10 Things You Never Knew About PJ Harvey

A misunderstood icon

The double Mercury-winning diva is a misunderstood icon. Now you can get to know her a little better…

1. Although frequently referred to as one of the greatest female artists, her music wasn’t exactly an instant hit. At her debut gig, the hall was cleared after just one song and a woman shouted: “Don’t you realise nobody likes you? We’ll pay you; you can stop playing, we’ll still pay you!”

2. PJ Harvey has attracted media attention on several occasions for leaving her underarms ‘au naturale’. The photo of her topless on the front of NME in April 1992 and the album cover of ‘4 Track Demos’ both show her baring unshaven armpits.

3. Kurt Cobain cited ‘Dry’, PJ Harvey’s first record, as one of his top twenty favourite albums of all time.

4. Although most famous as a musician, Polly is also a talented actress and sculptor. She has appeared in a couple of films including The Book Of Life, where she played a modern-day character based on Mary Magdalene, and her art has been exhibited in various galleries.

5. Producer Steve Albini claims that whilst making her second album, ‘Rid Of Me’, the singer only ate potatoes.

6. In 2001 Harvey won the Mercury Prize for her fifth LP, ‘Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea’, making her the first female solo artist to receive the award. She broke a second record this year after winning the award again for ‘Let England Shake’ by becoming the only artist to have received the award twice.

7. Elvis Costello, a friend of PJ Harvey, commented after the release of ‘Rid Of Me’ that a lot of the artist’s songs “seem to be about blood and fucking.” Despite tracks on the album being titled ‘Rub ‘Til It Bleeds’, ‘Legs’, ‘Man-Size’ and ‘Snake’, Harvey disagreed with the statement.

8. Harvey’s latest offering, the award-winning ‘Let England Shake’, was recorded in a 19th Century church in her home county, Dorset.

9. Although the musician has frequently been compared to fellow female punk-rocker Patti Smith, Harvey claims she hadn’t heard of Smith until the comparison and dismisses the comments as lazy journalism. Smith, however, has admitted that Harvey’s recent single, ‘The Words That Maketh Murder’, “makes me happy to exist.”

10. Not everyone’s cup of tea, Polly suggests she is often grossly misunderstood: “People have a very specific idea of what I am – some kind of axe-wielding, man-eating Vampira – and I’m not that at all. I’m almost the complete opposite.”

Words by Ellie Bothwell

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