Kate Bush – circa 1978
“Here all alone on the stage tonight” – ‘Wow’ (Kate Bush)
“People thought I’d gone mad,” concedes Kate Bush. The British singer and songwriter is talking about the making of her fourth album. It is the first album on which she is credited as the sole producer, the overseer of the recording sessions. Kate Bush combines a certain headstrong attitude with a wildly eccentric creative process. The result can create some doubts for those around her. After this disc, ‘most observers feel that Bush has lost her audience.’ However, the singer ‘is unfazed by the criticism.’ “The main thing I heard was ‘uncommercial’…[that was] the label that the press, the record company put on it,” says Kate Bush. She then counters, “But for an uncommercial record to go straight in at no. 3 in the charts seems ironic to me.” Kate Bush is not the first – or last – recording act to fight the battle between art and commerce…but she is one of the more interesting combatants.
Catherine ‘Kate’ Bush is born on 30 July 1958 at Bexleyheath Maternity Hospital in Bexleyheath, Kent, England. She has no middle name. Kate Bush is the daughter of Robert John Bush (1920-2008) and his wife, Hannah Bush (nee Daly) (1918-1992). Robert Bush is a doctor and Hannah Bush is a nurse. Kate is the youngest of the three children in her family. She has two older brothers: John Carder ‘Jay’ Bush (born 1944) and Patrick ‘Paddy’ Bush (born 9 December 1952). Hannah Daly, Kate’s mother, came from Ireland. Kate is raised as a Roman Catholic. In 1964, when Kate is 6, the Bush family visits Australia and New Zealand for a few months but returns to England. Kate grows up in a farmhouse in East Wickham. When she is around 7 years of age, Kate Bush is Confirmed in the Catholic Church and given the Confirmation name of Mary; so sometimes her full name is listed as Catherine Mary Bush since the Confirmation name is used as an additional middle name.
“I think I was just lucky to be brought up in a musical family,” says Kate Bush. “My father was always playing the piano.” Kate’s mother was an Irish folk dancer. “My brothers are very musical. They were really responsible for turning me on to it in the first place. They were always playing music when I was a kid,” Kate recalls. Jay Bush is a poet and photographer. Paddy Bush is an instrument maker. Both Jay and Paddy are active in the local folk music community. Jay also takes Kate with him to the karate club at Goldsmiths College. Kate Bush teaches herself to play piano when she is 11. “I must have been 11 or 12 [when I started writing songs],” she says. Kate amuses herself by playing an organ in the barn behind her parents’ house. In her teens, Kate has her pop idols. “I don’t know if you’d call it a crush, [but I had] a bit of one on Elton John…I had [a] David Bowie [poster] on my wall as well.” The music her older brothers listen to also becomes part of her influences: “They were into King Crimson and Pink Floyd and Blind Faith and Fleetwood Mac. That sort of thing,” Kate points out.
School provides a different form of stimulus for Kate Bush. “I was a Roman Catholic and brought up in Roman Catholic schools,” she acknowledges. Kate attends St Josephine’s Convent Grammar School at Woolwich Road, Abbey Wood, south of London. She is compelled to study violin in her first year at grammar school, but prefers the piano. “School was a very cruel environment and I was a loner…I was never really into going to discos and dances and stuff,” Kate admits. “I had friends but I was spending a great deal of my time alone…You learn about yourself when you’re alone.” She concludes, “I wasn’t an easy, happy-go-lucky girl because I used to think about everything so much, and I think I probably still do.”
What occupies a lot of the time for the teenage Kate Bush is writing songs. She amasses a considerable repertoire of original material. A demo tape is made with fifty songs on it. Kate explains what happens next: “When I was about 14 there was a friend of my brothers’ called Ricky Hopper who was in the [music] business and he knew a lot of people. He acted as a friend to try and get the tapes across to people and after some trying there was no response. He knew [guitarist] Dave Gilmour from Pink Floyd and Dave came along to hear me because at that time he was scouting for struggling artists.” It was quite nerve-wracking for young Kate (now 15) to meet a famous rock star like Gilmour from a band – Pink Floyd – that had influenced her brothers and, almost by osmosis, Kate herself. “Absolutely terrified and shaking like a leaf, I sat down and played for him. He came along to see me and he was great. Such a human, kind person – and genuine,” Kate gushes. She has ample reason to be grateful. “Dave Gilmour put up the money for me to make a proper demo with arrangements and selected songs,” Kate acknowledges. Gilmour’s friend Andrew Powell produces the session. From Kate Bush’s songbook – now swollen to over one hundred songs – a more manageable three song demo tape is made.
When she is 16 Kate Bush leaves school. “I knew I had to leave school then. I had to get away from the alternative career opportunities being rammed down my throat,” Kate says. “My parents weren’t keen on the giving up of school at the beginning to go into singing and dancing, but once they saw I was serious about it, they gave support.”
With Dave Gilmour as her champion, Kate Bush is signed to EMI Records in July 1976. In an unusual move, Bob Mercer of EMI puts Kate Bush on retainer for two years, giving the young woman time to develop her craft. Kate Bush says, “I went to see a show [‘Flowers’] and it was Lindsay Kemp and really I had never seen anything like it before. And what he was doing, he was using movement without any sound at all. [It was] something I had never experienced.” One of Kate’s inspirations, David Bowie, had trained with Lindsay Kemp so this may also have influenced her thinking. Kate Bush uses some of the cash from her contract signing with EMI to study dance and mime with Lindsay Kemp and Adam Darius. Dance and theatrical movement come to play large parts in Kate Bush’s stage presentations and videos. Although many recording acts are associated with dance moves, Bush’s work is more akin to modern dance or jazz ballet than any kind of urban, dancefloor routines.
Although EMI express no serious objections to their new signing’s foray into dance, they do encourage Kate Bush to get some experience in performing music before a live audience during this formative period. Accordingly, The KT Bush Band is formed. They play twenty gigs in pubs over the period April 1977 to June 1977. The line-up of the group is: Kate Bush (vocals, piano), Brian Bath (guitar), Del Palmer (bass) and Vic King (drums). Brian Bath had known Kate’s brother, Paddy Bush, for years. When Paddy explained that his younger sister needed to put a band together, Paddy and Brian came up with some possible candidates for the group. Kate Bush sings in public for the first time in April 1977 at a pub called The Rose of Lee at 162 Lee High Road in Lewisham. “I was so scared. I really was,” says Kate of her debut. Although a couple of Kate’s original songs are played in the shows by The KT Bush Band, most of their repertoire consists of cover versions. They play songs by The Beatles (‘Come Together’), The Rolling Stones (‘Brown Sugar’), Marvin Gaye (‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’) and even mockingly try their hand at Ike & Tina Turner’s ‘Nutbush City Limits’ – which is done ironically (because of the title), but doesn’t really work. The rest of the group hopes The KT Bush Band might develop into something similar to what The Pretenders would later become, but the project soon falls apart.
Although The KT Bush Band is short-lived, something longer lasting comes out of the experience. Kate Bush falls in love with bassist Del Palmer. Kate is 18 and Del is 24 when he moves into her flat on Wickham Road in 1977. “I don’t think I could find a younger man attractive,” claims Kate. Her romantic relationship with Del Palmer continues for the next fifteen years.
Kate Bush’s attention now shifts to preparing for her first recordings to be released by EMI.
Defining the type of music recorded by Kate Bush is a difficult task. Most commonly, it is described as art rock or baroque pop. What those two genres have in common is that they borrow from classical music, particularly in terms of instrumentation. While it is true that a string section or woodwinds can often be found on Bush’s work, it gives an impression of stiffness and formality that is at odds with the true nature of her songs. Kate Bush’s recordings are usually quite accessible and often rather whimsical. Only by the most generous definition can it be called rock ‘n’ roll. Orchestral daubs are melded with underlying strains of folk music. “My roots come from a very Irish and English base,” Kate Bush comments. Mainly though, Kate Bush offers music of protean originality.
Kate Bush sings, writes, produces and plays piano or keyboards on virtually all of her recordings. Unless otherwise stated, all songs referred to here are written and produced by Bush. The voice of Kate Bush is described as ‘keening’, ‘unearthly’ and ‘flamboyant.’ “When I first started singing I had an incredibly plain voice,” she claims. “I mean, I could sing in tune, but that was about it. I really wasn’t that good. And really all I did was sing every day…I was concentrating on my writing so my voice came through that.” In her songwriting, Kate Bush often draws inspiration from literature and films. ‘Even her fans feel as though her lyrics ideally would come with footnotes.’ Although her lyrics often come from imagination rather than first person experience, it may be a mistake to think that there is no personal content. Her words too often seem genuine and heartfelt to be unanimously dismissed as pure fiction but, equally, there is a little – if anything – to mark them as the musical equivalent of a confessional. Throughout her career, Kate Bush maintains this tension between what she is really feeling and what she is just making up. Musically, Bush is an artist who resolutely follows her muse – even if that path carries her over a cliff and into mid-air. She has never lacked the courage of her convictions. “I don’t like hearing very truthful things about myself. I get really indignant, I put a lot of defences up, and I can be stubborn,” Bush admits. “I’m the shyest megalomaniac you’re ever likely to meet.” Usually, the results of Kate Bush’s rather wilful weirdness are bonkers, but brilliant. She is described as ‘the madwoman in the attic,’ but this seems rather harsh. While Bush is certainly unconventional and frequently eccentric, she also demonstrates far too much intelligence and control to deserve such a dismissive tag. While the singer admits, “My music can be a little obscure,” she also bluntly states, “It’s not important to me that people understand me.” In regard to her keyboard work, Kate Bush advises that, “I don’t think of myself as a musician. I only ever play the piano to accompany myself singing.” Finally, Kate Bush’s work as a record producer seems confined to ensuring that Kate Bush the songwriter gets her songs across with as little outside interference as possible and in their most undiluted form.
Although Kate Bush does not maintain a regular backing band, some musicians appear on most of her albums. Del Palmer appears on each of her albums as a bassist or, later, recording engineer. Kate’s brother, Paddy Bush, contributes harmonica, mandolin, backing vocals and various exotic instruments to his sibling’s first eight albums. Stuart Elliott is Kate Bush’s usual drummer, playing on six of her first seven albums. Guitar duties are a bit more divided, but perhaps the mainstays are: Brian Bath (albums two and three), Alan Murphy (albums three to six) and Danny McIntosh (albums seven and eight).
Kate Bush’s debut single, ‘Wuthering Heights’ (UK no. 1, US no. 108, AUS no. 1), is released by EMI on 5 January 1978. The song is inspired by the novel ‘Wuthering Heights’ (1847) by Emily Bronte. It is the story of star-crossed lovers Heathcliff, an adopted foundling, and Cathy, a spoiled rich girl. Actually, Kate Bush’s inspiration is one step removed from the novel. “Well, I saw a series on the television…very late at night. I caught literally the last ten minutes of the series where she was at the window trying to get in. And it just really struck me. It was so strong…I read the book before I wrote the song because I needed to get the mood properly.” Kate’s reference to a ‘Wuthering Heights’ television series is puzzling since the first such mini-series TV adaptation is not screened until 24 September 1978 to 22 October 1978 – i.e. after her song is released. Most likely, what Kate saw on television was the end of the movie ‘Wuthering Heights’ (1970), starring Timothy Dalton and Anna Calder-Marshall. The song ‘Wuthering Heights’ revolves around a delicate piano part, supported by increasingly sumptuous strings. Over this arrangement, Kate’s voice wafts bizarrely from helium high notes to deep murmurs. ‘Wuthering Heights’ is very successful commercially. It tops the U.K. singles chart from 11 March 1978 to 25 March 1978. It marks the first time a female singer-songwriter tops the U.K. singles chart with a self-penned song. On the basis of ‘a song so extraordinary and unlike anything else…she seems destined for one-hit wonderland.’
Kate Bush’s debut album, ‘The Kick Inside’ (1978) (UK no. 3, AUS no. 3), is released by EMI on 17 February. The disc is produced by Andrew Powell, the man who produced the demo tape that helped secure a recording contract for Kate Bush. ‘Wuthering Heights’ is included on this album. ‘The Man With The Child In His Eyes’ (UK no. 6, US no. 85, AUS no. 22) was largely written by Kate when she was 13. This track has the same basic blend of piano and strings as ‘Wuthering Heights’ but the vocal is, by comparison, more conventional. It is evidently a love song to “My man”, an apparently older figure, but much of its meaning remains inscrutable. ‘Moving’ is dedicated to Lindsay Kemp, Bush’s former dance master. ‘Kite’ lends itself to the album’s cover image. The ‘more rock-oriented’ ‘James And The Cold Gun’ and ‘Them Heavy People’ are original songs Kate performed with the short-lived KT Bush Band. ‘L’Amour Looks Something Like You’ is also an interesting track. “I’d wanted to make an album for such a long time so there was a great feeling of achievement,” notes Kate Bush. “Some of those songs were written seven years before the album appeared.” ‘The Kick Inside’ ‘possesses all the unrestrained, deeply felt romanticism of a sensitive, wildly-gifted teenager,’ but ‘some of it displays extremely provocative and sophisticated sexual references and images.’
Kate Bush’s unusual and distinctive style of music allows her to side-step most of the traditional images associated with female rock stars. She is neither the sunny, wholesome girl next door nor a leather-clad man-eating vixen. A photo of Kate Bush in a tight pink top is used to publicise ‘The Kick Inside’, but this picture causes her some angst. “People weren’t even generally aware that I wrote my own songs or played the piano. The media just promoted me as a female body. It’s like I’ve had to prove that I’m an artist in a female body,” she fumes. On another occasion, Kate Bush says, “There is a figure that is adored, but I’d question very strongly that it’s me.”
‘Lionheart’ (1978) (UK no. 6, AUS no. 12), Kate Bush’s second album, is released on 13 November, roughly nine months after its predecessor. “Considering how quickly we made it, it’s a b****y good album, but I’m not really happy with it,” says Bush. This album is, again, produced by Andrew Powell, but this time he is ‘assisted by Kate Bush.’ ‘Hammer Horror’ (UK no. 44, AUS no. 17) is a tribute to Hammer Films, the U.K. company specialising in scary movies. “For the first time in my life / I leave the lights on when I get home,” breathes the wunderkind artist in the song’s lyrics. In ‘Wow’ (UK no. 14), Kate Bush repeats the title over and over in siren-like fashion only to end the chorus with the alternative, “Unbelievable.” “’Wow’ is about the music business. Not just rock music but show business in general,” Bush claims. “It was sparked off when I sat down to try to write a Pink Floyd song – something spacey.” In the lyrics, Bush sings self-deprecatingly, “We’ll give you a part, my love / But you’ll have to play the fool.” ‘Oh England, My Lionheart’ gives the album its title. This disc is also home to ‘Don’t Push Your Foot On The Heartbrake.”
From 2 April 1979 to 13 May 1979 Kate Bush undertakes a series of concerts in the U.K. and Europe billed as ‘The Tour of Life.’ The shows include songs, dance, mime and theatre. Each performance has ‘seventeen costume changes, lots of dancing and complex lighting.’ Tragedy strikes at the concert on 2 April 1979 at Poole Arts Centre when 21 year old lighting engineer Bill Duffield is killed in an accident. On 12 May 1979 Kate Bush joins Peter Gabriel (ex-Genesis) and Steve Harley (of Cockney Rebel) at a benefit concert at London’s Hammersmith Odeon for the family of the late Bill Duffield. The tour takes a toll on Kate Bush physically, mentally and financially. “By the end of the tour, I felt a terrific need to retreat as a person,” she says. “I felt that my sexuality, which, in a way, I hadn’t really had a chance to explore myself, was being given to the world in a way that I found impersonal.” It will be thirty-five years before Kate Bush tours again. In the intervening time, she only makes occasional live appearances, often for charity benefits or similar causes.
An EP, ‘On Stage’ (UK no. 10), is released on 31 August 1979. This contains four songs recorded live at Kate Bush’s show at the Hammersmith Odeon on 13 May 1979 during ‘The Tour of Life.’ Three of the songs originally come from Bush’s first album (‘Them Heavy People’, ‘James And The Cold Gun’ and ‘L’Amour Looks Something Like You’) and one from her second album (‘Don’t Push Your Foot On The Heartbrake’). The disc is co-produced by Kate Bush and Jon Kelly.
‘Never For Ever’ (1980) (UK no. 1, AUS no. 7) is the title of Kate Bush’s third album. Released on 8 September, the set is co-produced by Kate Bush and Jon Kelly. ‘Breathing’ (UK no. 16) appears to be an anti-nuclear piece, warning of “A twinkling in every lung” as a result of “Breathing the fall-out…in…out.” A burbling bass competes for attention with a multi-tracked backing chorus. ‘Babooshka’ (UK no. 5, AUS no. 2) provides Kate Bush with her biggest hit since ‘Wuthering Heights’. ‘Babushka’ is the Russian word for grandmother. It is also the term for a kind of Russian doll, wooden tenpin-shaped figures that nest within one another for a total of five to seven individual pieces. Given the singer is Kate Bush there is also the interpretation of Ba-Bush-ka, using her own name. The song itself manages to combine all three meanings. It is apparently the story of an elderly couple where the wife, suspecting her spouse of infidelity, sets a trap: “She sent him scented letters / And he received them with a strange delight / Just like his wife / But how she was before the tears / And how she was before the years flew by / And how she was when she was beau-ti-ful.” So there is one identity (the temptress) within another (the grandmother), while also seeming like a personal rallying call: “Babooshka / Ya ya.” Musically, there is the familiar glistening piano and rubbery bass, but some electric guitar strokes just before the chorus add punch. ‘Babooshka’ also benefits from an eye-catching video. Dressed in a black leotard and black veil, the singer prances around an upright double bass. The instrument is treated as her partner, alternately mocked and wooed. Just as the theme seems set, the screen explodes in a new vision of Kate Bush as a warrior from some fantasy land, attired in skimpy armour. ‘Army Dreamers’ (UK no. 16) seems to be about the conflict in Northern Ireland with British soldiers, the narrative coming from the perspective of one combatant’s mother who denounces the battles, saying, “What a waste.” The “BFPO” mentioned in the lyric is the British Forces Post Office which delivers news of the deaths of servicemen. Although ‘Army Dreamers’ has a waltz tempo, it is perhaps the closest thing to a folk song in Kate Bush’s repertoire. Its sing-song cadence is undercut by an almost discordant harpsichord and the sound of a rifle being locked and loaded as percussion. Kate Bush uses a Fairlight synthesiser for the first time on ‘Never For Ever’, making use of its ability to recreate sound-effects as music. ‘Never For Ever’ is the first album by any female recording artist to enter the U.K. album chart at no. 1. “I was starting to take control at this point,” notes Kate Bush in regard to this album’s demonstration of her growing self-confidence.
‘December Will Be Magic Again’ (UK no. 29) is a one-off single released on 17 November 1980. In this Christmas tune, Kate Bush matches her plaintive vocal and piano to sleigh bells. The effect twinkles like the star that marks the season. This single is Kate Bush’s first recording on which she acts as sole producer on the session.
The next Kate Bush album is ‘The Dreaming’ (1982) (UK no. 3, US no. 157, AUS no. 22). Released on 13 September, it is the first album entirely produced by the artist herself. The cover depicts her with a small key on her tongue, about to kiss a man in the foreground who is in chains. Supposedly, this is how Harry Houdini managed his feats of escapology; his wife would kiss him to wish him luck, slipping the key to him in the oral exchange. Or, as the lyrics to the song ‘Houdini’ on this album put it, “With a kiss I’d pass the key.” The (largely obscured) man filling the role of Houdini on the album cover is Kate Bush’s bass player and lover, Del Palmer. ‘Sat In Your Lap’ (UK no. 11, AUS no. 93) appears to be about the education system: “I want to be a scholar / But I really can’t be bothered.” The song rushes forward and back in the mix so, just as you strain to hear what it is on about, it shouts in your ear (“Whoom!”). “Some say that heaven is hell / Some say that hell is heaven,” indeed. Still, for all its bizarre trappings, ‘Sat In Your Lap’ is a rather endearing number. The title song, ‘The Dreaming’ (UK no. 48, AUS no. 91), is Kate Bush at her most idiosyncratic. She sings the song primarily in a faux Australian accent with startling diversions to shrill and deep extremes. It sounds like an indictment of the treatment of Indigenous Australians and the exploitation of the country’s mineral wealth (“Say we dig for ore”), but there are unsettling digressions for whistling, loud drums, Percy Edwards’ animal impressions and, in a particularly surreal touch, Rolf Harris playing didgeridoo. ‘There Goes A Tenner’ (UK no. 93) is a crime caper in which Kate Bush tries on a rough South London accent. (Note: In Europe and Australia, ‘Suspended In Gaffa’ is released as a single instead – though it only charts in France and the Netherlands.) On ‘Get Out Of My House’, Kate Bush begins to bray like a donkey part way through the lyric. “That was my, ‘She’s gone mad’ album,” Bush says in reference to ‘The Dreaming’.
“People ask what I did in the three years between ‘Dreaming’ and ‘Hounds’. I spent it with my family, living a normal home life,” says Kate Bush. In 1983, her own twenty-four track studio is built in a barn behind the family home.’
‘Hounds Of Love’ (1985) (UK no. 1, US no. 30, AUS no. 6), released on 16 September, is Kate Bush’s best individual album. It is “the first [album I made] in my own studio,” she says, describing it as, “A clean way of working.” The first single from this album, ‘Running Up That Hill’ (UK no. 3, US no. 30, AUS no. 6), is Kate Bush’s finest song. It pairs a constant drumming pulse with a synthesiser line that sounds like a cross between a rubber balloon and a cello. As always, interpreting the meaning of Kate Bush’s compositions is a risky business, but ‘Running Up That Hill’ seems to be about men and women trying to understand one another: “You want to know / Know that it doesn’t hurt me…If only I could / I’d make a deal with God / And get him to swap our places.” This notion is underscored by the video where both Kate and her male dance partner are attired in the same grey garments, both with plunging necklines and long skirts. Bush’s production and arrangement continues to hew its own unconventional path, but this time the push forward is harnessed as a sort of transcendent emotional waterfall: “There is thunder in our hearts” and strangled cries in the forest of backing vocals. The storyline for ‘Cloudbusting’ (UK no. 20) has the female narrator hiding her lover from the government because he is “dangerous.” This is coupled with a romantic malaise that is relieved by the thought of her lover, “Like the sun coming out,” and so explaining the title, ‘Cloudbusting’. A martial cello is combined with semi-African drumming and chants in the oddball musical accompaniment. The title track, ‘Hounds Of Love’ (UK no. 18), starts with a quote from the horror film ‘Night of the Demon’ (1957): “It’s in the trees! It’s coming!” In some ways, the song is a companion piece to ‘Wuthering Heights’, with Kate playing the heroine of some non-existent piece of bodice-ripping fiction who takes her shoes off and “Throw[s] them in the lake” to take “Two steps on the water.” Never one to baulk at making an embarrassment of herself, Kate’s backing vocal of “Doot doot doo doo doo” changes to a pseudo dog’s bark – for the ‘Hounds Of Love’: “Arf arf.” It’s totally loopy – but it works. ‘The Big Sky’ (UK no. 37) also comes from this album. Side two of this album is ‘The Ninth Wave’, seven interconnecting songs that form one continuous piece of music. It is based on Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s ‘Idylls of the King’ (1854-1885) about the reign of King Arthur of British legend. Kate Bush’s surreal interpretation of all this includes unsettling imagery about witches and being trapped under ice.
In October 1986 Kate Bush duets with Peter Gabriel on ‘Don’t Give Up’ (UK no. 9, US no. 72, AUS no. 5), a track from his album, ‘So’ (1986). She plays the role of hopeful and supportive spouse to Gabriel’s out-of-work husband. It’s quite moving. ‘Don’t Give Up’ is written by Peter Gabriel.
Kate Bush releases a compilation album called ‘The Whole Story’ (1986) (UK no. 1, US no. 76, AUS no. 28) on 10 November. A new lead vocal is recorded for ‘Wuthering Heights’ and this disc holds one brand new piece, ‘Experiment IV’ (UK no. 23). This song is the story of a group of scientists “Working for the government” who are told to devise “A sound that can kill someone / From a distance.” In a twist, the experiment goes awry: “I just hope that someone can hit the switch [to turn it off].” A predatory guitar stalks through the swathes of synthesisers and percussion.
‘The Sensual World’ (1989) (UK no. 2, US no. 43, AUS no. 30) is released by EMI (U.K.)/Columbia (U.S.) on 17 October. The title track, ‘The Sensual World’ (UK no. 12, AUS no. 44), is inspired by Molly Bloom’s soliloquy in James Joyce’s novel ‘Ulysses’ (1922). This doubtlessly sexy song is couched in rich folk music and pipes, with a prominent pulse-beat underpinning it. ‘This Woman’s Work’ (UK no. 25, AUS no. 89) is written for the movie ‘She’s Having a Baby’ (1988). ‘This Woman’s Work’ is a stark, regret-filled ballad for voice and piano with muted orchestration. “The film is a light comedy, but the woman is rushed into hospital with complications in her pregnancy and it’s the first time something real and heavy has happened to the father,” says Kate Bush, explaining the sombre tone of her contribution to the film. Dave Gilmour from Pink Floyd plays guitar on ‘Love And Anger’ (UK no. 38, AUS no. 145) and ‘The Rocket’s Tail’. This marks the first time he has played on the songs of Kate Bush, the artist whom he sponsored back when she was trying to obtain a recording contract. Bush says of ‘The Sensual World’, “Yes, it’s my most personal album, although that doesn’t necessarily mean autobiographical.”
On 19 October 1989, two days after the release of ‘The Sensual World’, Kate Bush’s long-time guitarist Alan Murphy dies from pneumonia, a complication of the H.I.V. illness which he contracted. He was 35 years old.
On 25 November 1991 Kate Bush releases a cover version of Elton John’s 1972 hit ‘Rocket Man’ (UK no. 12, AUS no. 2). This comes from the album ‘Two In A Room’ (1991), a tribute to Elton John and his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin. The album has a variety of acts recording versions of songs written by Elton and Bernie.
In 1992 Kate Bush’s mother, Hannah, dies from cancer.
Also in 1992 Kate Bush’s fifteen year relationship with Del Palmer comes to an end. Despite their love being over, Palmer continues to work on Bush’s subsequent albums in a professional capacity.
Kate Bush doesn’t remain single for long. In 1992 she meets guitarist Danny McIntosh. He works on the singer’s subsequent albums and also becomes the new man in her life. McIntosh was previously in a U.K. band called Bandit (1976-1978). This hard rock outfit made only two albums: ‘Bandit’ (1976) and ‘Partners In Crime’ (1978). Danny McIntosh was the only member of Bandit to appear on both albums because the band underwent a major change in personnel between the two discs. McIntosh was never the band’s frontman; just the guitarist.
‘The Red Shoes’ (1993) (UK no. 2, US no. 28, AUS no. 17) is released on 2 November. The first single from the album is ‘Rubberband Girl’ (UK no. 12, US no. 88, AUS no. 39). This is an exuberant piece that seems to encourage resilience in women. Musically, it may be the closest Kate Bush has come to a conventional rock song. It has ticking guitars, prominent drums, a horn section – and even a guitar solo! ‘Moments Of Pleasure’ (UK no. 26, AUS no. 119) begins with a whispered intonation before quietly doing a pirouette into a piano and orchestra arrangement. Lyrically, the thrust seems to be towards thinking happy thoughts, recalling ‘Moments Of Pleasure’, to keep sadness at bay. Nonetheless there is an obvious ache in the line, “And I can hear my mother sayin’ / ‘Every old sock meets an old shoe.’” ‘Eat The Music’ (AUS no. 133) also comes from this album. The title track, ‘The Red Shoes’ (UK no. 21), is based on the fairytale ‘The Red Shoes’ (1845) by Hans Christian Anderson – or at least the movie ‘The Red Shoes’ (1948), inspired by the same source, and directed by Michael Powell. A pair of ballet shoes appears to exert a compulsion on the wearer to dance, and this storyline carries over into Kate Bush’s song. In a busy arrangement, acoustic guitars, fiddles and flutes fight for space. ‘And So Is Love’ (UK no. 26) features contributions from guest musicians Gary Brooker (vocalist and pianist from Procol Harum) and guitar legends Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton. ‘The Red Shoes’ is probably the Kate Bush album with the most famous guests. Pop and funk star Prince appears on ‘Why Should I Love You?’ Another track from this album, ‘Deeper Understanding’, will get a second life later.
The 1994 single ‘The Man I Love’ (UK no. 27, AUS no. 199) is a duet between Kate Bush and Larry Adler. It is a cover version of a song from 1924 written by George and Ira Gershwin. It comes from the tribute album ‘The Glory Of Gershwin’ (1994).
‘Live At The Hammersmith Odeon’ (1994) features a Kate Bush concert recorded back on 13 May 1979.
Kate Bush retreats from the view of the public for a lengthy period. Kate Bush and her partner Danny McIntosh have a son, Albert – better known as Bertie (born July 1998). However the fact that the singer has become a mother is successfully kept from public knowledge for five years until fellow singer Peter Gabriel lets the news slip. “I am a very private person,” Kate Bush says with some understatement. “My family life is incredibly important and comes first. My work fits around it…It’s not my ambition to be a big star…I just find it frustrating that people think I’m some kind of weirdo recluse that never comes out into the world.”
‘Aerial’ (2006) (UK no. 3, US no. 48, AUS no. 25), released on 7 November, is the first new Kate Bush album since ‘The Red Shoes’ (1993). Almost as if to make up for the delay, ‘Aerial’ is a double album. Only one song from the album is released as a single. That song is ‘King Of The Mountain’ (UK no. 4). It is a swaying, quietly flickering piece, given some simple colouring in the later stages by an electric guitar. “The wind is whistling,” Bush intones in eerie repetition. ‘Aerial’ holds some other interesting compositions such as the following: Only Kate Bush could do a song like ‘π‘ (‘Pi’), where the lyrics involve reciting that number to the seventy-eighth decimal place, and then the one hundred and first to one hundred and thirty-seventh decimal places. ‘Bertie’ is a Renaissance style ode to her son. ‘Joanni’ is about Joan of Arc (1412-1431), the medieval martyr. ‘A Coral Room’ deals with Kate Bush’s feelings of loss after the passing of her mother. ‘Aerial’ is divided into disc one, ‘A Sea of Honey’, and disc two, ‘A Sky of Honey’. In a move reminiscent of the division of ‘Hounds Of Love’, the second disc of ‘Aerial’ (‘A Sky of Honey’) is ‘a single piece of music revelling in the experience of outdoor adventures on a single summer day.’ Nine individual tracks are blended together into this suite.
Kate Bush contributes the song ‘Lyra’ (UK no. 187) to the soundtrack of the motion picture ‘The Golden Compass’ (2007). Lyra is the name of the fantasy film’s young female protagonist. The song is written by Kate Bush and she co-produces the track with Alexandre Desplat.
‘The Director’s Cut’ (2011) (UK no. 2, AUS no. 41) is released on 16 May. This is Kate Bush’s first album on her own Fish People label through EMI. ‘The Director’s Cut’ consists of ‘remixed and reconstructed’ versions of songs from Bush’s earlier albums ‘The Sensual World’ (1989) and ‘The Red Shoes’ (1993). The revised version of ‘Deeper Understanding’ (UK no. 87) – a song about a person and their computer – from ‘The Red Shoes’ is released as a single.
’50 Words For Snow’ (2011) (UK no. 5, US no. 83, AUS no. 22) is released on 21 November, only a little over six months after ‘The Director’s Cut’. The theme of the new album is based on the myth that Eskimos have fifty words for snow. The seven tracks on this disc are all ‘set against a backdrop of falling snow.’ Kate Bush’s son Bertie sings the part of a falling ‘Snowflake’ on the set’s opening song. The single from the album is ‘Wild Man’ (UK no. 73), a song about the Yeti or Abominable Snowman. Actor/comedian/television personality Stephen Fry recites the ’50 Words For Snow’ of the title track. Some of them are real (e.g. white-out), but others are just made up.
A ‘Running Up That Hill 2012 Remix’ (UK no. 6) is released on 21 August 2012 for the Summer Olympic Games held in London that year.
Kate Bush receives a C.B.E. (Commander of the British Empire) in the 2013 New Year Honours List for her services to music.
After an absence of thirty-five years, Kate Bush returns to concert performance on 26 August 2014. This is the first of twenty-two shows she gives at London’s Hammersmith Apollo. Her son Bertie is one of the backing singers for the shows.
For some time, Kate Bush’s partner Danny McIntosh has been referred to as her ‘husband’ but there is no official confirmation of a wedding. Given the secrecy that attended the birth of their child though, it is possible that the couple married – but that remains only speculation.
‘Before The Dawn’ (2016) (UK no. 4, US no. 121, AUS no. 35), released on 25 November, is a three disc live album. This is drawn from Kate Bush’s shows at the Hammersmith Apollo in London from August to October 2014.
Kate Bush’s career is marked by a struggle between art and commerce. Actually, it seems like art almost always won. She followed her own creative instincts while shrugging off any attempts at commercialisation. The happy result was that Bush’s work was often astonishingly successful commercially, despite her wilful disregard for such concerns. Perhaps the general public – and Bush’s fans in particular – are more accepting than industry wisdom would suggest? Kate Bush’s best work was in the period 1978-1985. “Albums are like diaries. You go through phases,” she said. Kate Bush’s ‘diary’ made for compelling entertainment. Kate Bush’s songs ‘harnessed an almost progressive rock attitude to songs that possessed all the emotional depth of a classic singer-songwriter.’ She was ‘one of the most challenging and eccentric artists to have achieved success in rock music.’
- ‘Tracks’ (Woolworths U.K. music and video promotions magazine) – Kate Bush interview – no author credited (13 November 1989)(reproduced on gaffa.org – ‘Reaching Out’)
- wikipedia.org as at 24 May 2016, 7 January 2017
- allmusic.com, ‘Kate Bush’ by Bruce Eder as at 25 May 2016
- ‘Saturday Live’ (U.K. radio program, BBC Radio 1) – Kate Bush interview (25 February 1984) via 2 (above)
- ‘The Kate Bush Story – Running Up That Hill’ (Videodrome Discotheque, U.K. video documentary for the BBC) – Directed by Adrian Sibley (2014)
- gaffa.org – ‘Kate Bush FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) – no author credited – as at 27 May 2016
- Notable Names Database –nndb.com – as at 27 May 2016
- ‘Marie Claire’ (U.K. magazine) – Kate Bush is Back: Why She’s as Captivating as Ever’ by Barbara McMillan (26 August 2014) (reproduced on marieclaire.co.uk)
- gaffa.org – ‘The Garden’ by Peter Fitzgerald-Morris, Andrew Marvick as at 27 May 2016
- catholic.com/quickquestions by Michelle Arnold as at 28 May 2016
- gaffa.org as at 27 May 2016
- Internet Movie Database – imdb.com – as at 27 May 2016
- brainyquote.com as at 25 May 2016
- ‘Ask Aspel’ (U.K. television show, BBC Network) – Hosted by Michael Aspel (1978) via 5 (above)
- ‘Q Magazine’ (U.K. rock magazine) – ‘Kate Bush @ Paradise Place – Q Interview’ – author unknown (2 September 1999) via 2 (above)
- ‘The Illustrated Rock Handbook’ edited by Roxanne Streeter, Ray Bonds (Salamander Books, 1983) p. 35, 171
- ‘The History Of Rock’ by Mark Paytress (Parragon Books, 2011) p. 215
- ‘Under the Ivy: The Life & Music of Kate Bush’ by Graeme Thomson (Omnibus Press, 2010) (extract reproduced on louderthanwar.com (30 April 2012))
- wuthering-heights.co.uk as at 28 May 2016
- ‘Rolling Stone Rock Almanac’ by the Editors of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine (Papermac, 1984) p. 282, 298
- KBC (Kate Bush Fan Club) via 2 (above)
- ‘Daily Mail’ (U.K. newspaper) – ‘Obsessive Secrecy, a £30 m Fortune, and the Trauma that Drove Kate Bush into Hiding’ by Alison Boshoff (3 May 2012) (reproduced on dailymail.co.uk)
- metrolyrics.com as at 26 May 2016
- superdeluxeedition.com – ‘When Prince Worked with Kate Bush’ by Paul Sinclair (24 April 2016)
- ‘Daily Mail’ (U.K. newspaper) – ‘Kate Bush’s Secret Son Steps Out of the Shadows’ by Ruth Styles (28 August 2014) (reproduced on dailymail.co.uk)
- KCRW (Santa Monica, California, U.S.A. radio station) – Kate Bush interview – via 2 (above)
- ‘Herald Sun’ (Melbourne, Australia, newspaper) – ‘Bush Back After 35 Years’ – no author credited (28 August 2014) p. 11
- goodreads.com as at 27 May 2016
Song lyrics copyright Kate Bush Music Ltd / EMI Music Publishing Ltd. with the exceptions of: ‘Moments Of Pleasure’ (Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC); and ‘King Of The Mountain’ (EMI Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group).
Last revised 13 January 2017