KT Cloudbusting -- Kate Bush In Her Own Words

Night Of The Swallow

* A couple of the songs on the dreaming seem to draw heavily from film noir. ``night of the swallow", the female is straight out of the awesome barbara stanwyck mould of double indemnity. She's a domineering, passionate woman who not only doesn't want her lover to risk his life trafficking refuges because of the danger to him, but because she wants him. at the end he pleads - ``would you break even my wings/just like a swallow/let me, let me go..."

Yes, unfortunately a lot of men do begin to feel very trapped in their relationships and I think, in some situations, it is because the female is so scared, perhaps of her insecurity, that she needs to hang onto him completely. In this song she wants to control him and because he wants to do something that she doesn't want him to she feels that he is going away.

It's almost on a parallel with the mother and son relationship where there is the same female feeling of not wanting the young child to move away from the nest.

Of course, from the guys point of view, because she doesn't want him to go, the urge to go is even stronger. For him, it's not so much a job as a challenge; a chance to do something risky and exciting.

But although that woman's very much a stereotype I think she still exists today.

Often your female characters do seem larger then life - even you on stage appear larger, more dominant. Is that simply for dramatic effect?

There is certainly that element in my performance. From a writing point of view I think you are talking about something that is very real-based but someone to make it more interesting you have to exaggerate it a little bit.

It's like people who tell stories, really the people who tell good stories are the ones who kept the truth in essence but they exaggerate on all the little areas. (1982, Melody Maker)


Ever since I heard my first Irish pipe music it has been under my skin, and every time I hear the pipes, it's like someone tossing a stone in my emotional well, sending ripples down my spine.

I've wanted to work with Irish music for years, but my writing has never really given me the opportunity of doing so until now. As soon as the song was written, I felt that a ceilidh band would be perfect for the choruses. The verses are about a lady who's trying to keep her man from accepting what seems to be an illegal job. He is a pilot and has been hired to fly some people into another country. No questions are to be asked, and she gets a bad feeling from the situation. But for him, the challenge is almost more exciting than the job itself, and he wants to fly away.

As the fiddles, pipes and whistles start up in the choruses, he is explaining how it will be all right. He'll hide the plane high up in the clouds on a night with no moon, and he'll swoop over the water like a swallow.

Bill Whelan is the keyboard player with Planxty, and ever since Jay played me an album of theirs I have been a fan. I rang Bill and he tuned into the idea of the arrangement straight away.

We sent him a cassette, and a few days later he phoned the studio and said, ``Would you like to hear the arrangement I've written?"

I said I'd love to, but how?

"Well, Liam is with me now, and we could play it over the phone."

I thought how wonderful he was, and I heard him put down the phone and walk away. The cassette player started up. As the chorus began, so did this beautiful music - through the wonder of telephones it was coming live from Ireland, and it was very moving.

We arranged that I would travel to Ireland with Jay and the multi-track tape, and that we would record in Windmill Lane Studios, Dublin. As the choruses began to grow, the evening drew on and the glasses of Guiness, slowly dropping in level, became like sand glasses to tell the passing of time. We missed our plane and worked through the night.

By eight o'clock the next morning we were driving to the airport to return to London. I had a very precious tape tucked under my arm, and just as we were stepping onto the plane, I looked up into the sky and there were three swallows diving and chasing the flies. (1982, KBC 12)


So tell me, how did it come about that you came to bring in planxty, both on the dreaming and hounds of love?

My brother Jay was a big fan of theirs and played their records all the time. And when I heard them I though they were fantastic! Then one day I was writing the song ``Night of the Swallow'' on the last album and I thought: what would go really well on the chorus is a ceilidh band. So I thought: ``Planxty!"

Who came up with that beautiful melody-line on the uillean pipes?

Bill Whelan, who is a producer and also the keyboard player of Planxty. It was fantastic, 'cause I sent him a cassette of a rough mix, and then he rang up and said, ``Listen, do you want to hear the arrangement?'' He was at home in Ireland and I was in the studio here in London. And I said, ``Yeah, I'd love to.'' So he said, ``Well, hang on a minute,'' and he put down the phone, and then I could hear these pipes and this whistle. They had my cassette going on a machine and they were playing live with it over the phone, and it was beautiful! And then I heard these little steps up to the phone and he said, ``Well, what do you think?'' I said ``Great!'' It was wonderful...

Oh wow, what a pity you didn't tape it all!

Oh I know! If I'd known beforehand, then I'd have had everything going. It was really beautiful, a fantastic moment. (1985, Musician)


Was that a demo you sent them, or a backing track? Did they eventually overdub their part, or do it live with your band?

Well, for the actual session with Planxty, we took a 24-track tape over to Ireland with the complete track mixed down rough on two of the tracks, also with a time-code on one track so we could synch it up again with the original tape when doing a final mix back in London. So the rest of the tracks were all free for Bill's arrangement and any other ideas we might get. Planxty were very different to work with as musicians, it was all so much fun.

"Night of the swallow'' flits from calm to a torrent of pipes and fiddles courtesy of irish band planxty. When kate sent a cassette of the song to arranger bill whelan in ireland he was back on the blower in no time with an arrangement, which he played there and then through the cables. Kate then went over to ireland for the recording:

They were incredible: the energy and attitude towards recording music. We worked from five in the afternoon till eight the next morning, then went straight to the airport.

The whole idea of the song was that the choruses were this guy flying off. He's a pilot who's been offered a load of money if he doesn't ask any questions. He really wants to do it, for the challenge as well, but his wife is really against it because she feels he's going to get caught. The verses are her saying ``Don't do it!'' and the choruses are him saying ``Look, I can do it, I can fly like a swallow'' We used the idea of the ceilidh band taking off. (1982, ZigZag)


*I notice in fact that you've given one track a rather irish flavor, you involved the group planxty.

Yes, indeed!

Now again, that goes back a bit to your own family traditions, doesn't it?

Yes, very much so, because my mother is Irish and when I was very little the music in the house was very Irish traditional music. And I think I've always loved it.

So you were brought up on the bodran and the fiddles and the pipes and all of the rest of it?

Yeah, absolutely!

So what have you done with this particular track?

Well, when I wrote the song I felt straight away that the choruses where just waiting for something like a Ceilidh band and it was just a matter of getting in touch with the people from Planxty and seeing if there were willing to do it. And I managed to contact a man called Bill Whelan, who's the keyboard player in Planxty, and he arranged the whole passage in the choruses. And it's really beautiful, I think it's changed the song a great deal, and definitely for the better. [Laughs] (1982, Dreaming debut)


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