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….


  1. Now this is weird. Plugged the Ipod into the car this morning. First song ‘dress’ PJ Harvey.

    Which is as you say bloody brilliant.

  2. ‘Dress’ is no doubt an excellent debut but the first single that really struck me was ’50ft Queenie.’ Still jarring and excellent. PJ Harvey is one of the rare artists that just get better with time. ‘The Wheel’ from 2016 is also one of her best singles – released 25 years after hear debut. Personal pick for best one of all: ‘Down by the Water’.

  3. Been listening to a lot of Peej recently as we saw her at the Playhouse earlier in the month. Wonderful show with fantastic sound. I’d probably agree on Dress but as JFTL says The Wheel is brilliant too. Hope Six Demolition Project is the PJH L.P. I’ve enjoyed the most in years.

  4. it’s my favourite pj harvey song so YES

    but i did learn something – I always thought Sheela Na Gig was the debut – it was also the first song by her that i heard

  5. I made sure that I got down to London early in order to catch the PJ Harvey trio supporting Robyn Hitchcock at ULU in January 1992. It was well worth all the rushing around and remains the only time I’ve seen her in concert. I still love that early stuff, but overall I’d say that ‘Let England Shake’ is my most played album of hers in recent years.

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