Formed 1978 in Sheffield, England and originally called "Arabacus Pulp" (although they shortened it to Pulp within a year), Pulp achieved sudden success some thirteen years after their formation and became known during the Britpop era as much for their music as for frontman Jarvis Cocker's antics (notably conducting a stage invasion during Michael Jackson's performance of Earth Song at the 1996 BRIT Awards). The band has gone through several changes, with the best known and most stable lineup being Cocker, keyboardist Candida Doyle (the longest tenured member aside from Cocker, joining in 1984), bassist Steve Mackey, drummer Nick Banks, guitarist/violinist Russell Senior and guitarist Mark Webber.
Achieving little success off the back of a Peel session in 1981, Pulp were finally able to release their debut album, It, in 1983. This album and its 1986 follow-up, Freaks, showcased a Pulp keen on Nick Drake (notably on the single My Lighthouse), with strong folk roots and little sign of the tendencies for storytelling and acid house music which would eventually bring forth success. After the release and commercial flop of Freaks, the band disbanded for a year, though formed a year later to record a third album, Separations. Delayed for three years after its recording, Separations showed Cocker's increasing exposure to acid house, featuring multiple synths, and a hit single, My Legendary Girlfriend, which helped Pulp's career start to rocket.
Their next single, Babies, which would eventually feature on 1994's commercial breakthrough His 'N' Hers, was the first example of the Pulp sound most listeners associate with the band--cheap synths, rolling guitars, and Cocker's deadpan vocals telling a story. His 'n' Hers, in sound, was lumped in with the Britpop movement of the time, receiving commercial as well as critical acclaim. However, it was the 1995 single Common People, awash with Britpop guitars, catchy keyboard lines and that trademark Cocker vocal performance, which finally saw them become known, eventually charting at number 2 in the UK charts. A successful appearance at Glastonbury that summer cemented their fame, and their success was subsequently confirmed by the album Different Class, which arrived at the peak of the Britpop movement and featured the UK hits Common People, Disco 2000 and Sorted For E's & Wizz.
Their last two albums, 1998's darker This Is Hardcore, an album that marked the end of the Britpop era, and 2001's more downbeat We Love Life were commercial successes, but Pulp were no longer as famous or as trendy as they had been in the height of Britpop, and following their curation of a music festival, Auto, in 2002, the band announced that they would be embarking on an "indefinite hiatus". Cocker has since announced that he is to embark on a solo career, making an appearence as the lead singer of the fictional band The Wyrd Sisters in the fourth Harry Potter film, calling time on Pulp.
In 2003 former Pulp singer Jarvis Cocker and British electronica artist Jason Buckle started a side project called Relaxed Muscle. This began as "a laugh" between Pulp rehearsals, but developed once Jarvis realised he could have more fun with a new alter ego than he did as the public figure who could leap on stage to terrify Michael Jackson. In early 2003 Relaxed Muscle began playing gigs. They maintained anonymity by assuming the alter-egos "Darren Spooner" and "Wayne Marsden", respectively. Billing themselves as "the sound of young Doncaster", "Darren" claimed to have met "Wayne" while doing community service ("planting flowers") for burglary. Their fictional criminality fit the project well, with their songs about sex, gambling and domestic violence complementing the depraved character of Relaxed Muscle.
Cocker’s transformation into a violent, wife-beating drunk is ironic when you consider his trademark bookish, slightly effeminate image. When guesting on the celebrity television quiz Shooting Stars, Bob Mortimer jokingly called Cocker "the weed in tweed" and insisted that when throwing mini Babybel cheeses at a giant blow-up poster of Judy Finnigan for cash prizes, that he must do so "in the style of a girl". Cocker continued to avoid detection and, while on-stage as Darren Spooner, took to karate-chopping balsa wood and breaking sugar-glass bottles on other band members.
However, soon Cocker and Buckle's cover was blown while playing a gig in London, despite wearing full eye make-up and skeleton suits. Even with their identities revealed, the band continued playing gigs, capitalizing on their electronic sound to play the likes of Trash club on 20th October, 2003.