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Post  eddie Tue Feb 14, 2012 7:26 pm

My hero: Jarvis Cocker by Jon McGregor

'Cocker's lyrics were what made me want to write stories'

Jon McGregor, Friday 10 February 2012 22.55 GMT

Pulp Jarvis-Cocker-007
Jarvis Cocker: familiar worlds. Photograph: Karen Robinson

I first heard Jarvis Cocker's voice when he read Ian McEwan's "Last Day of Summer" on Radio 1, some time in 1993. The reading sparked an early interest in McEwan's work, but it also led me to the music of Pulp, a love of which I've retained ever since. More than any writer I'd come across at that point, Cocker's lyrics were what made me want to tell stories (and, for a brief period, wear corduroy smoking-jackets). His songs were tales of a world I recognised; a world of cheap cigarettes, threadbare sofas, "crumbling concrete bus shelters", and boys who didn't always get the girl.

From the outset, I thought of Pulp's music in literary terms, with its references to "lemonade light filtering through the trees" and "the puddles of rain that reflected your face in my eyes", and, as the best art does, it changed the way I watched the world and the vocabulary with which I thought about it. From the lyrics, and from the biography I gleaned from press interviews, I thought I'd found a kindred spirit: a speccy so-and-so who knew what it meant to wear the wrong clothes and listen to the wrong music and be caught in the school library reading the dictionary. And I took his lengthy apprenticeship in the shadows of the music business as an inspiration. I wanted to write, and somewhere in a steely corner of my heart I believed I could, but I assumed it would take years of hard grind and rejection slips before anything happened. I'd heard the stories of Pulp's early years: living in abandoned warehouses, playing in pubs, falling out of windows, splitting up and reforming, forging a self-belief through those years of not being heard. And when, after university, I moved to a tiny misshapen room in Sheffield, took whatever work I could find and started writing stories, I hoped I'd be following a similar path. So it was no coincidence, when my first novel was published a few years later, that it was set on the last day of summer.

• Jon McGregor's This Isn't the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You is published by Bloomsbury.
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