Pulp – in concert at Reading Festival 2002. From August 23, 2002, recorded and broadcast by John Peel on August 28, 2002. A significant concert, though probably not many would think so at the time. It was just around this time that Pulp announced they had parted company with longtime label Island and were in the process of dealing with a number of issues, which would eventually put the band on hiatus for the next 9 years. This would be their last Reading Festival appearance for a good long time.
From their Wikipedia page covering the 1996-2002 period:
“It was during this period of intense fame and tabloid scrutiny that longtime member and major innovator in the band’s sound Russell Senior decided to leave the band, saying, “it wasn’t creatively rewarding to be in Pulp anymore”. The band were due to begin working on a new album in late 1996. However, Cocker was having difficulty with the celebrity lifestyle, battling cocaine addiction and a break-up of a long-term relationship. When the band came to begin work on the next album, they had only one song – “Help the Aged”. This creative inertia meant the band took over a year to finish the next record. Indeed, it was Cocker’s disillusionment with his long-desired wish for fame that made up much of the subject matter of This Is Hardcore, which was released in March 1998. The album took a darker and more challenging tone than that of Different Class and lyrical topics – pornography (the title track), fame (“Glory Days”) and the after effects of drugs (“The Fear”) – were dealt with more earnestly than on previous records. Also in 1998, Pulp collaborated with Patrick Doyle on the song “Like A Friend” for the soundtrack to the film Great Expectations. The song was also used in the Adult Swim cartoon The Venture Bros. season 4 finale “Operation: P.R.O.M.”
Pulp then spent a few years “in the wilderness” before reappearing in 2001 with a new album, We Love Life. The extended period between the release of This is Hardcore and We Love Life is partly attributed to having initially recorded the songs which comprise the album and being dissatisfied with the results. Subsequent interviews also suggested interpersonal and artistic differences, including managing the fallout of the Britpop/Different Class era. Singer/songwriter Scott Walker agreed to produce the record and this symbolised a new phase in Pulp’s development. This new effort fell short of expectations and was to be Pulp’s last.
Pulp subsequently undertook a tour of the National Parks in the UK, even playing a show as far north as Elgin in Scotland. Richard Hawley, the Sheffield-based singer/songwriter, was also present on various dates on this tour. He later described it as “very much pink feather boas and glamour which was great and brilliant. That was about trying to find glamour among all the shit and I loved all that”. In 2002 the band announced that they were leaving their label, Island. A greatest hits package was released: Hits, with one new track. It is unclear whether this was the band’s decision or released to satisfy contractual agreements. A music festival, Auto, was organised (held at Rotherham’s Magna centre) where they played their last gig before embarking on a 9-year hiatus.”
If you were a fan at the time you may remember this concert. Certainly you remember feeling the loss of a band that was pivotal and influenced so much. But a hiatus is not a breakup and there’s always the chance things get back together – in Pulp’s case they reconvened in 2011 and called it a day in 2013. In any event, an unforgettable band, that hasn’t lost any of its urgency or bite.
Crank it up and be reminded.