Sunday, July 29, 2012

PJ Harvey -- "Down by the Water" (1995)

Little fish, big fish
Swimming in the water
Come back here, man 
Gimme my daughter

I've been doing 2 or 3 lines for almost three years now, and I have written about almost 400 different songs.  But there are still many, many worthwhile recording artists whose music hasn't yet been featured on my wildly popular (but disappointingly unlucrative) blog.

I can now check PJ (Polly Jean) Harvey off my list.

PJ Harvey was born in 1969 in Bridport, a British town of about 13,000 souls that sits on the English Channel.  Bridport is located at the western end of Chesil Beach, a long shingle beach -- which means it consists of pebbles rather than sand.

Chesil Beach (UK)
Chesil Beach was the setting for Ian McEwen's short 2007 novel, On Chesil Beach, which is about the honeymoon of a young British couple in 1962.  It is a compelling novel, but not a happy one.  (It's one of those heartbreaking books that is made even more heartbreaking by the fact that things could have so easily turned out happily.)  

"Down by the Water" is from PJ's first of six solo albums to date, To Bring You My Love, which was released in 1995.  (She had previously recorded two albums as the frontwoman of the PJ Harvey Trio.)  The song got a lot of airplay on college radio stations, and the music video appeared on MTV quite a few times.

"Down by the Water" was nominated for the Grammy for "Best Female Rock Vocal Performance," but lost out to Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know," her sweet little musical bouquet of flowers for Dave Coulier.  No disrespect to PJ, but "You Oughta Know" deserved the top prize.  Click here to read what 2 or 3 lines had to say about "You Oughta Know."  

A lot of people have posted online explanations of the meaning of this PJ Harvey song, most of which are completely loony.  (All of you people, listen to me -- you need to get a life.  Or maybe you need new meds.)

In 2005, PJ was asked by Spin magazine what was the most ridiculous thing that anyone had ever written about her.  Here's her answer:

People assume my songs are autobiographical, but I'm not a dark person like the characters in my songs.  Some critics have taken my writing so literally to the point that they'll listen to "Down by the Water" and believe I have actually given birth to a child and drowned her.

The music video features Harvey in a red dress wearing a very big wig and lots of bright-red lipstick.  (She described the look as "Joan Crawford on acid.")  As you'll see, she spent a lot of time in the swimming pool during the shooting of that video, although she did have a body double for some of the shots.

Here's the "Down by the Water" video:

Click here to order the song from Amazon:

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