Cloudbusting -- Kate
Bush In Her Own Words
The Sensual World
You've obviously got the difference here between sensual and sexual.
Most of us confuse these two words, so what is the difference as you can see
- Well I think `` The Sensual World'' is
talking specifically about the context of that within the song. The song is
about someone from a book who steps out from this very black and white 2-D
world into the real world. The immediate impressions was the sensuality of this
world - the fact that you can touch things, that is so sensual - you know...
the colours of trees, the feel of the grass on the feet, the touch of this in
the hand - the fact that it is such a sensual world. I think for me that's an
incredibly important thing about this planet, that we are surrounded by such
sensuality and yet we tend not to see it like that. But I'm sure for someone
who had never experienced it before it would be quite a devastating thing.
Those church bells on the front - that's a sensual sound to me.
- I love the sound of church
bells. I think they are extraordinary - such a sound of celebration. The bells
were put there because originally the lyrics of the song were taken from the
book Ulysses by James Joyce, the words at the end of the book by
Molly Bloom, but we couldn't get permission to use the words. I tried for a
long time - probably about a year - and they wouldn't let me use them, so I had
to create something that sounded like those original word, had the same rhythm,
the same kind of feel but obviously not being able to use them. It all kind of
turned in to a pastiche of it and that's why the book character, Molly Bloom,
then steps out into the real world and becomes one of us. (1989, Roger Scott)
What's the significance of the bells at the beginning of the song?
- I've got a thing about the sound of bells. It's one of those
fantastic sounds: sound of celebration. The're used to mark points in life -
births, weddings, deaths - but they give this tremendous feeling of
- In the original speech she's talking of the time when he proposed to
her, and I just had the image of bells,
this image of them sitting on the hillside with the sound of bells in the
distance. In hindsight, I also think it's a lovely way to start an album: a
feeling of celebration that puts me on a hillside somewhere on a sunny
afternoon and it's like, mmh... Sounds of celebration get fewer and fewer. We
haven't many left. And yet people complain of the sound of bells in cities.
- Because I couldn't get permission to use a piece of Joyce it
gradually turned into the song about Molly Bloom the character stepping out of
the book, into the real world and the impressions of sensuality, SAYS KATE,
SOFTLY, ALMOST CHILDLIKE. Rather than being in this two-dimensional world,
she's free, let loose to touch things, feel the ground under her feet, the
sunsets, just how incredibly sensual a world it is. (1989, NME)
- I originally heard the piece read by Siobhan McKenna years ago, and
I thought, ``My God! This is extraordinary. What a piece of writing!'' It's a
very unusual train of thought - very attractive. First I got the ``mmh yes,''
and that made me think of Molly Bloom's speech; and we had this piece of music
in the studio already, so it came together really quickly. Then, because I
ouldn't get permission to use Joyce, it took another year changing
it to what it is now. Typical, innit! (1989, NME)
What drew you to the molly bloom character?
- I actually heard Molly Bloom's speech being read by an Irish actress
years ago. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard. I was
transfixed with this piece of literature that was so beautifully written and so
very feminine. (1989, Network)
What song did you find most difficult to write, and why?
- Well, I suppose there's a few. There's a few songs that have been
difficult to write. I think the most frustrating and difficult to write was the
song, `` The Sensual
World.'' Uh, you've probably heard some of the story, that
originally it was written to the lyrics at the end of Ulysses, and
uh, I just couldn't believe how the whole thing came together, it was so... It
was just like it was meant to be. We had this sort of instrumental piece, and
uh, I had this idea for like a rhythmic melody, and I just thought of the book,
and went and got it, and the words fitted - they just fitted, the
whole thing fitted, it was ridiculous. You know the song was saying, ``Yes!
Yes!" [Laughter from audience]
- And when I asked for permission, you know, they said, ``No! No!"
[Lots of laughter from audience]
- That was one of the hardest things for me to swallow. I can't tell
you how annoyed I was that, um, I wasn't allowed to have access to this great
piece of work that I thought was public. And in fact I really didn't think you
had to get permission but that you would just pay a royalty. So I was really,
really frustrated about it. And, um... kind of rewrote the words, trying to
keep the same - same rhythm and sounds. And, um, eventually, through rewriting
the words we also changed the piece of music that now happens in the choruses,
so if they hadn't obstructed the song, it would have been a very different
song. So, to look at it positively, although it was very difficult, in the end,
I think it was, it was probably worth all the trouble. Thank you very much.
(1990 Kate Bush Con)
- In the original piece, it's just ``Yes'' - a very interesting way of
leading you in. It pulls you into the piece by the continual acceptance of all
these sensual things: ``Ooh wonderful!'' I was thinking I'd never write
anything as obviously sensual as the original piece, but when I had to rewrite
the words, I was trapped.
- How could you recreate that mood without going into that level of
sensuality? So there I was writing stuff that months before I'd said I'd never
write, SHE LAUGHS. I have to think of it in terms of pastiche, and not that
it's me so much. (1989, NME)
- The original piece, right, was just the most beautiful piece of
writing I've ever read. It's like this never-ending sentence, this long train
of thought, and the only thing that punctuates it is the word ``yes'' and it
very gradually accelerates. I just thought it was just one of the most sensual
pieces ever written. When I came to write this album, I suddenly remembered
this writing, and the original lyrics were from the book. I just picked it up
and all the words fitted perfectly to the music. I couldn't believe that the
two things would just come together.
- But when I applied for permission to use the words I was refused, so
I was *extremely* disappointed. Then I had to rewrite the words trying to keep
the same sense of sound, but obviously I'm not James Joyce, so it was a
question of keeping the same shape and creating a new story. So it gradually
turned into Molly Bloom stepping out of her speech in the book and into the
real world. In the book she's a very sensual woman, and it was the idea of her
stepping out of this black-and-white world into the real world and being hit by
the power of the sensuality of the world, the environment, the elements. (1989,
- I had a rhythm idea with a synth line I took home to work on one
night. While I was playing it this repeated *Yes* came to me and made me think
of Molly Bloom's speech right at the end of Ulysses - which I *have* actually
read all through! I went downstairs and read it again, this unending sentence
punctuated with 'yeses', fantastic stuff, and it was uncanny, it fitted the
rhythm of my song. (Q, 1989)
- Now that was a really complicated process for a track to come
together. It started off with a song - no words. I'd had this idea for about
two years to use the words from Molly Blooms' speech at the end of Ulysses,
which I think is the most superb piece of writing ever, to a piece of music. So
Del had done a Fairlight pattern, and I'd done a DX riff over the top of it,
and I was listening to it at home, and the words fitted absolutely perfectly. I
thought God this is just ridiculous, just how well it's come together. (1989,
- The lyrics were taken straight from Molly Bloom's soliloquy. The
words were so rich, so intimate. It was like magic the way they fitted.
Unfortunately, the joyce estate had no interest in hearing the
author's words set to music. If bush wanted to invoke ``ulysses", she'd have to
start from scratch. She did, cooing ``mmh, yes,'' and murmuring images of
``seedcades'' and ``arrows of love'' while
uilleann pipes an irish bagpipe moaned in the background.
- I was disappointed and it was very difficult wanted to keep the
original sense, but obviously I am not Joyce. But with the rhythms I had it
began to turn into what the Molly Bloom character is about. I was stepping out
of the song into the beauty [Of] nature. (1989, AP)
- That song was a hard haul. Originally I'd used Joyce's actual words
and set them to music. When I approached his estate for permission they said
no. I spent a year asking them to please listen to the song, but they had every
right to say no. They felt it wasn't good for Joyce's work.
So you found a way around their objections?
- I rewrote the lyrics to give them this lovely sensual rhythm. It was
very difficult. I mad rhymes and used syllables and brought in these words so
Molly BLoom could step out of the book and into the real world. My goal was to
bring this sensual woman into a place where she could actually touch things. In
the long run the obstacles I ran into made me turn it into a better song.
- We then approached the relevant people for permission to use the
lyrics, and they just would not let me use them. No way. I tried everything. So
I thought if we're really getting nowhere with this, let's take a different
approach to the song. I heard this piece of music which a fan sent in about two
years earlier, and we put the tune in the choruses in place of what we had. So
that went in, and all the lyrics I had to change.
- To try and keep the sense of the original words, but something that
would be original, I came up with this idea of Molly Bloom stepping out of this
speech into the real world. And in the book she's such a sensual woman -
womanly, very physical, it just seemed that she would be completely taken by
the fact that this 2D character could actually go around touching. So that's
what it turned into. The fact that they didn't let me use the lyrics turned the
song into something very different. It was such a complicated process, and
really quite painful to actually let it go. (1989, International Musician)
Based on molly bloom's monologue at the end of joyce's
the sensual world'' only stepped off the printed page when the
publishers refused to give kate bush permission to quote the novel.
- It transformed the song. Obviously the words had to change, but also
the musical sections were completely different. By them being uncooperative it
made the track better in many ways, but it was very difficult to keep the
rhythmic sense of the words. (1989, NME)
Although to kate ``it felt like it was meant to happen", when she
applied through ``official channels'' (presumably the joyce estate) for
permission to use it, she was refused. But she wasn't to be deflected. I tried
to write it like joyce, she says, smiling in self-mockery. The rhythm at least
I wanted to keep. Obviously I couldn't do his style. It became a song about
molly bloom, the character, stepping out of the page - black and white,
two-dimensional, you see - and into the real world, the sensual world. Touching
things. She declaims exaggeratedly. The grass underfoot! The mountain air! I
know it sounds corny, but it's about the whole sensual experience, this
wonderfully human thing....
And lines like ``his spark took life in my hand''
- Yes, it is rather saucy. But not nearly as sexy as James Joyce. SHE
LOOKS CONCERNED AGAIN. I'd be really worried - there's nothing can do about it
now because it's all part of the process - but I would be worried if people
felt this ambiguity between sensual and sexual. (Q, 1989)
As an example of bush's adventurous arrangements, the title track
of bush's latest release, the sensual world, has
a unique blending of both celtic and middle eastern sounds. The song was
adapted from a traditional macedonian piece sent to bush by a fan, jan
libbenga. It was so beautiful that I was completely taken by it. So we used
that piece and adapted it. The celtic flourishes are provided by uillean pipes,
which kate has also used on her previous albums the dreaming (1982) and
hounds of love
(1985). (1990, Option)
the sensual world contains the most ``positive female energy'' in
her work to date, and compositions like
``thiswoman'swork'' tend to enforce that idea.
- I think it's to do with me coming to terms with myself on different
levels. [That has got to be one of kate's all-time favourite stock phrases!
-ied] In some ways, like on Hounds of Love, it was
important for me to get across the sense of power in the songs that I'd
associated with male energy and music. But I didn't feel that this time, and I
was very much wanting to express myself as a woman in my music, rather than as
a woman wanting to sound as powerful as a man.
- And definitely `` The Sensual World" -
the track - was very much a female track for me. I felt it was a really new
expression, feeling good about being a woman musically.
But isn't it odd that this feminist or feminine perspective should
have been inspired by a man, joyce?
- Yes, in some ways...but it's also the idea of Molly escaping from
the author, out into the real world, being this real human, rather than the
character: stepping out
of the page into the sensual world.
So is this concept of sensuality the most important thing to you at
the moment? Is it one of the life forces?
- Yes. It's about contact with humans. It could all come down to the
sensual level. Touch? Yes. Even if it's not physical touch: reaching out and
touching people by moving them. I think it's a very striking part of this
planet, the fact that there is so much for us to enjoy. The whole of
Nature is really designed for everything
to have a good time doing what they should be doing...Fancy being a bee,
leading an incredible existence, all these flowers designed just for you,
flying into the runway, incredible
colours - some trip.... (1989, NME)
- A lot of people have said it's sexy. That's nice. The original piece
was sexy, too; it had an incredible sensuality which I'd like to think this
track has as well. I suppose it is walking the thin line a bit, but it's about
the sensuality of the world and how it is so incredibly pleasurable to our
senses if we open up to it. You know, just simple things, like sitting in the
sun, just contact with nature. It's
like, for most people, their holidays are the only time they get a real burst
of the planet! (1989, Pulse)
Why's davey spillane playing a macedonian air on his uillean pipes
in the middle of it? [Note that kate has not identified this music as such,
only the idiot interviewer. It may or may not be correct. - ied]
- It was one of those, ``Oh what the hell'' things. That seems to have
been the way with a lot of this album. Sort of ``Oh god! Tut...Will it work?
Ooh, er...'' Then when I've eventually just gone for it, it seems to have
worked. (1989, NME)
world'' is about molly bloom, the fountain of lust and life in james
joyce's dauntingly super-realist novel, ulysses. it's a book
that's defeated my attempts to read it again and again, and I confess to kate
that it gives me a hell of a lot of trouble.
- God, yes!
Why molly bloom?
- Well, I just thought it was such an extraordinary piece of writing.
It's so...ooh!...It's such a beautiful style. It's like trains of thought
continually tumbling...You know, tumbling speech, and not kind of..."stopped.''
I first heard her speak being read years ago by...I'm pretty sure it was
Siobhan McKenna. [There is in fact a recording of mckenna's reading of this
soliloquy, so kate is almost certainly remembering correctly. - ied] And it
had such a femininity about it. That was my first exposure to it.
- And it just came together with this song. We'd written this piece of
music in the studio, and I thought, ``What about putting the Molly Bloom speech
together with this?'' So I went and grabbed the book, and it worked perfectly.
It just scanned - the whole song. But, unfortunately, when I applied for
permission to use the words, they wouldn't let me.
- Obviously, I was very disappointed. It was completely their
prerogative, you know, they don't have to give their permission. But it was
very difficult for me, then, to reapproach the song. In some ways I wanted to
just leave it off the album. But we'd put a lot of work into it - the Irish
musicians had worked hard - so it was a matter of trying to rewrite the lyrics
so it kept the same rhtymic sense, because the words are so
rhythmic; and to keep the sense of sensuality as well, without using the Joyce
lyrics. So it all kind of turned into this piece where Molly Bloom steps out of
the book into real life, where she can actually reach out and touch things in
the real world. In a lot of ways, because of their lack of co-operation, it
transformed the track into something else.
When you say the joyce piece had a ``femininity'' about it, what do
- It's difficult to put into words, but I think, on the last album,
Hounds of Love,
particularly in the production, I wanted to try and get across a sense of
power, and the way I related to that was very much what I consider very good
male music - the kind of power I found there was not what I found in a lot of
- It's not that I was trying to write like a man or anything - but
there was this level of approaching the album, soundwise, that I think had a
male energy. But I didn't want to do that on this album. I wanted to do it as a
woman, not as a woman working around a man's world. This all sounds awful!
It's making sense.
- Is it? Oh, good! I think The Sensual World was
very much a chance for me to express myself as a female in a female way, and I
found that original piece very positive female talking...That's the only way I
can describe it. (1989, Melody
world'' (a girl/woman on the threshold of life?)
- That's interesting. The subject matter is very much like that but
it's meant to be a character from a book stepping into the real world. It's the
first time she's been in a body. (1989, Tracks)
- I had been fascinated at how well the words fit to music. I found
myself in a situation where I would either have to shelf the song or rework it
trying to keep the original sense. I gradually rewrote it, keeping the same
rhythm of the words and the same sounds but turning it into its own story,
which became the idea of Molly Bloom stepping out of the song into the beauty
of nature. (1985, The New York Times)
Its a shame you couldn't quote straight from ulysses
but its almost become more than that.
- Well thank you, that very nice. I mean obviously it was very
disappointing for me that I couldn't use the original piece and I did approach
for permission to use the words, but I was refused. So I had to actually rework
it and I am glad to see that you think in some ways it might have, you know,
turned the song into something else because that's what I feel. I feel that
actually the lack of cooperation has turned the song into something else which
is a positive thing.
Its an incredible song, `` the sensual world''
- Well, thank you very much. (1990, KDGE)
The title track of the sensual world was
inspired by a character in ulysses, by james joyce.
- Well, originally the words were taken from Molly Bloom's speech. I
tried to get permission, but it was refused. Obviously there wasn't anything I
could do about it except either forget the song or rewrite it. So, as such a
lot of effort had gone into the musical side of it, and we were quite pleased
with it, I really just re-approached the words, keeping the same rhythm and
texture. But it turned itself into a story about Molly Bloom's stepping out of
the book into the sensual world... In some ways, the lack of co-operation made
us work harder to turn the song into something else. So that's quite nice.
(1989, Reaching Out)
- What was interesting was the fact that through their lack of
cooperation, that they wouldn't let me use the lyric, the original piece, the
song actually became something else. So I think in many ways them not helping
us out turned the song into what it is. The song grew and changed into
something more interesting. Certainly not lyrically, but as a piece of music.
- I remember this piece of music from about three years ago that my
brother Paddy had played me - a fan had sent it in, and it was this beautiful
piece of music from Macedonia. It was just gorgeous, and I thought, well I
don't know if it will work, but let's try it and it worked and that's how it's
in there. (1989, Roger
Paddy: There's someone out there that I owe a big thankyou to. We
can't find your name. We know you live in holland, and several years ago you
sent a cassette to us of a selection of your favourite tunes, including
rosina de peira, harmony-singing from the bahamas, and some
macedonian a-la-turk ensemble music...you must know who you are by now, and
that you are an unsung run on the ladder, so get in touch and be recognized,
and in the time in between please accept my thanks and a kiss from my sister.
[The person in question is jan libbenga, a music journalist who provided a
tape of a version of the macedonian melody which kate subsequently arranged for
irish instruments and recorded on this song. Unfortunately for mr. Libbenga, he
did not wait to read the above graceful acknowledgement by paddy and kate, but
lost no time in publishing a mean-minded accusation in a dutch music journal
which accused kate of ``fraud'' ] (kbc 23, 1989)
- We wanted to make the video for `` The Sensual World'' as
simple as possible in that so many videos
now are overloaded with effects, big sets, they look expensive. So what we
wanted to do was just keep it in one set, one environment and depict what for
me the song ``The Sensual World"' is about, which is the sensuality of this
planet, the weather, the elemental changes, being able to reach out and touch,
the sound of the wind, all of these wonderful things that we are surrounded by.
I gotta think if there was ever a video for this that it would
never get shown on tv.
- Well there is actually a video already made and it's been shown
quite a lot on TV.
Has it ?
What's it basically, what happens in the video ?
- Well its really conveying what I feel about `` The Sensual World",
which is that its an incredible planet that we live in. It has tremendous
sensuality, the texture and the colours of everything that
nature supplies is incredibly beautiful,
and the song is about a character Molly Bloom stepping out of a book into the
real world. So its the idea of how someone who's been living a black and white
two-D world is so struck by the beauty of our real world and in the video its
really like one long journey through a wood with the elemental changes of the
weather and the day and the night, really just celebrating the world that we
live in. (1990, KDGE)
Cloudbusting / Music /
The Sensual World