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Tour burn-out and a painful breakup fuelled the creation of PJ Harvey’s monumental second studio album. As Neil Crossley explains, it remains her most striking creative achievement…


As memorable rock-star interviews go, Jay Leno’s encounter with PJ Harvey on he Tonight Show on 24 September 1993 is up there with the inest.

Harvey, in shimmering gold dress and gold wedge shoes, had just performed a track from her new album Rid Of Me and joined fellow guests on the studio sofa. Leno started by asking the 23-year-old about her upbringing on her parents’ farm in Dorset and whether she still helped out.

“I still help with dipping the sheep, ringing the lambs’ tails,” replied Harvey breezily, “and ringing testicles, things like that.” As the audience at the NBC Studios in Burbank, Cailfornia erupted with laughter, Leno pressed for more details. “You have to do it for the male lambs that you don’t want to become rams,” explained Harvey matter-of-factly. “You have to ring their testicles with a rubber band and ater about two weeks, they drop of.”

For some of the 16.5 million people watching the show, such frank discussion might have come as a shock. Equally bewildering perhaps, minutes earlier, was Harvey’s performance of Rid Of Me, the title track from her new album, which closed with her screeching the lines: “Lick my legs I’m on ire/ Lick my legs of desire” in an a cappella chant.

With black Telecaster slung low, Harvey delivered a solo performance that was ferocious and intense. She was at the epicentre of the mainstream airwaves that evening, but her music was light years away from mainstream fare.This was a track from a visceral, unforgiving album fuelled by sexual betrayal and the break-up of her irst serious relationship. Rid Of Me is not an easy album to listen to. But 25 years on, it stands as Harvey’s inest achievement.


The ascent of PJ Harvey to the international stage was relatively rapid. It was also surprising, given that the Rid Of Me album yielded no breakaway hit singles and minimal MTV play. But Harvey’s strident post-punk sound created huge interest.

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