  • Classical Music: Room 29 is a Classical crossover album, based musically around piano and Jarvis' vocals with occasional orchestration.
  • Concept Album: Room 29, billed as "A song-cycle about a piano in a hotel room," centers around events from the Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood, written from the point of view of the baby grand piano in Room 29.
  • Creator Provincialism: To a lesser extent in his solo endeavours than his work with Pulp, but it is difficult not to notice that quite a few of the people he's collaborated with or played on the radio are from Sheffield.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Wielder of dry British wit both lyrically and in-person.
  • Death Song:
    • The narrator of "Fat Children" is murdered by young muggers.
    • Implied with "Quantum Theory".
    Last night I slipped through time
    To a parallel dimension
    You were alive and happy
  • Epic Rocking: "The Loss Adjuster" and "You're in My Eyes (Discosong)" both top 8 minutes.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Petey, his character in Fantastic Mr. Fox looks and dances a lot like him.
  • Instrumentals:
    • The two excerpts of "Loss Adjuster" in Jarvis are brief piano pieces.
    • "Marmont Overture", "Interlude 1 - 'Hotel Stationary'", "Interlude 2 – '5 Hours a Day'", and "The Tearjerker Returns" from Room 29.
  • Intercourse with You:
    • A large part of the ethos of Relaxed Muscle.
    • Collaborations: "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Pelvis" (with Barry Adamson) and "I Picked a Flower" (with The Pastels)
    • "Fuckingsong", which is unusual in that, as Jarvis has explained:
    "By writing songs you can metaphorically fuck a lot of people at the same time. This song is about how that's probably the best way to have a relationship. A song always performs its best each time whereas with a real person, sometimes they get drunk and can't perform at all."
  • Leitmotif: Room 29 has recurring title and "Tearjerker" leitmotifs.
  • Love Will Lead You Back: "You're in My Eyes (Discosong)", in which the narrator is at a discotheque, spots his old lover, and starts dancing with her. Although he knows it's a hallucination, he doesn't want it to end and is willing to dance with her all night in hopes that it'll become real.
  • Minimalism: Room 29 is primarily Jarvis on vocals and Chilly Gonzales on piano. Occasionally they are joined by additional classical orchestration, but the compositions remain sparse.
  • Missing Child: "Hold Still" was inspired by Jarvis briefly losing his son at the train station and having several nightmare scenarios go through his mind.
  • Nerd Glasses: Part of his image throughout the '80s and again from the late '90s onwards. He wore contacts during the early to mid '90s until he had a situation with chile containers.
  • Nice to the Waiter: "Belle Boy" is about the crap hotel belle boys put up with from patrons.
    Life could be a bed of roses
    If it wasn’t filled with so many pricks,
    Who wanna take it out on the bell boy
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Quantum Theory".
  • One-Woman Song:
    • "Angela" from Further Complications.
    • "Clara" from Room 29, written about Mark Twain's daughter Clara and her family's troubles.
  • Overly-Long Gag: Jarvis's website around the time of Further Complications' release featured videos of him standing around, sitting around, running around, and tuning/playing a guitar, all of which went on for minutes on end. And they weren't loops.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Recorded four pieces for Neil Gaiman's Likely Stories miniseries, released together as an EP.
  • Precision F-Strike: "Fuckingsong" does not say the title until the last second of the song, where it is used as both the euphemism and the expletive.
  • Protest Song: "Running the World", the full title of which is "Cunts are Still Running the World".
  • Pun: "Leftovers" has several:
    "I met her in the museum of palaeontology, and I make no bones about it"
    "He says he loves you like a sister – Well, I guess that's relative"
  • Sampling:
    • "Black Magic" features a sample from "Crimson and Clover" by Tommy James and the Shondells.
    • "You're in My Eyes (Discosong)" is built around a loop from "Rolling Down the Hills" by Glass Candy.
  • Seduction Lyric: "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Pelvis" (technically by Barry Adamson, but with Jarvis on vocals) involves a peculiar approach to seduction.
    Oooohhh, set the controls for the heart of the pelvis
    Haven't you heard my name rhymes with Elvis
    And one thing I know is this
    That your mouth is telling me to give you
    A big kiss
  • Self-Titled Album: Jarvis, sometimes also titled The Jarvis Cocker Album.
  • "Sesame Street" Cred: He played the lead singer of The Weird Sisters in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
  • Something Blues: "Caucasian Blues", a tongue-in-cheek number about the pains of being a well-off middle-aged white man.
  • The Something Song: "Petey's Song", "You're in My Eyes (Discosong)", "Fuckingsong".
  • Spoken Word in Music:
    • The intro to "Big Julie" features a clip of Carson McCullers reading from her book The Member of the Wedding.
    • Several tracks from Room 29 include clips from film historian David Thomson, taken from a conversation he had with Jarvis in 2014.
  • This Is a Song:
    • "You're in My Eyes (Discosong)" refers to being "caught in a loop that repeats endlessly".
    • "Fuckingsong":
    "I know it's just a song"
  • This Is Your Song: "Fuckingsong", which is one for the fans.
  • Title Track: "Further Complications".
  • Translated Cover Version: "I Just Came to Tell You That I'm Going", originally a French-language song by Serge Gainsbourg.