you’ll never watch your life slide out of view

For this week’s Friday Feedback, I want Five Different Versions Of The Same Thing.

To get us started, I select the song “Common People” by Pulp.

First, here’s the original music video:

Second, here’s a short comic by Jamie Hewlett illustrating the lyrics:
Pulp Common People

Third, here’s William Shatner, Ben Folds and Joe “Into The Night” Jackson covering the song on the Tonight Show:

(Sweet tapdancing Christ, Joe Jackson looks like Gollum fucked Abe Sapien)

Fourth, here’s Chris Sims’ Photoshop of an Archie Comic strip:
Archie Common People Pulp

And Fifth and Finally, here’s a personal anecdote about the song:

Not this past Wednesday but Wednesday a week, I hit up karaoke at the Asgard – voted Boston’s best karaoke in the Phoenix – as per usual. I covered Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” with Rachel V. for my first song and, for lack of inspiration, fell back on “Common People” for my second.

As a sop to irony, I usually sing it in the style of Shatner / Jackson, as pictured above: a staccato, querying monotone for the first verse and a half, then a bolt-upright trill for the remainder of the song. So I’m sitting on the corner of a table, nursing half a shooter of Jameson and murmuring into the mic, when I think I hear someone say: this song sucks.

It doesn’t ruffle me; nothing ruffles me when I’m putting on an act. But if you’re going to hate on the current singer in karaoke – a favorite pastime of mine, don’t get me wrong – you never do it loud enough for them to hear you. Sure enough, I hear it again a few seconds later: boo. Terrible song.

A woman in her late thirties, early forties stands at a table at about my ten o’clock. I suspect she came with the larger and equally drunk party that monopolized the mic earlier in the evening. I remember one intoxicated night hag faking a grind on one of our friends while he sang, after stumbling up to the DJ booth to put in her own request. Those folks had left half an hour ago, or so I thought. Apparently two of them remained.

Boo. What an awful song.

Maybe she just dislikes Shatner’s delivery, I thought – shocker, I know – so I went out of my way to sell the hand-off. “But … but she didn’t understand,” I mumbled. “SHE JUST SMILED AND HELD MY HA-A-AND!” I took off like a rocket.

This song sucks!

Despite the gentle pleading of her hopefully sober friend, she continued to repeat the same three or four criticisms every few seconds, in increasingly louder tones. Clearly she wanted more than to make her opinion known, since everyone within three tables knew it by now. She chanted her condemnation like a litany against taste and soul. Protect me from my betters, she seemed to say.

Boo. Terrible song.

She spit that last one during the four-bar keyboard solo that made up the bridge. “Thank you, ma’am,” I told her, looking her dead in the eye.

No, it’s — you’re good, the song sucks …

“No, thank you. Really. I appreciate it. You’re a big help.”

Four, three, two, one, and, “Sing along with the common people! Sing along and it might just get you through! Laugh along with the common people!”

I strutted up to the edge of her table, pointing right at her face. At 6’5″, my armspan covered half the distance between us. “Laugh along with them while they’re laughing at you! And those stupid things you do! ‘Cause you think being poor is coo-oo-ool!” She didn’t seem any more conscious of it than anything else I did; maybe she was that drunk. But I wasn’t doing it for her benefit.

Returning to my corner of the stage, I chanted the song’s abbreviated close (“I want to live with common people like you”) into a slow, steady crescendo. Applause, handshakes, high-fives. Then I hit the road.

Your turn. If your Five Different Versions of the Same Thing are also media-heavy, feel free to post them in your own blog and link to them in the comments.


12 Responses

  1. Wow, I didn’t notice that going on. How uncouth!

    Speaking of the song, though. I always have trouble figuring out when Jasper is being ironic vs sincere. Because I mean, the song decries romanticizing poverty but is guilty of doing the same thing, right?

    Have you ever heard Pulp’s “Cocaine Socialism,” a rarity from the “This is Hardcore” era, about when Jasper was (apocryphally?) invited to meet Tony Blair “to discuss your contribution to the future of our nation’s heart and soul?” I think you’d like it.

  2. And of course, duh, I meant Jarvis in the above post. Obviously I should wait until I drink my coffee before hitting “Submit.”

  3. You mean whoever you want to mean, baby.

  4. I didn’t hear that woman do that. I do recall that particular group, however, since they felt the need to stand between me and the little TV with the lyrics of “Summer of ’69,” forcing me to have to turn my back to the audience to finish it. When I tried to shoo that b**ch out the way, she just get me an “uh, huh, whatever, you WANT this ass white boy” look as she proceeded to turn around and probably badmouth me to her friends.

  5. Nicely done, white boy.

  6. I prefer the Shatner album version to the original. Jarvis Cocker basically always wants to have sex with the audience so it’s difficult for me to sense the class rage. Shatner and Joe Jackson sound actively PISSED.

  7. That lady and her friends are not what makes kareoke at the Asgard the best karoke in Boston.

  8. I love that you posted this. I would’ve probably punched that lady; I love “Common People.” It’s one of the greatest songs of the ’90s.

    And I would echo Bob’s comments re: “Cocaine Socialism,” which is the song that outlines the close of the Britpop era. It’s based on (real life) events that occurred when Tony Blair, just after becoming PM, invited many Britpop luminaries to Downing Street, allegedly to request that they use their own influence to help him achieve his initiatives… because he was “one of them.” With the exception of Oasis, who always seemed to enjoy being part of the establishment, this newfound role so horrified many of the other musicians that Britpop (and the “Cool Brittania” movement it spawned) self destructed in a pile of guilt and shame. The song makes Blair look like an utter toolbag and makes some rather serious allegations of cocaine use that may or may not be true, but it’s one of the most savage, biting songs ever written. It was originally scheduled to be the first single from “This is Hardcore” but Jarvis Cocker pulled it from the album altogether last minute because he felt it was too mean-spirited.

    Also, yes, Joe Jackson has become a very, very ugly man.

  9. I love Joe Jackson, including his looks. He’s a god damn genius and I love him. Can I say it again? Love. Him.

    Okay, I’m done. Oh, no I’m not! I love him. Love the shit out of him.

  10. I’m late to the party; I had to assemble all my things! But here’s a ramble about a ramble, inspired by your meme:

  11. I’m just glad somebody played along!

  12. Fantastic post, thanks a lot!

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