You Don’t Own Her

I saw PJ Harvey sing in Rome last Sunday. She was alone on a wide, dark stage for two hours, with an upright piano festooned with strings of white Christmas lights, a cactus, and a picture of a deer. There were also a few guitars, a zither, and a harmonica. She hardly used any percussion save for one song where she unhinged an old-fashioned metronome set at 90 or so, and a few songs where she turned on a very retro drum beat machine to accompany her playing, seamlessly turning it off at the end. She played every song like a lean piece of meat—spare and hungry. It was transfixing, and there were moments when I’m pretty sure no one breathed.

I once dated someone who loved PJ and our relationship ended bitterly and sadly and consequently I avoided her music for years. The concert became a reclamation, and she became my music.

What experiences have others had with music they once felt “belonged” to someone else?

3 thoughts on “You Don’t Own Her

  1. tjb1982

    I still feel that way about the Beatles, not only because I had an ex who ruined them for me, but because I had a theory teacher who ruined them for me, too.

  2. EmilyG

    There is some music that I now stay away from, because I associate it with people I feel bad about. It makes me sad sometimes.

  3. bloomradio

    There’s something about music and emotion that makes this really, really difficult for me. Like aroma or odor and memory — music and odor seem to have a special hot-line to memory and emotion that bypasses all the defenses the Ego can put up.

    I had a bad experience with someone ruin — absolutely ruin — Elvis Costello for me years ago. And I was into Elvis about as much as you can be into someone musically. I’ve tried a couple of times to “reclaim” him — but to this day I haven’t been successful. I know it sounds a little stupid, but I’ve actually considered psychotherapy to see if I can disentangle the Elvis stimulus from the emotional conditioned reaction. Alas.


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