Released in October 1995, Different Class garnered significant critical praise and debuted at the top of the UK Album Chart. This was the first album featuring Pulp fan-club president Mark Webber, who became a permanent member of the band on guitar and keyboards. The album followed similar themes to their previous work with observations of life expressed through Cocker's sexualised, sometimes dark and witty lyrics. Other singles released from Different Class were "Disco 2000" and "Something Changed", which reached numbers seven and ten respectively in the UK. In September 1996, Different Class won the Mercury Music Prize.
It was at this time that Cocker gained significant media exposure due to a notorious prank at the 1996 BRIT Awards, where he invaded the stage in protest during pop singer Michael Jackson's performance of "Earth Song" and "wiggled his backside" at the audience. After complaints by Jackson and his entourage, Cocker spent the night in Kensington Police Station charged with actual bodily harm and assaulting the child performers. However, with British comedian and former solicitor Bob Mortimer acting as legal representation, he was released without charge. This incident propelled Cocker into great controversy in the UK and elsewhere, and Pulp's record sales soared as a result. The event also coincided with the beginning of their first arena tour and the Daily Mirror, who had attacked the band months earlier, set up a "Justice for Jarvis" campaign backing his actions and carried out a stunt at Pulp's Sheffield Arena gig on 29 February, handing out free T-shirts. The NME described Cocker's actions as a "great publicity stunt" which was "creative, subversive and very, very funny", while Melody Maker described Cocker as, "arguably the Fifth Most Famous Man In Britain" and suggested he should be knighted.
In March 1996, a compilation of Pulp's early recordings on Fire Records entitled Countdown 1992-1983 was released on the Nectar Masters label. It received largely negative reviews, but due to the band's popularity at the time it reached the top 10 of the UK charts. Cocker, whose permission was not sought before release, urged fans not to purchase the album, comparing it to "a garish old family photograph album". Later in 1996, Pulp gained minor international recognition on the back of the inclusion of the track "Mile End" on the Trainspotting soundtrack. In August, the band played their last public performance for almost two years as headliners of the 1996 V Festival.
The band also played a gig in the Shetland Islands, as arguably the most high profile band to do so.
It was during this period of intense fame and tabloid scrutiny that longtime member and major innovator in the band's sound Russell Senior decided to leave the band, saying, "it wasn't creatively rewarding to be in Pulp anymore". The band were due to begin working on a new album in late 1996. However, Cocker was having difficulty with the celebrity lifestyle, battling cocaine addiction and a breakup of a long-term relationship. When the band came to begin work on the next album, they had only one song - "Help The Aged". This creative inertia meant the band took over a year to finish the next record. Indeed, it was Cocker's disillusionment with his long-desired wish for fame that made up much of the subject matter of the This Is Hardcore, which was released in March 1998. The album took a darker and more challenging tone than that of Different Class and lyrical topics - pornography (the title track), fame ("Glory Days") and the after effects of drugs ("The Fear") - were dealt with more earnestly than on previous records. This shift in style meant This Is Hardcore received mixed critical and commercial reactions. Also in 1998, Pulp collaborated with Patrick Doyle on the song "Like A Friend" for the soundtrack to the film Great Expectations. The song was also used in the Adult Swim cartoon The Venture Bros. season 4 finale Operation P.R.O.M.
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