During the morning of October 31, 2021, I Shazamed a song I recognized as being sung by English alternative rock singer-songwriter and musician PJ Harvey (aka Polly Jean Harvey). The track was “You Said Something.”
I like how the nondescript but pleasing opening instrumental blends into Harvey’s bluesy vocal, and how I can hear a touch of the Pretenders’ frontperson Chrissie Hynde in her voice.
The song seems to tell a story of being haunted by things said to the writer, presumably by a lover. It reminds me of statements I heard as a youth that were sometimes out of affection, sometimes in anger, and how such words remain and resonate for years, for good or bad. It also makes me think of things I’ve said in my life and the lingering effects they might carry for the hearers. (This also reminds me of the ancient Chinese book of divination, The I Ching, which a brother told me about once long ago, interpreting one character of it as saying something like, “Life is short. Repair the damage.” Or at least that’s how I remember the conversation…)
Looking back on one’s life with a critical lens is not necessarily a bad thing; it can happen naturally, as it comes from a place of hopefully more growth and self-awareness than in the immaturity of younger life. And at the same time, it can lead to feelings of guilt, which is not a very productive emotion, especially if taken too intensely or obsessively; I think it’s important to accept accountability and also to contextualize memories and not beat oneself up for not meeting, back then, the heart, standards and principles we might have now. At the same time, this brings to mind the admonishment of British progressive rock band The Alan Parsons Project’s songwriters Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson (1945-2009) in their 1982 song, “Eye in the Sky,” “Don’t say words you’re gonna regret / Don’t let the fire rush to your head…”
PJ Harvey is an artist I don’t know a great deal about, and suppose I may have heard of her in relation to music she made with Australian singer, composer, musician, screenwriter and author Nick Cave, with whom she had a brief relationship (and unfortunately, that has been pinned onto her identity in a sexist way men rarely have to endure after being romantically linked with equally famous women). I’ve heard quite a few of her songs and enjoyed most, though there are some I just do not like at all… a few of both types have been auto-playing on YouTube as I’ve been writing this post, and I’ll admit hitting “skip” on a few.
In the end, Harvey never does disclose the “something” her person said to her in the song, leaving it as a mystery. Life can be unpredictable, and we don’t always get answers. But kindness, consideration and civility go a long way and can fill in for certainty at times. I hope I remember this the next time I say something that could hold meaning for years into the future.
“You Said Something” comes from Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea (2000), Harvey’s fifth studio album.
Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.
Here’s the audio for the song from PJ Harvey’s official YouTube channel:
Unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.