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Title: ‘Disco 2000’
Where to find it: ‘Different Class’ (1995, Island)
Performed by: Pulp
Words by: Jarvis Cocker

It seems very strange to me that we now look at Jarvis Cocker not so much as the frontman of legendary Sheffield Britpop band Pulp but as the host of BBC 6music weekend programme Sunday Service. It should probably come as no surprise based on the wittiness of his lyrics in those days back when Pulp were chart kings that he’s an excellent presenter and you can’t help getting sucked into his show. (I’m very to sorry to report this, but it looks like he’s taking a break from the 6music controls until 2015, so if you want some Northern flavour, you’ll just have to be content with Guy Garvey‘s Finest Hour in the meantime.)

Right. So why did I choose this song? It’s been in the back of my mind for a long time. There used to be this wonderful Britpop / indie night at the Black Cat in DC called Razzmatazz that my friends and I used to go to. We’d be there for hours and it was one of the few dances I actually enjoyed, because I’d know all the songs. (It also helped that I knew the one of the DJs, so I could request songs ahead of time. He had been so grateful for the bands I’d tipped him off to, such as Golden Silvers.) I always watched the huge response on the floor for Pulp’s ‘Common People’ and ‘Disco 2000’ with some level of amazement. I still have these images of these girls in big skirts and heels going absolutely mental for both songs, which conflicted with what was going on in my mind, “um, isn’t this some serious stuff he’s talking about in the song?” Of course, when you’re out with your drunk friends on a night out, that’s probably not the best time to start any philosophical talk…

Most of the songwriters that I like have one thing in common: they tend not to go for the obvious in either theme or word choice. With Jarvis Cocker, you always knew he was going to give you something left of centre. Back in the ’60s during the psychedelic era, there was all this talk about being individuals. What Pulp wanted was an extension of that, “we don’t want no trouble, we just want the right to be different. That’s all.” They were different. I’m just wondering how many people realised just how different they were, if that makes sense.

First, the words:

Verse 1
Well we were born within 1 hour of each other.
Our mothers said we could be sister and brother.
Your name is Deborah, Deborah.
It never suited ya.
They said that when we grew up,
we’d get married, and never split up.
We never dated, although often I thought of it.

Pre-chorus
Oh Deborah, do you recall?
Your house was very small,
with wood chip on the wall.
When I came around to call,
you didn’t notice me at all.

Chorus
I said, “let’s all meet up in the year 2000.
Won’t it be strange when we’re all fully grown.
Be there 2 o’clock by the fountain down the road.”
I never knew that you’d get married.
I would be living down here on my own
on that damp and lonely Thursday years ago.

Verse 2
You were the first girl at school to get breasts.
Martin said that yours were the best.
The boys all loved you but I was a mess.
I had to watch them trying to get you undressed.
We were friends but that was as far as it went.
I used to walk you home sometimes but it meant,
oh it meant nothing to you,
‘cos you were so popular.

Pre-chorus
Deborah, do you recall?
Your house was very small,
with woodchip on the wall.
When I came around to call,
you didn’t notice me at all.

Chorus
I said, “let’s all meet up in the year 2000.
Won’t it be strange when we’re all fully grown.
Be there 2 o’clock by the fountain down the road.
I never knew that you’d get married.
I would be living down here on my own
on that damp and lonely Thursday years ago.

Bridge
Oh yeah,
oh yeah.

(spoken)
And now it’s all over,
You’ve paid your money and you’ve taken your choice
And I don’t know if we’ll ever meet again
But Deborah, I just wanted you to know
I remember every single thing

Pre-chorus
Oh Deborah, do you recall?
Your house was very small,
with wood chip on the wall.
When I came around to call,
you didn’t notice me at all.

Extended chorus
I said let’s all meet up in the year 2000.
Won’t it be strange when we’re all fully grown.
Be there 2 o’clock by the fountain down the road.
I never knew that you’d get married.
I would be living down here on my own,
on that damp and lonely Thursday years ago.

Outro
Oh, what are you doing Sunday, baby.
Would you like to come and meet me maybe?
You can even bring your baby.
Ohhh ooh ooh. Ooh ooh ooh ooh.
What are you doing Sunday, baby.
Would you like to come and meet me maybe?
You can even bring your baby.
Ooh ooh oh. Ooh ooh ooh ooh. Ooh ooh ooh ooh. Oh.

Now, the analysis:

Cocker has said the lyrics are based on personal experience, with the fountain mentioned being one that exists in Sheffield. I hate the term “friend zone”, but there really is no other way to describe such a situation: we’ve all grown up with people of the opposite sex we’ve found attractive (physically, mentally, or otherwise) and for whatever reason, we never end up with them. There are scores of reasons why this happens. Sometimes we’re scared of losing the friendships that matter and we decide it’s safer to play “what if” for the rest of our lives instead of risking rejection and possibly banishment from our friends’ lives, because they mean too much to us. Sometimes it’s clear the other person doesn’t like us like that and we make the voluntary choice to stay in that person’s life, even if it hurts just being around him or her. In any event, being in the friend zone is not a pleasant thing. It is fraught with the worry of embarrassing yourself, making social gaffes in front of the other person, etc. etc. etc. Not a good place to be in. And all because your silly heart had to get involved!

‘Disco 2000′ is quite deceptive because at the end, it sounds like the protagonist is okay with reuniting with the crush of his young life, even offering up “you can even bring your baby” when they meet in the year 2000. But is he really thinking that? As a woman, I think I’d avoid meeting the wife and/or children of guys I used to like in my school days. Why risk putting yourself in a situation that might stir up feelings inside, no matter how long time has passed? That’s why I’m thinking, why oh why in god’s name would he agree to see her baby? Wouldn’t that just tear him up inside, having to see the product of this woman he loved in secret when they were kids and the guy she just happened to end up with? (I know, maybe the guy she married isn’t so bad at all. But I’m speaking to the protagonist’s emotional investment in this woman, which trumps all.)

From the start, Cocker makes it clear that there was some part of destiny that they had become friends. They were born on the same day, within the same hour. (This bit sounded strange and pushing it to me, but okay. Go on, storyteller Jarvis.) Their mothers knew each other, and people joked that because they were so close, they expected them to get married when they were older. Not so uncommon: I hear stories like this all the time, but more from my parents’ generation than my own, and if the “wood chip” wallpaper properly dates the song, they were kids back in the ’60s and ’70s. Meeting in the year 2000 would mean they’d be in their 40s or 50s by the time they met.

As the song goes on, it becomes clearer that the 21st century equivalent to this song is Taylor Swift’s ‘You Belong With Me’. Sometimes it’s fantastic having a friend of the opposite sex. You can be yourself around him/her. It’s nice to have someone with you who looks out for you and cares about you, and all the while you don’t have to worry all he/she cares about is getting into your pants. You trust each other as friends. The problem comes along when you’ve determined you have feelings for that other person and have sit on the sidelines, while others of your sex go after your friend. You can’t do anything, because you’ve already have indicated you don’t have romantic feelings for your friend. Uncomfortable much?

In both songs, it sounds like it’s not so much what the person singing it could have done but that he/she was invisible to the other person, having so many more prominent, interesting people in her life to occupy her time: “I used to walk you home sometimes / but it meant, oh it meant nothing to you / ‘cos you were so popular.” I can’t really say what is causing the invisibility, as it’s happened so many times in my life with guys, it’s become ridiculous, and I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t know how it happens. Maybe it’s true what they say, nice guys/girls finish last? “I never knew that you’d get married / I would be living down here on my own / on that damp and lonely Thursday years ago”: in 20/20 hindsight, he is kicking himself for not having done anything. Time seems to past so quickly, doesn’t it? Time has escaped him, and he realises the error of his ways: that “damp and lonely Thursday years ago” seemed to be one tiny, inconsequential unit of time while in the moment, but now it’s looming large in his psyche. He made a mistake, he should have done something then, and now he can’t go back. “The boys all loved you but I was a mess”: not sure what made him “a mess” but maybe he was not in a position to do anything? Maybe he was conflicted on how he should act?

Going back to those lines when he’s imploring this woman to come meet him and bring her baby – part of her now matured life – I get very uncomfortable when Jarvis sings, “Oh what are you doing Sunday, baby”. It’s like he’s trying to infantilise her by calling her “baby”, as if that would be the magic pill that would take them back to those “years ago”. And his effort here is now coming across as cocky. He’s trying desperately to make things light but I hear them coming through loud and clear as “I’m sad and lonely”. Even the “oohs” at the end are uncomfortable to me. Why he is so happy? Or maybe he’s doing what Morrissey has done so many times so deftly: made a song that is filled with hurt and pain but disguised it behind a ‘happy’ melody that it’s virtually undetectable, just that Morrissey prefers “lalalas” over “ooh ooh oohs”. (Okay, that just looks weird in print…)

One of those girls in DC in a big skirt and heels dancing blissfully unaware as I mentioned earlier in this analysis, I will never forget what she looked like. The same woman hit me in the face with her elbow and pushed me out of the way the night The Big Pink were in town at the Black Cat, clambering onstage like some kind of lumbering animal to get their set list. I suspect she’s the kind of person I think the meaning of this song will be lost on.

Lastly, the song, in its quirky promo form. The video doesn’t match what’s going on the lyrics, so I don’t know if the band did that on purpose (knowing no-one would want to watch a video that was the lyrics played out literally) but sadly, it takes away from the meaning and cheapens it. (Yes, yes, I know, sex sells…but god almighty, there is more to life than sex, people!) In that respect, I’m really glad I heard the song long before I saw the music video. That said, it’s interesting how a lot of commenters are saying that with its square frame format, this video predicted Instagram years before its arrival. Hmm…

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