In this, the last month of our blog, we’re starting to look at some of the “too young to be proper punks” girls. Girls who grew up in the immediate aftermath of punk, but because of their still tender age, were never going to be first wavers. We’re looking towards where Punk headed next, and some of its major female baton carriers.
Often our exposure to certain music at an early age can have a life-long bearing on our future taste and direction. Growing up with 1970s radio favourites such as Olivia Newton John, Juliana Hatfield also had the good fortune to have the kind of babysitter who would introduce her to the less radio friendly LA punksters X.
Forming the band Blake Babies at Berklee College of Music, with Freda Love and John Strom, Juliana signed to Mammoth Records and the band became an instant favourite with the college radio audience.
Blake Babies were there at the tip of a new generation of post post punk rockers, often more melodic than their predecessors, their influences combining the “don’t care” and distortion of the Ramones, with the more melodic and even country tinged output of pre-punk artists like Neil Young, Gram Parsons, The Byrds or Joni Mitchell.
Just as punk fashion had developed via its new take on borrowed and second-hand clothes, so post punk music similarly started to borrow, reasses and repurpose the past, through a punk lens.
Hatfield’s love of both punk and rock, has seen her form bands, join bands, release solo records, go back to art school and even start acting.
Sick of record companies, in 2002 Juliana formed her own label, Ye Olde Records, initially as a way to release just one Blake Babies ep, and has since used it to release not only her own material, but also other artists.
Since the mid 2000s, Hatfield has continued to write new original material, but also in the same time span has somehow managed to connect with two of her most influential formative artists.
In 2005 she actually toured with punk heroes X, and more recently in 2018 released an album consisting entirely of covers of Olivia Newton John songs,
“She’s often been on my mind, you know, but for some reason, I never had seen her perform live. She was doing some tour dates last year, but not in my town, so I bought a couple of tickets for me and a friend to make it a fun away trip. But then her cancer came back and she had to cancel all the shows, and that was the moment when I knew I wanted to make an album of her songs because she was on my mind and I didn’t get to see her and I felt emotional because she was sick again. I think I just wanted to immerse myself in the beauty of her music and her spirit”.
Juliana Hatfield remains an important touchstone in all things post punk. As a child of the 1970s, she manages to integrate past, present and future into her material, yet retain a particular singularity that sets her apart from her contemporaries. Her own songwriting is both melodic and gritty and she has never shied away from the less appetising aspects of what it is to be human. Sometimes seen as the ultimate poster girl of 1990s intellectual “alternative” college radio, Juliana goes way beyond this, refusing to pigeon-hole herself, or more importantly her audience.