Kate Bush was an artist that I first encountered one Saturday evening/Sunday morning when she made her US TV debut on Saturday Night Live, with Eric Idle hosting in 1978. The idiosyncratic songstress was a little too precious for me at that time so I glossed over her in my mind for several years. She performed “The Man With The Child In His Eyes” and “Them Heavy People” but they made little impression. This was compounded by Bush’s refusal to grant re-broadcast rights to her performance. I only saw it that first live broadcast. It was edited out of subsequent showings and the syndicated 60 minute SNL edits shown on TV in the mid 80s, back when I still watched TV. My life went on, free of Kate Bush for four years.
It was some time in 1982, when I saw that there was a Kate Bush album in the used bins at Crunchy Armadillo records. It was “The Dreaming” so remembering the name, I picked it up and quickly became a fan, based on the strength of that album. Within weeks, I had her full compliment of back catalogue, thanks to the awe inspiring import cutout bins at Record City, where Canadian copies of “Lionheart” and “Never For Ever” were on sale for chump change. Once I had “The Kick Inside,” I was all set. I enjoyed Kate Bush quite a bit, especially her later albums where her helium soprano had deepend a bit from her late teenaged days when she had started recording.
The bar for what accomplishments a 16 year old could achieve had been set for me by Bush with her debut album, “The Kick Inside.” The songs were like a sophisticated blend of English Music Hall pop and prog lite; an association strongly engendered by the arrangements and production of Andrew [Alan Parsons Project] Powell. When people were wagging tongues over what Debbie Gibson accomplished at a similar age years later, I just rolled my eyes in disgust. Kate started out at an infinitely more sophisticated level and moved on from there.
The later albums proscribed an upward artistic arc, save for the sophomore jinx of “Lionheart.” Much better were “Never For Ever” and my favorite, “The Dreaming.” The latter took idiosyncratic style as far as it could have gone; culminating in the aggressive and almost repellent “Get Out Of My House.” Now that was music unclog drains with! The only other female artists at that time who were equally capable of such a strong artistic stance, and who were equally unconcerned about appearing “attractive” and “ladylike” on her albums was a list that began with Siouxsie Sioux and ended with Nina Hagen.
Since I had bought “The Dreaming” shortly after its release, it seemed like an eternity before Bush released her next album. In the interim, I acquired the boxed set of 7″ singles, “The Single File,” for all of her non-LP B-sides. In the meantime, I apple seeded all of my friends with Kate Bush music, and most of them became fans too. Finally, in 1985, “The Hounds Of Love” was released and Bush managed to get a US top 40 hit for the first and last time with “Running Up That Hill.” At the time, I really enjoyed the album, but I’ve found that time has not been kind to that release. A recent re-listen for the first time in decades sounded like artistic slippage that absolutely presaged her fall from grace in my Record Cell.
After a four year wait, I bought her next album, “The Sensual World,” and felt that Bush had lost whatever she had that I had previously liked. It seemed like a very half-baked record to these ears and it might have ended there for me, except that in 1990, a complete boxed set of Bush’s music, “This Woman’s Work,” was released. And this marked the first time that all of her B-sides and remixes made the leap to CD, so I bit. I liquidated much of my previous vinyl collection to fund the purchased of the Japanese edition of the 8xCD box, which wasn’t cheap.
When I saw later Bush singles as videos on MTV’s 120 Minutes in 1993, just before I stopped watching TV all together, I was appalled as I felt that songs like “Rubberband Girl” and “Eat The Music” were new artistic lows for the former favorite. I skipped her album “The Red Shoes” until a friend played me the film Bush had directed called “The Line, The Cross & The Curve.” I was actually impressed with the title cut to “The Red Shoes,” so I bought a cheap used copy of the album for chump change, only to find that I could only stomach that song, so I traded it off quickly. And to date I’ve simply not bothered with Kate bush for over 20 years.
Bush was infamous for only performing live for a handful of dates in 1979 on her “Tour Of Life” which was released on home video back in the dawn of time. The heavily theatrical extravaganza has attained the status of holy relic among her legion of fans for probably two generations now, so the news that she is breaking her live performance embargo for the first time in 35 years to perform a residency at the same venue [albeit renamed] that she performed her last gigs at, in 1979, caused tongues to wag, to put it mildly. I’ll admit that there was a time that the notion of a Kate Bush concert would have blown the top of my head off… maybe at least until 1990, but I can’t get myself very worked up at all over it in the 21st century.
Kate Bush: Before The Dawn | London’s Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith
Tuesday, 26th August
Wednesday, 27th August
Friday, 29th August
Saturday, 30th August
Tuesday, 2nd September
Wednesday, 3rd September
Friday, 5th September
Saturday, 6th September
Tuesday, 9th September
Wednesday, 10th September
Friday, 12th September
Saturday, 13th September
Tuesday, 16th September
Wednesday, 17th September
Friday, 19th September
If you’re motivated, and I know many will be, the tickets go on sale 9:30 am (GMT) on the March 28th, 2014 and will be available exclusively from these three UK ticket agencies:
I’m sure that obtaining tickets will be like fighting a tank of hungry piranha. You kids have fun. I’ve got bigger and better fish to fry in 2014.
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Interesting that we come to Kate Bush at about the same time Monk. Only I have absolutely no time for her prior to The Dreaming as her prog-Lite stylings did absolutely nothing for me. Sure Wuthering Heights was interesting, but I had just read the novel for class so there laid the interest. With The Dreaming, she took on some of the same aural advice that good friend Peter Gabriel had already taken by directing her sound to a more new wave bend. Now that’s not to say there aren’t some pretty idiosyncratic vocals and obscure lyrics, but there’s a more urgent and energetic sound here. I love the Cockney accent on the title track. And the rhythms which many of the songs use owe a lot to Eno and Byrne.
But its Hounds of Love that will always stand out as Kate Bush’s greatest work for me. Running Up That Hill and Cloudbusting along with the title track are just untouchable. The Big Sky was a track which got played every weekend night in new wave clubs because you can’t escape the power of the heavy rhythms. Jig Of Life is a lesson which Midge Ure should have learned from on just how much Celtic influence is necessary to make a great song. Less is more Midge. Some day David Sylvian will cover some other peoples songs and that day he will certainly sing Watching You Without Me.
While there is little new ground broken on The Sensual World, what is missing is much of Bush’s prog leanings. Yes there is a very similar rhythmic theme throughout the album, but I find it very listenable. This Woman’s Work is a gorgeous pop song. Love And Anger is a pretty empowering song to these ears.
I agree that The Red Shoes is rather one note and almost too much of a shot at making chart music. I remember enjoying Rubberband Girl upon first hearing but it didn’t really hold up. The title track is the saving grace of the album. Some of the Director’s Cut reinterpretations from The Red Shoes work much better.
I wasn’t that taken by Ariel in 2005, ignoring it really until almost 2009. It’s ethereal and pastorial in a way that doesn’t move me. Alison Goldfrapp has taken over that mantle for me. The best track is the most pop oriented track – How To Be Invisible.
Having said the last words about Ariel, I simply adore 2011’s 50 Words For Snow. This an album of such narrow scope and narrative it’s like music shot through a pinhole camera (how’s that for mixed metaphor?) Striped down to simple, gorgeously produced performances, there is so much emotion and depth in each track. Kate’s more gravely voice is warm and welcoming. If she were to dedicate one section of her upcoming tour to performing each of these songs in order it would be so rewarding.
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Echorich – Nice call on “Jig of Life.” That is one of my favorite moments on the album, and I usually [really] hate Celtic music… so I can only surmise that she was doing something right! As you suggest, it may be in the proportions where she came out smelling like a rose. As for “Sensual World” the appearances of Clapton and Prince were all wrong, and not even Mick Karn could provide interest for my bored ears. Now that’s saying something. I only saw the video online from “Ariel.” Unmoved. The existence of “Director’s Cut” implies that Kate’s own feelings on that material [somewhat] echoes my own. But the songs were so slight, I still wouldn’t give it the time of day.
I’m almost the opposite, I find most of her early stuff to be just trying too hard. She writes a damn good pop song when she tries to do that and there is nothing wrong with that. Most of the earlier albums, just tedious. I can take or leave “Eat the Music” but “Ariel” to me is the most estrogen soaked maternal album this side of parts of Eddi Readers “Candyfloss and Medicine.”
I can see where you are coming from on Ariel Tim. There is definitely a serious Earth Mother feel to Ariel, but it just doesn’t capture me the way I’m taken away by 50 Words For Snow. I haven’t given Ariel a listen in a while, I will have to open my ears and mind to it again.
Tim – I was an early admirer of Eddi Reader. I loved The Academy Of Fine Popular Music and Fairground Attraction, but afterward, I bought her second solo album [“Eddi Reader”] and quickly traded it off. I surmise that what I responded to was Mark Nevin’s songs. As for Eddi, she could probably “sing the phonebook,” and that frankly, isn’t worth much in my universe. Put her on a shelf with k.d. lang and ignore her.
I’m an ala carte sort of guy with most of Eddi’s post FA output. There was a time where I bought cd’s pretty much on autopilot if it was made by certain acts and often I was hoping to find that hidden treasure in otherwise overlooked and fading career arcs. “Candyfloss and Medicine” is one such album. I can’t listen to most of her albums from start to end without jumping around but CaM is just solid from start to end. The one that I bought was the UK release which sported a different tracklisting to the eventual US release. I even hunted down the singles which gave me several Trashcan Sinatra covers, apparently her brother is in that act.
“Ariel” is, I agree, much more ethereal than a lot of the KB catalog. Most folks that I know are not really fond of it but they are agog with the really early material. I don’t have her on the pedestal for that material and maybe that frees me up to approach “Ariel” on it’s own terms.
Surprised that there haven’t been any Tori Amos comparisons in the comments (yet).
Tim – Now look at what happened… Tori Amos has been invoked! I can only say that I managed to avoid her successfully for 25 years now! Don’t get me started on soundalike acts who eclipse the artist they’re copying on the charts!!
Muwahahahahaha (Steeples fingers).
Tim – Oh! So you’re a steepler too? I knew I liked the cut of your jib!
I too was witness to that 1978 Bush performance on SNL. I liked both songs but preferred “Them Heavy People.” Like the Monk, I picked up some later album (very likely The Dreaming) and then circled back to get the other earlier ones. I think the first four albums taken as a whole paint a beautiful portrait of a developing artist, one rarely matched in candor and growth.
I stayed with Bush right through The Sensual World — the b-sides for that album are among my favourite of her songs! — but hatedRubberband Girl and dropped her like a hot potato (oh wot fickle fans are we!). A friend invited me to sit and listen to Aerial over tea and I was disappointed except for the single — and even that took time to get to really enjoy it.
I haven’t heard 50 Words for Snow except for a duet with Elton John I thought was pretty dire (“Snowed in at Wheeler Street”) as it turns out. I would be interested in hearing Director’s Cut as it sounds an interesting project but really I don’t have much time for Kate Bush anymore, she seems to have slipped off the rails a bit and writes songs about Pi (and gets it wrong!), washing machines and reworking old material. I’m all for fresh arrangements to fit a lowering voice or a desired different sound (Joe Jackson fan here!) but there’s a line where you can ruin something if you’re not careful, and there’s been nothing much from Rubberband Girl onwards that has made me think I need to make some time for her.
chasinvictoria – There’s a duet between Kate Bush and Elton John on “50 Words For Snow?” Oh dear… as if the cover weren’t creepy enough. Agreement for the “Sensual World” B-sides. “Ken” was her last hurrah, as far as I’m concerned! It far outshone all of the album cuts in my opinion. The only thing on the album that managed to get up a head of steam for me was “Love & Anger.”
Monk, you said something about her singing the phonebook above…. well, on the Ariel record she has a song in which she sings the first 100 digits of Pi. Much too close for my comfort. There’s also a song on that insufferable record about a woman doing her laundry.
Yes, Red Shoes and Sensual World were bland, but while giving Ariel a second spin, just to make sure the first time wasn’t a nightmare, I am surprised that I survived without shooting myself.
I am surprised by your indifference to The Hounds of Love. It is a nearly flawless record in my estimation, maaaaybe the best of 1985. Lemme go research what else came out that year…
The Dreaming is also a nearly untouchable record, and Never Forever pointed the way towards those. My Rock GPA for Kate Bush’s first five albums would nearly mirror your recent postings on Japan: two ridiculous records that I find to be childish, twee, and irritating, followed three that ramp up quickly and steadily towards genius. Yes indeed: Never Forever is her Quiet Life, The Dreaming is her GTP, and Hounds is her Tin Drum!
Bless you, JT, for finding some of those albums to be twee and irritating.
My earlier comment about Ariel was poorly worded. I sincerely think that if was an album by anyone else a lot of people would say holy cow what a great album! But it’s KB and it really doesn’t like anything else in her catalog. It’s the damned if you do and damned if you don’t. If she makes “The Dreaming, Volume 2” a bunch of punters will say, really, haven’t you grown, haven’t you developed? If she makes “Ariel” then a lot of folks also say “Oh, rats, I was really hoping for “The Dreaming, Volume 2.” I contend it’s a solid album and will age much better than other elements of her catalog.
I’ll even go on a limb here and admit that I find a lot of Tori Amos’s albums to be more enjoyable than the KB catalog. I’m not a huge fan of either, but…for me it’s liking different kinds of beer. Some times you want a Guiness and sometimes you want a Heineken. They’re both fine based on your appetite.
JT – 1985, the year of “A Secret Wish!” And thus endeth the tale.