One of the broken biscuits – taking the “scenic route” with “Mother, Brother, Lover” by Jarvis Cocker

jarvis brother

Alisha Ahmed delves into Jarvis Cocker’s book of lyrics ‘Mother, Brother, Lover’.

-we don’t look the same as you, we don’t do the things you do-
What did you want to be when you were a kid? A fireman? A ballerina? Maybe a pop star?
Well, I’ve wanted to be a music business woman since I was twelve: ever since the day I first went to a gig, experienced the frenzy and deemed that emotion worthy to be spread around, and I wanted to be part of the reasons for it to be around. I had no idea what I wanted to be or to do exactly, I was not much interested in the stage myself, but I wanted to be part of the circus nonetheless.

-we learnt too much at school, now we can’t help but see-
At that age, one of my coveted Christmas present was Different Class by Pulp. I looked up to Jarvis even when I had no conception of what he was actually saying/singing about, that clever understated class of His was something I took as an example to follow though, and if you think about it, there are many worse things to be raised on than the style of Jarvis Cocker.

This Christmas 2011 is the sixteenth Christmas I survive since that, and without asking, now someone who learnt to know me very well and quite deeply gave me Jarvis’ first lyrics’ book “Mother, Brother, Lover”. I received quite a few presents but this is definitely my highlight.
And in less than twelve hours since I opened its gift-wrapping, it has already become “my precious”. I caress its cover, I want to experience it like a child would want candy, so I don’t know if I want a mouthful, and so I should skip quickly through pages to take the more I can of it in, or if I want to savour it, and so I should just start from the beginning, page by page, and experience it the way a book it’s supposed to be experienced: cover to cover. I am no good at common rules, so the second option has already been ditched, and after page fifty-one, I have already stumbled upon the credits page.

-brothers, sisters, can’t you see? the future’ s owned by you and me-
There, Jarvis thanks his literary agents, among which there is Jeannette Lee. Jeannette Lee of Rough Trade. And I am not surprised. Geoff (Travis) and her have been managing Pulp since the early 90s, and are the main reason for Island finally signing them in 1992, their relationship is quite strong and I believe one of the few genuine ones in this business. I don’t believe there is something that woman can’t do. I have never looked up to someone the way I used to look up at her. They say John Lennon wanted to be Elvis, well I was looking at Jeannette that same way.
I have the feeling that growing up with music being such a crucial part of your evolution and of the things you look for, you inevitably become a tad bit more romantic, unrealistically romantic, over anything that can inspire emotions in you.

-you could end up with a smack in the mouth just for standing out-
But with this treacle-sticky romanticism, I don’t think Jeannette ever took me seriously when I started to send her cover letters that sounded more like love letters to a lifestyle, begging Her to let me make tea, but be part of the dream-making Rough Trade was doing, and in the end, things didn’t quite go according to plan. I was never entitled to walk through the doors of 66 Golborne Road, but what was behind those glass doors wasn’t just a bunch of people providing (really good) music to the world: it was a philosophy, a take on life, and if ideas are bullet proof, they are also quite difficult to restrain within glass, or doors, or both: so today I am 50% of Gin in Teacups, and even if it’s in a way I never got to picture before, I try and do what was done for me sixteen years ago: I bring spectacular music to people, and I investigate it to see if the human beings producing it have sparkling minds and souls just as their music and lyrics suggest. I have met very few disappointments since this adventure started, which makes me believe that in different times different means are needed to get to the same result: reach out to kindred spirits.

-what’s the point of being rich if you can’t think what to do with it ‘cos you’re so bleeding thick?-
The reason music becomes so important to us has everything to do with the way it can talk to us, the way another human being sees things the way we do. And the thoughts and perspectives of Jarvis Cocker, delivered in his lyrics, represent a whole world of dignified rebellion for working minds and makes me realise that what felt common and natural in 1995 was really standing out already instead. If felt natural to us because we were the misfits. And we still are. Paved roads and all that are the comfort of the day to day aspirations. But the people Jarvis is talking about, is talking to, these people look further, even to things that look the same after sixteen years. Different names (the lottery and its promise of easy money back in 94′, reality TV and the promise of easy fame today) but same it’s point: people get stuck in the idea of easy and quick comfort without having educated themselves to the meaning and use of how such comfort if obtained, they’d be totally irresponsible (and they are) like a child with a loaded gun.

-we want the things you won’t allow us. We won’t use guns, we won’t use bombs We’ll use the one thing we’ve got more of – that’s our minds-
Now did we change the world? Did we start a raid?
No. But we kept on feeling the responsibility to say “the king is naked” when something like the X-Factor was repeatedly crowned as Christmas number one and the new music savior in the digital era of intellectual thieves.
We felt the responsibility to keep at use the one thing we’ve got more of.
And that’s the reason all the songs, every lyric and basically Jarvis’ take on the world, still makes perfect sense and did not age at all. Because He was never only speaking to a generation, but to what, from different sides, has been defined either as an elite or an apartheid: that group of people that in every time and every generation have had and will have their eyes opened to what is going on around them, a willingness to learn and develop thoughts and ideas and won’t simply accept truths shoved down their throats, but will make their own mind in an educated way, self-educated if necessary, but never superficial.

Jarvis Cocker is the champion of the working minds in his time. And it is just likely that because of this, his words will resonate just as clear in different times, that is, until intelligence will go out of fashion.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.