Skip to content

9 P.J. Harvey influences in one infographic

pj harvey influencias inspiraciones

Polly Jean Harvey is one of the most intrepid musicians to emerge from the alternative rock of the nineties. Always changing, she has a solid discography in which we find noise rock, blues, folk, pop, grunge, chamber music and more. Here I summarize some of her influences on this chart.

Which bands and artists influenced P.J. Harvey?

P.J. Harvey has cited legend Leonard Cohen, rock hero Neil Young and the adventurous Tom Waits as references for her music. Here I will focus only on a few of them, below:

Captain Beefheart: In the chart I chose to take Captain Beefheart, champion of avant-garde and experimental rock, first. Polly specifically says that as a child, Captain Beefheart was heard at home but she did not like him. It was in her teens that his friend and “musical soulmate” John Parish gave her a copy of Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) from 1978. It was at that moment that he could assimilate it, she became a fan of his work and even became friends with the captain.

John Lee Hooker: Along with Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker makes up much of Polly’s bluesy background. The blues makes intermittent but almost permanent appearances in PJ’s discography, both in her early works Dry (1992), Rid of Me (1993) and To Bring you my Love (1995), most especially in Uh Huh Her (2004) and It even goes as far as some tracks from her latest album The Hope Six Demolition Project of 2016.

Bob Dylan: Beyond the cover of Highway 61 revisited that PJ Harvey recorded for her second album, She explained that Dylan was specifically inspired by his poetry and his way of acting as a kind of chronicler to tell small stories or everyday scenes realistic.

Siouxsie Sioux: The singer from Siouxsie and The Banshees is an influence on Polly Jean Harvey’s attitude. That sensual, punk, flashy and frontal “stage persona” constituted an anchor point for singers that came after her. According to P.J. Harvey, Siouxsie Sioux was hher reference in her staging. Also, P.J. Harvey selected Anima Animus from The Creatures (a later Siouxsie Sioux musical project) in her 1999 top 10.

The Pixies: “It was completely new to me,” explains P.J. Harvey. Surfer Rosa (1987), The Pixies’ first LP, was produced by Steve Albini (to whom we will return in brief): the lively and raw sound was a reference for the early P.J. Harvey trio. The dynamics between the powerful choruses, the quieter melodies and the pop hooks were the elements that attracted P.J. Harvey towards the band of Black Francis and Kim Deal.

A last mention: I have a hard time not naming Patti Smith. Specifically, I was listening to her album Easter from 1978 and the link with Polly to me is inevitable. Investigating the matter I found that compared to the comparisons, P.J. Harvey has said that he considers them “lazy journalism”. Something similar happens with Kate Bush, whom Polly has praised but when critics tried to connect both singers work, Polly dismissed those references.

Which bands and artists were inspired by P.J. Harvey?

Nirvana: As we’ve already seen from the Nirvana influence chart, Kurt Cobain was a fan of P.J. Harvey: the first album Dry is mentioned among his favorites. In addition, at the time of presenting himself to produce In Utero (1993), the aforementioned Steve Albini sent the Seattle band the second album by P.J. Harvey, Rid of me, which he had recently produced. Of course Albini got the job. When listening to Surfer Rosa of the Pixies, Rid of me by P.J. Harvey and Nirvana’s In Utero you can see the producer’s hallmark of live sound.

Garbage: According to Garbage singer Shirley Manson, P.J. Harvey inspired her to lead her own band. She specifically cites To Bring you My Love as one of her favorite albums. Both P.J. Harvey and Shirley Manson have a specific appreciation for Siouxsie Sioux, with clear commonalities in their upfront and dazzling demeanor. We also have a Garbage influence chart in another post.

Thom Yorke: The Radiohead frontman has collaborated with P.J. Harvey on her fifth album, Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea (2000). In addition to lending keyboards and backing vocals on some tracks, he provides the lead vocal for the excellent This mess we’re in. Beyond this magnificent combo, Thom Yorke said that he became obsessed with her album White Chalk (2009) and is a fan of all of Polly’s work. On the other hand, Burn the Witch, the opener of Radiohead’s Moon Shaped Pool (2016) has similarities to P.J. Harvey work. She explained that working with Yorke was very positive for exploring her music in a different way.

Sharon Van Etten: Lastly, I will mention American indie folk / rock / pop singer-songwriter, who has said that she is also a fan P.J. Specifically she digs her acclaimed 2011 album Let England Shake has been well received by Sharon Van Etten, who stated that P.J. Harvey is her hero.

And this is how far I have come with this brief review of influences by P.J. Harvey. Surely we could include many more, but to start, not bad, huh?

Other related content

More about women in rock music: