Wednesday, February 4, 2009

When I Grow Up by Juliana Hatfield

When I saw this on the shelf in the bookshop I stopped and actually laughed in surprise. "A memoir" by Juliana Hatfield sounded surprisingly grand. Juliana was one of my reference points on the American indie rock landscape as a teenager. I have a clear snapshot in my head of buying her Become What You Are album (on cassette tape - I still have it) on a sunny summer day in 1993. I played it to death that summer and afterwards. Emerging from the same US east coast scene that gave the world the Pixies, Throwing Muses, the Breeders, Belly and the Lemonheads, Juliana's catchy hooks and sunny melodies pulled me in, and I could immediately identify with the themes of self-doubt and uncertainty in her songs.

I bought the book, partly out of curiosity and partly for nostalgic reasons. And I read it in a week (I know the standard with an un-put-down-able book is in an afternoon, but my reading tends to happen in 15 minute bouts before I fall asleep at night, so that's my equivalent). Her writing style flows easily and I found myself reading "just one more chapter" when I should have been turning the light off and going to sleep. The book hops between a somewhat unhappy 2004 tour with Some Girls and random events from her past, spanning her career from the early days with Blake Babies to her more recent solo efforts. Moving from the highs of signing a deal with a major record label to the extreme lows of depression and the resulting tour cancellation, she is realistic about the hard side of not always being successful in the music business without ever being self-pitying. And despite making no effort to hide the fact that she is a pain to be around much of the time on the tour, I found her honesty and lack of pretension refreshing.

In her personal references, I discovered we have also have many likes in common - she mentions Petit Bateau (she wears a tank top from them on stage and regrets showing so much flesh), X-Girl (she wears a mini-skirt with the aforementioned top, which adds to her discomfort - oh and yes, that's where the name comes from) and the original L'Occitane Vanilla fragrance (which she sprays around a particularly dank motel room, in an attempt to mask the less than fresh odour) - all loves of mine.

If you are a fan of Juliana Hatfield, When I Grow Up is definitely worth a read. And even if you aren't, try browsing inside the book at Amazon - you might find it interesting anyway.

1 comment:

fashionfilosofy said...

was lovely meeting you niamh, thanks for the link! will link you back x