Friday, 28 March 2014

The enigma of Kate

A change of plan for today's post...

At 9:30am GMT today, tickets go on sale for Kate Bush's first live shows for 35 (that's THIRTY-BLOODY-FIVE!) years.

Kate and I go back quite a number of years. I first became aware of her when Wow was riding high in the charts back in 1979. I remember mum hating it, taking the piss by wheeling her arms around like Kate did in the video. I thought it was rather quirky, but really didn't get it. The following year I saw her do Babooshka and Army Dreamers on Top of the Pops and still couldn't quite work out what the hell she was up to.

Then, in 1985, she released Running Up That Hill and that was my Kate Bush epiphany. I mean honestly - What. A. Friggin'. Record. I was 14 and still learning lots about music; Running Up That Hill sounded like nothing else on Earth. I rushed out and bought the 'Hounds of Love' album and became engrossed. If you've never heard it (you should be ashamed of yourself), it's in two defined sections. Side one has all the singles on, while side two is a 7-track concept piece entitled 'The Ninth Wave'. I had to work quite hard to get into the latter half of the album, but learned to appreciate Kate's artistry and uniqueness at a time when pop music was becoming insipid and uninspired.

Naturally, I went out and investigated her back catalogue, discovering 'Hounds Of Love''s even odder predecessor 'The Dreaming', what she herself referred to as her "I've gone mad" album. It is indeed difficult to listen to at first, its multitude of styles and moods come at you from all directions: the Irish folk of Night of the Swallow; the Aboriginal drone of the title track; the jauntiness of There Goes a Tenner. The production is claustrophobic and dense, and despite the relative success of lead single Sat In Your Lap (one of the strangest songs to ever grace the Top 20 - hurrah!), there really is very little that screams "smash hit!" at you. In fact it was Kate's least successful album, yet it's my fave (go figure). It's also a big favourite of Björk, which totally justifies my love for it!

And while we're on the subject of other artists who have been inspired by Ms Bush, here's a few more, just in case you need further convincing of her wonderfulness:

  - Tori Amos - the most obvious, of course.
  - Kate Nash - another really obvious one; even her name is similar!
  - Joanna Newsome - take one listen to her 'Have One On Me' album and tell me the spirit of early Kate Bush does not reside in Joanna Newsome!
  - Goldfrapp - in particular the very Kate-titled 'Seventh Tree' album.
  - Florence Welch, St. Vincent, Feist, PJ Harvey... oh I could go on and on...

Sadly, Kate only makes a new album once in a blue moon these days, but 2011's '50 Words For Snow' was well worth the wait. Again, eschewing any craving for a hit, Kate concentrated on making beautiful soundscapes around the theme of winter. The title track, featuring the bloody marvellous Stephen Fry, was one of my top highlights of that year.

Now 55 (and still looking fabulous), Kate Bush remains an enigma. If she has something to say, people tend to stop and listen, which is why I anticipate all 22 dates at the Hammersmith Apollo will sell out in minutes.

UPDATE: 15 minutes, in fact. That's all it took. And of course, eBay is awash with them now for £1,200+...


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