I hate my sister, she’s such a bitch: ’90s alterna-rocker Juliana Hatfield’s snitty single “My Sister”

By on July 2, 2019

We’re paying yet another visit to Night Flight’s syndication-era “Take Off to Eclectic Ladies” to espouse about ’90s alterna-rocker and MTV “Buzz Bin” babe Juliana Hatfield and her snitty hit song “My Sister,” which topped Billboard‘s Modern Rock Tracks chart in ’93.

Have a look at this special episode — we’ve already featured blog posts on some of the other eclectic ladies featured, including Björk, Siouxsie Sioux and Shakespears Sister — which you’ll now find streaming on Night Flight Plus.

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The video for Juliana Hatfield’s “My Sister” — which received heavy rotation as an MTV Buzz Bin clip — was directed by the band’s friend Phil Morrison, who was lensing a lot of music videos at the time.

Morrison, while at NYU Film School, directed Tater Tomater, a short film which Night Flight aired nationally in the early ’90s.

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In March 1994 cover story featuring then mid-twenties-something Juliana Hatfield did with Spin magazine, she was described by the glossy music rag’s writer in dozens of colorful ways, including “half teen-hermit basket case, half guitar-totin’, [Friedrich] Nietzsche-quotin’, punk-rock dream come true,” a “high priestess of mindfuck,” and — this one concerned the fabrications and outright lies which were often found in her lyrics — “a punk rock Huck Finn.”

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Lots of snobby rock critics liked to point out that Hatfield didn’t even have a sister in real life.

Her Atlantic Records labelmate, folky singer-songwriter Melissa Ferrick, even went a step further, releasing a snotty single, “The Juliana Hatfield Song (Girls With Guitars),” which took a few jabs at Juliana, including the fact that she got more radio airplay than Ferrick did.

Ferrick was upset that their label were spending more energy marketing Hatfield’s recordings, but in reality she was a fan of Hatfield’s and it wasn’t really a diss.

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It turns out that Hatfield did have an older female friend, though, her brother’s 23-year old girlfriend, Meg Rafferty, who lived with the Hatfields when Juliana was sixteen and in high school.

As Hatfield told Spin, Rafferty became “an older sister figure” who turned her on to punk rock records like X‘s Under the Big Black Sun.

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Sometime around ’82 or ’83, on Meg’s birthday, Rafferty had taken Juliana to see the Violent Femmes and Del Fuegos at her first club show, held at a little basement club in Kenmore Square called Storyville, which Hatfield later realized is probably when she first got the idea to form her own band.

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Hatfield later revealed that “My Sister” was about “a sad, complicated relationship — and about trying to be a better person, and wishing you were as good as somebody else.”

You can sense from the lyrics that Hatfield really wanted to be liked by this older cool chick who was suddenly in her daily life. There’s also a kind of snitty Jan Brady-esque “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” quality to the words too:

“I hate my sister, she’s such a bitch,
She acts as if she doesn’t even know that I exist,
But I would do anything to let her know I care,
But I am only talking to myself ’cause she isn’t there”

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Hatfield also later said she thought “the sister was more like a metaphor for a whole bunch of things.”

“To me, it just seemed like the most natural thing in the world to write about a sister that I never had, a sister that I wanted to have.”

Read more about Juliana Hatfield below.

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Juliana Hatfield (b. July 27, 1967, in Wiscasset, Maine) grew up in Duxbury, Massachusetts, a historic seaside suburb about thirty-five miles southeast of Boston.

Boston is where she first made her biggest local impact as a member of the ’90s punk-pop alt-rock trio the Blake Babies, with whom she released four solid albums before splitting for a successful solo career.

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After signing with Atlantic-distributed Mammoth Records, she recorded her first jangle-punk pop album, Hey Babe (1991) with a number of local Boston-area musician pals, including Evan Dando — she’d played bass in Dando’s band the Lemonheads, on what turned out to be their breakthrough album, It’s A Shame About Ray — as well as John Wesley Harding and members of the band Bullet Lavolta.

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It was with her Nietzschean-titled second solo album that she finally solidified the membership of her band, the Julian Hatfield Three — besides Hatfield (guitar/vocals), the other two were Dean Fisher (bass) and Todd Philips (drums) — who, like Dando, all crashed with Hatfield at her tiny little studio apartment in Allston, MA.

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This was the lineup who recorded 1993’s Become What You Are — her only album released under the name the Juliana Hatfield Three, by the way — which is where you’ll find “My Sister.”

The single didn’t really have a chorus, which was quite a rarity for a pop-rock single (Paul McCartney‘s hit song “Yesterday” didn’t either, though, and it did okay).

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The album was produced by Scott Litt, who’d produced Hatfield’s band in between two other early ’90s projects of note, R.E.M.‘s Automatic for the People, and mixing Nirvana‘s 1993 In Utero singles, “Heart-Shaped Box” and “All Apologies.”

Another single from Hatfield’s second album managed to chart at #97 on Billboard‘s Hot 100, but her highest chart appearance would actually come with the song “Universal Heart-Beat” (#5 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks), from her next album, 1995’s Only Everything.

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Take Off to Eclectic Ladies” — which also features videos by Kate Bush, Suzanne Vega, Cyndi Lauper and many more, as well as PSA’s by Laurie Anderson — is now streaming on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.