Tag Archive: PJ Harvey

Part of an irregular series of bite-sized posts about 7″ singles I own – shameless nostalgia from the days of vinyl. (Search ‘Backtracking’ to collect the set!)

Altered Images – Dead Pop Stars b/w Sentimental (Epic Records, 1980)

Sleeve design by David Band

Nobody in their right mind could ever have accused John Peel of impropriety.

His hugely influential Radio 1 shows were a model of non racist, non sexist broadcasting without getting all tight-assed and PC about it.

He famously smashed a hip-hop record on air for its homophobic content and played reggae bands before any other mainstream DJ, refusing to be put off by the bigoted hate mail he received as a result.

This was also a man who was once seduced by Germaine Greer!

However, while the music  always came first , there were frequently occasions when Peel was given to crushes on female artists, especially if they combined femininity with a strong, sassy attitude. Into this category I’d place PJ Harvey alongside modern Alt.Country divas Neko Case and Laura Cantrell.

Perhaps a more paternal affection was reserved for super cute Glaswegian 19-year-old Clare Grogan whose schoolgirl voice was more petulant than rebellious. Continue reading


More love is due for PJ Harvey whose album, Let England Shake, continues to weave its magical spell.

I have to be patient and wait four months before she plays her one and only concert in Italy at Ferrara on July 6th.

I was keen to know how these songs sound live so I asked my friend Rachael to write a guest review of Polly’s recent gig in  London .

Here’s what she wrote:

PJ Harvey @ The Troxy, London, February 28th 2011

On the darkened stage of the 1930s art-deco ex-cinema, Polly Jean Harvey stood in a white spotlight that made her look like a ghostly Victorian figure from a daguerreotype.

Wearing a long white dress and a black feather headdress, she strummed her autoharp as ‘Let England Shake’ filled the Troxy with a curiously ancient sound.

The first six songs were all from the new work, including one not featured on the album; ‘The Big Guns Called Me Back Again’. Then we heard ‘The Devil’ and ‘The Sky Lit Up’ – and I wondered why. I’ve never seen Polly live before, so perhaps it’s her wont to sprinkle in a few old numbers. Still, I couldn’t help thinking we were being compensated for the distinct change in style. I hope not, because it wasn’t necessary.

This audience seemed far more receptive to the new songs than the one at La Maroquinerie in Paris on the CD’s release date, but then we’d had a chance to listen to them. The songs are often fast-paced and end quite abruptly. There was no rock-concert ambiance at all – but the marvellous spectacle of an artist brave enough to give us what we didn’t know we wanted or needed. Continue reading


PJ Harvey in Paris, Valentine's Day 2011

I can’t get enough of PJ Harvey at the moment.

Her new album, Let England Shake, was released yesterday and is simply an amazing piece of work.

It takes as its theme England’s role in wars past and present, yet despite this subject matter these cannot be classified as straight protest songs. Instead they are a form of reportage as if she had already accepted the post of ‘official war song correspondent’ offered this week by the Imperial War Museum.

Polly Harvey lets the atrocity of human conflict speak for itself and is more of a lament for wasted lives than an exercise in finger pointing at warmongers. Continue reading


PJ Harvey

Seamus Murphy

I can’t wait to hear the whole of PJ Harvey‘s new album Let England Shake tecorded in a 19th Century church near her home in Dorset. I now also want to see  all the 12 videos that accompany the tracks shot by Seamus Murphy.

The first two of these  for The Last Living Rose and The Words That Maketh Murder are now up on her website and you can also see them here to save you an extra mouse click. Continue reading


PJ-HarveyJane Bown’s lifetime in photography is justifiably celebrated and is in the news again through the publication of a collection of her most famous shots (‘Exposures’) and an exhibition at the Kings Place Gallery  in London.

A selection of her fantastic portraits can be seen in the  the gallery in the Observer .

All her subjects are in black and white and captured using just natural lighting. Bown, now in her 80s, is a modest and self effacing character who shuns the limelight and this  is probably what allowed her to get close to her subjects, even those who were notoriously camera shy, like Lucien Freud and Samuel Beckett.

The eyes are what you are drawn to when you see these images.

This great picture of P.J. Harvey, which I hadn’t previously seen,  illustrates what makes Jane Bown so great. In that strong sorrowful gaze you get a glimpse of what makes Polly Harvey’s music so powerful – the look (and the music) manages to be both assertive and fragile at the same time.

Brown almost certainly didn’t know Harvey’s music when she took this photo, just as she had never heard of Bjork or Jarvis Cocker when she was commissioned to photograph them.  This shows that her skill lies in being an instinctive judge of what made people tick.

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