“She came from Greece / She had a thirst for knowledge.” So starts “Common People,” the epic 1995 song by Pulp that combined a glam/arena aesthetic, punk rock vitriol, and a nuanced understanding of the lived experience of class-based resentment that even Thorstein Veblen would envy.
The entire song is structured as an obliterating rebuke to a female Greek student who claims to “want to live like common people,” with the sly, cutting afterthought “like you.” Along the way, the narrator (or the song’s writer, Jarvis Cocker, if you prefer) succeeds in utterly dismantling the unnamed Greek woman’s blithe acceptance of class inequities, reminding her that when the project of pretending to live your life “with no meaning or control” gets too unpleasant, what with roaches climbing the wall and all, “if you call your Dad he could stop it all” but also emphasizing the authenticity that “common people” have that she never will; she is “amazed that they exist” and “burn so bright.” The song is the third track on Pulp’s breakthrough album Different Class.
It seems that the identity of the woman who inspired the Britpop classic may have been revealed on a Greek website—none other than video and installation artist Danae Stratou, who is also married to Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis. Cocker has been unhelpful bordering on coy, stating the following: “On that BBC Three documentary [The Story of “Common People”], the researchers went through all the people who were contemporaries of mine at St Martins and they tried to track her down. They showed me a picture and it definitely wasn’t her. I dunno. Maybe she wasn’t Greek. Maybe I misheard her.”
Danae Stratou—a picture from her Twitter page
Paul Farrell at Heavy helpfully explains:
The Athens Voice reports that Danae Stratou met Pulp’s lead singer Jarvis Cocker while they were both students at St. Martins College of Art Design in London. She attended the school between 1983 and 1988. Cocker had previously told Brit-music bible the New Music Express that the song was about a Greek girl he met at the school. He added later that the girl told him that she “wanted to move to Hackney and live like ‘the common people.’”
St. Martins is, of course, mentioned in the song.
Furthermore, according to Farrell, “Danae Stratou’s father was a millionaire Greek industrialist,” which means that she didn’t marry into money but was wealthy when she was a student as well.
So is Stratou the slumming Greek socialite? We can’t be sure—yet—but right now the signs look auspicious.
If you haven’t heard the song lately, here’s your chance to have it in your head for the rest of today (and probably tomorrow, too):
via The Quietus
Thanks to Edward Angel Sotelo!