Monday, 7 January 2013

Pulp 'Disco 2000'

Chart Peak: 7

'Disco 2000' became Pulp's 3rd huge Top 10 hit of 1995 in December... Jarvis Cocker's songs are perhaps best placed "on a line drawn between Barry White and Alan Bennett" and Pulp have been rightly deemed "purveyors of some of the most beautifully observed vignettes of English life since the Kinks."
 Now, on this occasion I do have a nice coloured 7" to show you, although it's not strictly prototypical to the era, as the single was only released on CD and cassette at the time of its original chart run: the 7" and 12" formats were released a year later as part of a re-issue programme. I'm quite glad I have this outlet to show off for my investment of £2:49 fifteen years ago, because contrary to the label (and indeed to logic) my copy doesn't actually feature the 7" mix, just the standard album version (which is very good of course, but I already had it) - I'm guessing a lot of purchasers of these formats were collectors and uninterested in actually playing the record.

I don't entirely know why the single version was called a 7" mix when no such format existed (no corresponding 12" mix was released, though other remixes do exist) but it's a track worth tracking down if you can. It's slightly longer than the album track and a bit less rocky; it was reworked by Alan Tarney, not exactly a trendy name in the mid-90s but producer of, among other things, 'We Don't Talk Anymore' by Cliff Richard. You can see why this pedigree would appeal to the Pulp aesthetic, with its ironic but genuine appreciation of vintage pop culture, especially since the main riff in the song was widely compared to Laura Branigan's hit 'Gloria', a record it's probably cooler to like now than in 1995. This mix even adds a spoken middle section from Cocker (I don't know whether it was newly recorded for the occasion or merely edited out of the album cut), something that it's fair to say had ceased to become a regular feature of hit singles by this point, and doesn't really seem to have survived the end of Pulp's own chart career, though it's not something I feel urgently needs a revival to be honest. It only works when Jarvis does it, such is his skill in walking the fine line between parody and sincerity. He's claimed that the lyric is based on personal experience, with only a small amount of artistic licence on the details; but whether that's true or not it's an effective portrayal both of unrequited teenage love (and lust) and of nostalgia for lost youth. I'm just about old enough to remember when the year 2000 seemed like the distant future (indeed, when we still called it "the year 2000") and since Jarvis Cocker's about 15  years older than me that places the main action, and the suggestion of a reunion, somewhere in the 1970s; but by the end of the song at least we're clearly hearing from the circa-1995 protagonist reflecting on his lost crush and imagining the possibility of them meeting up. It's a brilliant detail that the chorus specifies a time and place but not a date: it's both realistic (from the teenage perspective) and pathetic. You can almost imagine our man wondering whether to go there on the off-chance every day for a year... and then of course realising how sad that would be. It's this very pathos that keeps the lyric from being maudlin (as if there were a happy ending) or creepy (as it would be if he turned into a stalker). Instead it's just quietly sad and funny.

Credit is also due to Pulp for effectively banning the track from advertising and trails during 1999, which must have cost them some royalties in the short term but stopped us getting too sick of it. And whilst the video is largely outside our remit here, it seems wrong to deny it a cursory mention, if only to notice that Cocker had a sense of humour about his media ubiquity at the time, and perhaps handled it a little more deftly than Supergrass did.

Also appearing on: Now 31, 32, 35, 39
Available on: Different Class

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