Babies by Pulp (1992)

“Babies” by Pulp was first released as a single in 1992.

With the combination of haywired hormones, culpable curiosity and immature insatiability, I think most 14 year old boys probably have the capacity to become sex pests.

Hiding in the wardrobe of older sister of your best friend hoping to spy on her carnal liaisons with a guy named David from the garage up the road, might seem like a bad idea, but in the moment when you find yourself peeking through the crack in the closet door – it’s the best idea you have ever had.

But, like all really good ideas when you’re fourteen, this is not a good idea at all.

She catches you and drags you from the cupboard. You’re embarrassed but not necessarily ashamed. But then she kisses you and before you know it, David was not ever going to be coming over today and you’re almost man enough enough to whet the sister’s post-pubescent needs. It’s a heady mix of feelings that swirl and splurt out of control until it all crashes down when your friend catches the pair of you.

She’s not just shocked – she’s betrayed. Despite “I know you won’t believe it’s true / I only went with her ‘coz she looks like you.” your hither-to unspoken romance with your best friend is ended before it ever started because you are a horny little idiot.

And this, is the lyrical story of “Babies” by Pulp. “(It) is just a thing you get up to when you are fourteen and certain things are still taboo and you get into situations because of curiosity.” Jarvis told Catharsis Fanzine in 1993 while being interviewed backstage at the Highbury Garage.

Directed by Jarvis Cocker, he said of the clip:
“The girls were real sisters. You know the group Saint Etienne? The younger girl was Bob Stanley’s girlfriend at the time.”

Musically, the song was born in a tea-break at band practise. Pulp’s drummer Nick Banks explained to The Strange Brew in 2019:

“I was the germ of the song idea. … We’d stopped for a cup of tea and I’d just picked up Jarvis’ guitar and started playing two chords. So then Jarvis sort of said, ‘What’s those two chords you’re playing there?’ And I went, ‘Well, one of them is G, no idea what the other one is.’ … Literally 20 minutes after I’d played those first two chords, we had the entire song, basically.”

“Babies” is track 2 on Yeah Bagel’s The Dozen Matter Volume 3

“Babies” was initially recorded during the sessions with Simon Hinkler producing that would end up releasing “O.U. (Gone, Gone)” despite Hinkler’s recollection that “I always thought ‘Babies’ should have been the A-side. It’s so obviously the single from that session, whereas ‘O.U.’ was probably the worst of the bunch. Jarvis enjoyed being difficult about such things.”

Another version was recorded for the initial single release via Gift Records on 5 October 1992, and was was remixed and included on Pulp’s fourth album His ‘n’Hers as well as the Sisters EP in 1994 where it finally charted – subsequently “Babies” has found critical acclaim and been named by many as among Pulp‘s best numbers.

His ‘n’ Hers released 1994
The Sisters EP – 1994

(Un)Related trivia
In 1996 at The Brit Awards Michael Jackson performed his single “Earth Song” with a stage show culminating with MJ rising up, his arms outstretched dressed in white and apparently healing the surrounding children on stage explaining that 3 million children die every minute.

Jarvis Cocker ‘invaded’ the stage and wiggled his bum. Stating later, “My actions were a form of protest at the way Michael Jackson sees himself as some kind of Christ-like figure with the power of healing.”

Jackson said he was “sickened, saddened, shocked, upset, cheated and angry” about it and had Cocker arrested. Jarvis spent the rest of the night in Kensington Police Station charged with actual bodily harm and assaulting the child performers. British comedian and former solicitor Bob Mortimer acted as his legal representation and he was released without charge the next day. Of the incident Noel Gallagher suggested Cocker should be awarded an MBE.

News footage from 1996 Brits Awards