SxSW: finding inspiration from the original thick-framed glasses wearing hipster, Jarvis Cocker

Originally published on Athousandguitars.com on March 12, 2014:

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There’s a chance that I only came to hear Jarvis Cocker speak for two reasons – to see if he still wears the same glasses, and to hear if anyone asks him if he does, in fact, want to live like common people.

He does still wear the glasses. I don’t know about the common people, but he’s pretty awesome either way. Cocker walked on stage and asked for the room to “shut that rubbish up” so he could talk – Pulp was playing in the background.

So he’s here to discuss extraordinary. What is that? “During the course of this talk, I’m going to teach you how to fly,” he says. I am in.

Cocker’s humour is so self-deprecating and British, a breath of fresh air amongst the massive amounts of Americanness recently. Have you heard that his famous glasses are just shitty ones he got free from the NHS? Yup.

But back to the extraordinary thing. Cocker’s talking about becoming an artist and how we do that, and makes the good point about how we’re always looking over the horizon for inspiration, instead of looking around our everyday setting. Where are you looking? I like to think I have moments of finding inspiration in the ‘ordinary’, but I know I often fall prey to what might be over the horizon.

He’s reading a passage about finding inspiration on a bus journey and I start to wonder if we just need inspiration from other people —  his bus journeys sound a lot better than mine ever do. He reads a few more poems and passages that make very regular life sound very beautiful and I feel unnecessarily special when he plays a poem from ’60s Brit band, The Scaffolds, called “Summer With Monica”. It is boring as fuck, and beautifully written. Someone here found inspiration in the regular, that’s for sure.

There are even more songs about life and stuff as we meander through Cocker’s journey from Sheffield to here. He plays a Scott Walker song, introducing him as “very good at writing about ordinary things” and, half an hour in, I finally realise the point of all these poems — turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. (Yes, sometimes it takes me a while to catch on.) Is that what we love and revere artists for?

He seems to catch my thought and says that thinking of the artists we respect as different life forms is incredibly unhelpful when it comes to creating the extraordinary.

But essentially, depending on how you live your life, you’ll have a unique way of looking at the world. We’re all seeing the same world, but we reconstruct it inside our own heads in completely different ways. And that turns the ordinary into the extra ordinary. Most of the room’s minds are blown. I agree with him wholeheartedly.

He plays a Van Morrison song about a great night that ends with the line “Wouldn’t it be great if it was like this all the time?”

But it is like this all the time, Cocker says.

I finally believe him about that common people song.

Have fun finding the extraordinary.

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