In preparation for the Musical Urbanism course readings on Sheffield, England, we’ve put together this playlist of music documentaries and promo videos to get you further acquainted with the city, its music scene, and our point of departure, the band Pulp.



When reading Owen Hatherley’s book Uncommon: An Essay on Pulp, it really helps to hear their music. The 14 songs collected on this YouTube playlist go heavy on the hits. Not that Pulp is a “singles band” by any stretch, but their promo videos illustrate the visual/narrative dimensions of the band’s aesthetic.

1. They Suffocate At Night (1987)
The story with Pulp is that it took them more than a decade to make any kind of cultural or commercial impact whatsoever in British music. In the 80s they toiled away in obscurity, working out their sound, overshadowed by the “C86” generation of largely forgotten indie bands: the Close Lobsters, Half Man Half Biscuit, et al.

 2. Countdown (1991)
By the end of the 80s, singer Jarvis Cocker and bassist Steve Mackey headed south to London and enrolled in art school at St. Martin’s College. They returned to Sheffield artistically recharged and with a new sound that Owen Hatherley calls “rickety glam-disco.”

3. Sheffield: Sex City (1992 – fan video)
Hatherley discusses this track in some length in chapter 2 of Uncommon.

Between 1993-4, an aesthetically fully-developed Pulp released 4 singles that coincided with the flaring up of Britpop. They’re included on His ‘n’ Hers, the band’s fourth album, but effectively their first to pop music listeners:

4. Razzmatazz (1993)

5. Babies (1994)

6. Lipgloss (1994)

7. Do You Remember The First Time (1994)

Four songs from Different Class, their artistic and commercial high point. Acute sociological observation takes the form of droll humor:

8. Common People (1995)

9. Misshapes (1995)

10. Disco 2000 (1995)
See also: “Pulp’s Disco 2000 inspiration, Deborah Bone, dies aged 51.”

11. Sorted For E’s and Wizz (Glastonbury 1995)

A couple of singles and a b-side from This is Hardcore, the difficult follow-up:

12. This Is Hardcore (1998)

13. Help The Aged (1998)

14. Cocaine Socialism (1998 – fan lyric video)
A b-side, this is one of the most trenchant critiques of the disillusionment with Tony Blair’s New Labour government and Brit Pop’s complicity with its ascendance.



The Beat is the Law (2010, dir. Eve Wood)
Vassar library DVD
This is the documentary we’re screening this week; note that the library’s copy comes loaded with DVD extras. It’s filmmaker Eve Wood’s second film about Sheffield’s music history, the first being…


Made in Sheffield: The Birth of Electronic Pop (2002, dir. Eve Wood)
Vassar library DVD
A low-budget affair, this documentary examines the rise of key groups in British music from this unlikely English city. Forming in the late 1970s, Cabaret Voltaire and the Human League became giants of industrial music and synth-pop, respectively. With their 1982 album Lexicon of Love, the group ABC set the bar for “new pop” in the UK.


Live Forever: The Rise and Fall of Brit Pop (2003, dir. John Dower)
Nominally, Brit Pop was a period of music in the mid-90s epitomized by Oasis, Blur, Pulp and (arguably) Suede. It was also a moment, possibly the last, when British pop culture captured the imagination of the country and the world, capped by the 1997 victory of Tony Blair’s New Labour party after 18 years of Tory government.


Pulp: No Sleep Till Sheffield (1995, BBC Four)
Unsurprisingly, given Jarvis Cocker’s telegenic quality and the band’s critical acclaim, there are a number of TV and film documentaries about Pulp. This one captures the band at its artistic zenith.


“The Story of Pulp’s ‘Common People'” (2006)
Ultimately, Pulp will be remembered for “Common People,” the greatest story song of the Britpop era.


Jarvis Cocker’s Musical Map of Sheffield (2008)
A recording of a BBC Radio 6 broadcast, narrated by Pulp’s singer some seven years after the band’s break-up. A year later, the radio station gave Cocker his own weekly show on Sunday mornings, which he hosted until 2014.


Pulp: A Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets (2014, dir. Florian Habicht)
A very recent film, this documents Pulp’s final reunion concert in their home city.
Purchase in iTunes.



Joe Cocker obituary
Sheffield spawned other music besides post-punk! Probably the first musician to make his name out of Sheffield was 60s rock belter Joe Cocker, who even recorded a album titled Sheffield Steel.


Cabaret Voltaire – Doublevision Presents (1982)
Early promo videos and found footage are given the Sheffield band’s trademark cut-up treatment. This remains extremely bracing stuff.


The Human League – Being Boiled (1978)
Some of the earliest electronic pop to follow on the heels of punk. Hard to believe this band would write the karaoke classic “Don’t You Want Me,” but to get there…


The Human League – Sound of the Crowd (Top of the Pops)
In 1980 the Human League split in two, the two musicians going on to form Heaven 17 and leaving behind the singer with the funny haircut and the guy who projected slides. Those guys found some new musicians and a pair of female vocalists they met in a nightclub and went on to record Dare, the first album of British electronic music to storm the pop charts. This is that band’s first appearance on  British television institution Top Of The Pops, and it’s still quite a sight.


ABC – Mantrap
ABC had nothing if not ambition when they recorded Lexicon of Love. Why not make a short film noir featuring that album on the soundtrack?


Def Leppard: Rock of Ages (1989)
Did you know that one of the most commercially successful heavy metal bands came from Sheffield? This documentary captures Def Leppard at their moment of maximum global ubiquity.