Thursday, August 20, 2009

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS IN POPULAR SONG NO. 3


'DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME?'

‘Do You Remember the First Time?’ was the third single from Pulps 1994 album ‘His n’ Hers’, following the releases Babies and Lipgloss from the same record. Pulp’s lyrics are refreshingly direct and often gritty, revealing the underbelly of modern life. Set to the familiar and upbeat structure of the pop song, the juxtaposition of the sordid subject matter of the lyrics, creates an interesting, yet simultaneously successful product; a contrast that has previously proven effective for bands like The Smiths.

It is readily accepted that ‘the first time’ refers to a sexual debut, however, there is the additional theme of an adulterous affair unraveling throughout the piece: ‘I don’t care if you screw him, just as long as you save a piece for me’ as the last line of the chorus, very much reinforces this motif. There is also the scene set in the first verse, where Jarvis Cocker addresses a person who is late returning home to someone who is ‘sitting on his own again this evening’, Cocker is concerned that ‘you’re gonna let him bore your pants off again’ and highlights that ‘you bought a toy that can reach places he never goes’. Why would Cocker be concerned with this unfulfilling union unless he had a vested interest as a lover?

Whereas there does not seem to be any dispute that ‘the first time’ alludes to a carnal experience, it may be the case that Mr Cocker is in fact specifically referring to the first time he and the lover in question made love, not the loss of virginity.

The line ‘now I don’t care what you doing’, suggests that the affair has been going on for some time and ‘we’ve changed so much since then, oh yeah, we’ve grown’ may be indicative that the nature of the relationship has changed, the dynamics altered. This is illustrated by ‘now I don’t care if you screw him’, which indicates that he once did care, that maybe the romantic fervour has faded over time and Cocker is remembering a more impassioned, less jaded time of the liaison.

Despite being rather disparaging towards the established relationship in the first verse, Cocker, in the second verse, accepts that even though he resents the conformist and stayed nature of his lovers home life, that he does feel loneliness ‘Well at least there's someone there that you can talk to, and you never have to face up to the night on your own’. It is possible that Pulp are commenting on the isolation of ‘the other woman’, although in this scenario ‘the other woman’ is Cocker, who is indeed a man. So what does Cocker mean when he says he ‘can’t remember a worse time’ than the first time?

Well, he may be referring to the hiatus of a blossoming affair, the sexual disappointments of early intercourse and the stress that an illicit union brings. He could of course, simply be referring to the inept fumblings of beginners’ sex, but this does not relate well to the lyrical content in the verses, and the theme of the clandestine and grubby affair fits with the broader themes of Pulp’s lyrical content.


Mia Tagg 2009®

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