To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents
OKAY, I won't beat about the bush (chance would be a fine thing) I'll get it off my chest right at the beginning Kate Bush is. . . a girl.
So what's new?
Let me finish. A girl with a neat line in pre-packaged, stay fresh sexuality. A girl with the breasts of a Victorian princess (huh?), the lips of a Rembrandt cherub, the eyes of an Arabian Night, the hair of a . . .
In other words, she ain't a bad looking bird.
She also happens to own the most unique voice this side of Tiny Tim. To many the sound emanating from those elaborate lips is nothing more than a disturbing noise, like running your teeth over a blackboard or scratching your nails across hardboard.
But to others the Bush larynx is an excuse for them to venture into paroxysms of delight. They liken it to a soaring bird, an Olympian call, a celebration of all that is celestial and god like.
Now that's going a bit too far. Fact of the matter is, Kate Bush is a novelty and novelties are notoriously fey.
But that doesn't mean to say I'm writing her off as a two-year wonder. After all, the lady is only 20. And she does compose all her own material. And she has got the backing of the biggest record company in Britain. And she is ambitious.
And she comes from a gold plated background.
Her father is a general practitioner and she was brought up in an essentially middle class embryo in down town Kent.
"I had two older brothers," she recalls in that just so velveteen voice "who were very into music and played lots of instruments so I guess I just grew up surrounded by music."
The brothers played around local folk clubs specialising in Irish and English traditional music.
Kate attended a grammar school but she feels she never really slotted in with the teacher/pupil situation. "I wasn't responsive to the teachers' system and I turned into myself. I used to come home and play around on the piano, making up little songs."
The Great Escape no less. But surprisingly, for one who wasn't at all "responsive" at school she zoomed through ten 'O' levels. Despite such an impressive scholarly success she left school at 16 with an intense determination to crack the musical world.
Around this time her aunt died and left Kate a bob or two. Thus she became more and more independent which in turn increased her musical motivation. She started writing poetry to her tunes.
Luckily, comfort nurtured her talent. Coming from a fairly affluent environment it's only natural that you are presented with both the time and the space to indulge in fantasies which can ultimately become real.
But affluence didn't help her attain a record deal. Her brothers weren't slow in sussing that little sis wasn't just another 16-year-old poor little rich kid with a host of acne ridden boyfriends and a drawer full of mascara. Her penchant for writing unusual but nifty songs had attracted them and they started hocking a tape round to several record companies.
Kate didn't have to worry about silly little inconsequential things like working or anything so she concentrated solely on her music. "I wanted to try and do what I wanted to do so I could at least say to myself that I tried. Obviously my inheritance helped a lot."
During one of the tape hocking escapades, Dave Gilmour, of Pink Floyd fame, latched on to these childlike songs and childlike voice. He wanted to hear more.
"I was really nervous at meeting Dave but he turned out to be such a sweet guy. He put up all the money required for me to make a demo tape of my best numbers. It must have cost him a great deal of money but he didn't want a penny in return. He just likes to help new talent."
Result - EMI heard, saw, loved, signed. But, it was still too early for the 16-year-old to cut it as a star. In a unique move EMI advanced her £3000 and instructed her to let nature take its course -- that is, get older, wiser and write some hits ma'am.
Lucky lady. First thing young Kate did was to enroll in a school of mime where Lindsay Kemp taught. Lindsay, you will recall, taught an aspiring David Bowie the art of mime. "He taught me that it is possible to express with your body. When your body is awake, so is your mind. I'll always remember that."
Then she had a stab at modern dance in a Covent Garden college with tuition from Arlene Phillips who later created Hot Gossip. She admits she was hopeless. "It's so very difficult. I naively thought I'd have it all sown up by the end of the week. But I soon realised it would take at least ten years to be able to master just one facet of dance."
Artistically she was getting increasingly frustrated. Time was passing and there was still no sign of her actually entering a studio to cut a record. "I wanted to communicate with people, to let them know what I thought."
Maybe it was just this frustration that made her decide to leave home. But, she didn't exactly ostracize herself from her family. The South East London flat she moved into was owned by her ...father. And her closest neighbours are her... brothers who live in the same place. It is divided into three flats, one for her and one for each of her two brothers, Paddy and John.
"I left home because I wanted to grow up. There was a need to be myself and not have my parent's influence all the time. I wasn't having any troubles with them or anything. I just thought it was best to get away.
"But it is great knowing that your brothers are around whenever you need them."
Then the call she was waiting for. She went into the studio and recorded "Wuthering Heights". It was inspired by the Emily Bronte (who, incidentally was born on July 30, the same day as Kate).
"I thought it was a great subject for a song. I found I could really relate to Kathy [sic] and I live the part when I perform it."
Her first single was swiftly followed up by "The Man With the Child In His Eyes," which she wrote some four years ago. Said Kate: "I just noticed that men retain a capacity to enjoy childish games throughout their lives, and women don't seem to be able to do that."
Said Kate: "I'm not really a singer, I'm a songwriter. There are plenty of girls with good voices but not many girls who write songs! I think of the tune first, keeping it in my head until I have the words. I don't usually write autobiographically, if the song is about myself I retain the feeling but change the incident. Emily Bronte died from consumption. It makes you incredibly randy but impotent at the same time, so all that frustration was the energy for her "Wuthering Heights."
Sometimes I get really worried because I'm not sure if I can ever write another song, but that's often because I've not had enough time to get the flow going. It's very inspiring sometimes to write under pressure because you're in a very extreme emotional state."
The album The Kick Inside followed the number one success of "Heights" and was well received. Miss Bush had arrived.
But had she arrived as a singer, sex object, or returning to my original assumption, novelty?
As a singer - "When I first started out my voice was awful. But it's like when you start to play a musical instrument. At first it's little more than a noise but with training you learn how to control and eventually master it. I've had no voice training. I just practised and practiced, trying to reach one note a week, a higher one the next."
As a sex object - "I want to have people recognise me for my work, not my body. I know people are going to capitalise on it and obviously that annoys me. I don't see why people should know all about my sex life - it's irrelevant.
They can find out all they need to know about me in my songs which are intensely personal. Just because I'm only 20 doesn't mean to say I haven't experienced life."
As a novely - that remains to be seen.
When Kate first appeared there were many critics who strove to put her down as a one-shot gimmick. Not so Auberon Waugh, who writes for Private Eye and The Spectator. Usually malicious about everyone, he writes nice things about Kate. However, he did say "Ravishing and breathtaking she may be, but when one enquires about these things, there usually turns out to be a young man in tow."
At the moment Kate, who is, incidentally, a vegetarian, is doing very nicely thank you living in her luxurious London flat with her piano and two cats, Zoodle and Pyewacket. She insists they can tell a good friend from a "phoney", for when a visitor arrived they are either hostile or affectionate. She does have a regular boyfriend by the name of Del, (the man with the child in his eyes?) who amongst other things, plays guitar in her band.
"As long as my looks don't interfer with my progress, that's all that really concerns me about the whole image syndrome."
Kate's second album to be unleashed is "Lionheart." Said Kate: "There are no special themes because I always treat each song as a separate entity. I think many of the songs are much more uptempo. I love rock songs but usually they're just three chords. I like a really strong melody line." Kate's third single "Hammer Horror" is am haunting song from the album.
It seems that as long as her voice can hold out she'll sell records. It's simply a question of whether or not the fickle public will continue to find that incredible voice interesting enough to make them part with their dough. For far from being the one-hit wonder some said she was, Kate is definitely unique.
To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents
"The pull and the push of it all..." - Kate Bush
Marvick - Hill
Willker - Mapes
Grepel - Love-Hounds