Jarvis Cocker

Misfits have often been part of rock & roll, but of the many outsiders, few have been as clear-eyed, passionate, and savagely witty as Jarvis Cocker, a bookish, sex-obsessed English eccentric who became not just a star but a pop archetype as the leader of Pulp in the '90s. It's been impossible to separate Jarvis Cocker's story from Pulp -- he was not only the founder, he was the creative force and the only constant member during the group's long, winding history. Winding down Pulp, as he did not long after the group's 2002 We Love Life, was not so much a breakup of a band as it was a closing of a chapter of Cocker's life, as he moved from the U.K. to settle in Paris with his new wife and child. After a few quiet years he began recording again, first as a member of the barbed electro-pop duo Relaxed Muscle and then as a solo artist, releasing his debut solo album, Jarvis, at the end of 2006. At the time of the release of his solo debut, Cocker had been pursuing a music career for nearly 30 years. At the age of 15 in 1978, he formed Arabacus Pulp, dropping the "Arabacus" before they went public -- and they went public in a big way, having their first Peel Session in November 1981 before they released an album. It was an auspicious beginning, but Pulp then settled in for a decade of struggle. They released the bedsit indie pop of It to little attention in 1984, then they morphed into murky goth rock a year later, signing to the British indie Fire in 1985, with Freaks following in 1986. Two years later, Cocker, along with Pulp bassist Steve Mackey, left his hometown of Sheffield to attend university at St. Martin's College in London. Pulp were still an active, if irregular, proposition and they had once again shifted sound, incorporating elements of the burgeoning rave and acid house movements for their next album, Separations, a record recorded in 1989 but not released until 1991, when the single My Legendary Girlfriend began attracting attention, including being awarded Single of the Week by NME. My Legendary Girlfriend kicked off the classic years of Pulp. They signed to Gift in 1992, where they soon hit upon their signature sleek, sexy sound, equal parts glam and post-punk. Babies proved to be their breakthrough to the big leagues, leading to a contract with Island Records, which released the band's major-label debut, His 'n' Hers, in the spring of 1994. The album did well, garnering good reviews and earning a Mercury Award nomination, but they truly entered the big leagues in 1995, as the bracing Common People single became a smash hit -- the kind of hit that defined an era. Its accompanying album, Different Class, was equally successful, entering the charts at number one and going gold within its first week of release. Pulp were now stars -- or, perhaps more accurately, Jarvis Cocker was now a genuine star, appearing on magazine covers constantly, popping up on television, even earning the honor of being parodied by TV comedians throughout 1995.

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