Interviews & Articles


The Music Journal
"She'll Crush The Lily In Your Soul"
by Robert Henschen
Dec. 1978

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Date: Wed, 22 Mar 89 09:24 PST
From: Andrew Marvick (IED)
Subject: The Music Journal by Robert Henschen, Dec. 1978

The Music Journal interview

< This article was written by Robert Henschen and appeared in the U.S. magazine Music Journal in December 1978. All the quotes from Kate, and some of Henschen's own observations, are derived from the EMI promotional article (included above) and from the interview LP produced for radio promotion purposes in the same year. Edited by Andrew Marvick.>

Kate Bush: She'll crush the lily in your soul

At age sixteen, with some dozen-and-a-half songs already self-penned, Kate Bush learned that was not yet ready for music stardom...she had to wait two more years. So, while continuing to compose unusual tunes on an old honky-tonk piano, Kate studied mime and modern dance with David Bowie's former mentor Lindsay Kemp and then at The Dance Centre in London's Covent Garden.

She also read, and wrote a song about, Emily Bronte's classic English novel Wuthering Heights, subsequently topping the British charts with this her very first record. Wuthering Heights made full use of the Bush voice...a deceptively frail, slightly bizarre tool of surprising range and unearthly expressiveness. The song's repeating chorus-hook seemed to transcend the imposing barrier between catchy pop music and artistic progressiveness. In short, Wuthering Heights was a great song that found Kate playing the role of heroine Cathy Earnshaw, and the European press promptly made Kate Bush their new discovery. Holland's recording industry awarded her an Edison (the equivalent of our Grammy) for Single of the Year, Music Week magazine called her the Top Female Album Artist, and high praises are still rolling in.

"I loved writing it," Kate enthuses regarding the song. "It was a real challenge to process the whole mood of a book into such a short piece of prose. Also, when I was a child I was always called Cathy, not Kate, and I just found myself able to relate to her as a character. It's so important to put yourself in the role of the person in a song. There's no half ways. When I sing that song I am Cathy.

"When I first read Wuthering Heights I thought the story was so strong. This young girl in an era when the female role was so inferior and she was so inferior, and she was coming out with this passionate, heavy stuff...Great subject matter for a song. I wrote the song from Cathy's standpoint. Cathy wants to take Heathcliff's soul so that they can be together in their spiritual world."

Released in the U.S. several months ago, Kate's album The Kick In-side has not achieved overwhelming success in the States as of yet, but that may soon change. The album has been reissued with a new album cover, and impressive AOR radio support has been building for Kate's remarkable music. Almost every cut on the debut record is equal to, or even better than, Wuthering Heights . There's an impish quality to Kate's singing on the quasi-reggae Room For the Life, she almost sounds like a munchkin on Oh To Be in Love, her voice soaring above the wicked witch's guardsman...And she reveals more dramatic profiles on the near-jazz Saxophone Song or the serious, moving Man With the Child in His Eyes .

This latter piece, about the relationship developed between a young girl and an older man, is a showcase for the singer's subtle and sensitive imagery. "She sees this man as an all-consuming figure," explains Kate. "He's wise, yet he retains a certain innocent quality. The song tells how his eyes give away his 'inner light'. He's a very real character to the girl, but nobody else knows whether he really exists."

Appearances on European television programs like Top of the Pops, Saturday Night at the Mill and Tonight helped launch Bush, still new to performing, into a sudden spotlight...and more than a little controversy. Her act is a sensual combination of dance and dramatic vocal presentations, her body not exactly hidden in a flesh-colored body stocking, and some viewers apparently found Kate to be erotically shocking or in bad taste. Even Kate cringes at the thought of those first, unpracticed attempts at visual communication. She has since learned to handle live performing more effectively, touring England to widespread acclaim. <This is not a reference to her Tour of Life, but to earlier promotional tours abroad.> Ms. Bush is something stunningly different to see...as well as hear.

With or without the sensationalism surrounding her good looks and offbeat performing style, Kate writes music of incredible depth. Just as her dawning public image comes up displaying the physical woman, so do her amazing lyrics bespeak 100% twentieth-century female. Seldom, if ever, has the feminine standpoint been more boldly and beautifully stated, and songs like Room For the Life, Strange Phenomena or Feel It penetrate directly to new depths of corporeal and spiritual realization.

Some of the poetry herein is unexpurgated and erotic; other portions take an inanimate pose to evoke new feelings from the listener.

For instance, Kate creates a flying feeling for Kite, a song that exhibits her songwriting knack for approaching a subject in some refreshingly original way: "In the song the character starts to feel that he is rooted to the ground, but there is a force pulling him up to the sky. A voice calls out, 'Come up and be a kite,' and he is drawn up to the sky and takes the form and texture of a kite. Suddenly he's flying 'like a feather on the wind,' and for a while he enjoys it, but the longing for home and the security of the ground overtake these feelings." Just as Kate becomes Cathy Earnshaw in Wuthering Heights she assumes the role of a young sister in The Kick Inside (inspired by the traditional folk song Lucy Wan ) who, after a tragically incestuous relationship with her own brother, leaves this incredibly sad and hopeful farewell note. Intriguing song-poem ideas.

How did Kate Bush learn to write brilliant songs of such unnerving emotionalism and intelligence at such an early age? "I just grew up with music all around me. When I was about eleven I just started poking around at the piano and started making up little songs. I never played Beatle songs or anything like that. I was always just exploring the instrument. Then, when I was fourteen, I started taking it seriously and I began to treat the words to the songs as poetry. I'd always been keen on poetry at school and it was lovely to put the poems together with the music.

"I have two older brothers and they were very keen on musical instruments. One day, along comes this friend of my brother's <Ricky Hopper>. He worked in the record business himself, and thought he might be able to make contacts. Well, he knew Pink Floyd from Cambridge, and he asked Dave Gilmour down to hear me. Since then, I've been singing, playing and writing until we made the album." Originally the album was to be released in late 1977, but it kept getting delayed, and finally appeared on Harvest in early '78. Now The Kick Inside has come out a second time on EMI-America, distributed by Capitol, and Kate Bush is finally available throughout North America.

Shortly after her phenomenal success with Wuthering Heights, Kate celebrated her financial windfall by picking up a $13,000 Steinway baby grand. "I feel as though I've built up a real relationship with the piano. It's almost like a person. If I haven't got a particular idea I just sit down and play chords, and then the chords almost dictate what the song should be about because they have their own moods." Kate may be working on new songs for another album, but she seems content to let her career evolve without outside interference or commercial pressures: "I'm really not sure how I'm going to develop from now...what direction my music will take. I just want to carry on exploring."

Perhaps Wuthering Heights could only scale the pop music charts in her native England, fueled by fervor for the great British novel ...and novelty. Maybe America's Top 40 isn't quite ready for a singer-poet-pianist this unusual and challenging, even if she has sold over 250,000 albums in the smallish UK. But we're all going to find out. Kate Bush is demonstrating the kind of creative imagination and insight that could have an impact on music now and for years to come.

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"The pull and the push of it all..." - Kate Bush