Let’s have a quick quiz question….

How many times has a PJ Harvey single appeared in the Top 20 of the UK charts??

Those of you who said ‘None’ are correct. Incredible to believe that such a critically acclaimed artist, and one whose tours of decent-sized venues sell our pretty quickly, has never gotten any higher than #25 in the singles charts despite almost 30 attempts at doing so. Indeed, the stats paint a pretty depressing picture as only nine of her singles have ever made it into the Top 40, only one of which has been this century.

Things are surely better on the album front, so let’s have another question.

How many times has a PJ Harvey album appeared in the Top 10 of the UK charts?

The answer is ‘Three’

Rid Of Me in 1993; Let England Shake in 2011; and The Hope Six Demolition Project which gave her a first ever #1 earlier this year.

Incidentally, the dreadful state of the music industry can be seen from the fact that this album went to #1 on the basis of less than 11,500 sales in the first week of its eagerly awaited release. I’m terrified to think how low the sales are for bands on the smaller, indie-labels.

The stats also show that PJ’s best-selling album is Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea, the Mercury Prize winner released back in 2000. In terms of the charts, it peaked at #23 but has been a consistent seller over the years and has recently just gone above 300,000 sales.

Part of the problem is that PJ Harvey has released songs that were just ahead of their time in that their unfamiliar style or sound would become popular a short while later but other bands would get all the glory. Such as this from 1995 which to my ears has something that dragged Radiohead to world-wide fame and fortune the following year:-

mp3 : PJ Harvey – C’mon Billy

The three extra tracks on the single are well worth a listen….all completely different in form and delivery and yet all so typically PJ Harvey.

mp3 : PJ Harvey – Darling Be There
mp3 : PJ Harvey – Maniac
mp3 : PJ Harvey – One Time Too Many



  1. The charts have been largely irrelevent for years. During the 90s, a lot of good stuff that made the charts only did so because reps were giving singles to record shops for nowt – they were nothing more than a loss-leader to help promote the album. The number of times I picked up 7″, 12″ and CD singles in shops for 99p, sometimes less. It meant you could afford to buy the same single in multiple formats just to get the extra tracks. Each sale, whatever the monetary value, all meant the same in terms of number of sales, so it was so easy to hype a song into the charts.

    Nowadays, streaming is counted. This means that you could play a song on Spotify 100 times and it counts as 100 sales. So easy for any label to get each employee to continuously stream the same crappy songs in order to maintain chart positions.

    The fact Polly only reached number 20-something in the charts is not something she or anyone else should be concerned about. Proper artists don’t care about chart positions, more about creating something they believe in. Critical acclaim is secondary and commercial success is probably further still down the list.

  2. The Robster did a hell of a dissection of PJH’s entire discography a while back that is well worth everyone’s time.

  3. Not sure why anybody is getting vexed about chart positions , if you like a record you buy it, doesn’t matter a fuck where it gets to in the charts unless you need some validation from others. Just sayin’ like.

  4. I didn’t even realise she’d released an album this year. Perhaps if the marketing guys had got their act together it could have been one sale nearer to 11,500…

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