I’ve often mentioned how picking up a single or album and looking at the release date has an ability to make me feel old and/or provided a jolt to the system when you realise just how long ago it was. I did it again yesterday, and today’s offering is perhaps the ultimate for that particular sensation.
PJ Harvey’s debut single was released in October 1991. That’s 26 years ago. That’s the best part of half of my lifetime. And yet I still think of her as a relatively new kid on the rock’n’roll block………..
It’s worth recalling that Dress, along with all the other songs that made up the first two albums, were the work of an acknowledged trio that worked under the name of their enigmatic yet charismatic frontwoman. Rob Ellis on drums and Ian Olliver on bass were the players on the debut single , although the bassist would soon be replaced by Stephen Vaughan in advance of the recording of the sophomore single and debut album. There was also a double bass contribution to Dress from Ben Groenevelt.
The years haven’t diminished the impact of Dress as a calling card by an unknown band. It’s big, bold, booming, boisterous and bloody brilliant. It’s memorable, mesmerizing and magnificent. It’s delightfully danceable. It’s phenomenal.
mp3 : PJ Harvey – Dress
I have to hold my hands up and admit that I missed out on its release. My first exposure to PJ Harvey came, as so many things did in those days, via Jacques the Kipper when he included Sheela-Na-Gig on one of his regular compilation tapes, a tune that made such an impression on me that I bought the CD album the very next day and that would have been the first time I ever heard Dress which stood out even among an album of astounding songs.
The version of Dress on the album is the same as that released as a 45 a few months earlier – that much can be deduced from the credit given to Ian Olliver. It was released on CD and in 12” format with the latter now fetching around £20 on the second-hand market. Even the CD can attract the best part of £10.
The two tracks on the b-side were Water and Dry; the former would appear on the debut LP released in March 1992 while the latter, despite being the title of said debut LP, would turn up on the follow-up Rid Of Me the following year after which the trio would split up and PJ Harvey would become a solo project, albeit Rob Ellis would remain an essential part of the new set-up. The credits on the sleeve of Dress indicate that its b-sides were recorded and produced by PJ Harvey and so are different versions to those that would appear on the albums. So I’m guessing they were demo versions and I’ve only been able to source one of them:-
mp3 : PJ Harvey – Water
But is Dress the finest 45 from PJ Harvey?
PS : If I’ve got it wrong about the b-sides, then I apologise. If someone out there does have rips of the actual b-sides than I’d happilly receive copies and give you credit right below here….