FEATURE: Kate Bush: The Continuing Muse



Kate Bush: 

PHOTO CREDIT: John Carder Bush  

 The Continuing Muse


YESTERDAY was the fifty-ninth birthday of Kate Bush and…

a timely reminder of her importance and legacy. It is hard to believe next year she will turn sixty next year! I remember, as a child, being transfixed by music videos of her (in the 1980s). It was a revelatory and unforgettable time that awakened my young senses to one of the greatest figures in music history. Rather than needlessly prattle about my infantile recollections: seeing as this is a (slightly belated) birthday piece for Bush; I wanted to look at the effect she is having on modern musicians and how important she is – and why next year is a particularly special one for her. Not only will she hit the big six-zero – perhaps, not the biggest cause for cheer – but it will be the fortieth anniversary of her debut album, The Kick Inside. I have written pieces about Kate Bush before and, in so much as this will be the last one until next year, want to pay tribute to someone who continues to influence and seduce new artists. It is amazing how many reviews and interviews I take on where Kate Bush’s name is included – cited as an idol and Muse.

If one goes back to that unique and flabbergasting debut album: how many who witnessed it first-hand would imagine the world would be talking about it now?! To me, it is the greatest album ever because it has such a delicate disposition – but is full of contrasts and wonders. I can dissect the album and give a forensic investigation – I won’t, you’ll be thrilled to know – but there is so much intoxicating beauty and delicious flights-of-fancy. I listen to The Kick Inside and notice a mix of girl and woman in that L.P. There are moments when her voice is enraptured and enveloped in delirium and fantasia. Feel It is, perhaps, the fullest exploitation of his child-like persona – a sentient and delightful creature that does not bark but soothes and guides you somewhere magical. The history-making Wuthering Heights broke records – in the sense, it was the first self-penned number one song by a female artist in this country.

PHOTO CREDIT: Fish People/Kate Bush

If that were not enough – to make it a stone-cold classic – then the beguiling, The Man with the Child in His Eyes is, surely, ample proof the then-teenager was destined for legend. What makes the album such a revolution-maker was the individuality and self-belief. There were no nerves and compromises from a songwriter who, still in her teens, felt aggrieved to follow record labels and foster her creative drive and intuition to anyone else. There were arguments as to whether Wuthering Heights should be released as a single – she got her way in the end – and there was an assumption she was your average songwriter. Today, there are so many Pop stars that, one feels, are controlled and dictated-to by record labels and marketing men. In 1978, when The Kick Inside arrived, Kate Bush was not going to be a puppet.

PHOTO CREDIT: John Carder Bush  

She has created the songs single-handed – a staggering achievement then: it seems rare in this day and age – and revealed herself to be a prolific and multifaceted talent. It is important The Kick Inside gets a proper fortieth birthday next year: not meant to feel older or past its best days: as baffling, immaculate and tender as the day it was released. One cannot decay, denounce or ignore the ever-preserved fragility, seduction and curiosity of Bush’s voice. It addresses themes like coincidence and juvenile love: longing and self-investigation in all its forms. If critics were keen on the album – it was not elevated to the same heights as Hounds of Love – it has, in my view, gained immense retrospective relevance and importance. I hear so many modern songs that borrow from the 1978-songbook. If few songwriters can create something as timeless and unexpected as Wuthering Heights: suggestions and flavours of The Kick Inside find their way into many of today’s songs – not only from female artists, you’ll be pleased to hear.

PHOTO CREDIT: Fish People/Kate Bush

Lionheart (1978) and Never for Ever (1980) marked a period of expectation, creative confusion and hurried scheduled. A lot of Lionheart’s songs were compositions recorded before The Kick Inside was released – Never for Ever did not reflect the finest of Kate Bush. It was not until 1985’s Hounds of Love when that peculiar and unbelievable peacock was allowed to spread her wings – that might sound like a poor comparison but it reflects the colour, majesty and pride of the proud artist. Yes, 1982’s The Dreaming was a marked improvement and found Bush more focused, varied and assured. She added raw and almost-masculine elements to her voice; ventured into new songwriting territory and pushed herself as a composer. Hounds of Love, invariably, is the album that will get the most attention.

PHOTO CREDIT: Fish People/Kate Bush

It seemed to come out of nowhere. Few expected something as unbelievable and epic after a run of ‘mixed’ albums. Forcing herself to go away and create the album SHE wanted to create – Hounds of Love is the songwriter hitting her absolute best. Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God), Hounds of Love and Cloudbusting are the standouts. That conceptual second-side is a brave move but one that allowed Bush to create an album of two-halves. It looks at a heroine cast adrift in the ocean: looking for salvation and finding her hope fading in the dark. It is a terrifying, claustrophobic and gripping narrative that one is engrossed in. Not to skip over the remainder of Kate Bush’s albums, but the point of this piece was to highlight what an inspiring and important talent she is. Albums after Hounds of Love continued to push new ground and, aside from the odd critical miss (The Red Shoes being one), the fact Bush could continue to stun and baffle the public (and critics) showed what a unique and peerless talent she was.

PHOTO CREDIT: Fish People/Kate Bush (a promotional shot for her 2011 album, Director's Cut)

One hopes there is plenty more music to come from Kate Bush. She is sixty next year and it is a perfect opportunity for journalists and fans to speculate and predict. Maybe Bush is already working on new material or another tour? Her 2014 shows at London’s Hammersmith Apollo, Before the Dawn, mesmerised the masses. It was a fantastic and year-defining set of shows that proved what a passion there still was for Kate Bush’s music. Female artists like Madonna and, in modern terms, Lady Gaga, have managed to compel and inspire musicians but few have done it in the same was as Kate Bush. There was nobody like her in 1978 and, you can argue, there is nobody like her now. 50 Words for Snow, released in 2011, was the last L.P. we received from Bush. One wonders whether next year will see a fresh album released but, in reality, there is no rush. She is an artist who has never been beholden to deadlines and conforming. She takes her time to craft an album that she wants: given the problems rushing lead to in the early days; she has deliberately chosen to slow and take time for the music to form.

PHOTO CREDIT: Fish People/Kate Bush

She does not have the record labels breathing down her neck (as she runs the label, Fish People) and is not being hounded for new material. I can understand why that happened after The Kick Inside. People could not handle the enormity and singularity that was Kate Bush’s talent. Keen to mine it as readily and expeditious as possible – that had a detrimental effect on her quality and happiness. There is no album as free and revelatory as The Kick Inside: none as epic, sweeping and wondrous as Hounds of Love. From The Dreaming’s stunning heights and Ariel's ’scope and unpredictability – a double-album that was released twelve years after The Red Shoes  - there is so much to Kate Bush, as an artist. Each record (from Kate Bush) is a joy and completely new experience. I long to see more Bush material but treasure what we already have.

The reason I feel The Kick Inside is so pivotal is the fact it redefined what it was to be a female artist. Here was someone who did not take crap from the labels and was not going to be a controlled artist, designed to be a sex symbol. Sure; Kate Bush made the eyes water in 1978 – one of the most striking and sensuous humans one could envisage – and still holds arsenals of charm, allure and beauty. In interviews, she explained how prolific she was as a child. Writing oodles and masses of songs by the night; she would perform them to her family – some songs went on for hours; people would walk out. It was the first suggestions there was something different and wonderful about Kate Bush. This has come to fruition and, through the decades, she has become our most treasured and important female songwriter. It is the way she has translated through the years that really wows me.

PHOTO CREDIT: Fish People/Kate Bush

I feel there is no other artist that has had such a profound and mutating effect on modern music. Artists are influenced by her but redeploy her sounds and shades in strange and impressive ways. They, through her, are pushing Pop music forward and creating some incredible music. Lest we forget how important Kate Bush is to music’s past, present and future. If you are not ready to worship at the altar of Kate Bush a day after her fifty-ninth birthday: you surely must next year. The Kick Inside turns forty – its author, sixty. It is a perfect time to pay tribute to a colossus of music who has made an immeasurable impact. Until then, let us wish (a day late, admittedly) Kate Bush a massive…

HAPPY birthday!