The spirit of 1977 punk music showed that girls can get up on stage and play. Nowadays, that legacy of punk rock (D-I-Y attitude, open-mindedness, inclusiveness and encouragement) lives on today in young bands like Peaness, The Tuts, The Orielles and last night’s support act Colour Me Wednesday. But we’re here for Juliana Hatfield who hasn’t looked back since forming Blake Babies in 1986, joining The Lemonheads for a couple of years and running her own band The Juliana Hatfield Three since 1992.
Because Juliana is about the same age as us, we guess that punk may have influenced her musically or in terms of attitude but want to check it out in person. And yes – Juliana will talk to punkgirldiaries.com! We’re delighted to fix up a meeting just before the Nottingham gig at the Rescue Rooms. It’s halfway through the 2019 UK tour and Juliana is charming, cool, thoughtful and pleased to have a new punkgirldiaries T-Shirt.
But did punk rock really have an impact on Juliana?
“I was a little bit too young to take it in when it was first starting in the late ‘70s. And then in the early 1980s I was kind of unsophisticated in my taste and I was still listening to a lot of melodic mainstream kind of music… Olivia Newton John… I really liked Billy Joel for a while and I loved the Police.”
Her love for those Olivia Newton-John songs is reflected in a Juliana Hatfield 2018 album – JH sings the songs of ONJ. At the gig tonight, the audience get lively towards the end when Juliana’s band plays ‘Physical’ – the song made famous by Olivia Newton-John after Tina Turner turned it down.
We have a discussion about how the appeal of melodic music can still come across in a more raw punk setting.
“I’ve been listening to the first three Police albums recently and you can hear the punk influence; they’re very raw and the band sounds very live and unpolished, but it took me a while ….I came to appreciate punk rock later when in the ‘80s I started to open up my ears. I think that X, the band from Los Angeles was my gateway to punk because they were very punk energy, punk speed a lot of the time, punk attitude, punk look but also very melodic and that was a revelation to me.”
And where did punk start? Were the seeds sown in the US or the UK?
“I felt that it started here (in the UK) …it came from here but then again people would tell you that maybe The Ramones started it. In the States there were also scenes and regions – like there was the whole SST thing in Los Angeles like Black Flag. Going to some hardcore shows in the ‘80s was my first experience of that kind of dangerous energy.”
As a music student at Berklee College of Music, Juliana was well placed for meeting others who wanted to form a band, but the musicality and desire to play goes back further:
“In high school I listened to the Police and then the first REM ep, X and The Replacements. Those bands made me realise “Oh yes, I can actually play these songs”. I had an acoustic guitar… I took some lessons when I was about 10 years old, just kids’ guitar and then later on … it wasn’t until college that I got an electric guitar.”
Like many of the earlier guitar/bass-playing punkgirls that we write about in this blog, The Slits, Gaye Advert and The Raincoats, Juliana has that moment where she realises that playing an instrument doesn’t always have to be impossibly difficult:
“Certain REM songs I realised when I tried to learn them that it was possible to play them and they weren’t difficult. Like Radio Free Europe – pretty easy; not that many chords. And that was such a revelation – Oh my God, these people are not magicians, they’re actually people playing chords on the guitar! And there’s the Ramones of course – in high school a guy friend taught me how to play bar chords and what they were – and then I was “Okay – I can play all the Ramones songs now!”
In the years since then, Juliana’s powerful but tasty guitar style has defined the band, along with her pure delicate vocals. Her latest album, Weird – her 17th studio album was released in January and it’s become a PGD favourite! For the UK tour, the normal Juliana Hatfield Three – (with Dean Fisher/Todd Phillips) is joined by extra guitarist Joe Keefe. But our eyes are on Juliana’s long, long fingers and the impressive bar chord stretches going on. The crowd is on her side; so many mouthing the words to every song and people there who last saw her play Nottingham 26 years ago. Punk may have been an influencer on Juliana Hatfield but tonight she’s a pure rock goddess!