Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The enigma of Kate [a repost of sorts]

Back in March, when Kate Bush announced her surprise residency in London, her first live shows in 35 years, I posted an article about her, her music and its impact on me. Hardly any bugger read it and no one commented. So I've decided to post it again (slightly edited to keep it current) to mark the beginning of this historic series of concerts, the first show of which took place last night. Chances are you don't want it second time around either, but tough. It's Kate. 

On your knees, mere mortals, and worship your divine goddess...

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 all 22 dates at the Hammersmith Apollo sold out in just 15 minutes. *sigh* How I wish I was there. Just one of them will do...

The original post had Wow, The Dreaming, Running Up That Hill and 50 Words For Snow as its soundtrack. This time I've chosen a few less obvious (and quite odd!) alternatives for your delectation:


  1. It's hard to believe she hasn't performed in 35 years. By all accounts the opening gig was a triumph.

  2. What got me was the number of "stars" who were seen at last night's gig per the papers e.g. Lilly Allen, Holly Johnson,, Marc Almond, Dave Gilmour et al. I bet they never hung on a phone line for 20 minutes trying to get through or indeed PAID for their tickets

    1. Funny, I thought the same thing myself when I read some reports today. I don't give a shit who was there, just tell me about the damn show! There's only one star worth talking about.

  3. I must have missed your earlier post and honestly I suck at responding... She first came to my attention with that striking cover for The Dreaming in an Oklahoma college town. Then I saw that it actually was a song about Houdini. How strange. She has intrigued me ever since.

  4. The disappointment at not getting a ticket has been made so much worse by the fact I now know she did the whole of the 9th wave and the 2nd disc of Ariel