Pulp Promos

"A promo video is simply an advertisement for a song"
On screen caption, Babies, 1992

That such a statement should appear before a Pulp promo is surely testament to the band's humour. There's no doubt that the vast majority of promo videos we see on TV simply exist as a means the sell the product. And that's fair enough. But thankfully, there's always been something different to Pulp's approach - their promos are well-crafted, intelligent, witty and fun. If there were a page in the Pulp manifesto which summed up their approach, it would simply say: Don't treat a promo as a means to an end when you can treat it as an end in itself. These pages take you through each of their promos starting with the release of Countdown in 1991 - before Pulp signed their major label deal with Island Records - through the big-budget heyday of the mid-ninetines, up to their most recent and unique effort for Bad Cover Version in 2002. With the exception of Countdown and Like A Friend, all the promos mentioned here are available on the band's Pulp Hits DVD - an essential purchase for anyone seeking an introduction to Pulp.

Babies (Original Version) / 1992

Director: Jarvis Cocker
The one where...
Look out for: The Gonk - a hand-made toy that Jarvis' Mum made for him as a child
Locations: Tufnell Park (interior) / Camden (band) / Peckham (exterior)

including the 'jump cut' where the position of each band member abruptly changes, the continuity error where their clothes alter between scenes, and my personal favourite, the lip-sync error where Jarvis stops singing only for the vocal to continue. Witty, clever, and very very Pulp.

Razzmatazz / 1993

Director: Jarvis Cocker & Martin Wallace
The one where... Pulp appear in a Parisian hotel room and a London strip club
Look out for: The box of Terry's 'A Touch of Class' chocolates - why not Cadbury's 'Milk Tray'?
Locations: Ideal Hotel, Paris and 'Sunset Strip' Club, London.

Shot in December 1992

Lipgloss / 1993

Director: Jarvis Cocker & Martin Wallace
The one where...
Look out for:
Location: Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire


Babies (New Version) / 1994

Director: Pedro Romhanyi
The one where:
Look out for:

The new version of Babies sadly loses much of the innocence and do-it-yourself charm of the original. Gone is the implied nautiness - where Gonks appeared from under baggy jumpers and curious 12 year olds read Look-In magazine - in favour of explicit nautiness. A topless David with an androgynous quality wonders across the screen accompanied by two overtly sexual sisters. Pouting lips. Heaving bosoms. Glistening hot-pants. Pulp look exceptionally glamourous too - their flawless complexions intentionally mirror the airbrushed artwork of the His 'n' Hers LP and singles. This airbrush effect provides a glossy sheen, and placed against a brilliant-white backdrop, makes the colours all the move vivid and energising (the lush green of Jarvis' shirt is truly a wonder). As as for Candida, she barely knows whether to play her Farfisa or suggestively throw herself across it.

A spoken word version of the promo was shot at the same time, featuring the same characters and props, but with (even) more drama, suspense and nautiness.

Do You Remember The First Time? / 1994

Director: Pedro Romhanyi
The one where: You travel on a 360-degree orbit around Pulp. Hold tight!
Look out for: Russell - who clearly blew his entire clothing allowance on that white jacket which he also wears in the Babies and Razzmatazz promos!
Locations: Acton, Plumstead and South Kensington, London. February 1994

For their next single, 'Do You Remember The First Time?', Pulp managed to persuade their record company to fund both a standard promo video in addition to a short documentary. Jarvis came up with the idea of interviewing various celebrities about their first sexual encounters and set about work on the documentary with Martin Wallace. It's unclear how Pedro Romhanyi was brought onto the scene - the official reason was that Jarvis wouldn't have had time to produce both the documentary and the promo whilst simultaneously working towards the completion of the band's His 'n' Hers LP. Wallace thought differently: "The truth was that Island wanted to spend 80,000 on the video and they just didn't trust me with it, so they got Pedro to do it." Whatever the reason behind the decision, the band and record company must have once again been pleased with Pedro's work as he went on to produce a further four promos from the Different Class LP.

The promo was influenced by the short film 'Downside Up' (1985) by Tony Hill, a fellow St. Martin's graduate. Tony Hill describes 'Downside Up' as "a film which by the use of simple camera movement explores and reviews some relationships, literally upsetting earth's stability". Indeed, that's pretty much the best explanation of what Pulp sought to acheive with the promo.

Special mounts were used to oscillate the camera in a pendulum-like orbit around the subject. At first, the camera oscillates slowly, genly rocking back and forth along the orbit above the various band members. As the oscillations become more severe, the camera covers a 180-degree orbit eventually getting to the point where the camera appears to go into the earth revealing the flip-side of a double-sided ground. For much of the rest of the promo, the camera moves through a full 360-degree orbit showing the two different sides of the same ground. Cleverly, it's at this point when you stop feelling as if you're orbiting around the two sides of a coin and instead feel as though you're looking from a static viewpoint at a flipping coin. One moment you see Jarvis lying on the floor of a cosy living room, the other side of which is a parallel universe of pulpy people playing around with shopping trolleys and copping-off in old cars. This continual flipping-coin motion can be quite disorentating at times and will make you feel dizzy if you watch it for too long. The finished product appears to support the 'downside up' concept well, despite it not being an original idea.

Common People / 1995

Director: Pedro Romhanyi
The one where... Pulp do the definitive Britpop promo.
Look out for: The Raleigh Chopper bicycle.

Fight version

This video changed my life. Russell violin, finger wagging, colours. It added to rather than detracted from the song The idea behind Common People was "to create a romanticised world from the perspective of the girl in the song" remembers director Pedro Romhanyi, "people nicking tellies, girls dancing around handbags, everyday behaviour, but caricatured. Shooting in London's Bow Street Studios in May '95 the video was pieced together in post production. The dancefloor was a lightbox about two foot by 18 inches," explains Romhanyi. "We put the dancers on top, looping their action. Jarvis performed in a giant shopping trolley." Although the video introduced Pulp to a new audience, Romhanyi dismisses any suggestion that it made the band. "Jarvis was Jarvis before that video. I didn't tell him what to wear. They knew exactly what they were up to. If Common People is a good video it's because it's a great record."

Mis-Shapes / 1995

Director: Pedro Romhanyi
The one where... we see the inevitable confrontation between the townies and the mis-shapes on Friday night at the local disco
Look out for: Candida's long sleeve t-shirt - it's one of the Pulp "I'm Common" ones which she's wearing inside out!
Location: Hammersmith Palais, London

Machine Gun Version, September 1995

Jarvis: The concept the director had come up with, which we agreed with, was that I was going to play two characters in the video. So I played myself, and then I played this kind of rough guy who was the leader of this gang... we used to call them townies. It's the kind of guy who would go out on a Saturday night and they've all got a sort of short-sleeved shirt on even when it's the middle of winter, and just want to have a fight after the pub. Kind of like that. So I drank about three quarters of a bottle of brandy, and then did my acting bit, and anyway, I got into character, and suddenly the name Darren Spooner came into me mind. I don't know why because I was so drunk, but I guess because it sounds a bit like Jarvis Cocker, it has the same number of syllables. And I became Darren Spooner for that day. And unfortunately when I went home, I couldn't get out of character. My girlfriend at the time came into the flat we shared and I was on the kitchen floor singing "Want To Be Starting Something" by Michael Jackson.

Sorted For E's & Wizz / 1995

Director: Channel 4 TV footage
The one where... Pulp triumph at Glasto
Look out for: A 'pre-Pulp' Mark Webber assisting Candida on keyboards
Location: Pyramid Stage, Glastonbury Festival, 24 June 1995

Mis-Shapes and Sorted For E's & Wizz were released simultaneously as a double A-side, but only Mis-Shapes received the full promo treatment. Perhaps because of time, or even because of the budget, the Sorted promo consisted of TV footage from their performance of Sorted at that year's Glastonbury Festival. A cop out? Well, not really. Given the song's subject matter, the legendary status of their performance (recognised before the campervans had even departed Worthy Farm) and the fact that Pulp chose to debut the song that night somehow makes the Glasto footage entirely appropriate.

Disco 2000 / 1995

Director: Pedro Romhanyi
The one where... ace producer Pedro Rohmani develops the Different Class theme, substituting real-life Pulp for their cardboard counterparts.
Look out for: The many (and intentional) visual references to Pulp's new found fame...
Locations: Eve Club / Angel Underground Station / London various

Different Class 'Product' - cutouts, magazines LP, t-shirts. It the video that perhaps best demonstrates Pulp's fame - how else could you get away with cardboard cutouts replacing real life band members. A Pulpy world of vivid colours, sexual [ ] The video proceeds in a comic-strip way - a series of Pulpy vignettes with a distinctive panning technique - similar to the opening titles of Grange Hill for those old enough to remember Roland, Tucker and Miss McClusky. Progress like a comic strip.

Adult Version

Deutsche Version (with German subtitles)

Something Changed / 1996

Director: Pedro Romhanyi
The one where... Pulp put on their best clothes and play it straight.
Look out for: Candida's battered but beautiful Farfisa Organ
Location: Elstree [Studios?], Hertfordshire

Pulp put on their gladrags and play it straight down the line in their most conventional video to date. No flashing lights, no fancy graphics, no gimmickry, just seamless camerawork that makes it look as if the promo was shot in one flawless take, allowing the viewer to wonder in and around the band's performance space. Shot in an empty film studio with only their instruments as props, the video provides space for each of their personalities to emerge. The contrast between Mark and Steve is a good example - whilst a pensive Webbo sits down to play his guitar (Pulp's youngest member lest we forget), Steve oozes with charm and charisma both in his attire and in the confident way he holds his frame (though as ever with Steve he treads the fine line between master-of-style and out-and-out-poser). Russell meanwhile avoids the temptation to dispense one of his piercing stares straight down the lens, and although you kind of want him to, you know it'd have totally ruined the promo. And Jarvis is just... well, Jarvis. Devoid of any finger wagging gestures his performance is calmer and more organic.Seamless, dashing, eloquent, simple.

Help The Aged / 1997

Director: Hammer & Tongs (Nick Goldsmith and Garth Jennings)
The one where... Jarvis ascends to heaven on a stairlift. Classic!
Look out for: the John Currin portraits adorning the staircase - his paintings inspired the video.
Location: Stoke Newington Town Hall, 17-19 October 1997

Inspired by the film ' A matter of life an death" Jarvis appears more remote, withdrawn and distant, perhaps in part because it's the only promo where he's chosen to wear his glasses.

St. Martin's graduates Nick Goldsmith and Garth Jennings. Help The Aged was also voted International Video of the Year 1998 by The Music Video Production Association.

This Is Hardcore / 1998

Director: Doug Nichol
The one where... Pulp spend interminable amounts of record company cash and produce a cinematic masterpiece
Look out for: Ksenia - the cover girl for the This Is Hardcore LP. Is she real? Of course she is!
Location: Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire

Biff Avery, Troy Truelane, Glynnis Belle.
Shot at Pinewood Studios during four days in January 1998 and reputedly costing a quarter of a million pounds, This Is Hardcore is unquestionably the most epic of Pulp promos. The concept is a fictional account of Troy Truelane (played by Jarvis), an uncessessful B-movie actor in 1950s Hollywood who disappeared before completing any major films; the video is the fictional great lost film, patched together from outtakes and unfinished films. As well as paying homage to the German director Douglas Sirk (1900-1987), the promo was inspired by a book of promotional photos of Hollywood stars of the 1950s (Still Life: Hollywood Tableaux Photographs 0671603876). The film recreates many of these stills with the original actors substituted by bandmembers in period costume. The aesthetic appeal with lush colours and period prop. This is so more than a promo - a better description would be a short film set to the This Is Hardcore soundtrack. The attention to colour, lighting, costume and coreography make for a breathtaking six and a half minutes. Watch it. Admire it. Adore it.

Something about the acting debut?????

Like A Friend / 1998

Director: Doug Nichol
The one where...
Look out for:

The song was written specifically for inclusion in the Alfonso Curan film Great Expectations. Jarvis: "They gave us the scene from the film and we wrote a piece of music that exactly correlated to that bit of film, so we've kind of rehearsed with the telly on showing the film over and over again, and played the song and get it so that all the dynamics of the song went along with the dynamics in the scene. So that was a good laugh you know, and they really liked it as well which was nice." The promo splices scenes from the film with Pulp playing on a rotating stage. Whilst it's not exactly breathtaking, it's far more dynamic than you'd expect as the cameras were mounted off the rotating stage, so that at any one time all of the band appear to be moving relative to each other. Jarvis makes particular use of this and struts around the stage, sometimes in the direction the stage is moving, and sometimes against it, weaving around the various band members. The lighting also enables the various members of Pulp to come to prominence at particular times - at other times they and their instruments are silhouetted against the vivid red background.

A Little Soul / 1998

Director: Hammer & Tongs (Nick Goldsmith and Garth Jennings)
The one where... The cute look-a-like kids conspire to get a reluctant Pulp to do a rehearsal.
Look out for: Acting again (with Mark looking only marginally less interested than normal!)


Party Hard / 1998

Director: Mike Mills
The one where... Twenty cheerleaders do an intentionally tacky (but brilliantly choreographed) routine dressed in blue t-shirts and red miniskirts.
Look out for: Steve - who picks up his bass guitar at the start of the video in an impossibly cool way. Intentionally tacky, Jarvis centric, T-shirts


The Trees / 2001

Director: Phil Harder
Producer: Rick Fuller
The one where... you want to turn up the brightness setting on your TV.
Look out for: the light-switch - it has to be there somewhere!
Location: Malcolm Ryan Studios (A Stage), Wimbledon, London

Well it had to happen sooner or later. A run of superb promos comes to an abrupt end with The Trees, the first single to be lifted from Pulp's long awaited seventh album. Having been away from the public eye for the best part of three years, their comeback release needed to project an image of band who were still a force to be reckoned with. Whatever the merits of the song itself, the promo comes across as an ill-conceived idea executed in a half-hearted fashion, lacking the vivid imagery of Romhanyi promos or the humour of the Hardcore promos. Devoid of any story line, the promo is based upon a series of time-lapse ballet moves. But the shoot is so dark as to render any detail in promo barely visible. Matters aren't help by the ultra-widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio which only adds to the expanse of black space dominating the TV screen.

Bad Cover Version / 2002

Director: Jarvis Cocker & Martin Wallace
The one where... Pulp do a piss-take version of Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?"
Look out for: Pulp - each member makes a brief appearance.
Location: Sarm West Studios, London. Filmed on 23 January 2002.

Uncencored version

Features: Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Bjork, Bono, David Bowie, Cher, Kurt Cobain, Jarvis Cocker, Phil Collins, Craig David, Missy Elliott, Liam Gallagher, Mick Jagger, Elton John, Tom Jones, J Kay, Meat Loaf, Jennifer Lopez, Brian May, Paul McCartney, George Michael, Kylie Minogue, Gary Numan, Keith Richards, Rod Stewart and Robbie Williams.

After the disappointment of The Trees, Pulp make a stunning return to form with an irreverant, funny and innovate promo which doesn't even feature Jarvis' vocal... See jarvis dressed up as brian May provides a fitting close to what might just be Pulp's last ever release.

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