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An enumeration of the errors in Kate Bush: A Visual Documentary


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From: Andrew Marvick (IED)

At least two Love-Hounds have privately requested that IED itemize the errors in Mayes and Cann's Kate Bush: A Visual Documentary which IED recently alluded to. IED will not call attention here to the many grammatical errors in the book; nor will he list the many statements--most of them to do with Kate's childhood--which are simply rehashed from the collection of suspect hearsay originally found in Fred Vermorel's first book about Kate, Princess of Suburbia. These statements are derived from the "recollections" of former "schoolfriends"--who remain for the most part unidentified--as told originally to arch-jerk and -slime Fred Vermorel, and as such they should be given no more weight than their dubious provenance merits.

To be fair, IED should add that the book contains a large number of interesting facts and observations--the book has many good qualities. That said, here is a list of 39 errors of fact and untenable opinions which Mayes and Cann offer their innocent and unsuspecting readers:

On page 12 a detail from a group photograph of Kate's class at St. Joseph's Convent Grammar School, Abbey Wood is almost certainly not a photograph of Kate Bush, but of some other unidentified girl. A careful look at the entire photograph, showing all the girls in the class, reveals that Kate, by this time a senior student at the school, is in fact standing in the back (highest) row, next to her friend Lisa. This mistake is under-standable, because it was made before in earlier sources, but readers should be aware of the error.

On pages 17 and 94 the statement that the song Maybe "has never appeared" is not strictly speaking correct. Although the version referred to on these pages has yet to be heard, part of an earlier recording of that early song, with David Gilmour himself on guitar, was briefly played by Kate on BBC radio in 1978 or 1979.

On page 19: "...other members of the KT Bush Band were completely excluded <from the TKI sessions>. (Kate later brought them back into the fold for the tour, and after that they joined her in the studio for subsequent albums.)" This is not accurate. Kate actually fought for and won the right to bring in the entire KT Bush Band (Charlie Morgan, Brian Bath, Paddy Bush and Del Palmer) for the recording of two tracks from Lionheart ( Wow and Kashka From Baghdad ).

On page 20: " Moving is a strange but beautiful song in which (as in many songs) she seems to be clasping a lover to her with one arm while pushing him away with the other...<More in a similar vein.>" While all this is hard to dispute outright, Mayes's and Cann's analysis of this song makes clear their ignorance of the fact that Moving is a tribute to Lindsay Kemp, an innovative mime, dancer and choreographer who intro-duced Kate to the world of movement as an expressive element in her art.

On page 21: " James and the Cold Gun is a jaunty rock song about a cowboy (Jesse James?)..." This is false. Kate has stated categorically that the James in her song refers to no particular historical or fictional character.

On page 28: "They <Kate's family> all write for The Club magazine..." Actually only John's brothers Paddy and John have contributed to the Newsletter (unless one counts a ten-word-long thankyou note from Hannah several years back).

On page 37: "18th-21st February 1979. Kate visits Leysin in Switzerland to record appearances for a BBC-inspired European television showcase. The only footage to survive is a video of Kate's following single Wow, but this was never broadcast either." Actually it was broadcast, on the very programme in question! It is known among fans as the Abba Easter Special version of Wow. The other performance from the Swiss taping session was an outdoor lip-synch of Wuthering Heights which Kate performed in the Alpine snow. This version, it's true enough, has never been released--it was originally scheduled to be included in the second Abba special (a Christmas follow-up to the Easter show called the Winter Snowtime Special ), but shortly before airtime Kate replaced it with a hastily taped lip-synch of December Will Be Magic Again.

On page 44: "<For the live performances of Hammer Horror > Kate, in widow's weeds and a black veil, was manhandled in a vigorous dance routine--performed to the record..." False: Kate went to extra time and expense to re-record the song for the stage performance, partly in order to avoid problems with the Musicians' Union concerning the use of taped music. The sound of the Tour version is clearly more "live" than that on the album

On page 45: "The two bars of 6/8 time at the beginning of Symphony in Blue were also extended <for the Tour> as a long waltz intro..." Mayes and Cann are confusing the live intro for Kite, apparently, for the intro for Symphony in Blue. The latter song has a quite different sort of live introduction in the Tour performances.

On page 48 Kate's abbreviation of the Stockholm show is ascribed to "voice strain". Actually she had come down with a bad flu which necessitated shortening not only this show but the Copenhagen, Hamburg and Amsterdam shows which followed.

Also on page 48 (in the margin): "Recordings of the <13th May Hammersmith Odeon> show were also released on record." This implies that a live album of the entire show was released, when in fact only four songs, carefully re-mixed and overdubbed, from that performance were ever officially released, in the form of an EP called On Stage.

Also in the margin, page 48: "Kate turns down the offer of writing the theme tune for the new James Bond movie of the day, Moonraker ..." Kate was never asked to write the theme tune for that film, only to sing the lead vocal of John Barry's theme tune, which had already been written. Kate praised Barry's song as "beautiful", but "not right" for her. She also praised the recording which was eventually made with Shirley Bassey.

On page 51 it is suggested that Kate's comments about the dangers of accidents during a bank heist, made in an interview in reference to the song There Goes a Tenner, offered possible insight into Kate's reluctance to tour. There is no connection between these two subjects.

On page 57 Mayes and Cann claim that Kate identifies with the cat in the second verse of Egypt. Actually, the character is a.) not Kate, but a very different personality invented for the song, and b.) not symbolized by a cat, but enthralled by the image of the ancient Egyptian Sphynx--a very different situation, one which has a bearing on the theme of the song.

Also on page 57: " The Wedding List may have come straight out of a newspaper--but was the whole story there or did she read about the first killing and dream up the revenge to get something out of her system?" Kate did not get the subject of this song from newspapers, nor did she invent the idea of the protagonist's revenge. The entire story is closely based on the plot of a film by Francois Truffaut called La Mariee etait en noir, or The Bride Wore Black. In fact, when Kate performed the song in her Christmas special of 1979, she reproduced almost frame for frame the initial assassina-tion scene from the movie, and changed little from the original aside from shifting the setting from modern times to the Old West.

On page 60: "The moral of these tales <the songs in Never For Ever > is, there is nothing you cannot change if you try hard enough." This is a highly disputable assumption. As far as IED is aware, Kate has never said any such thing.

On page 61: "The first verse <of December Will Be Magic Again, in its final vinyl version> is a humdrum Christmas mixture..." Nothing could be further from the truth! The first part of this recording is sheer magic.

Also on page 61: "In the second verse--'Light the candle lights to conjure Mister Wilde'--she settles down in her den with a Christmas present: The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde perhaps, published in 1976." Aside from the fact that complete editions of Wilde's work had appeared well before 1976, Mayes and Cann could have discovered, had they done their homework, that Kate's love of the fairy tales of Oscar Wilde dates from her early childhood. She has said so on several occasions.

Also on page 61: "The B-side, Warm and Soothing is a gentle but unsentimental portrait of an elderly married couple with Kate wondering how her ideas of love will weather in old age." This interpretation is problematic, and Kate herself has never said anything of the sort about it. Also, the song's "gentleness" is highly deceptive, in IED's opinion.

On page 65, in reference to the 1982 Prince's Trust Gala performance of The Wedding List, often (foolishly) remembered for the moment when the strap of Kate's top broke during midsong, Mayes and Cann write: "She ended her performance clutching her bosom and improvising choreography." Untrue. She clutched only the strap, not her bosom, and not only did Kate not improvise choreography for the end of the performance--there was no choreography for the performance at all! Kate began and ended the song more or less standing still. Unnecessary sensationalism.

On page 67: Suspended in Gaffa is likened to this verse from Gilbert and Sullivan's Nightmare Song, in Iolanthe: "Well this you can't stand so you throw up your hands/And you find you're as old as an icicle/ In your shirt and your socks--the black silk with gold clocks/Crossing Salisbury Plain on a bicycle." IED has listened to the passage in question, and sees only a generic similarity which could as easily be found to exist between Kate's song and dozens of other waltz-time popular songs of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. And the lyrics are wholly unreleated to those of Suspended.

On page 68: "Kate has solved the problem <of foreign buyers misunder-standing her lyrics> by insisting the lyrics are printed on every album." Yet lyrics are not included in The Whole Story, nor for most of her b-sides.

On page 69, in reference to Night of the Swallow: "Using cinematic images she shows us a man of the gun about to migrate like a bird and she pleads with him not to leave her. Kate treads carefully in politics but she can feel her way into the subject through the personal angle. She returns to the problem of a woman's loyalty in Mother Stands for Comfort ." Kate has said that she intended no political implications at all in Night of the Swallow. Nor has she ever described the man in the song as a "man of the gun". On the contrary, he is a pilot who has been hired to fly on a completely unspecified dangerous, possibly illegal, mission at night. There is no sign that the pilot totes a gun. Furthermore the woman is anxious only for the man's safety--loyalty is not at issue in the song, as it is in Mother Stands for Comfort.

On page 70 some completely inappropriate and irrelevant stuff about the sterility of mules is posited by the authors, in reference to the end of Get Out of My House. Since so much has been said in Love-Hounds already about this subject, IED will not repeat Mayes's and Cann's wildly off-the-mark observations here, but will only comment that Kate herself has made it abundantly clear that the reference to the mule was intended to have no sexual connotation of any kind.

Also on page 70, in the margin: "Kate also records one track with The Chieftains ( Night of the Swallow ) on a brief trip to Dublin." Not The Chieftains, but Bill Whelan, Donal Lunny, Liam O'Flynn and Sean Keane, played on this track.

On page 72: "These contract-release gestures <in Kate's routine for The Man With the Child in His Eyes > are again straight out of a contemporary dance class..." Not true at all. Some of the basic movements are perhaps rudimentary, but there is not one movement in even Kate's earliest routines which is not made for a directly relevant expressive or narrative purpose. Snide criticism such as Cann's and Mayes's above only betrays their own ignorance of the sophistication of Kate's choreo-graphic vision.

On page 73 (and elsewhere), the authors refer to Kate's longtime dance partners Stewart Avon-Arnold and the late Gary Hurst (both black) as "boys". Since they were unmistakably men even from the time of their earliest collaborations with Kate, IED cannot help but find this terminology offensive, to say the least!

On page 76: "From the first her writing was extraordinarily mature but she took time to realise the potential of video, unlike Bowie who was quick to grasp the possibilities of the medium but slower in developing real songwriting maturity..." IED will overlook the stunningly false assertions about Bowie's development as a songwriter, and will merely comment that Kate's slowness to "realise the potential of video" is a matter for extended debate; and is anyway quite unfair, since Kate was virtually the first artist to make promotional videos to accompany singles' releases at all ! The truth is that by the time the rest of the industry had begun making videos at all (early 1980) Kate had already been making highly original and enormously expressive videos for well over a year.

On page 78 Mayes and Cann interpret a line from Under the Ivy ("I sit here in the thunder/The green on the grey/I feel it all around me") as some kind of low bathroom joke: "She may smile at the line 'I sit here in the thunder'--the thunder-box was an old-fashioned privy or lavatory..." Judged within the context of the song as a whole and especially the line "I feel it <the thunder> all around me", there can be no question of any such utterly irrelevant and stupidly scatological symbolism. Such an interpretation reveals far more about Mayes and Cann than it does about Kate's song.

Also on page 78: "In due course < Hounds of Love > went double platinum <in England>." Well before Mayes and Cann published their book the album had already attained triple platinum status, and at this point it has already reached quadruple platinum status in the UK.

On page 79, Kate's reference in The Big Sky to those who "look down at the ground, missing" is interpreted as an allusion to journalists who "thought she was too wide-eyed, too Gosh! and Golly! Too Wow !" There is nothing in this song to lead us to believe that it is intended to be autobiographical, and Kate has often cautioned listeners of her music not to confuse the narrators in her songs with herself.

On page 80: "The serene voice <in Cloudbusting > soars above a low string quartet." Del Palmer and Kate both made it clear in their respective Newsletter accounts of the recording sessions for this track that the part was written by Kate, on Fairlight, expressly for string sextet, and that subsequently six string parts were recorded.

Also on page 80: "The cover photo for The Ninth Wave (taken by Kate's brother Jay <John Carder Bush>) is Ophelia in a life-jacket--a young woman floating in water, strewn with wild plants and with her hair flowing about her. This was inspired by a celebrated Pre-Raphaelite painting by John Everett Millais."

Although the picture does strongly recall Millais's 1852 vision of Ophelia; and although we know that Kate herself greatly admired both that painting and a modern re-interpretation of it which hangs on her own wall; and although (as IED learned through conversation with John) Kate's brother is highly knowledgeable about Pre-Raphaelite imagery, nevertheless we should believe Kate's own statement that Millais's Ophelia was not in their minds when they created the photos for The Ninth Wave. Perhaps it's an example of unconscious influence, but IED for one would prefer to take Kate's word for it.

On page 81, the "little light" in The Ninth Wave is interpreted as simply a metaphorical reference to "love and life <which> lights up her face." In fact, the "little light", while possibly a symbol for these things, is, in narrative terms, a reference to a lighthouse.

Also on page 81: "'White horses' and 'buoy' are sea images but they carry overtones of sex." They do? How so? This is absurd.

Also on the same page, Mayes and Cann dredge up the completely false interpretation of the words "ice", "white", "cutting out little lines" and "snow" as references to cocaine. The same interpretation was foisted on Kate by a bullying male Irish journalist for Hot Press in 1985, and Kate categorically denied that the imagery was ever intended to represent such a thing. She acknowledged that the image of the opium poppies in the song was a drug-related symbol, but pointed out that it referred to the motif of sleep, not drug-taking in a literal sense, and that anyway this had nothing to do with cocaine. And she explained that the references to snow, ice and the cutting of lines were clearly intended to describe the scene in the song, wherein the protagonist remembers skating as a little girl.

On page 82 there is an entirely untraced and unidentified quote from Kate of her memories of a moment when her own mother allegedly fainted and had an out-of-body experience. There have been other similarly unidentified "quotes" from Kate, mostly about her childhood, which have turned out to be the spurious "memories" of anonymous so-called former schoolfriends. IED concedes that it is quite possible that this particular quote is authentic, but it could just as easily be fabricated. Anyway, it's completely unfamiliar to this fan.

Also on page 82: "The end of < The Morning Fog >--and of this momentous album--is abrupt and inconsequential, as if cut off." IED doesn't see any reason for such a characterization of the last measures of this song. The ending is unemphatic, perhaps, but not really "abrupt", and certainly not "inconsequential".

On page 84, in describing Kate's performance in the official video for Running Up That Hill: "For the first time on screen she is appearing, not as the subject of a promotion but as an element in the drama." This is blatantly untrue. The RUTH video is neither more nor less "promotional" than any of Kate's earlier videos. From EMI's point of view, of course, all of Kate's videos are valuable primarily as promotional tools, and RUTH was quite successful--particularly in Europe--as such. From Kate's point of view, however, RUTH was just another in a long line of more or less modest visual accompaniments to her songs, and her concern with this video as with all its predecessors was to make a work of artistic value, something which complements and with luck enlarges upon the expressive content of the music itself.

The above litany might seem to indicate that IED does not think well of A Visual Documentary. That's not true. In fact, he considers most of the above errors to be relatively minor ones, and there are after all not terribly many of them. The book is for the most part quite accurate; it's well organized, according to a carefully detailed chronology; and it's filled with interesting and for the most part reliable points. In addition the book contains one of the best collections of candid photographs of and relating to Kate Bush that one can find anywhere. So long as readers are made aware of the above inaccuracies, IED thinks they will be well served by A Visual Documentary.

-- Andrew Marvick


From: Stephen Thomas <spt1@ukc.ac.uk>
Date: 7 Jun 90 09:24:40 GMT
Subject: Error in Visual Documentary

Hello all. I recently acquired a copy of Kate Bush: A Visual Documentary, and have found an error that is was not listed in IED's known errors posting some time back. I thought that those who have the book would like to know about it.

On page 67 the authors discuss Suspended In Gaffa. After this discussion there is a paragraph (it is the second paragraph from the bottom) in which they assert that this track was the only one to feature Dave Gilmour on backing vocals. Clearly this is an error, as Gilmour featured on Pull Out The Pin. I feel that this is a case of a misplaced paragraph, rather than a more serious error on the part of the authors, but I thought you would all like to know about it.


On to Fanzines

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