"A slice of classic British slapstick now written into music folklore"
February 20, 2021 11:34 AM   Subscribe

It's been 25 years since Britpop legend Jarvis Cocker invaded the stage during Michael Jackson's performance at the 1996 Brit Awards and "wiggled his bum for a bit".

Jackson was mid-song when Cocker bowled on to the stage, surveyed the scene for a moment and then bent over, arse-to-crowd, and made a wafting gesture around his backside. It was followed by a thrilling finale in which he exited the stage chased by Jacko’s dancers-cum-bodyguards, running off in a manner that can only be described as “geography teacher cutting through the assembly hall".
posted by atlantica (18 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I’m sure most of MeFi hates Michael Jackson but I don’t. This was always such a ridiculous display.
posted by girlmightlive at 1:38 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]

The article is being a little disingenuous in leaving out that this played out against the MJ scandals.
posted by borges at 2:10 PM on February 20

I’m on mobile but didn’t see the video posted anywhere: https://youtu.be/oJj3iupbnyk

Michael Jackson was a the height of Michael Jackson theatricalness. He literally saves the citizens of Flea Bottom who then begin playing with a ball. It gets worse after the mooning! Man 90s record companies were among too much money.
posted by geoff. at 2:20 PM on February 20 [3 favorites]

The best part of that story is where Jarvis is taken to the police station and Bob Mortimer, who was also at the award show, went down to try to get him out because he's also a solicitor.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:38 PM on February 20 [11 favorites]

As well as his own dentist. God bless Bob.
posted by carsondial at 3:01 PM on February 20 [8 favorites]

Exeunt, pursued by a bouncer.
posted by rpfields at 3:28 PM on February 20 [4 favorites]

I’m sure most of MeFi hates Michael Jackson but I don’t. This was always such a ridiculous display

It's perfectly fine to like Michael Jackson, but also think portraying oneself as the saviour of humanity might be over egging the pudding.
posted by biffa at 6:22 PM on February 20 [11 favorites]

Metafilter: over egging the pudding
posted by benzenedream at 6:41 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]

I think thinking he was calling himself the savior of humanity is a misunderstanding of the message he was trying to convey.
posted by girlmightlive at 10:13 PM on February 20

This was always such a ridiculous display.

A lot of people stateside have only heard of Jarvis Cocker from this one incident.

He sang about real life, stuff that hurt, from a quintessentially British point of view. A good place to start.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 11:24 PM on February 20 [2 favorites]

It was the perfect concise response to Jackson’s pile of grandiloquent bullshit. He spoke for England, with his arse.
posted by Phanx at 11:41 PM on February 20 [8 favorites]

A lot of people stateside have only heard of Jarvis Cocker from this one incident.
Pulp's videos for the songs mentioned are specifically worth watching as master-works in their own right - as well as proof that Jarvis could dance every bit as well as Jackson. Pulp were not afraid to mix niche "St Martins College" art school references ( Zbigniew Rybczyński's Tango seen in Common People) as well as everyday ones (Lookin magazine as referenced in Babies).
posted by rongorongo at 1:35 AM on February 21 [1 favorite]

girlmightlive: your interpretation would be welcome.
posted by biffa at 2:17 AM on February 21 [1 favorite]

Michael Jackson was one of the greatest popular music performers of all time. It's hard to think that anyone apart from a deliberate contrarian would seriously dispute that.

However, had I been, like Cocker, (a) inside striking distance of the stage and (b) outside a significant quantity of alcohol, during Jackson's simultaneously galling and cringe-inducing performance, and (c) had a friend told me I wouldn't dare do anything except say that somebody ought to, I can't be sure I wouldn't have tried something similar.

Anyone representing themselves as a messianic figure bringing succour to the suffering masses was never going to go down well in a country where embarrassment (often Fremdschämen) is the most frequently experienced emotion that doesn't involve weather. But for Jackson to try it, given his immense wealth and not-undeserved reputation for enormous and wasteful spending on self-gratification, was particularly ill-advised.

Michael Jackson was, like many people with too much money and too few friends, indulged and abetted in behaviours that made him an object of public scorn and which, according to the statements of multiple victims, did immense harm to a significant number of vulnerable people he claimed to care about. He was an adult when all the things that have made him a figure of controversy occurred, and he was responsible for his own choices. But if those around Jackson who claimed, and often still claim, to care about him had not facilitated his bad choices there would've been no crass ego-serving performance at the Brits, no feeling of embarrassment and anger at what we were being expected to accept as entertainment, and no trigger for a public response. If those with the moral (and frequently professional) responsibility for challenging Jackson's choices acted on that, Jarvis Cocker wouldn't have ended up complaining that somebody ought to do something in the first place.

Cocker himself always seems to have responded to questions about the incident gracefully, and the only strong emotion he really seems to express is, rather predictably, embarrassment.
posted by howfar at 12:27 PM on February 21 [9 favorites]

girlmightlive: your interpretation would be welcome.

I will start by saying this performance of his is one of my least favorites, I haven't seen it in years, and on one level I understand the controversy.

By this point he had sold maybe 75 million albums for Epic Records, so it's not surprising that they put their whole money and weight behind him. There's no evidence that he pushed them to take resources away from other artists for his benefit, though I have seen some people argue this.

Teasing Michael Jackson at this point in his career was such low hanging fruit that I don't understand why people consider it brave or making a real statement.

I think many people misinterpret this because I actually remember Sting making the same argument about the video to Earth Song. In that video, there is no imagery of MJ wearing white or having people gather around him. He's alone, singing the song, and towards the end of the video where all the destruction of the world is being "reversed," he and the other people in the video are doing the same motion of running their fingers through the dirt. Many found this very powerful but I guess some of the cheekier portions of society found this self-obsessed. And again, I don't think this is honest because literally the end of the song, the choir sings, "what about us?" over and over and over again, of course this message isn't about Michael Jackson single-handedly saving the world, but people were already annoyed with the very over-the-top promotion and marketing of the album so they were ready to pounce on any statement he wanted to make, no matter how tame. They did the same with the Black or White video, and the Bad video before that. This "protest" wasn't new or interesting or brave.
posted by girlmightlive at 3:29 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]

Very drunk, at a SCEE party after ECTS in Bow in the late 90s, Pulp had been booked as the entertainment, and security prevented me from staggering over the fence where I had fully intended to repeat Jarvis' performance, which had struck me as a hilarious idea at the time.
posted by davemee at 1:57 AM on February 22

This "protest" wasn't new or interesting or brave.

I don't think anyone, even Jarvis in the heat of the moment, would have claimed it to be any of those things. It was facile, and silly, and drunken: Exactly the right kind of thing to puncture pomposity, which is what he was trying to do.

(Also: Ooh, is this where we tell our 'failing to meet Pulp' stories?! I went to see them in London, in a theatre where we were disappointingly not allowed to stand, even in order to dance, through the whole gig. WTF?! At the end I persuaded my friends to join me in search of the stage door. We found ourselves outside the window where the band were having their post show drinks. I asked them for a beer through the window. They closed the blinds on me).
posted by penguin pie at 3:52 PM on February 23

Ha! After writing that comment I went off on a whim to try and work out which theatre and when that gig was. It was 18 December, 1994 at the Theatre Royal London, and it turns out the reason the ushers were manically running round the balcony trying to force us all to stop dancing and sit down, was because the balcony was actually about to collapse. Well I never.
posted by penguin pie at 4:00 PM on February 23

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