IN THIS PHOTO: Kate Bush (circa 1978)/PHOTO CREDIT: Mirrorpix
Is Now the Perfect Time for Another, Definitive, Kate Bush Documentary?
IN THIS PHOTO: Kate Bush at her family's home in East Wickham, London on 26th September, 1978/PHOTO CREDIT: Chris Moorhouse/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Kate Bush fans were able to see a documentary that first went out in 2014. Broadcast on BBC Four on Friday, the original capitalised on the news that Bush was returning to the stage for a residency – her Before the Dawn show was a raging success and her first properly extensive performance since 1979. I am a huge fan of Kate Bush – if you hadn’t already guessed! - and I sort of regret not being able to see her perform in Hammersmith in 2014. Those gigs must have been something sensational and the reviews spoke for themselves. Everyone was raving, and so it was not a surprise that the BBC would want to make a documentary about her. The documentary, The Kate Bush Story: Running Up That Hill, brought together celebrity fans (including St. Vincent and Tricky) and paired them with people who have worked with Kate Bush – including Del Palmer, David Gilmour and Sir Elton John. It was a huge boon getting all of these people together who paid tribute to Bush and shared their experiences. Lots of people tuned in and there were some healthy reviews for the documentary. The Guardian reviewed The Kate Bush Story: Running Up That Hill and expressed their praise:
“Guests, contributors and soon even formerly ignorant viewers like me were in awe of the talent displayed and then intelligently discussed and dissected by John, Kemp and other respected experts, such as David Gilmour, Peter Gabriel, John Lydon, Tori Amos and Del Palmer, Bush's bandmate and partner from the 1970s to 1990s. Neil Gaiman was on hand to hymn her fearlessly literary inspirations and lyrics, from – of course – Wuthering Heights (from which she derived her first single, in March 1978) to Molly Bloom's soliloquy from Ulysses in the title track of her 1989 album, The Sensual World.
Bush herself appeared only in old interview footage – so young, so fragile, so shy, but full of the sureness and certainty that only talent brings – but what emerged was a wonderful, detailed portrait of that talent. Although it gave her precocity its full due (she had written The Man With the Child in His Eyes by the time Gilmour came to listen to her when she was 14), it also gave proper weight to her evolution and her later, less commercial, still astonishing work. Why it chose to close on a stupid jarring joke by Steve Coogan, I do not know. But the rest of it succeeded in making Bush and her work less of a mystery but no less beautiful for that”.
There is a lot to recommend about the documentary and it did get some things right. The raft of big names that were collected together is its biggest bonus. Having Del Palmer there – who has been with Bush since the start and still works with her – was a big asset and having everyone from Tori Amos and Stephen Fry sitting alongside David Gilmour and Lindsay Kemp (her former dance teacher) was terrific. Instead of it being purely celeb-driven, there were people in the mix who worked on Bush’s material and had that personal connection. I do like the fact that quite a bit of her work was featured and we got a nice span of interview archives.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
The fact that any documentary got made at all was an advantage and, rather than try to ride on the bandwagon in 2014, there was genuine intent and passion. For me, there were too many downsides and missed opportunities. The review above highlights how the documentary ended on a stupid joke. That seems to underline the documentary and some big mistakes. Why Steve Coogan was included so much baffles me and, fan through he is, he is hardly a big part of Kate Bush’s story. A lot of his ‘insights’ and words were not that revealing and fresh and he could have been omitted without too many people complaining. There were a couple of celebrity inclusions that provided little depth. St. Vincent and Tricky offered some good comments from a musician’s viewpoint and, whereas Bat for Lashes’ Natasha Khan was good value, the fact she said ‘The Hounds of Love’ rather than ‘Hounds of Love’ and was not sure about the name of a particular Bush song (it was the one with donkey braying, Get Out of My House) was a bit annoying – if you are a big fan then you get simple stuff like that right, you’d think. Guests shared their opinions on Kate Bush’s best songs and, rather than the songs being played in studios through speakers, they all whipped out their Smartphones and played these very tinny-sounding versions. It seems odd that this decision was made.
Bush is strict and passionate regarding sound quality and ensuring her music is as crisp and natural as possible. Having her rich and beautiful music bleached and distorted through technology was another poor decision. A couple more things got to me. The documentary was too linear and it did not deviate too much from the predictable and straight. At an hour-long, some albums were pretty much passed over; there were not enough interview and video inclusions and, considering The Kate Bush Story: Running Up That Hill, was made off of the back of Bush returning to the stage, there was very little footage from her first live shows for the Tour of Life back in 1979. That groundbreaking live tour was a revelation and blew away critics back then. There is documentary and live footage of the shows and it is a shame that more was not included in The Kate Bush Story: Running Up That Hill. With the BBC having direct access to the archives and their own material, why was so much omitted? The fact is that, at sixty minutes, you can just about skim the surface. I have tried to pitch a longer, multi-part Bush documentary to radio and T.V. producers but, each time, it is met with a bit of resistance. Many claim that, without Bush’s input, there is little attraction from them. That is near-impossible as Bush likes her privacy and there is no need to have her directly involved. Others say that the BBC documentary is conclusive and complete.
IN THIS PHOTO: A twenty-year-old Kate Bush/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
That might be true if you only know a bit about Bush’s work but, if you are a true fan, that statement is completely false: the documentary could have been much longer and there were some serious gaps! It sounds like I am dissing the BBC and reducing their efforts and, whilst The Kate Bush Story: Running Up That Hill, is by no means long and deep enough, at least there is something out there in the world. Hearing musicians talk about Bush in such fevered and loving tones is heartening. There are a lot of pluses regarding The Kate Bush Story: Running Up That Hill but, as five years have passed since it was broadcast, there is a lot of new ground to cover. Not only has Bush completed her Before the Dawn residency but she has also remastered and re-released her back catalogue and released a book of lyrics. This sense of retrospection and correction (Bush wanting all her albums to be out there and have this great sound) is understandable and it is sure to have attracted new listeners and pleased her existing fanbase. A lot has happened since 2014 regarding Bush’s live pursuits and her existing material. There will be many, myself included, curious to see where she goes next. This sort of begs the question whether now is the perfect time to mount another documentary. I think, if it expanded on what the BBC did and retained some of its better points (the quality of contributors) and redressed some omissions (made it much longer and scrubbed away its mistakes) then something properly authoritative could come about.
Many would have noticed The Kate Bush Story: Running Up That Hill lacked a real in-depth look at her albums, videos and wonderful interviews. The Tour of Life coverage and footage is great and, rather than going chronologically and being too narrow, there is room for mixing things up and not being beholden to convention. A three-part documentary would be best and, in addition to bringing back the best guests of The Kate Bush Story: Running Up That Hill (David Gilmour, Del Palmer and St. Vincent among them), there is a chance to bring new faces into the mix – including artists inspired by Bush (Florence Welch among them) and people who have worked with her since the start (family members, older engineers and producers would be great). There are these new projects and released (the book of lyrics and her back catalogue available on vinyl) and one imagines there are new stirrings and plans. Given the fact that, by the time the new documentary is out, there might be new material makes me thing now is the perfect time to strike. I have a bit of a sixth sense regarding artists releasing albums and I feel like a new Kate Bush album will arrive this or next year. It has been nearly eight year since her last album, 50 Words for Snow, so it cannot be too long until another release comes out way.
IN THIS PHOTO: Kate Bush takes a friend for a walk/PHOTO CREDIT: Claude Vanheye
With new additions and some improvements to be made, I think there is the potential to make a genuine striking, fulsome and complete Kate Bush documentary. I do like a lot of The Kate Bush Story: Running Up That Hill but, for an artist who has been releasing music since 1978, there is a lot of ground to cover. I do feel like it is impossible to distil all of her magic and individuality into a single hour. For Bush, you need a few different parts that explore her songs, videos and live performances. Not only is it a great time for a new Kate Bush documentary to come about but I think there is always room for more than one study. I think there is this feeling that one (documentary) is enough but the likes of David Bowie have had several documentaries made about them exploring different aspects. Bush is no less intriguing and varied so I do feel like there is this desire and scope. It seems like, very soon, something new could come about and that will naturally lead to a wave of interest and huge buzz. There are few that want to interview Kate Bush more than I and I have read (several times) biographies about her. I feel like I have a pretty deep understanding about where she came from and what motivates her. The more you read about her, the more you realise there is so much to cover and endless scope.
Bush loves dance and film; some of her albums have not been properly explored and there are many different aspects of her music and personality that have not been brought to the screen. The excitement about Kate Bush never goes away and I do know that there are new fans coming through and others that have not experienced her music. People can seek out her records but I do think that an everything-under-one-roof approach would help bridge the gap. Lesser artists than Kate Bush have had more airtime dedicated to them and had more than a couple of documentaries made. I think that now is a great time to launch another project and, whilst Bush herself might not get involved, there are plenty around her that would lend their time. Until all of this happens – and I do hope that someone, somewhere gets the wheels going -, go look at Bush’s previous work and all the great interviews online. Her interviews alone are fantastic and always intoxicating. There is this whole world to explore and, the more you dig, the more in love you fall. I love everything she does and cannot wait to see what comes next. You can never tell what will happen with Kate Bush and that is what makes her unique and so captivating. There are numerous sides, angles and colours that have not been shown on the screen and, the sooner that happens, the better. I do recommend people look at the BBC’s The Kate Bush Story: Running Up That Hill documentary but, as quite a bit of time has passed, it is now time to see Kate Bush’s story on the screen…