Random Polaroid #1
Jarvis Cocker on how the election of New Labour ushered in a long hangover.
The worst hangover I ever had in my life occurred on the morning of 2 May 1997. On the evening of 1 May, a "playback party" took place at Town House Studios on Goldhawk Road in west London. This meant that certain friends and colleagues were invited to hear unfinished recordings of the songs that would eventually make up the Pulp album This Is Hardcore. Drinks and refreshments were to be provided for the guests, and the band would get to gauge the reaction to the new material they had been working on in a "controlled environment". And 1 May 1997 also happened to be the day of the UK general election.
As events in the country at large began to unfold, so the level of interest in events at the studio began to wane. Once Michael Portillo had lost his seat, the music playback ceased altogether and election coverage was piped through the control-room speakers and projected on to a pull-down screen. After all, this was history: none of us had lived under a Labour government since we had been of voting age. This was our time. Our side was winning. And yet...
I came up with the term "Cocaine Socialism" one night in the Groucho Club in Soho. I was very pleased with myself. Champagne socialism was over, we were the new breed: preaching the doctrine of human brotherhood while ingesting the one substance on earth guaranteed to cause you to lose interest in the rest of mankind. Plus, weren't a socialite and a socialist kind of the same thing anyway? How clever - don't mind if I do...
Anyway, talking of political parties, I'd been invited to the one Labour were going to throw on the South Bank of the Thames if they won. As it became increasingly obvious that they were going to win, I wondered whether or not I should attend. I could be part of this historic occasion. It was just a taxi-ride away. Share the magic. But I didn't go - I carried on watching it on telly. Everyone was getting drunk. The memories become hazy, but I do remember the South Bank celebrations as they were relayed in the studio on the TV later: people hugging each other in the weak early-morning sunlight to the sound of "Things Can Only Get Better" by D:Ream. I thought to myself: "Yeah? Really?" If our side had won then what did that actually mean? Could things "Only Get Better" in a society of people interested "Only In Themselves"?
People trickled home from the studio. My girlfriend spelled out "I Love You All" on the shared lawn behind our apartment in Maida Vale when we got back - using rolls of toilet paper to make the letters. I watched from the balcony. Then we went to bed.
It was when I awoke a few hours later that the aforementioned hangover began. Is there anything on earth more pathetic than a hangover? Anything more likely to induce feelings of self-loathing than the knowledge that the pain you are in is completely self-inflicted? There is no one else to blame: you willingly shoved all that stuff down your neck and now you're getting your just deserts. There is no nobility in the pain of a hangover - only shame. And now I walked through this New Dawn in shame, trying to tune in to the vibrations of the new era but only feeling nauseous, unable to see beyond myself and my headache. It all looked the same as the day before to me; the sunshine just made the dirt show up more.
Thus began the Age of the Hangover. Alka-Seltzer couldn't shift it. Painkillers didn't even dent it. This was how it was going to be from now on. Better get used to it. So I did. Then one day, through the self-pitying fog, a revelation of sorts: this was correct, this was appropriate - it wasn't just me. We were all living in the Age of the Hangover. In fact: welcome to...the Politics of the Hangover!
Because it turned out the 20th century had basically been one long binge and now the 21st was going to be about dealing with the consequences and feeling bad about noxious emissions and footprints and pardon me for breathing (each exhalation is a Carbon Emission, you know). Phew! It made me feel slightly better to know that this was a collective experience rather than just a personal psychosis, but I still had to admit it was a bit of a downer.
So, the hangover of 2 May 1997 was the worst hangover of my life because it lasted 13 years. Until 6 May 2010, to be precise. That was the night the Labour Party was removed from office by something that came to be known as the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition (Con-Dem nation, in some quarters). That's not to say that the election of the coalition government turned out to be the hangover cure I'd been searching for in vain all those years.
No, no, no - that just happens to be the night I started drinking again. l
Pulp will be performing at festivals throughout the summer, starting on 27 May at Primavera Sound in Barcelona, Spain