Different Class: Former Pulp drummer Jim Sellars reflects on the beginnings of the band

By Alex Jones

21 May 2024

At Feedback, we spend most of our free time thinking about music puns. Whilst most of them are terrible and should never be disclosed on our website, when someone said: ‘I wonder what Pulp were like when they were Common People’, we had to find out. What exactly was Jarvis Cocker like before the fame?

Britpop giants Pulp are famed for their success in the nineties. Timeless tunes from the decade like the aforementioned Common People and Disco 2000 are immensely popular all around the world.  Feedback caught up with former Pulp drummer, Jim Sellars, to discover more about what the band looked like in their school days. 

Going to school with Jarvis Cocker is something of an accolade in itself, let alone playing in a band with him. Jim Sellars is lucky enough to have done both at the City school in Sheffield (which you might not have heard of) and the band Pulp (which I imagine you probably have heard of).  

Originally a keyboard player, Jim served Pulp between 1980 and 1981 in an unfamiliar role behind the drum kit. “It would have been 79/80 when the band was first cobbled together. Prior to me joining, Pulp had a drummer called Mark Swift. He left and I took his place. We were school friends and we used to rehearse whenever we could in Jarvis’ house, garage or sometimes at my house. 

“We would play anywhere that would have us play, very early days. At that time we would have been seventeen year olds. In the early days there was no indication or promises that Pulp would become such a great band and internationally famous artists that Jarvis and the band became.” 

Sheffield in the 1980s had, as Jim saw it, a “very vibrant music scene” with a lot of venues, pubs and bars that would put live music on. Jim’s stories paint a picture of a group of lads, throwing themselves into the scene for the sheer enjoyment of it, without a care in the world  for fame and fortune. “When I played with them, no more than about 100 (people in the crowd). Not the hundreds and thousands they play to now and the stadiums they play in these days. One of the places we used to play was The Hallamshire on West Street. We played there half a dozen times supporting other bands.” 

Jim pays attention to the up and coming bands playing around Sheffield and revisited the Hallamshire just the other day in an experience he described as “nice to be back after all that time.” His commitment to Sheffield and its music scene is very admirable. “I left the UK in 87 and came back at the end of 1990. I love the city, I’ve got a lot of roots here. I still like to keep a keen eye on the Sheffield music scene now. I probably try to see one (a gig) once a week or twice a week sometimes. There are some great venues around. I love the city and its people.

“I would like to give a shoutout to a band called Floodhounds who I really rate and really like. I’ve been following them around Sheffield a lot.”

Gigging and touring for Pulp has certainly come a long way. One of Jim’s fondest memories comes from a Burger King of all places. He said: “We once played there one night and as our sort of payment, we could have anything off the menu… I quite enjoyed that. Sounds ridiculous now doesn’t it.” Jarvis Cocker has gone from playing for his dinner to winning multiple awards. What a career path. 

If anything, this just shows the natural drive that existed for the group in the early days – just wanting to play any gig at any time for the experience and pleasure of it all. Early Pulp did not let minor mishaps stop them having a laugh and a good time at performances.

Jim stressed the importance of playing through issues that happen in gigs: “We played at a  pub called the Royal where London Road joins Abbeydale road. I’d injured my hand that evening and instead of playing drums, I sang along with Jarvis doing backing vocals.

“When I say vocals… no I can’t sing! We were just mucking about because I couldn’t play drums that night. I’ve never claimed to be a singer.” 

Jim referred to his time with Pulp as the ‘embryonic’ days of the band but advises teenage groups to follow Pulp’s example: “My advice would be to not take it too seriously and enjoy yourself. It is all about that.

“It has got to be enjoyable and surround yourself with the right people and take it from there. I think a lot of groups can set off determined to make it and crash when they don’t.” 

Jim still follows the work of Jarvis Cocker and has become a fan of the band in his post-Pulp days.

“It is difficult isn’t it, it was a very long time ago. Jarvis was always destined I would say, for fame. He was outstanding at school, academically and creatively. He was different and slightly ahead. His image grew over time. 

“With hindsight, it’s a great word to use that, looking back he would always wear clothes that no one else was wearing. Something he found in a charity shop or the way he’d do his hair. He was a man that people would focus on and he was an intelligent man. He was never going to be a bloke who ended up working on a factory floor kind of thing and was destined for the creative industry. 

“He was great fun to be around, very bright and a great friend to have around.”  

The Beatles’ I saw her standing there and Stepping Stone by the Monkees were two classic tracks the Sheffield band used to cover with Jim on the drums. Although he was never involved in recording, Jim is a big fan of what Pulp went on to achieve. “Jarvis and the group, I wish them every success.”

His favourite song? Live Bed Show off Different Class. “I like Jarvis’s voice in that one,” he said. It’s certainly a good tune.

“I don’t go around thinking or talking about it or writing about it, it is just something that pops up now and again in conversation with people. 

“It was a great time and I feel very lucky to have had that time. I of course enjoyed it like all great things. I have very fond memories of that time and that period but we were very young, we were just playing purely for fun and picking up confidence… If I could I would do it all again.”

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