A couple of weeks ago I finally got the chance to see the long-awaited Pulp documentary, Pulp: A film about Life, Death & Supermarkets. Screened by Cinespia at the United Artists Theatre in LA, it boasted a Q&A with both the director Florian Habicht and the legend that is Jarvis Cocker.
I don’t why I was surprised that it was a sold-out event with lines disappearing round the block, but I was. Pulp, the British Indie band that defined my teenage years, big in America - who knew? To me Pulp has always been a very British band, singing about British life in a kitchen sink drama kind of way that is unique to our gloomy little island. How could that translate, how could anyone else who wasn’t British possibly understand if they hadn’t grown-up there?
Of course I knew that my American friends loved Pulp, that the band held the same resonance to them as it did to me, but at parties, weddings and bars when Common People or Disco 2000 came on I would look around the dance floor and think, (rather ungraciously) yeah, but you don’t really know what it’s like. You don’t know about council estates and chip stains and wood chip on the wall.
But what I loved most about the documentary, which followed the lead-up to the final performance of their comeback tour in their hometown of Sheffield in 2012, was how it proved me utterly wrong. Some of the most joyous moments in the film were interviews with mega fans, who’d traveled from all over the world to be there for this homecoming gig – from the Aussie twins who’d accosted the band at an Australian festival earlier that year to a nurse from Georgia, who’d traveled all the way to Sheffield for one night for the gig.
It was the nurse who moved me most. She was so beautiful and loved the band so much and what she said was so eloquent that I wasn’t sure if she was actually an actress playing the role of single mom nurse who’d traveled thousands of miles to see the band perform or the real deal. She explained that growing up in Georgia Pulp had been her favorite band, and what appealed to her about them was that they sang about things she could relate too, like being a single mom.
It made me realize that the band’s appeal is universal, and it made me appreciate that you don’t have to be a Sheffield native or a girl from Glasgow to enjoy their music. You can be a single mom from Georgia or a German dude or Australian twins, the themes Pulp sing about – love, loss, lust, longing - translate. It made me realize that I was being a little ungrateful and a tad selfish for wanting to keep the band, and what they mean to me, to myself and my peers only, when clearly there are so many people from all over the world who also feel a special connection to their music. Was their emotional connection to the band not valid simply because they weren’t British?
As I watched the film (which is amazing and well-worth downloading, whether you’re a Pulp fan or just a fan of music documentaries) I let go of my snobberies and enjoyed sharing the Pulp experience with my friends from America, Quebec and the UK, who are all mega fans and who to each of them Pulp means something different and something personal. And Jarvis was pretty good too.