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Good Pop Bad Pop Ancient Champion gets all inspired by Jarvis Cocker's inspirations...

Good Pop Bad Pop

Ancient Champion gets all inspired by Jarvis Cocker's inspirations...

by Ancient Champion, Columnist
first published: July, 2022

approximate reading time: minutes

"I now realised that I'd been surrounded by inspiration all along" - Jarvis

Good Book CoverGood Pop Bad Pop
Jarvis Cocker
- Designed by Julian House
(Jonathan Cape)

What Jarvis has done with Good Pop Bad Pop is really quite brilliant, ripping up the typically turgid rock biog format and starting again. Oh… wait, that was another of my favourites who did that original ripping up and starting again. haha. No apologies  for the PreBritPop reference for old folks and popcultural anthropologists. I am going to attempt to redress my digression. Good Pop Bad Pop is an alternative means of delivering that time honoured text that trundles through a life largely less well spent in strictly predictable 4/4 time as evidenced in sundry entirely put-downable rock biogs that I have both really wanted to put down and still somehow failed to do so, instead when reaching the part with the namechecked redeeming art teacher or whatever, treating the page with Bonjela. Investing large fractions of whatever time I have left. Conversely, Jarvis - does anyone need his last name - delivers a book that works as a chronological cultural catalogue, an outsider-collector fascinator and a small, delineated visual er, feast or feat or treat, too, and an excellent A-Z of how he got here, all at one time. 

And you don’t have to be a Jarvis fan to love this book

You will get some of the dull details too, to let you keep your bearings about you, that stuff that is normally part of any rock bio; working class lives are rarely wholly joyous and often insipid in passage and lacking although sometimes unknowingly so. Where was I headed before Father Joe came into my life banging his Drum? Jarvis provides us with so much as you might hope and expect. More, more, more thanks to that thing that makes Jarvis’ career output so great so far - translating his otherworldly observational powers into those tiny details we’ve loved so much on his recordings and radio shows over well, decades now. It feels like he’s been at least partly excellent forever, in a good way.

I saw him once, you know, years ago. I was visiting London and great, great friends brought me to  Quo Vadis on Dean Street, to see stars, I think. Always a good plan. And maybe to experience London Pint prices. For they are like no other. For a tourist like me seeing Jarvis, and Robbie Williams, in the same bar at the same time was really something. It really was something I was quite oh whatever nonchalant about really, while hanging onto the details even now twenty-five years later.

The premise of Good Pop Bad Pop is real. Real enough to be recreated as a reality TV show. Jarvis In Your Loft. (Channel 5 soon!) Christ he could do ours. That’s right, Jarvis is finally emptying the loft he’d tried to neglect, put off forever, like many of us do. We would die first. Many of us do that too.  An attic never needs emptying until as they say, the hand is forced. What goes up after all, need never come down. And when discussing lofts don’t let anyone suggest otherwise.  

The difference of course, between those millions of tiny stuffed warehouses perched atop British homes, weighing so heavily over the heads of so many in an ongoing stressful subconscious Sheakespearian psychodrama; a burden above, weighing down more with each passing each year; threatening the plaster of countless bedroom ceilings, as the ageing joists groan and bow. This detritus and this good stuff, mostly just waiting and waiting for the moment it is to be posthumously rehomed in a bin by a less sentimental surviving relative. Or sold to fund some Ford. The difference between those lofts and this, those are not the attic spaces that offer the otherwise massive and magical insight into the mind that made Pulp. One of the UK’s most genuinely idiosyncratic genius creatives of the past 35 years of Pulp culture. Those are lofts full of shit no one wants. But there’s an aspect of what makes Good Pop Bad Pop so lovely, we’re all in this together. With regular rock bios we’re not all on the same escalator to the stars. We’re merely consumers, watching. With Good Pop Bad Pop we’re all well in it together, ascending to the top of the stairs in trepidation and  in hope. Well… There might well be something meaningful up there. Decades later Jarvis is not simply letting go, he is pondering each item deeply before letting relatively few things go. He’s made it a game, a challenge that we can join in and agree or agree to differ or just differ. This book is way fun!

Some of the credit for that is due to the the lovely work of designer Julian House.

Jarvis is great at so many things. Although he's best known for music,  that might be what he is most crap at, a few, incredibly off the scale amazing and entertaining songs aside. Dear God,  though why oh why did he ever give up his award winning Sunday Service 6Music radio show.? Such a palette  cleanser after two hours spent with that Elbow guy. There’s always been something to ruin Sunday for me, three masses as an alter boy, parks locked on Sunday, shops all closed, hard to get beer in Wales, shops open on Sunday once I was old enough to have to work in one, admittedly only for limited hours, then, that guy from Elbow on the radio speaking the links between the recordings that his production assistants pick out for him - apart from the prog ones that he so obviously likes, uuurrrgggh, yuk.  Please Jarvis, go back on the radio on a Sunday afternoon. Abandon all else for the good of the nation.

Good Pop Bad Pop is an artisan's Singing Bowl of a book. All of the poetry of a Different Class is here. I kind of love that working class people seem to push on through the constraints refusing to recognise that they are there. In Jarvis’ book, collectors will recognize themselves, thriftstore Beajaboodee Fashionistas would know of those notebooked clothing plans, musicians indie branding plans. So much to love - most of all, that Jarvis did it and how he did it, how more than most anyone else I can think of in the UK, gets paid for being Jarvis, for just being a star, without desperation, with making us grimace or being embarrassing. That thing, and this book, is a thing of beauty. I’d recommend it to anyone. I’m recommending it to everyone.

Essential Info
Buy Good Pop Bad Pop, here (then the Bearwood Bookshop makes a bit)

Ancient Champion

Ancient Champion writes for OUTSIDELEFT while relentlessly recording and releasing instrumental easy listening music for difficult people. The Champ is working on Public Transport, a new short story collection that takes up where 2021's Six Stories About Motoring Nowhere (Disco City Books) left off. It should be ready in time for the summer holidays. More info at

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