Jarvis: Still the Working Class Hero?
The man who, fronting Pulp over a decade ago, brought us ‘Common People’, still perhaps the finest piece of poetry ever written about the English obsession with the English Working Class, has come close to repeating that achievement with ‘Running the World.’ It’s a hidden bonus track on his debut solo album, Jarvis, which I neglected to get hold of on (recent American) release because a) I’ve been working on a book about older music and, for once, have not had the time to stay on top of newer music, and b) I’ve been disappointed too often by former front men returning from hiatus/hibernation/rehab.
So now I know better. I heard ‘Running The World’ not through the album Jarvis, and not, at least not specifically, through the Children of Men soundtrack on which it’s included. I actually heard it, ripped from that soundtrack, via one of the many MP3 sites that walks a thin line between the illegal distribution of new music and the welcome promotion of new music – where it fair stopped me in my tracks like no song in the past year or more.
There’s a reason it did so: the blatant, “did I just hear him say what I think I heard him say?” use of the C-word. Let’s not beat about the bush: the chorus to this dramatically distorted ballad is “C**ts are still running the world,” and while we all know that swearing is not funny, not clever and should not be practiced around the kids – and while we all know in addition that the C-word is loaded with all kinds of nasty connotations, and there are many women who find it the most derogatory of all terms – it’s hard not to feel that Jarvis has (again) nailed it with the most simplistic of singalong expressions.
Not that he’s limited himself to the profane. These are the words to the second verse:
Now the working classes are obsolete
They are surplus to society’s needs
So let them all kill each other
And get it made overseas
That’s the word don’t you know
From the guys that’s running the show
Let’s be perfectly clear boys and girls
Cunts are still running the world
Couldn’t put it better myself.
One thing surprises me, though: I thought I’d been paying at least marginal attention to the news surround Jarvis, and yet I’d not registered much fuss about this track. Did its “hidden status” render it somewhat ineffectual? Was it downplayed? Did it just get lost in the shuffle? Or has it been front page news and I’ve been too immersed in Afro-Cuban jazz to notice?
It raises an interesting side question. In these days of MP3 blogs and instant downloads, sometimes an individual track fails to provide the whole picture: several times of late I’ve passed premature judgment on an album based on just one solitary song. But my experience with ‘Running The World’ (which I heard, appropriately, on the day that Tony Blair passed over the Prime Ministership to Gordon Brown), presents the opposite argument: that great songs can get lost at the end of an album (especially as “hidden tracks”) and that sometimes they need to be heard in isolation to get their point across. Thanks to silenceisarhythmtoo for sharing the music. Jarvis just got another album sale.
The karoake version of ‘Running The World’: read the lyrics for yourself.