Soundtrack of my life: Jarvis Cocker

The Saint Martins College student turned cultural provocateur reveals his inspirations to Will Hodgkinson

The first song I heard
Where do you go to (my lovely), Peter Sarstedt (1969)

I'm interested in the way songs stick with you and mean different things at different times. When I was four or five this really scared me because of the line "I can look inside your head". Years later, I was in Amsterdam and declaiming the song to my then-girlfriend, and I almost had a citizen's arrest put on me by passers-by who objected to my rendition. Then recently I was watching an awful Piers Morgan programme about Monte Carlo, and I was reminded of the song again as it describes a poor girl from Naples joining the jet-set.

My first love affair
Burning up, Madonna (1983)

I started going out with this girl when I was 21 - I was a late developer - and she wasn't really bothered about music. She had three records: Madonna's first album, Parade by Prince and, weirdly, Howard Devoto's solo album. At the time I would never have listened to Madonna, being Mr Alternative, but being limited by my girlfriend's musical choices I found myself hearing this track a lot, and ultimately really liking it. It educated me about my latent musical snobbishness. Hearing it now reminds me of a happy period.

The song that reminds me of art school
French Kiss, Lil Louis (1989)

It's the end of the 80s and the beginning of my raving days, and this track encapsulates that time. If you described it to someone it would be nudge nudge, wink wink because it features a woman faking an orgasm, but it's revolutionary. It features one riff that goes on and on, and when you're at one of those parties and you might have partaken of a substance it makes perfect sense. It exists in its own space-time continuum and certainly isn't a song in a normal sense: more a stimulus for dancing based around a simulated orgasm.

The song that reminds me of my son
Milk and alcohol, Dr Feelgood (1978)

It's unfortunate that I associate this with my five-year-old, and it certainly doesn't mean I've been using alcohol to pacify him. I'd look at the most played list on iTunes - it's interesting because you create your own charts that way - and I was surprised that this was in the top five. Then I realised: my son had learned to use my computer and he kept playing Milk and Alcohol. The composer Raymond Scott made great electronic music for kids, but that gets taken off as soon as I put it on. Why my son likes Dr Feelgood so much, I don't know.

The last song I heard
The whole world's got the eyes on you, Legendary Tigerman (2008)

It's important to be looking for new things, to stay interested. I was wandering around Paris recently when I went into a new record shop and they were playing this. Legendary Tigerman appears to be a guy from Portugal without the greatest grip of English, if you go by the title. This song sounds a bit like Alan Vega from Suicide when he went solo - minimal rockabilly made by a guy with a guitar and a drum machine. Tigerman's got a highly designed website, and he likes pictures of himself with naked or semi-naked women.

Strange and possibly true

1 Cocker's mother maintains that gravel-voiced singer Joe Cocker - no relation - fitted the fire for her first flat in Sheffield in the early 60s.

2 The first song Cocker ever wrote, Shakespeare Rock, features the line: "Said baby you make me sick / She said Alas, poor Yorick."

3 His biggest hit with Pulp, Common People, was based on the story of a fellow pupil at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, who could have been on any fine art course but "sculpture" sounded better.

4 Playing with the pegs of a toy guitar, Cocker's son created an unusual tuning that he then used as the basis for two songs on his 2006 debut solo album.

5 His second solo album, due to be released in May, has been produced by former Big Black and Rapeman frontman Steve Albini.

Listen to this playlist on Spotify


Will Hodgkinson

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

CD: Jarvis Cocker, Jarvis

Our guest editor's debut solo album is suffused with the fear of 21st century Britain, and is all the better for it, says Jon Savage.

Jon Savage

15, Oct, 2006 @2:13 PM

Article image
Soundtrack of my life: Paul Weller

If you want to define the taste of a generation, play air guitar in front of the TV. Will Hodgkinson pretends to strum along

Will Hodgkinson

09, Nov, 2008 @12:01 AM

Soundtrack of my life: Lenny Kravitz

The archetypal funky rocker tells Will Hodgkinson how a man in ankle-high boots, underpants and an overcoat inspired him

Will Hodgkinson

17, Feb, 2008 @1:38 PM

Article image
Soundtrack of my life: Terry Hall
As the Specials return, the singer tells Will Hodgkinson about classic threads, dreads and odd Sunday dinners

Will Hodgkinson

15, Mar, 2009 @12:01 AM

Article image
Soundtrack of my life: Duffy

She's up for four Brit awards, but which song got her booed on a school bus? Will Hodgkinson finds out

Will Hodgkinson

15, Feb, 2009 @12:01 AM

Soundtrack of my life: Mary J Blige

The R&B star tells Will Hodgkinson why Chaka Khan is just timeless and that, Amy aside, soul's new school can't compare

Will Hodgkinson

16, Mar, 2008 @12:11 AM

Article image
Soundtrack of my life: Tom Jones

The voice of the valleys reveals to Will Hodgkinson why sounding 'nice' was never an option for him...

Will Hodgkinson

07, Dec, 2008 @12:01 AM

Soundtrack of my life: Bobby Gillespie

The Primal Scream star tells Will Hodgkinson about the respect he has for Johnny Rotten and why he mobbed Link Wray

Will Hodgkinson

18, May, 2008 @10:20 AM

Soundtrack of my life: Mark Ronson

The producer-turned-star sees no shame in liking grebo, and blames the Cult for the loss of his coat, learns Craig McLean

Craig McLean

19, Apr, 2008 @11:00 PM

Will Young

The inaugural Pop Idol winner tells Will Hodgkinson how a wolf and the Spiders from Mars shaped his love of music

Interview by Will Hodgkinson

09, Aug, 2008 @11:01 PM