Ed Webster/Flickr

He wants to commute like common people do.

Public transit announcements can be useful, but they rarely sound like a lewd suggestion—unless they’re read by Britpop alumnus Jarvis Cocker, that is. To mark last Friday’s BBC Music Day, the former Pulp frontman re-recorded the voiceover announcement for Sheffield, England’s Supertram light rail network. Read by Cocker in a mock seductive tone, it’s a speech most people in the northern English city will recognize instantly: Its warning to passengers to “hold tight, please” (now something of a local catchphrase) rendered by Cocker to sound less like a warning and more like an invitation.

The pairing of Cocker’s voice and Sheffield’s tram could hardly be more apt. Both products of the same hometown, Sheffield’s Supertram was launched in 1994, on the same day that Pulp released their single “Do You Remember the First Time”—and much like Pulp themselves, the service was a slow starter initially deemed a failure. More broadly, much of Pulp’s music has celebrated their ex-industrial home city, bringing it to life as a faintly neglected, off-the-trail place where beauty still pushes up through the cracks. Pulp’s Sheffield is an unforgettable place, appearing as a place of equal romance and menace, at times full of unkempt magic (in songs such Sheffield, Sex City or Wickerman) and at times a place where just looking a bit different can get you beaten up.

It’s not clear if it’s for official use or just an unusual project from Cocker, but who better to be the voice of commuting in Sheffield? Above all, Pulp’s music isn’t about glamour, at least not the obvious kind. It’s mainly concerned with people living the kind of humdrum lives most of us recognize—one that involves muddling through with options sharply limited by money and making expedient, provisional choices that can only look cool from the privileged outside. As their anthem “Common People” makes clear, it isn’t music about people speeding past in fast cars. It’s about the people those cars speed past at the bus or tram stop, wondering if their tram is ever going to come.

 

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. animated illustration: cars, bikes, scooters and drones in motion.
    Transportation

    This City Was Sick of Tech Disruptors. So It Decided to Become One.

    To rein in traffic-snarling new mobility modes, L.A. needed digital savvy. Then came a privacy uproar, a murky cast of consultants, and a legal crusade by Uber.

  2. photo: Cranes on the skyline in Oakland, California
    Life

    How to Make a Housing Crisis

    The new book Golden Gates details how California set itself up for its current affordability crunch—and how it can now help build a nationwide housing movement.

  3. photo: bicyclists in Paris during a transit strike in December.
    Transportation

    Paris Mayor: It's Time for a '15-Minute City'

    In her re-election campaign, Mayor Anne Hidalgo says that every Paris resident should be able to meet their essential needs within a short walk or bike ride.

  4. Stuff

    All Your Favorite British TV Shows, Mapped

    Oh, so that’s where the U.K. version of The Office takes place.

  5. Design

    How We Map Epidemics

    Cartographers are mapping the coronavirus in more sophisticated ways than past epidemics. But visualizing outbreaks dates back to cholera and yellow fever.

×