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Baker's Dozen

A Woman, A Man: John Parish's Favourite PJ Harvey Recordings
Jennifer Lucy Allan , February 3rd, 2021 08:42

As PJ Harvey continues a major series of vinyl reissues of her incredible discography, her long-time collaborator and friend John Parish guides Jennifer Lucy Allan through his favourite 13 of her recordings


‘Hook’ (From 4-Track Demos)
Polly was progressing so quickly as a songwriter at this time. She gave me an early cassette of demos of songs that would end up on Rid Of Me and I was totally blown away – especially by this song. It sounded so raw and uninhibited. I love the way the two voices weaved in and out of each other. Whoever works on Polly’s records has a love hate relationship with her demos. A lot of artists love their own demos, myself included. I understand why – the moment of the demo is usually the moment of creation for the song, the realisation of an idea. There’s something so exciting about that, but my job as a producer is to help an artist understand what a listener – who doesn’t have that emotional connection to a recording – might be hearing. Occasionally the demo is the track. If we all love that demo and it’s really, really good, I shy away from trying to re-record it. 4-Track Demos is basically the demos version of the Rid Of Me album. There's a couple I preferred to what ended up on Rid Of Me – I understand why Polly didn’t mix and match demos with Steve Albini’s recordings, because they had such an identity. The album wouldn’t have sounded so good with my preferred recordings, which was a good lesson in how you don’t always stick all the 'best' recordings together to make an album.

That there's a craft of putting it together that isn’t just a playlist?

Absolutely, it's why greatest hits albums often don’t work that well as albums – they’re all great songs but when you stick them all together the different sounds doesn’t always hang together so well.