Re-DRESS-ed

Found these yesterday in my drawers of demo tapes and early-doors cassettes (there’s a bewildering collection of stuff from over the years as you can imagine – a rogues gallery that even some indie rogues would blanche at): two of these I vaguely remember getting, from RIDE and LUSH….but I’m struggling to definitively recall the origin of the PJ HARVEY cassette.

But I had a strange route in to PJH. I was working at the NME where one day, then deputy editor, Danny Kelly approached saying “Now…I have a favour to ask you.”

The favour, it turned out, was all to do with a man called John. John worked behind the counter at a record shop which The Kelly regularly frequented, but he was also managing a band, who happened to be first on at the Inspiral Carpets gig at the Marquee which I was going to in a couple of days.

I suspect Dan had said that he’d get someone to have a look at the band (either to get John politely off his back, or far more likely, it was in return for a favourable deal on some second hand record or other). Anyway, I said I’d do it.

I didn’t mind the Marquee when it was in Wardour Street, despite the fact that if you stayed put for more than five seconds, your boots stuck to the floor, so I turned up early and watched the band, who (surprisingly?) turned out to be really good.

They had THREE guitarists! They veered from the Slightly-delic to the garage; and from the American underground back to raw steamrollering indie rock. Their singer had a really rich, interesting voice too and some good lyrics. They were called THE FAMILY CAT.

I met the man called John in the audience, who was an exceptionally nice bloke, and reviewed the gig for the paper – and The Cat’s career started slowly taking off from there. Anyway, it was one of them, possibly even Fred the Singer, who at some point told me about PJ Harvey.

Polly had supported them on some gigs in the west Country (where FC had their roots) and they obviously really rated her. It might have been one of them who gave us the tape, but I have strange feeling that Polly might have sent it to the NME herself.

Must ask her one day.  If  you believe such things, Wikipapedia claims she did send out some early demos to various record labels, with Too Pure enthusiastically taking the bait and releasing her first single in October 1991.

Wiki also claims however (along with every other source I’ve seen) that PJ Harvey were formed in 1991, whereas the date of the recording session listed on the sleeve of this is September 1990.

Just had a listen to the cassette version of ‘Dress’ and it does sound remarkably like the version Too Pure later released (although the tape quality is a bit shabby and the drums sound louder and echo more).

Richard and Paul from Too Pure, still a fully fledged independent label at the time, before later being bought by Beggars, were as taken aback by PJ Harvey as the Family Cat were. To be fair, we all were. But there were some very excitable conversations between Richard and I on the phone when the white label arrived.

To coincide with the release of ‘Dress’ I interviewed Harvey, in a pub which lurked in the shadow of the NME near London’s South Bank. She was very nice. Quiet. Friendly. Not nervous, but not sure what was expected of her. The whole idea that people would be interested in her and where she came from and what her songs were about, seemed to confuse the hell out of her (to the point where she did say at one stage: “do people really want to know about these sort of things. I can’t see why they’d be interested?” Oh trust me Polly, they’ll be interested).

Within eight months, she was the cover of the paper.

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