* * DREAMING * *

A 'Best of' Love-Hounds Collection


E2 - Her Work in General

The Debate About "Gaffa"


Back to Dreaming E. MisK


(see also TD!)


Date: Fri, 20 Sep 85 13:15:56 edt
From: Doug Alan <nessus>
Subject: Suspended in Gaffa

A couple weeks ago, I received a 4 page letter via U.S. Mail from Keith Patrick DeWeese, a big Kate Bush fan in Florida. He doesn't have a computer account, but receives Love-Hounds on paper. He has a bunch of interesting things to say, so I've decided to type in some of the letter (Thanks a lot for the letter Keith!):

"In the "Suspended in Gaffa" video, did you ever notice -- well, I'mm sure you have -- the white butterfly? A white butterfly is a symbol of the female soul as presided over by *Psyche*. Also, wheels, such as the ones in the video, were used as torture devices long ago; *St. Catherine* was martyred "by the wheel". Now, St. Catherine's Wheel is recognized as symbolic of female sexuality. I know the Gaffa controversy has been cleared up as meaning gaffer's tape, but I think Gaffa sounds like a baby word, a contraction of *God* the *Father*."

I dunno. I can't see it as standing for "God the Father". It doesn't seem to make much sense like that.

"I don't think we'll ever know what that word *really* means. Kate is too much of an artist to divulge her secrets."

I agree. There must be some reason "Gaffa" is capitalized. Unless it turns out "Gaffa" is a brand of gaffer's tape, there must be something Kate is not telling us.


Date: Thu, 23 Jan 86 14:21:57 cst
From: TDAS Development(chris) <ots!chris515@Rice.EDU>
Subject: Gaffa?

What/Where/Who is Gaffa and how do you get suspended in it?

Chris Jepeway

[The first ever appearance of this question on the list!]


Date: Sun, 26 Jan 86 03:38:25 est
From: nessus (Doug Alan)
Subject: Re: Gaffa?

> [Chris Jepeway:] What/Where/Who is Gaffa and how do you get suspended in it?

This seems to be the recurring Kate Bush question....

Gaffa is gaffer's tape, which is what they use to tape down wires and stuff. Before I knew this, I always pictured it as a viscous, sticky liquid that is difficult to move through (like molasses). I don't think I was really missing out on much of the meaning.



Date: Sat, 04 Oct 86 14:01 PDT
Subject: Gaffa?

Welcome Carlo Samson, whose questions are all challenging and interesting:

> 3.) What or where is "Gaffa?"?

Gaffa does sound like a place-name in the song, which is intended, since Kate purposely re-spelled the word to which it refers in order to make it seem like a place. The word it seems to have been taken from is "gaffer", which refers to "gaffer's tape", a heavy tape used to secure cables on stage and in film work. Kate apparently means to conjure up the image (more or less as illustrated in the film version) of the character in the song hanging in some void, helpless to escape from her station in both the physical and metaphysical worlds.


Date: Thu, 29 Mar 90 07:10:47 -0500
From: katefans@world.std.com (Chris'n'Vickie of Kansas City)
Subject: What's "gaffa"? Well, it's NOT gaffer's tape!

What is "gaffa"?

Well, you'll get a dozen different answers but the one you'll hear most often will be the WRONG answer! That is: "gaffa is gaffer's tape, just like the duct tape electricians and roadies use"


OK, I can hear the emacs being fired up all over the world.

......."But Kate HERSELF said that gaffa is gaffer's tape".......

It's my duty Dave, to inform you of a fact that long-time Katefans are aware of but that tends to bewilder new fans.

Kate lies.

Oh, she isn't a pathological liar or it isn't that you can NEVER believe anything she says, it's just that sometimes she bends or omits the truth when asked certain questions. Why? Here are a few reasons:

1) She wants to be ambiguous sometimes because she wants people to interpret songs from within themselves, rather than take what she says as the final answer.

2) Sometimes she gets asked the same question over and over and over again and it's easier to come up with a quick and simple answer than to try to explain complicated matters to interviewers who wouldn't generally understand or care anyway.

3) She's lazy sometimes (about answering questions) and just doesn't feel like going into detail. She figures fans will work it out and who else cares so why waste the energy? She generally gives the most complete answers to questions in her fan club newsletter, where she knows that the people reading really care and truly want to know.

She's been asked time and time again what "gaffa" means and she quickly decided that the answer "gaffer's tape" was the best to give. Most people would say "oh, OK" and leave it at that. That answer doesn't make the least bit of sense though so I've come up with my own theory. I'm not a very articulate person but I'll try to do my best.

First of all, "gaffa" is a made-up word. It doesn't exist in the English language. There is a "gaffa" in the Italian dictionary which is the feminine of the French "gaffe". Maybe she was inspired by the Italian word, but the fact that she always answers "gaffer's tape" makes me think that she was inspired more by the word "gaffer".

Also, the word "gaff" has lots of different definitions in the dictionary, many of which could fit into the general meaning of the song "Suspended In Gaffa". More on this in a bit.

No matter where she got the inspiration, "gaffa" is Kate's word. It does NOT mean gaffer's tape, it's meaning is somewhat similar, but much, much more complex.

"Suspended In Gaffa" is a song that no one really understands fully. I can only scratch the surface when I try to explain it.

I have no idea what the first two verses mean, by the way. "Out in the garden, there's half of a heaven" could refer to her family home (which has a lovely, heavenly garden), or it could mean her home studio (at that time located at her parent's house).

"And we're only bluffing"

Who's "we", bluffing about what...and how?

"We're not ones for busting through walls" Who's "we", what walls? Walls of knowledge? (Kate was heavily influenced by Pink Floyd's "The Wall" btw, but I don't know if that has anything to do with this line.)

"But they've told us unless we can prove/That we're doing it/ We can't have it all" Who's "they"? Told who? Prove what? How? Doing what? Have what?

"He's gonna wangle a way to get out of it" Who's "he"? Wangle how? Out of what?

"She's an excuse/And a witness who'll talk when he's called" Huh?

SIG is about someone (a woman, could be Kate herself, though the feelings the character goes through could be felt by men or women) who is insecure about finding knowledge and feeling as if they don't deserve to have the knowledge they so very much want. It's about striving for something, wanting something very badly, yet when it seems close to becoming reality, something blocks the progress.

"I try to get nearer/But as it gets clearer/There's something appears in the way/It's a plank in me eye/With a camel who's trying to get through it"

"Am I doing it? Can I have it all now?"

"I pull out the plank/And say thank you for yanking me back/To the fact/ That there's always something to distract/But sometimes it's hard/ To know if I'm doing it right"

"Can I have it all?" "Can I have it all now?" "We can't have it all"

I know there are Biblical references in there (camel through eye) but I'm not very well versed in the Bible so I'll let someone else go into more detail. Kate said once that the song was inspired by the horrifying Bible stories she heard as a child (She grew up Catholic but isn't part of the church anymore). I don't remember her exact words, something about how in Purgatory you would be given a glimpse of God so as to give you hope. Hell, though, was much worse because you would be given a glimpse of God to see how "great" & "good" he is, but you knew that you would never see him again. Kate said once that the song is about trying to find "Heaven".

I think the song can be interpreted to mean "God's Heaven", but I think that Kate had a much more interesting thing in mind. Everyone has their own "Heaven" and it could be God's, Buddha's, or a thousand other dieties. OR it could be a personal heaven that is unique to the individual. Something along the lines of Joseph Campbell's "bliss" ("everyone has to find their own bliss").

A personal bliss or heaven would be something that makes you happy, something that makes your life interesting and meaningful and keeps you occupied. (It could be stamp collecting, it could be Kate Bush's music. It could be playing guitar, it could be watching movies. It could be any number of things.)

The saddest people of all are those who live their lives with no real interests or hobbies.

SIG is about "someone happily tripping through life", then all of a sudden it's as if they're going in slow motion. They start asking questions and realizing that to get the things they want is not going to be as easy as they had hoped. There are barriers and obsticles. Those can be physical or mental (by the way, this is the part that I use when I explain why I called my radio show "Suspended In Gaffa". I'd get into it but that would likely add another few paragraphs to this post so I won't).

It's about a character who's so insecure she's not sure she'll EVER get what she really wants because she's afraid to "open boxes" like Pandora. Afraid of what she might find.

It's about a state of mind and/or a state of being that keeps you in limbo, not able to get any further in your quest for whatever it is that you're looking for (that's where "Gaffa"-suspended therin, comes into the picture)

SIG is a sister song to "Sat In Your Lap" on the same album. SIYL is saying the same sorts of things, it's just much easier to understand. Kate has a much earlier song called "Frightened Eyes" (by some people-no one except Kate really knows what the title is) which deals with a similar subject. "They've all got frightened eyes/Saying leave me alone/I'm perfectly safe here inside/Please don't surprise me

SIG is about fear and insecurity and barriers and taboos and society and status quo and all kinds of things that I'm not anywhere near smart enough to even begin to try to figure out.

SIG is about three minutes and fifty-three seconds.




From: Doug Alan <nessus@mit.edu>
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 90 14:00:06 EST
Subject: You can't win arguing with me about Gaffa

I'd like to take issue with those who are saying that Kate is a liar. Okay, well, maybe she does often avoid or bend the truth when people ask her what something in one of her songs means. But this is NOT, I repeat NOT, the case with respect to the word "Gaffa". Kate said that "Gaffa" is gaffer's tape (i.e. duct tape, a very sticky tape which is used by gaffers (film electricians) and musicians to tape down wires so that people don't trip over them), and indeed Gaffa *IS* gaffer's tape.

Vickie claims that Kate is lying because gaffer's tape doesn't make any sense with repsect to the song. To speak like IED, this is a perfect example of slip-shod thinking. Gaffer's tape makes *perfect* sense with respect to the song.

Long before I ever heard any explanation of the song, or for that matter, even knew that anyone else in the world had ever even heard of Kate Bush, it seemed to me that "Gaffa" must be something like molasses -- a thick, viscous, sticky substance that someone could get stuck in, and have to move in slow-mo. If Kate had said that Gaffa is a brand of molasses, the song would have made perfect sense. That Gaffa happens to be gaffer's tape makes even more sense -- not only is it a sticky substance that you can get stuck in, but it is also a tool that musicians use to help them create their music. (By the way, "gaffa" *is* a word used in Europe to refer to gaffer's tape. People in Europe have told me so.)

The song "Suspended in Gaffa" is about the quest for perfection, the difficult struggle of trying to reaching your ideal. What could make *MORE* sense than the irony of Kate becoming trapped by the very tools she uses to work for perfection!



Date: Fri, 30 Mar 90 14:57 PST
From: IED0DXM%OAC.UCLA.EDU@mitvma.mit.edu
Subject: re Gaffa

Well, Vickie, you sort of set yourself up for that one, IED is afraid. Having read a huge backlog of Love-Hounds from before your time, however, you were probably prepared for the backlash on the dreaded subject of Gaffa!

IED merely wants to comment that, while the word indeed refers to gaffer's tape (there is no reason to assume that Kate lied on this point), it clearly means something else, as well. Or more accurately, it refers to a larger idea (the concept of purgatory, or limbo), as well. In other words, all of you are correct!

IED would caution Love-Hounds not to assume that because Kate has lied (or distorted the facts) on a handful of occasions, she is not "a liar". Too much has been made recently in this group about the extremely limited number of documented occasions on which Kate has definitely "lied". For the most part she is an exceptionally honest and truthful interviewee.

-- Andrew Marvick


From: "Ottis R." <BOYD@unb.ca>
Date: Fri, 29 Oct 1993 14:06:12 GMT
Subject: Re: misc kate murmurings ("GAFFA")

Alex Gibbs writes:

>But gaffa is from the song "Suspended in Gaffa" on The Dreaming and is generally believed to refer to gaffer's tape, like duct tape.

It could be, but I dunno. It might be an idea to undertake an extensive study of the meaning of "gaffa". On the other hand, why doesn't somebody ask Kate? (I can't believe somebody hasn't yet, though)

Anyway, there are at least these other possibilities:

2. a gaff is an iron hook used in fishing

3. a boom or spar used to support an extension to fore and aft sails: (these both have to do with suspending something, as could the duct tape idea, that being definition 1. I know, you can't be suspended "in" a pole.)

4. from OE *(ge)gaf-spraec* - blasphemous or rude speech

5. from Mod. French *gaffe* - "a remark by which one 'puts ones: (both 3 & 4 having to do with social blunders which might hinder or "suspend" one's position in certain company - it seems to me this has more to do with the song than any actual physical hinderance)

6. (slang) a fair or other petty amusement: (could be a reference to an entertainer's career going nowhere - not likely, this)

There are other definitions which I can't stretch to fit (all definitions are found in both the OED and Collins). Having done this crude search, I'm inclining toward definition 5, since it also comes closest after "gaffer"-without-the-"r" to the pronunciation used in the song (very very extremely slight "e" - unless sung, then it would be definite).

If, however, somebody whose brother went out with a girl whose cousin knows somebody who runs a newstand next to Kate's studio tells me for sure that it is a reference to duct tape, I'll defer to authority. =-) -- Ottis


From: "Ottis R." <BOYD@unb.ca>
Date: Fri, 29 Oct 1993 15:01:01 GMT
Subject: More on "Gaffa"

I said:

>There are other definitions which I can't stretch to fit (all definitions are found in both the OED and Collins).

I was wrong - I found some more:

From Collins,

7. (Brit. slang) gaff - a person's home, esp. a flat. ("Am I suspended in gaffa" could mean, "Am I going to be stuck in this flat for the rest of my life?")

From OED, a drug reference,

8. Kef, keif, or kief - a state of drowsiness or dreamy intoxication, such as is produced by the use of bhang, etc. b. The enjoyment of idleness, [...] "to make (or do) kef", to pass time in idleness.

(I don't know KT's stand on recreational chemicals, but this makes sense in the context of the chorus; "feet of mud", moving in "Slo-mo", and being unable to explain her emotional state ("I don't know why I'm crying") could all be leading to the question "Is this because of the drugs?" After all, the whole song has a dream-like ity, and the album is entitled "The Dreaming")

*PLEASE NOTE* I didn't say Kate does drugs!

There are also several places with names similar to Gaffa:

Gafsa (or Qafsah) - town in Tunisia

Kaffa (formerly) - now Theodisia or Feodosiya in South Russia

Kaffa - once a separate kingdom in Ethiopia - I don't know if it still exists

There, that's really all I can come up with. -- Ottis


Date: Sat, 30 Oct 93 15:10 CDT
From: chrisw@fciad2.bsd.uchicago.edu (chris williams)
Subject: Re: misc kate murmurings ("GAFFA")

People have asked Kate, and the problem lies in the fact that the answer Kate gives depends on several factors:

Who's asking?

What else did they ask her?

Why do they want to know?

Where did they ask the question?

When did they ask her? (Hi Valerie!)

Kate is more outgoing with some interviewers than others; interviewers that she doesn't get along with get rote and rehearsed answers, rather than simply being told to piss off.

If an interviewer asks stupid questions, Kate isn't likely to bother giving smart answers.

Interviewers with preset agendas will probably get less forthcoming responses than those without.

Some interviews are one-on-one and personal, in a personal space like her dance studio or home. Others consist of a dozen reporters at once asking questions, in a time-honored technique called the "Mongolian Cluster F**K."

If the interview is shortly after the release of an album, she will be a bit more likely to answer directly. If she has already answered the question a dozen time, she has had practice, and has been forced to reduce a complex answer to a soundbite.

Kate has *once* refered directly to duct tape. Several other times she has refered to a metaphorical state of not being able to achive the thing that you want to.

My theory is that "gaffa" is a pluralized form of "gaffe." One gaffe many gaffa. Further I believe that Kate was aware of several of the other english meanings of "gaff," and used several of then in a vague punning way. A couple of others - the "gaff" is the hook used in vaudeville to drag failing preformers off the stage. The "gaff" is specifically the main wide avenue of a fair or carnival, with temptations on either side to draw one away from the goal of the other rides and amusments. The other is the phrase "blowing the gaff" british slang for revealing the secret. See "The Crying Game" for a recent usage.

The problem with discussion of the meaning of "gaffa" is that a number of rec.music.gaffa posters have become extreamly tired of *any* discussion of this groups namesake word, and have seized upon Kate's simple answer to a simple questioner and have concluded that that answers it once and for all. So, a couple of times a year someone attempts to point out some new and interesting point, like the Muslem word "Quaffa" and is shouted down by the "gaffa is gaffer's tape" brigade.

Oh, well. At some point in the future we may have to have a rec.music.gaffa.gaffa newsgroup.


From: CLBECKWITH@aol.com
Date: Sat, 13 May 1995 06:54:40 -0400
Subject: Re: Gaffa

Alan Carter wrote:

>Hi, I have a feeling it is a play on words. There is an Arabic word Qaffa (like in the boss of Libya - G and Q seem to be interchangeable when moving from Arabic to English). My Arabic speaking friend tells me it means "unbelief". Now lots of KT songs include Sufi images (mind as house, unconsidered reactions like the braying of donkeys, talking drums, the whirling of the dervishes, Gurdjieff etc.)

Apparently the Sufis use lots of Arabic words because by and large, over the last 1000 years Islam has been particularly welcoming to the Sufis.

So in a song where the protagonist is having a spot of bother on the Enlightenment front ("that girl in the mirror - between you and me she's not going anywhere"), she is suspended in *unbelief*. Well, it makes sense to me!


Jesus, Alan, where were *you* during the last Gaffa debate? :-)

Take care,

Chris Beckwith


From: chrisw@wwa.com (Chris Williams)
Date: Sat, 2 Dec 95 23:59 CST
Subject: Re: "What is Gaffa?" web page

Sharon Nelson asks:

> Oh Yeah, so what the heck is GAFFA anyway? What page is it that answers >this question? I don't understand it. Duct tape from True Value??????

The last time this question was asked, I went to the archives. I pulled up a series of different quotes from different times. When Kate was asked soon after the album, she explained that it was being held back by little things (personally I believe that "gaffa" is a pluralization of "gaffe".) Several years later, she had obviously tired of answering the question. She then answered with a joke about "gaffer's tape," and being "suspended" in it.

Several people chose to ignore this, choosing instead to make asinine cracks (including one who asked Kate to her face if "Night of the Swallow" was about fellatio. No, I'm *not* kidding.) I chose to not participate in this group for several months after, and lost interest in producing the follow-up to the "Lovehounds Collection."

Chris Williams


From: nessus@mit.edu (Douglas Alan)
Date: 07 Dec 1995 23:55:14 GMT
Subject: Suspended in "Suspended in Gaffa"

> From: chrisw@wwa.com (Chris Williams)

> ...this is the same place where Kate replied, to the question: "What sort of makeup do you use?"


"I don't use makeup anymore! I use latex."

I don't get your point, Chris. Are you saying that if Kate makes a joke in one place in a publication then everything she says in the same publication must be a joke?

You also don't seem to see that there's a big difference between the two replies. First of all, since the question about makeup is no one's business, a serious answer is not warranted. Secondly, Kate's answer to the makeup question is clearly absurd and funny, while Kate's answer about what Gaffa is is neither absurd nor funny. Thirdly, in Kate's answer to what Gaffa is, Kate continues on past her description of gaffer's tape on to what is unarguably a serious description of the song's meaning. Would it make sense to segue from a joke to serious discussion without any transition whatsoever? No, it wouldn't make any sense! Give Kate some credit. She is much more competent that this.

Let's imagine what a real joke put on the beggining of Kate's answer might look like:

Q: What is Gaffa?

A: "Gaffa" is a brand of latex. I've given up on using makeup and now I use Gaffa brand latex on my face instead. Suspended in Gaffa is trying to simulate being trapped in latex: everything is in slow motion, and the person feels like they're bound up. They can't move. Defeat.

Would such an answer make any sense? Would it make sense to transition like this from a joke to a serious discussion? No, it wouldn't. Kate has a lot of sense, and it doesn't seem reasonable to assume, as you do Chris, that Kate did such a ridiculous thing.

> Kate is a musician, singer and songwriter. She would be a miserable comedian. Her joke telling ability is right up there with the Prince Charles. *Many* of her jokes are not especially funny, and the ones are tend to be fairly obscure (like the US Rubberband Girl and Love and Anger . videos.)

I guess the difference between us, Chris, is that *I* think that Kate has a fine sense of humour. I find her jokes funny, and therefore I *can* tell when she is joking and when she is not.

>> Ignore what?

> The fact that the "gaffa tape" explanation appeared long after the far more involved "purgatory" explanation. Coupled with the *many* perfectly reasonable puns that exist on the word "gaff."

Perhaps you might concede, Chris, that we haven't ignored this, but rather that we have a different and less sinister interpretation than that Kate is trying to lead her fans astray.

As far as I know, no one ever even *asked* Kate what Gaffa is before her answer in the Kate Bush Club newsletter (the publication where one would think it most important for Kate to take question about her songs seriously). They asked her a *very* different question: they asked her what the song *means*. The two questions are quite different. The *meaning* of "Suspended in Gaffa" has very little to do with gaffer's tape, and thus there was no need for Kate to bring up the subject when asked about the meaning of the song. Gaffer's tape is used as a *metaphor*. What is symbolized by the metaphor is much of the meaning of the song. The metaphor itself is tangential; it is just a means to evoke that meaning. In earlier interviews Kate talked only about the meaning of the song, not about her use of metaphors to evoke this meaning.

There are a number of other metaphors in the song, none of which Kate has ever talked about either. What is this story line about busting through walls and things buried in the garden? As far as I know, Kate has never said a peep about this. Maybe someday she will tell us more, and when this day comes, will you say, Chris, that Kate must be joking because otherwise she would have told us earlier?



From: "Forward, Jonathan" <JForward@sitgbsd1.telecom.com.au>
Date: Fri, 08 Dec 95 14:48:00 EST
Subject: Gaffered into Suspenders

Having done a fair share of laying gaffer tape in my time, I have to say the first thing that sprang to my mind on hearing this song was not thick black tape but some Middle Eastern bastion of Islam, somewhat akin to Mecca, Jedda, or such like. Being suspended in Gaffa sounded more like one of the trials of Sinbad than anything. This is, of course, just one man's fancy.

On to About Gurdjieff

written by Love-Hounds
compiled and edited
Wieland Willker
Sept 1995 June 1996