THE JOY OF (a mixed) SEX (duet) : Couple #5

Adapted from wiki:-

“Young Hunting” is a traditional folk song that has its origin in Scotland. It can be traced back as far as the 18th century, being the tale of the eponymous protagonist, Young Hunting, who tells a woman, who may have borne him a child, that he is in love with another, more beautiful woman. Despite this, she persuades him to drink until he is drunk, then to come to her bedroom, or at least kiss her farewell. The woman then stabs him to death.

The tormented murderer then throws the body in the river but in doing so is taunted by a bird. She tries to lure the bird down from the tree but it tells her that she will kill it if it comes within reach. When the search for Young Hunting starts, she either denies seeing him or claims that he left earlier, but when Hunting’s remains are found, in order to revoke her guilt, she reveals that she murdered him and is later burned at the stake.

Like most traditional songs, numerous variants of the song exist worldwide, notably under the title of “Henry Lee” and “Love Henry” in the United States.

Nick Cave decided that he’d like to record a version of Henry Lee for inclusion as part of the Bad Seeds‘ ambitious 1996 album Murder Ballads, being a work (almost) entirely devoted to asongs of violent death, most often in tragic circumstances. He recorded a vocal in Australia and brought on board PJ Harvey who recorded her vocal separately in England.

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Henry Lee

The results were astonishing and led to Mute Records demanding it be released as a single, for which this promo was shot:-

The couple, having met, embarked on a short relationship (seemingly just four months in length), the aftermath of which led to Cave composing a number of break-up songs that would appear on his next album The Boatman’s Call – it should be noted, however, that most of the album’s material, including the haunting Into My Arms, deals with the six-year marriage he had enjoyed with Brazilian journalist Viviane Carneiro.



So….you happen to be high up on Island Records in the early 90s and you’ve just won a bidding war to sign one of the hottest new and likely unique talents to emerge from the British music scene in many a year. A trio, fronted by a strong-willed 21-year old woman who, going by the interviews in the music press, has her head screwed-on the right way and well aware of the pitfalls which have ruined the hopes and dreams of many who had preceded her. A woman who had taken her time to select your label on the basis that you were offering that best combination of financial backing while conceding a fair degree of artistic control.

The debut album, on the indie label, has received universally good reviews. The sales are impressive. John Peel has given his approval. Nothing can go wrong can it?

You try to ignore the whispers that the star of the trio – the one whose name is intertwined with that of the band, the one of whom all the media focusses its attention and the one who, let’s face it was the reason the label went in so hard – those scary whispers that she’s not doing so well from the break-up of a relationship and the songs she’s penning have a lot of pent-up anger and frustration in them. This isn’t what you gambled on is it?

You await, with a degree of trepidation, on the first new single.

Oh my… proves to be an ugly and tough record. It sounds quite insane and you can just picture the fanboys in the music press doing the about-turn and declaring it the ravings of a crazy lady. One second she’s screaming that she’s king of world and then she’s whispering things about bent-over Casanovas and making no sense whatsoever…there’s no way this will get any airplay and nobody will buy it. Time to write off your investment as a huge mistake….

mp3 : PJ Harvey – 50ft Queenie

Except, of course, it didn’t turn out that way. I’m not even sure if the folk at Island were ever really that bothered about it – I’ve just generalised on the basis of how almost every major music label has treated its female signings throughout history – conform or get out.

50ft Queenie was a single unlike any other back in 1992. It was the perfect launch pad for the album Rid Of Me, a work of art which fused punk, blues and the avant-garde strangeness of Captain Beefheart and his ilk. Polly Jean Harvey had been held up as someone who would be massive in the world of indie-pop and here she was, making a record that was certainly not pop and didn’t fit comfortably into any description of indie, no matter how wide you defined the genre.

The single reached #27 in April 1993. It remains, outside of A Perfect Day Elise (which reached #25 in 1998), the highest chart position for any of the 45s.

I was surprised by that too…..

Here’s yer b-sides from the CD single:-

mp3 : PJ Harvey – Reeling
mp3 : PJ Harvey – Man-Size (demo)
mp3 : PJ Harvey – Hook (demo)



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….



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




It’s kind of pot luck which member of the royal family you’ll get to pin on the medal you’ve been awarded in the twice-yearly honours list. As you can spot from the above photo, the delightful PJ Harvey, having been listed in the June 2013 Awards for achievements in music, got hers from the woman once portrayed in a movie by Helen Mirren.

This is another song inspired by a random appearance on the ipod, but it was this rather wonderful acoustic version:-

mp3 : PJ Harvey – Dress (live, WHFS)

This was recorded in the early 90s for a radio station that is based in Rockville, Maryland (yup….the very same Rockville once namechecked at length in a song by R.E.M.)

The original is, of course, a bona fide classic:-

mp3 : PJ Harvey – Dress

So how about we round things off with the demo version so you can hear how much it subsequently developed…

mp3 : PJ Harvey – Dress (demo)


PS : The reason for this burst of activity on the bonus posting front will become clear quite soon….


JC writes…….

This is a genuine moment of excitement for me.

In all the years since I first blogged I have aspired to match the quality of writing and/or deliver the breadth of ideas that are constantly on show at Plain Or Pan?, courtesy of the talents of its sole contibutor Phil Spector (although in recent times he has dropped the non-de-plume for the good old fashioned and very Scottish Craig McAllister)

I’m thrilled that he’s come on board with an ICA, and featuring an artist much loved by so many readers. Oh and he supplied today’s unforgetable image too…..


Over to Craig……..

Following a recent post on Plain Or Pan, JC wrote me a lovely and flattering begging letter, asking if I’d contribute a piece on PJ Harvey for The Vinyl Villain. Now, just to qualify, I’m no expert on Polly Jean. I’m a huge fan and I have most of her back catalogue (the odd collaborative effort aside) and while there are other artists that I obsess far more over and go to first when choosing something to play on the rare occasion I have the house to myself, PJ is always somewhere in the background, shuffling up unannounced but always welcome on my iPod during the commute to work, or peeking out at me in-between my George Harrison and Richard Hawley albums. The bulk of her music still thrills and amazes and stands up to repeated listens long after the time of release, which is surely the mark of a true artist.

It’s incredible to think that PJ Harvey has been making records for nigh on a quarter of a century. From the lo-fi scuzz of Dry via the Patti Smith-isms of Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea and the stark, piano-only White Chalk right up to her most recent collection of WW1-themed songs on Let England Shake (not forgettting the one-off single in support of Guantanamo Bay prisoner Shaker Aamer), she’s one of our most consistent musicians. Daring, unpredictable and true to herself, she’s right up there with the best of ’em.

Excitingly, she has a new LP in the offing. April, I believe. The first fruits are spinning heavily on BBC 6Music every day just now, and they’re sounding terrific. As a primer, JC asked me to collate a compilation for the uninitiated, put together any way I saw fit.

I begin with the caveat that the tracks I’ve chosen today might not necessarily be the ones I’d chose tomorrow, but I’ve chosen one track from each of her 8 studio LPs (excluding the 4 Track Demos stop-gap LP or those collaborative efforts mentioned earlier). Some of the tracks were singles, some were hidden away in the darkest corners of the album from whence they came. All are classic PJH; garagey, bluesy and occasionally down right dirty. There’s the odd bit of cello and throw-away sweary word. But there’s always the voice, her primal moans sexy as hell one moment, skyscrapingly stratospheric the next.

Sheela Na Gig

Sheela Na Gig was PJ’s second single and also appeared on Dry, her debut LP. She sets her stall out early here, singing about ‘child bearing hips‘ and ‘ruby red lips’. Hearing this for the first time as a 21 year old, I had no idea what a Sheela Na Gig was (Google it), so I listened to this thinking “Oh! Aye!” I always had this faint idea from then on in that one day she’d go out with me, until she met that bastard Nick Cave. Oh well, her loss.

50ft Queenie

50 ft Queenie was the lead single from 2nd album Rid Of Me. Rid Of Me is such a quiet record, which has always irked me. For an artist who apparently revels in creating a whirlwind of chaotic noise, the album seemed so quiet and tame by comparison. I’m sure there must be some sort of audiophile reason for it, subsonic frequencies and the likes, but who knows? When you play it next to something like, oh, I dunno, Definitely Maybe (like comparing jam with cheese, I know), PJ’s album sounds limp and flimsy compared to the sonic boom of the monobrowed magpies.

Anyway. 50ft Queenie. The drum track sounds like the Eastenders theme falling down the stairs, a right royal ramalama of tumbling toms and clattering cymbals all underpinned with a bluesy riff and topped off with those sexy/skyscraping moans and screams. “You bend ovah, Casa-nova…” Indeed. Great one note guitar solo too.

I have a clear memory of seeing her perform this in the Barrowlands, wearing a pink feather boa, knee high boots of shiny, shiny leather, a Gretsch Country Gentleman and not much more. A spectacular sight and sound. If you’ve never heard this before, make sure you strap yourself in first.

Come On Billy

Come On Billy can be found on the Mercury-nominated To Bring You My Love LP. Featuring some frantically scrubbed acoustic guitar and see-sawing cello, it’s PJ’s Nick Cave (aye, him again) moment. There’s a terrific, understated string section playing below the whole way through, the first evidence that PJ had more to her arsenal than bent blues notes screaming through a tower of Marshall stacks. I’ve always liked how she hiccups her way through the adlibbed chorus at the end.

The Wind

The Wind (from the Is This Desire? LP) is a slow-burning cracker. For such a slight ‘n skinny woman, PJ’s tune packs more muscle than it has any right to. It‘s her Barry Adamson moment; filmic, bass-heavy and full of brooding menace.

It fades in on a ripple of marimba and a stutter of just-plugged-in guitar, with PJ’s vocal quickly taking centrestage. Whisper-in-your-ear sultriness one moment, understated falsetto the next, it tells the story of St Catherine of Abbotsbury who built a chapel high on a hill near to where PJ lives.

The whole track is carried along by the bassline. When it comes in, after that second ‘noises like the whales’ line, it brings to mind some New York street punk, hands deep in the pockets of his leather bomber jacket, docker’s hat pulled hard and low over his forehead, eyes shifting from left to right and back again, looking to start trouble, looking to avoid trouble, but, looking for trouble.

It’s produced masterfully by Flood who brings an electro wash to the finished result. In fact, it wouldn’t sound out of place on any given recording by Harvey’s fellow West Country contemporaries Tricky and Massive Attack. There’s subtle tingaling percussion, quietly scraping cello and layers of synthetic noise. When the vocals begin their counter-melodies in the chorus, it’s pure Bjork.


Kamikaze is taken from Stories From the City, Stories From The Sea, PJ’s second Mercury-nominated LP. Her most straightforward pop/rock album, most of the tracks had the knack of sounding like Patti Smith on steroids.

Kamikaze is terrific, a down-the-hill-with-no-brakes-on, headlong rush of close-mic’d guitars, polyrhythmic drums and yet more skyscraping hysterics. It’s a close cousin of 50ft Queenie , only with far better production and mastering.

If you’re new to PJ and any of these tracks have so far piqued your curiosity, I’d start with this track’s parent album and take things from there.

Who The Fuck?

Now we’re talking! PJ’s angry. Someone’s pissed her off and she can’t wait to tell us. Coming across like a demented Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, WTF? kicks like an angry mule, a fuzztoned, vocally distorted, brilliant mess of a record.

It’s a sloppy, stroppy, brilliantly sweary track. If you took ten wasps in a jar and stuck them in a food blender with the short-lived RRRRRiot Grrrrrrl movement, it would sound something like this.

The Devil

The White Chalk LP is a difficult listen. Very difficult. I listened to it once then filed it away. For the purposes of this article I dug it out again and spent one dreary afternoon (it’s only about 35 mins long, but honestly, I’d rather stick pencils in my eye than have to listen to it again) waiting patiently until I ‘got it’. I still don’t.

I chose The Devil as it’s the lead track, and from experience, the lead track is usually a statement of intent from the artist. Well, PJ sets her stall out early with this one. The whole album is funereal in pace, delicate, flimsy and abso-fucking-lutely boring. PJ coos and woos and plays her piano with all the deftness of a concert pianist, but damn, there’s nothing there that grabs. No balls-out rockers, no dirty, sweary, innuendo-filled garage band fizzers. Nothing. For all its gossamer-thin lightness, it’s an extremely heavy listen. Maybe you think differently. For me, it’s the one clunker in a stellar back catalogue. And every artist is allowed the occasional clunker, aye?

The Glorious Land

Following the stark, piano-led White Chalk, Let England Shake was PJ’s triumphant return to the guitar. Much of the album is loosely concept, relating to the atrocities of WW1. If this seems a bit heavy, the music therein was often light and airy; gone for the most part were the blooze blunderbuss guitars, replaced with lightly chiming 6 strings, clean and pleasant on the ear. Radio 2 music, even.

The Glorious Land begins with such a guitar, playing atop a rallying military bugle. Without getting too ‘muso’ about it, the chord changes are sublime and the vocals are always to the fore. There’s almost a male/female duet in the verses, between PJ and (I think) a moonlighting Mick Harvey who come across like a 21st century Lee ‘n Nancy on helium, while PJ duets gloriously with herself in the chorus and outro. You might want to discover the rest of this album for yourself. It’s one of her best.

And there you have it, 8 tracks o’ PJ. A cross-album introduction I’d be happy to pass on to anyone with a PJ curiosity.

Craig McAllister

mp3 : PJ Harvey : Sheela Na Gig
mp3 : PJ Harvey : 50ft Queenie
mp3 : PJ Harvey : C’Mon Billy
mp3 : PJ Harvey : The Wind
mp3 : PJ Harvey : Kamikaze
mp3 : PJ Harvey : Who The Fuck?
mp3 : PJ Harvey : The Devil
mp3 : PJ Harvey : The Glorious Land

And here’s a couple of collaborations just so that you ICA purists get your 10 songs:-

mp3 : PJ Harvey and John Parish – Black Hearted Love
mp3 : Desert Sessions feat. Josh Homme & PJ Harvey – Crawl Home



Back in the early days, during the promotion of the first couple of albums, whenever PJ Harvey took to the stage for a gig or made a rare live TV appearance her appearance wasn’t that far removed from a 20-something indie-student going to the local union. Hair swept back and held in place by an Alice band and everyday clothes such as baggy black jumpers, leggings or jeans, all rounded off with a pair of trainers or Doc Martens.

She was determined to let the music do the talking and image was secondary.

But that all changed dramatically during the recording of the LP To Bring You My Love which was released in February 1995. I don’t think I was alone in being gobsmacked when I first caught sight of the promo for the lead-off single.

Long flowing black hair. Bright red lipstick around a mouth that pouted at the camera. A ruby-red designer dress that showed a vamp with a gorgeous figure. High heels. Slinky dancing. PJ submerged underwater. A vision of absolute loveliness.

It really should have been a massive hit and deserved much more than the paltry #38 it achieved in the UK.

mp3 : PJ Harvey – Down By The Water

Over in the States, it was a different story – the single was massive on the US Modern Rock chart partly because the video, unsurprisingly, was on heavy rotation on MTV. It was clear that PJ Harvey had decided to play along with the game, and the image was every bit now as important as the songs.

Here’s your b-sides:-

mp3 : PJ Harvey – Lying In The Sun
mp3 : PJ Harvey – Somebody’s Down, Somebody’s Name

Oh and interesting to note that the sleeve of this single would probably get banned nowadays thanks to the cigarette in Polly Jean’s right hand. Strange how much some things have changed in the past 20 years.