Jarvis Cocker just released Beyond the Pale, his first album with new band JARV IS..., this week. (Read our review.) The album was shaped (and partially recorded) on 2018 / 2019 tours, which featured mostly new, unheard songs, plus a few older Jarvis solo numbers and a couple Pulp songs, too.
When Jarvis toured for his 2006 solo debut, however, he was adamant about not playing any Pulp songs. That didn't stop people from yelling for "Common People" and "Disco 2000," of course. For his encores on those tours, Jarvis would come out and politely demure requests, but would then say, "perhaps you know this one, though," as an intro to a rotating list of covers that were often about as far from Pulp as you could get, including many that fell decidedly into hard rock and classic rock territory.
Here are live videos of 12 of those covers, some unexpected and others that are very within Jarvis' wheelhouse. Watch below.
"Paranoid" (Black Sabbath)
Jarvis' take on one of Black Sabbath's most iconic songs was his most often performed cover, probably because it was both unexpected and so much fun. He and the band clearly had a blast throwing crowds for a loop, and it also gave Jarvis a chance to flex some rock moves he might not normally pull out. It's a pretty killer rendition.
"Purple Haze" (Jimi Hendrix)
This version of Jimi Hendrix's signature tune capped Jarvis' three night run at London's Village Underground back in 2009. While this is a very faithful version of the song, Jarvis really puts himself fully into the performance yet still makes it his own: "'Scuse me whilst I kiss the sky!"
Jarvis Cocker - "Eye of the Tiger" (Survivor)
You may think you'd never need to see the Pulp frontman cover Survivor's cheesy jock jam theme song from Rocky III. But then, backlit in silhouette, he pumps his fists to the opening riff and you realize you do need this.
"The Crystal Ship" (The Doors)
The Doors might not be the first band you'd think of as an influence on Jarvis Cocker's music, but then you hear him cover "The Crystal Ship" and it feels like it could've fit right in on Pulp's This is Hardcore. This one turns out to be firmly in Cocker's corduroy pocket.
"State Trooper" (Bruce Springsteen)
"This song was written by somebody who lives near here, I believe," Jarvis told the crowd at this 2007 Manchester show. Off by just a couple thousand miles, of course, as it's Bruce Springsteen's "State Trooper." Jarvis and band take the simmering, bluesy Nebraska number and give it more of a backbeat while Jarvis, in low whisper mode, sounds right at home driving on the other side of the road.
"Being Boiled" (Human League)
Jarvis was a barely a teen when the electronic post-punk scene broke out in his hometown of Sheffield in the late '70s, but it had a profound effect on him. Here, playing Sheffield's The Plug, he pays tribute to one of that scene's greatest bands, The Human League, with an energetic, rocking cover of their early minimalist classic "Being Boiled."
"Heaven" (Talking Heads)
Another cover that is very well-suited to Jarvis -- and perhaps any lanky, nerdy frontman. Talking Heads' "Heaven" has been covered a lot over the years, from Simply Red to Eric Burdon and Widespread Panic, but the lyrical themes and its starlight twang fit him like a vintage cowboy shirt.
"The Boys Are Back in Town" (Thin Lizzy)
Like "Paranoid" and "Eye of the Tiger," Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back in Town" gives Jarvis the opportunity to pull out his stadium rock moves, which he does very convincingly. Quality of this video is not what you'd call "good" but the feeling comes through.
"Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" (Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons)
This Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons cover seems to be totally impromptu. At this 2009 San Francisco show, Jarvis was asked by two fans to read their wedding announcement, which he obliged. "Do you want me to sing at it too?," he jokingly asked and then started singing "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" acapella, which the band then picks up and continues. He may not have attended the wedding, but they'll always have this video.
"Satellite of Love" (Lou Reed)
We're now entering the more "expected" covers portion of this list, as Lou Reed's glammy 1972 ballad feels ingrained in Jarvis's DNA. He nonetheless puts his all into it to close out this 2007 show in Milan.
"Space Oddity" (David Bowie)
Even more than Lou Reed, "Space Oddity" is very on the money for Jarvis, as you can imagine him as a boy seeing Bowie perform it on Top of the Pops and it changing his life. This performance, shot in Taipei, has him duetting with Taiwanese singer Faith.
"The War is Over" (Scott Walker)
OK, this one is a bit of cheat as it's not actually from a Jarvis tour, but a special 2017 tribute to Scott Walker put on by the BBC Proms. Walker, who died in 2019, was a personal hero of Jarvis' and produced Pulp's final album, 2001's We Love Life. Backed by a full band and orchestra (that included soon-to-be JARV IS bandmates Adam Betts and Andrew McKinney), Jarvis belts out "The War is Over" from Walker's 1970 album Til The Band Comes In, with the full symphonic sweep it deserves. It's a wow.
Hopefully we'll get JARV IS... back in North America in 2021 and playing more than just the West Coast, possibly with some new covers in his repertoire.
Read our new interview with Jarvis where he discusses his new band and album, his friendship with Wes Anderson, and much more.