COMMON PEOPLE IN ART ARE AN ENDANGERED SPECIES
In honour of all the outrageous and blatantly unaffordable tuition fees being charged for currently advertised art courses, MAs, PhDs, and summer schools, and in honour of all the potential artists and other creative people who won’t ever be able to afford them, I present Common People by Pulp. This mordant story about meeting a rich and very thick girl slumming it at art college is almost twenty years old, but even more depressing than time’s habit of passing ever more rapidly as one ages is the fact that not only have things not got any better since 1996 but they’ve actually got worse. Probably the likes of Jarvis Cocker (or myself) would have even less chance of getting anywhere near any form of higher education than we did in the 1980s and 1990s. The rich, very thick girls reign over all now. There was an article in The Guardian last week about art history courses these days being being little more than finishing schools for the very poshest of the posh privately educated girls, for example. This song is less a Britpop period piece and more like a prescient documentary on the 2010s if you’ve visited an art college or met art students recently… and seen the stupid things they do because they think that poor is cool.
She came from Greece / She had a thirst for knowledge / She studied sculpture at Saint Martin’s College / That’s where I caught her eye
She told me that her dad was loaded / I said, “In that case I’ll have rum and Coca-Cola” / She said, “Fine” / And then in 30 seconds time, she said
I want to live like common people / I want to do whatever common people do / I want to sleep with common people / I want to sleep with common people like you / Well what else could I do? / I said, “I’ll see what I can do”
I took her to a supermarket / I don’t know why / But I had to start it somewhere / So it started there / I said, “Pretend you’ve got no money” / But she just laughed and said, “Oh, you’re so funny” / I said, “Yeah, but I can’t see anyone else smiling in here / Are you sure…
You wanna live like common people / You wanna see whatever common people see / Wanna sleep with common people / You wanna sleep with common people like me?” / But she didn’t understand / And she just smiled and held my hand
Rent a flat above a shop / Cut your hair and get a job / Smoke some fags and play some pool / Pretend you never went to school / But still you’ll never get it right / ‘Cause when you’re laid in bed at night / Watching roaches climb the wall / If you called your dad he could stop it all, yeah
You’ll never live like common people / You’ll never do whatever common people do / You’ll never fail like common people / You’ll never watch your life slide out of view / And then dance and drink and screw / Because there’s nothing else to do
Sing along with the common people / Sing along and it might just get you through / Laugh along with the common people / Laugh along even though they’re laughing at you / And the stupid things that you do / Because you think that poor is cool
Bonus (?) material: William Shatner version. It was considerably funnier before he was in on the joke and it became a knowing, hipster-pandering routine, but Shatner still can’t quite restrain himself from taking a massive steaming shitner all over any song that has the misfortune to cross his path. Common People is no exception. Jaw-droppingly awful and wrong even though he’s now sort of doing it on purpose, but nonetheless there’s something strangely right about it too. Captain Kirk would definitely hate-fuck a poor little rich girl and then give her an angry earbashing about her morals, and here’s what it would sound like.
PS: Finding this turd on Youtube led me to discover that even more recently, Shatner and Bootsy Collins committed an unprovoked assault on Thomas Dolby’s She Blinded Me With Science, which is already one of the most obscure and inexplicable hit records of the twentieth century even without being reinterpreted by confused senior citizens. How the hell Bootsy Collins got involved at all is beyond my ken, but I imagine he just had time to do one take in the studio before the care assistants worked out where he was and gently took him back to his room for some sleeping tablets.