On the 30 October 1995, Pulp released their fifth studio album: Different Class.
Featuring songs about everyday working class life set to an eclectic fusion of disco, pop and rock, Different Class is a masterpiece- as well as providing the ’90s Britpop era with a defining moment, the album is now widely considered to be one of the best ever made.
Although Pulp famously hailed from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, there are many locations in and around London connected with their most iconic work.
To celebrate Different Class’ silver anniversary, let’s take a virtual tour of those sites…
St Barnabas Church, Vine Road, East Molesey KT8
“LOCATION: St Barnabas Church, East Molesey. TIME: 12pm, Saturday 12 August 1995. EVENT: Sharon & Dominic’s Wedding”
The album cover for Different Class features a wedding photo with black and white cardboard cut-outs of Pulp’s band members standing amongst the guests.
The image was snapped on the afternoon of Saturday 12 August 1995 in the grounds of St Barnabas Church, East Molesey; a short distance from Hampton Court.
The event was a real wedding- the marriage of Dominic and Sharon O’Connor.
Dominic’s brother, Ben was friends with photographer, Donald Milne who was working on the artwork for Different Class at the time.
As a favour, Donald agreed to come along and provide some wedding photography for free- provided he could bring along the cardboard cutouts and take a few extra shots with them mixed in.
Townhouse Studios, Goldhawk Road, Shepherds Bush W12
“Please understand. We don’t want no trouble. We just want the right to be different. That’s all”
Different Class was recorded at the former Townhouse Studios (aka ‘The Town House’); a facility established by Richard Branson in 1978.
Many other acts, including Queen, The Jam, Elton John, Kate Bush, Phil Collins and Oasis also put music together here.
The studio closed in 2008 and, with depressing inevitability, the building has subsequently been converted into luxury flats.
Hammersmith Palais, Shepherds Bush Road W8
“We’ll use the one thing we’ve got more of, that’s our minds”
Opened in 1919, the Hammersmith Palais was a venue beloved by Londoners for many decades; it was even name checked in Ian Dury and the Blockhead’s 1979 hit, Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3.
It was at Hammersmith Palais that the promo video for Mis-Shapes- the spirited opening track on Different Class- was filmed.
In the video, Pulp’s founder and iconic frontman Jarvis Cocker plays two roles; himself and a laddish bully who encourages his mates to duff up those who appear less conventional; the ‘Mis-Shapes’ (played by members recruited from Pulp’s fan club).
When discussing this video, Jarvis said that in his mind this obnoxious oppressor was named Darren Spooner- and that he needed to “drink about three quarters of a bottle of brandy” to get into character.
Sadly, Hammersmith Palais closed in 2007 and was demolished five years later. The site is now occupied by a gym and student hall of residence (‘luxury’, naturally).
Stepney's Club, Commercial Road E1
“Sing along with the Common People, sing along and it might just get you through…”
In the 1970s a night-club named Stepney’s was built behind the pub. In keeping with the style of the time, it boasted an illuminated disco floor.
This flashy addition was still in use in the 1990s when Pulp came here to film the video for their most famous hit; Common People.
Although the club is now derelict, the adjoining George Tavern remains open, serving as an arts and community centre, as well as a pub.
St Martins School of Art, Charing Cross Road WC2
“She came from Greece she had a thirst for knowledge, she studied sculpture at St Martins College, That’s where I caught her eye…”
In the late 1980s, Jarvis Cocker enrolled at St Martin’s School of Art (aka St Martin’s College) then based on Charing Cross Road.
It was here, at the college bar, that he met a student from a privileged Greek family who announced that she “wanted to move to Hackney and live like the common people”; a naive and patronising comment which would later inspire Jarvis to write his hit anthem.
The Charing Cross Road campus closed in 2011 and is now home to the huge Foyles bookshop.
St Martin’s is now based at a large, modern development behind King’s Cross Station. Before the move, Jarvis Cocker performed a private gig for staff and students where he told them not to be sad, for the spirit of St Martin’s lies not in the buildings, but in the students and staff themselves.
Frank's Sandwich Bar, Addison Bridge Place W14
“You will never understand how it feels to live your life, with no meaning or control…”
Common People was first released as a single in May 1995, and its roaring success spurred Jarvis Cocker to quickly write a further set of songs which would come together to form the Different Class album.
Eve Nightclub, New Burlington Street (off Regent Street) W1
“Let’s all meet up in the year 2000, won’t it be strange when we’re all fully grown?”
Opened in 1953, the Eve Club was a popular nightspot for many decades. Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra and Shirley Bassey were amongst the many celebrities who came to party here, not to mention- in true James Bond fashion- numerous Cold War era spies.
The Eve club remained open for 39 years. Towards the end of that period, in the early ’90s, it hosted a regular Friday night event called Smashing. Jarvis Cocker would often attend, and it was here he befriended someone who’d regularly use the phrase “different class” to describe things of which he approved, thus providing Jarvis with the title of his future album.
Although the Eve club closed around 1992, Smashing continued to be held at the same site and, like Stepney’s Club (see above), it featured a light-up disco floor.
It was at Smashing that much of the promo video for Disco 2000 was filmed.
The ‘Deborah’ alluded to in the lyrics of Disco 2000 was Deborah Bone, a childhood friend of Jarvis- he performed the song at her 50th birthday party.
Sadly, Deborah died of cancer on 30 December 2014 aged just 51; the very same day that it was announced she’d been awarded an MBE for her services to children’s mental health.
Angel Tube Station, Upper Street N1
“We were friends, that’s as far as it went, I used to walk you home sometimes but it meant, Oh it meant nothing to you…”
In Disco 2000, Deborah is seen travelling to the nightclub via the London Underground.
These brief sequences were filmed on the Northern line’s Angel station which had then just undergone a major refurbishment.
If we’re getting technical, the train featured is the old 1959 stock which remained in service until (rather appropriately in this case) the year 2000!
Elstree Studios, Borehamwood WD6
“I wrote this song two hours before we met, I didn’t know your name or what you looked like yet…”
Jarvis Cocker founded Pulp whilst at secondary school in 1978.
Despite an early appearance on the John Peel show in November 1981 (recorded at the BBC’s Maida Vale Studio), the group spent many years in the doldrums before finally achieving their ’90s success.
Something Changed was a song written by Jarvis in those earlier days, and he wisely decided to brush it up and include it on the Different Class album. The track is a beautifully produced love song, slightly different in tone to the darker subject matter covered by the other songs on Different Class.
Something Changed was released as a single in early 1996 and the accompanying promo was shot at Elstree Studios on the outskirts of north London.
Bar Italia, Frith Street, Soho W1
“There’s only one place we can go, it’s around the corner in Soho, where other broken people go…”
The closing track on Different Class is named after a London institution: Bar Italia.
Bar Italia is a cafe which, current pandemic aside, has been pretty much open 24/7 since its establishment in the 1950s. The building has a fascinating history- in the 1920s, the loft was rented by the genius Scottish inventor, John Logie Baird who toiled away on the device we now call television.
Pulp’s Bar Italia is a melancholy come down song, in which two clubbers stagger out into the early morning light, very much worse for wear and in desperate need of a strong coffee with two sugars…
You can listen to the entire Different Class album (via Spotify) below: