“Common People” is written by all members of English alternative rock band “Pulp”, who were most present and popular t in the mid to late nineties, and from Sheffield in the north of England. It was the lead single off of their fifth album “Different Class”. In 2014, BBC Radio 8 Music listeners chose the track as their favourite Britpop song in an online poll. In 2015, Rolling Stone magazine readers voted it as “the greatest Britpop song” in a poll.
The track is about people of a certain upper class attempting to move into the class of “common people”, essentially moving from glamour to poverty. The term for this is “class tourism” or “slumming”. In 2010, Jarvis Cocker told the story behind the song to Uncut Magazine in August 2010: “It all started with me getting rid of a lot of albums at the Record And Tape Exchange in Notting Hill. With the store credit I went into the second-hand instrument bit and bought this Casio keyboard. When you buy an instrument, you run home and want to write a song straight away. So, I went back to my flat and wrote the chord sequence for “Common People,” which isn’t such a great achievement because it’s only got three chords. I thought it might come in handy for our next rehearsal. Steve (Mackey, bass) started laughing and said, “It sounds like (Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s version of) ‘A Fanfare for the Common Man.'” I always thought the word “common” was an interesting thing. It would be used in “Fanfare For The Common Man” as this idea of the noble savage, whereas it was a real insult in Sheffield to call someone “common.” That set off memories of this girl that I met at college. She wanted to go and live in Hackney and be with the common people. She was from a well-to-do background, and there was me explaining that that would never work. I hated all that cobblers you got in films and magazines in which posh people would “slum it” for a while. Once I got that narrative in my head it was very easy to write, lyrically.”
The music video was directed by Pedro Romhanyi and released in 1996. It features English actress Sadie Frost and Jarvis Cocker dancing on a stage (which was improvised on the day of the shoot). The video also pays homage to a sequence from the animated film “Yellow Submarine”. The nightclub scenes in the video were filmed inside Stepney’s Nightclub on Commercial Road in Shoreditch in East London. The nightclub still had its original décor, including its 1970’s dance floor. When the dance-floor was under threat of demolition in 2007, it was rejected as it was described as a “cultural icon”. The music video was uploaded to YouTube on the 6th May 2011, and has over 23 million views.
Release Date: 22nd May 1995
Songwriter/s: Nick Banks, Jarvis Cocker, Candida Doyle, Steve Mackey & Russell Senior
Producer/s: Chris Thomas
Music Video Release Date: 1996
Music Video Director: Pedro Romhanyi
Chart Rankings & Certifications: It went to #65 in Australia, #49 in France, #5 in Norway, #2 in Scotland, #4 in Sweden #42 in Switzerland and #2 in the UK upon its year of release. It also received a Gold certification in the UK.