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YEAR IN REVIEW / 1996 | POP EYE

In a Dubious Year, a Man of Distinction

Hey, Jarvis Cocker, if you want to show up any more pop stars, we've got a few candidates for you.

December 29, 1996|Steve Hochman

Since before LeAnn Rimes was even born, Pop Eye has ended each year by singling out those in the pop music world deserving, um, credit for their Dubious Distinctions, with one generally selected as the most worthy of recognition.

But there were so many doers of the distinctively dubious in 1996--with transgressions ranging from silly to tragic--that it's impossible to narrow it down to even a reasonable list of nominees.

So this year, let's try something different. Rather than merely jape at the goats of pop, let's honor a true hero, one person who had the courage not just to talk about the rampant pomposity and vainglory, but to do something.

That person is Jarvis (Do a Little Dance) Cocker, singer for the English band Pulp, who while watching Michael Jackson's grandiose performance at the Brit Awards in London last February did something that expressed so well what so many others were feeling: He bolted on stage, shook his scrawny tushy around and made a mockery of the former King of Pop--if that's not redundant, considering Jackson's own track record of making a mockery of himself.

Cocker was not only cleared of any wrongdoing in the incident, but proved himself a first-class mensch when accepting the highly prestigious Mercury Prize awarded to Pulp's "Different Class" as the best British album of the year. He immediately gave both the trophy and the $35,000 cash award to Bosnian relief charity War Child, whose "Help" anthology album he declared to be the year's best.

English pop weekly Melody Maker suggested that Cocker be given a knighthood for his service to Britain. That's not in our power, but we can rename our Dubious Distinction award in his honor. So ladies and gentlemen, presenting the Jarvis--at least for this year. Just don't dance the Macarena.

Our only regret is that Cocker wasn't able give the same treatment he gave Jackson to a few others. So now, let's turn to those figures in the pop world whose activities were, well, dubious:

Suge Knight--The death of Tupac Shakur after a gangland-style ambush while riding in Knight's car stands as a tragedy. But Knight, the picture of hubris, added "The New and Untouchable" to his Death Row company's logo, though he's now untouchably behind bars, having violated probation on assault charges. The least he could do is return calls from Gina Longo, the teenager whom Knight signed to a record deal after her assistant-D.A. dad recommended Knight's probation.

Many record executives--Sure, maybe recording academy president Mike Greene was grandstanding a bit when he called for industrywide programs to stem the ongoing drug epidemic. But someone had to take the leadership role. As it was, it took the death of Smashing Pumpkins sideman Jonathan Melvoin, son of former recording academy president Mike Melvoin, to get people to work together.

Van Halen--Who would guess that Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth would ever be on the same side of matters concerning the band each fronted at one time? We have no idea who to believe in the war of words that ensued from Hagar being fired (or quitting, depending on who you talk to) or Roth being allowed to think he was back in the band (or fooling himself, depending on who you talk to), and frankly, we don't care. But we loved Eddie Van Halen's quip that the two disgruntled ex-frontmen should take their act on the road as "Sam & Dave." And you had to feel for Roth, who could hardly contain his glee at being back in the band when he appeared with his former mates at the MTV Awards.

The Battlin' Gallagher Brothers--If Oasis is the Beatles of the '90s, the band is still at the "I Want to Hold Your Hand" stage of its career. But the founding siblings' disruptive foibles are more like a scene from "Let It Be."

Jenny McCarthy--Just because.

*

Here are some other highlights from the 1996 Pop Follies:

HIGHWAY TO HECK: Metal's back . . . and Pat Boone's got it. Sure, once-controversial heavy metal is now tame by gangsta and industrial hard-core standards, but the White Bucked Man of Milk still made an unlikely champion of the nasty noise as he recorded his upcoming "Pat Boone in a Metal Mood: No More Mister Nice Guy" during breaks from his Christian TV duties. Due in stores in February, the album features Boone's straight-faced (and strait-laced) takes on such classics as Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water," Van Halen's "Panama" (with some of the randier lines altered), Alice Cooper's title song and, of course, the inevitable Led Zeppelin anthem "Stairway to Heaven." We can't wait to hear Beavis and Butt-head's review.

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