“Jarvis the lounge suited Romeo reminisces about his first love to whom he is now a distant memory. The thing about this song, when you strip away the melody and the soaring chorus, is that it is one of Pulp’s more powerful moments; urgent, yearning and ferocious but yet fragile, like it would fall apart if you nudged it too hard.”
I’m really proud that such a description of Do You Remember The First Time? appeared previously on the pages of T(n)VV. It was back in August 2015 when a Pulp ICA was lovingly stitched together by Tim Badger who is one-third of the ridiculously talented team involved everyday over at WYRCRA. One of that blog’s other writers – KC – also recently referenced the song in a positive fashion. I’m not sure if SWC has publicly given his approval to the tune but given that he has demonstrated such fine taste over the years it would be a major shock of he was to give a thumbs-down to this #33 hit from March 1995.
It was the, coincidentally, the single that enabled Pulp to crack the Top 40 for the first time and it came at the fourteenth time of asking. Every one of their singles afterwards – and there were eleven of them – charted in the Top 30, including five successive Top 10 singles when they were at the height of their popularity. I reckon it would make for a good pub argument as to which few minutes of recorded material actually made for Jarvis & co’s finest ever achievement – you only need to refer back here to said ICA to see the extent of some of the songs that would qualify for consideration.
I’d like to make the case for First Time, although it is hard to add much to the succinct summary offered by Tim. It is a song in which the memorable chorus is matched by an equally memorable and infectiously danceable tune. It has that rare quality of a tune that seems to be fading out on itself just at the right point in time only for it to come back for once last hurrah on the back of Jarvis shouting ‘hey’.
It’s the triumph of a band who, having more than paid their dues with the flop singles and suffered at the hands of a music press that repeatedly said they’d never amount to anything, showing that they in fact held all the aces and were now here not only to clean out the banker but every single player sitting at the poker table.
Once heard, never forgotten. It’s as infectiously catchy as any pop tune written for the latest manufactured combo to emerge from a TV talent show; it’s as heavily anthemic as any rock tune from those who can sell out stadiums in minutes; it’s as indie and hip as the next underground sensation that those ‘in the know’ are tipping for stardom.
It puts a smile on my face every single time I hear it.
Oh, and quite possibly, the song most capable than any other that’s ever been written of conjuring an entirely different memory for each and every member of a listening audience.
It’s also worth highlighting that it’s two fairly experimental b-sides are also of a very high standard; the first is Jarvis at his imperiously, creepy and seedy best; it’s an epic part spoken/part sung effort stretching out to the best part of six minutes with a story line that seems to lends itself perfectly to a film noir. It’s also not a million miles removed from the sort of dark stuff Marc Almond was penning at onset of Soft Cell’s career.
mp3 : Pulp – Street Lites
The third track is something that if played to most folk unnanounced would have them struggling to correctly name the band for at least the first 90-odd seconds of what is out-and-out krautrock (or possibly even prog rock) until the familiar voice comes in. A fair bit more rocky stuff ensues before the conclusion of the tale with its little sting in the final line.
mp3 : Pulp – The Babysitter