Jarvis Cocker gives songwriting lecture at SXSW

'What really turns me on is inappropriate subject matter' says Pulp man

Jarvis Cocker performed an acoustic version of a Pulp hit and praised the song-writing techniques of David Bowie and Leonard Cohen during his lecture on the role of lyrics in song writing at the South by Southwest Festival today (March 18).

Armed with a Powerpoint presentation and a pointer, the former Pulp frontman began his discussion, titled ‘Saying The Unsayable’, by telling fans in the crowded conference room that he believes lyrics aren’t necessarily important when creating a popular song. He illustrated his point with ‘Louie Louie’ — the famous 1960s hit that has nearly indecipherable lyrics.

“Lyrics are an optional extra like a sunroof on a car,” Cocker said. He added that they can make a tremendous impact if done well. “Words, music and delivery are major factors in the success of a song.”

To illustrate his point, Cocker played an acoustic version of Pulp‘s hit ‘Babies’. He also performed the first song he’d ever written as a kid, a poppy number called ‘Shakespeare Rock’, which he wrote in 1978.

Cocker went on to discuss the role of rhyme in lyric writing. “The greatest crimes have been committed in the name of rhyme,” he said, illustrating his point by singing banal, cringe-worthy rhymes on the Desiree track ‘Life’. He later went on to explain how rhyme can be used to great effect, using Nick Cave and Cohen as examples.

When discussing the content of lyrics, he said, “What really turns me on is inappropriate subject matter,” expressing his admiration for the likes of Lee Hazelwood, who Cocker said, “tells it like it is.”

This was Cocker‘s only scheduled appearance at this year’s South by Southwest Festival.

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