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P.J. HARVEY - BIOGRAPHY Print E-mail
Saturday, 02 September 2006

"As far as I'm concerned, it seems like there's a lot of brain-dead music - all these boy and girl groups dancing around. But there is a lot of great music out there; you just have to look for it - below the surface, beyond MTV."

 

ImagePolly Jean Harvey born 9 Oct 1969. Polly grew up on the family farm in Corscombe, Dorset, England. Polly's parents exposed her to music at a young age. Reared on a diet of blues, Captain Beefheart and Bob Dylan, the teenage Polly begins playing saxophone and joins an 8 piece instrumental group, Boulogne. She writes her first songs as part of the Polekats, a folk trio who tour local pubs.
Music is still a pulling force and it's not long before Polly is recruited to join the Bristol-based group Automatic Dlamini (featuring, among others, John Parish and Rob Ellis). Polly plays saxophone, guitar and sings vocals with the group for two and a half years. The band tour Europe twice and release an album 'From A Diva To A Diver' (The other album to feature Polly, 'Here Catch Shouted His Father' still remains unreleased) before the band disband in 1992.


1991 - Polly moves to London intent on earning a degree in sculpture, however the music soon becomes Polly's primary focus.
Polly teams up with bassist Ian Olliver and drummer/backing singer Rob Ellis to form the band 'PJ Harvey'. They play together for the first time in April and Ian is replaced by Stephen Vaughan soon after. London-based label Too Pure sign the band and release their debut single 'Dress' to much critical acclaim in October. John Peel immediately plays the record to death and the band perform an energetic session for the show (later released by Too Pure). The album is recorded with Head producing at the Icehouse studios in Yeovil, Somerset.

Image1992 - 'Sheela-Na-Gig' single is released in February, preceding the 'Dry' album in March. The sleeve featuring stunning photography by Maria Mochnacz, a friend of Polly from college and who will go on to photograph Polly almost exclusively up to the present day.
Polly appears on her first NME front cover topless with her back to the photographer which causes quite a stir. 'Dry' is hailed as one of the albums of the year in the end of year polls with the music press. Rolling Stone proclaim Polly as the songwriter of the year.
In the wake of the success of 'Dry', Polly suffers a near nervous breakdown. The band also play a well received set at the Reading Festival. August sees the release of Automatic Dlamini's 'From A Diva To A Diver'. Two more Peel Sessions are recorded this year as well as Too Pure's release of the first session.


Image1993 -  Starting this year out by mixing the second album 'Rid Of Me' ,produced by Big Black member Steve Albini, Dec 92, in Cannon Falls,Minnesota U.S. The album is recorded live with very few vocal overdubs, a technique championed by Steve Albini.
'Rid Of Me', on first hearing, is a harsh sounding album but the melodies and lyrics hold the album together well. Polly is constantly quizzed about her alleged 'feminism' and almost invariably she skirts the issue.
Two singles are also released to promote the album, '50Ft Queenie' and 'Man-Size' as well as another tour. 'Rid Of Me' outsells 'Dry' substantially, inspiring Island Records to release '4 track Demos' in October. This album containing demo versions of 'Rid Of Me' songs and a few unreleased numbers. PJ Harvey also record a special Peel Session including songs still to be released: 'Claudine, The Inflatable One' and 'Primed & Ticking'.


1994 - Rob Ellis leaves the band and Polly decides to take a change in direction and work with other musicians. She tells American Press in 1995:

"I knew all along that I'd want to work with different musicians eventually, which is why I used my own name for the group. I wanted to be completely freed up by not having to limit my writing to what I thought they would be able to perform."


The only official video 'Reeling' is released, a film based on the 'Rid Of Me' tour. 'The Ballad Of A Soldier's Wife' is recorded by Polly for a Kurt Weill tribute film, 'September Songs', an audio release does not see the light of day until 1997.
Polly performs backing vocals for Too Pure's Moonshake on their album 'The Sound Your Eyes Can Follow'. Polly contributes to five tracks.
Polly spends the year writing the new album and getting together a new band of musicians. The forthcoming new album is recorded in London and Dublin between November and December.


Image1995 - PJ Harvey (now essentially a solo artist) storms back onto the scene with 'To Bring You My Love' in February. Preceded by the excellent 'Down By The Water'. The album produced by Flood, John Parish and Polly herself, brings even more success and establishes PJ Harvey commercially. The album earns PJ Harvey nominations for the Mercury Music Prize and two Grammies as well as '1995 artist of the year' awards from Rolling Stone and Spin.
Two other singles are released to promote the album 'C'mon Billy' and 'Send His Love To Me'.
John Parish, Eric Drew Feldman (ex Captain Beefheart player), Joe Gore (ex Tom Waits player), Jean-Marc Butty and Nick Bagnall join Polly for a sell-out world tour. Polly adopting a theatrical approach to her live performance.


Image1996 - Polly begins to collaborate with many other artists. The first collaboration is released in February, a duet with Nick Cave entitled 'Henry Lee', the single makes the UK Top 20. Polly also contributes vocals to another track on Nick Cave's 'Murder Ballads' album. They both perform the track live on The White Room and they are rumoured to be romantically linked.
Polly records 'Who Will Love Me Now?' for 'The Passion Of Darkly Noon' movie directed by Philip Ridley.
In September the John Parish & Polly Jean Harvey album 'Dance Hall At Louse Point' is released. Polly writes and sings the words over John's music. A band is put together featuring Polly Harvey, John Parish, Eric Drew Feldman, Rob Ellis and Jeremy Hogg. They play few dates in Bristol and London. A dance and music collaboration with the Mark Bruce Dance Company ensues with a limited run, also entitled 'Dance Hall At Louse Point'. A single is also released from the album: 'That Was My Veil' and surprisingly an extra video made for 'Is That All There Is?'


1997 - Another quiet year and time off to reflect for Polly. Few releases see the light of day this year but of note: In September, Polly's contribution to the Kurt Weill tribute compilation 'September Songs' is released (see 1994).
Polly collaborates with Eric Drew Feldman and they record a cover version of 'Zaz Turned Blue' for the lounge compilation 'Lounge-A-Palooza'. Sarah Miles directs 'Amareu Fallout 1972' which features a performance from Polly and an unreleased 'When Will I See You Again?' recorded by Polly and John Parish.


1998 - Polly stars in another Sarah Miles film 'A Bunny Girl's Tale' and performs 'Nina In Ecstasy' in the film wearing a bunny girl's outfit and sporting long vicious fingernails!
ImageMay brings the release of the much anticipated collaboration with label-mate Tricky. 'Broken Homes' does well in the charts and is performed live on 'Later With Jools Holland' in the UK and Letterman's 'Late Show' in the U.S. with a full entourage of Tricky, Polly, musicians and a full gospel choir! The track is also included on Tricky's 'Angels With Dirty Faces' album. Polly guests on three tracks with French musician Pascal Comelade. In September, the new PJ Harvey album is released. 'Is This Desire?' is a more laid back and moody affair produced by Polly, Flood and Head, including performances from John Parish, Mick Harvey and Rob Ellis. The album enters high in the charts on both sides of the Atlantic and the press shower more praise upon Polly and her songwriting. Two singles support the album: 'A Perfect Day Elise' and 'The Wind'. Again, PJ Harvey is nominated for a BRIT award and a Grammy (for the third time!). Polly also became the only artist to have received three nominations for the Mercury Music Prize.
Another world tour is undertaken to support 'Is This Desire?'.


1999 - In April, Polly and John Parish play a concert supporting 'Echo & The Bunnymen' for John Peel's birthday at the Improv Theatre, London.
Polly writes and contributes a yet-to-be-released track and incidental music for the 'Stella Does Tricks' movie. Polly stars as a modern day Mary Magdalene in Hal Hartley's apocalyptic religious movie 'The Book Of Life' released in October. Polly's performance is well received and the movie is shown in the U.S. and Europe in independent cinemas.
To round off the year, Polly gets involved with Channel 4's Music Of The Millennium project. Polly is filmed citing Bob Dylan's 'Desire' as one of her albums of the millennium and also gives a live performance of Bob Dylan's 'Shot Of Love' on the night of the show.


Image2000 - 'Cradle Will Rock' soundtrack is released and features a track by Polly Jean Harvey And Rob Ellis, 'Nickel Under The Foot'. Tiffany Anders' album is recorded with Polly in the production seat, the first production role for Polly outside of her own work! Due to be released in 2001.
Inspired by her time spent in New York and at home in Dorset, Polly writes, records and produces her latest album with these places in mind. Produced by Polly, Mick Harvey and Rob Ellis, 'Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea' is released in October to press claims that this is her finest album to date. The album sells exceptionally well across the world and a single, 'Good Fortune' is released in the UK. The album also features the talents of Thom Yorke of Radiohead fame, having been friends with Polly for a long time. A band is put together including Polly Harvey, Eric Drew Feldman, Rob Ellis, Margaret Fiedler (from Laika) and Tim Farthing. The band play a few promotional shows in Europe and the U.S. to wild and excited crowds and gain excellent reviews from the music press.
'Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea' also manages to make it into the end of year polls just in time!


2001 - Polly, Rob Ellis and Tim Farthing record a Session for Radio One playing three songs. Polly is nominated for a BRIT award. 'Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea' gives Polly her third Mercury Music Prize nomination.
ImageDue to the on-going success of 'Stories From The City...', Polly and the band are asked to tour the U.S. for their own shows, they agree to a short headlining tour that sells out in a day!
'Stories From The City...' wins the prestigious 2001 Mercury Music Prize but there are no immediate celebrations as the band are told of the news whilst they are in their hotel in Washington (U.S.) on the fateful day of Sept 11th. The awards ceremony, held on that day, is a sombre affair and Polly makes her poignant and thankful speech from her hotel room overlooking the burning Pentagon building.
The band continue with their commitment to the U.S. tour and returned to the UK to play three final UK shows, also showcasing a new song with words written for Polly by Will Oldham (Bonnie Prince Billy) quickly titled 'Wills Song'.
Promotion is concluded with a fantastic performance on the BBC's Later with Jools Holland. Recorded on Polly's birthday, the band perform 'Big Exit', 'Wills Song', 'This Is Love' and an extra performance of 'The Whores Hustle' which was not shown.


2002 - PJ Harvey wins the South Bank Show Award for 'Stories...' Finally Gordon Gano's 'Hitting THe Ground' is released featuring Polly on vocals. A Fantastic song. Polly also contributes to John Parish's second solo album 'How Animals Move'. The track 'Airplane Blues' is another fantastic collaboration. Things are very quiet on the PJ Harvey front as Polly starts writing for the next album.


2003 - 'Big Day Out' tour sees Polly perform many dates in Australia and New Zealand, just for the fun of it! Four new songs are debuted: 'Shame', 'Who The Fuck' and 'Desperate Kingdom Of Love' and 'Bows & Arrows'. Unofficial moview 'Stories From The Road' is debuted in London to a rapturous reception. 'This Is Love' used for a huge television advertising campaigh for T-Mobile.
The end of the year brings fantastic releases from 'Desert Sessions' - a collaboration of artists, including Polly, brought together by Josh Humme from The Queens Of The Stone Age. An album, a single, a video and a live performance on 'Later.... with Jools Holland'.


Image2004 - Her latest album, 'Uh Huh Her', was released May 31, 2004. For the first time since '4-Track Demos', Harvey produced it alone and played every instrument bar the drums. The album, which was a sparser, more intimate, lo-fi and low-key affair than its predecessor, met with a generally positive response from critics and fans. She told Rolling Stone "when I'm working on a new record, the most important thing is to not repeat myself ... that's always my aim: to try and cover new ground and really to challenge myself. Because I'm in this for learning."
Appearance in British and European festival at Glastonbury, T in the Park, the Montreux Jazz Festival and  La Primavera festival in Spain.


2006 - In May she played her first UK gig of the year, revealing that her new album would be almost entirely piano based. New songs taken from the as-yet-untitled forthcoming album include 'When Under Ether' (formerly known as The Ceiling), 'The Mountain' and 'Bitter Little Bird'. Later in 2006 she released her first concert DVD 'Please Leave Quietly' which contained songs from her entire career as well as behind the scene video clips between performances.


Special thanks to JPH .

 

 

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