Interviews & Articles


Sunday Telegraph
"The Explosive Kate Bush"
by Sebastian Faulks
July 6, 1980

To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents

From: rhill@netrun.cts.com (ronald hill)
Date: Sun, 09 Aug 92 22:39:14 PDT
Subject: Sunday Telegraph by Sebastian Faulks July 6, 1980


by Sebastian Faulks

Telegraph Sunday Magazine

July 6, 1980

[Transcribed by Ron Hill]

Last year an effusive new pop star stunned audiences. Can she keep it up?

In the chilly spring of 1978 school playgrounds up and down the country rang to the mournful cry of "Cathy! Heathcliff!" This was not a sudden surge of O-level revision: the children were singing the number one pop song - a strange sensual dirge originally sung - or, rather, wailed - by a wild-eyed, tangle-haired girl, herself a cross between Catherine Earnshaw and Carmen Miranda.

At 19 Kate Bush was hailed by the pop press as the most important pop singer of the decade. She combined ethereal and elusive beauty with a seaside postcard suggestiveness; her high-pitched voice suggested pathos, humour and drama.

She followed the hit single "Wuthering Heights" with a best-selling album, The Kick Inside, and won every available award. The only doubt was whether she could perform for an audience; whether she had the physical stamina, and whether the songs had enough variation to compensate for the fact that prolonged exposure to her voice rendered it less a dramatic wail than an irritating shriek.

After six months preparation Kate Bush set off on tour in January 1979 [actually this is when the tour preparations really got underway, but the tour didn't start until April]. Accompanied by a troupe of dancers, jugglers, musicians, and engineers she traveled round the country, arriving at the London Palladium in April. The Daily Telegraph reviewer wrote of her show: "It beggars belief... a stunningly original stage performance... she has struck the balance between the vivid and the simple and it is devastatingly effective... a dazzling testimony to a remarkable talent."

The show was a new departure in the pop world for the way it incorporated elements of dance and circus entertainment, and for its original use of specially-designed cordless microphones, which allowed Kate Bush to keep both hands free as weaved, danced, and tumbled about the stage. For each song she adopted a new persona, aided by lightning costume changes. Male dancers rocked her gently as she became a serpentine oriental seductress; motor bikes roared as she turned into a strutting leather queen; silence descended as she metamorphosed into a lonely waif at the piano; and then she rose up through the dry ice clouds for "Wuthering Heights", a woman wailing for her demon lover.

Now here she sits in the canteen of the Abbey Road Recording Studios, this tiny grinning girl whose feet dangle some inches from the ground when she is in the studio chair. Her hair, naturally a dark gypsy brown, is currently a fashionable bronze-pink. Her face is pixie-ish and when she smiles she has a dimple - but only on the left and so high up that it almost looks as though she is squinting. She is wearing skin-tight black satin trousers, shaggy boots and a loose black jumper. She would look more like 21 were it not for her tiny childish fingers.

For the past three months Kate Bush has been shut in the basement of the building recording songs for her autumn-released new album. She says she feels like a flower without sun, wilting, but she does not complain much because the new record is crucially important to her. There is a slight air of panic in the studios. Kate has a unique talent, but there is a feeling that the Palladium shows displayed every aspect of it to the greatest possible extent. She has to try to find a way of transcending the limitations of her voice and it's wearing qualities.

She herself scorns such suggestions. [AT LAST, KATE SPEAKS!] "People said I couldn't gig and I proved them wrong. I'll just have to prove them wrong again. you see, the new album represents a new direction for me; it's where I'm at now, not last year. I'll just keep on creating, keep on performing."

But there are, in fact, no plans for another tour. "Maybe next year... I need five months to prepare a show and build up my strength for it, and in those five months I can't be writing new songs and i can't be promoting the album. The problem is time... and money."

The later was a difficulty she sidestepped by putting a considerable amount of her own money into the last tour. The practice of artists investing in their own shows is becoming more widespread as costs rise, but Kate Bush's show was so expensive that even with her contribution EMI were still paying more than they would for most artists. Being famous "gives me the money to do the things I want to do," she says. "Otherwise, I just couldn't afford them. But fame isn't my ambition, I want to carry on learning, getting more information, creating and realising ideas."

Information is a key work for Kate Bush. She is like magic, fastening on to glittering slabs of knowledge and half-glimpsed images - a dip into the books of Gurdjieff, the Caucasian mystic, a clutch of old films, a fashion magazine, a science textbook, an overheard conversation. "All artists are thieves. You eat what you steal, digest it and it becomes a part of you. You never just copy, of course." This mad eclecticism is what made her stage shows intriguing.

"I have to keep an eye on her, you know," says Kate Bush, glancing over her shoulder. "I mustn't let her get out of hand." She looks down. "Sometimes, it's funny, I feel sort of... inferior to her, you know, and I can feel myself starting to behave like her in real life." She is talking, it turns out, about her stage self. "It's frightening," she adds. And then: "you've got to behave appropriately for the situation whether you find yourself in a social situation... I just want to be a human being, you know; I'm a human being first and foremost."

This is a not untypical slice of Kate Bush conversation. A great deal of what she says is pure rock cliche', but it is illuminated from time to time by oblique and original comments. All are delivered with equal charm and sincerity, with an edge of surprise always cracking the almost consonatless London accent.

Catherine Bush - known as Cathy when she was small -- was born in 1958, which means she was too late to catch the Beatles. Her father is a Surrey Doctor. Her mother comes from County Waterford and it is from her that Kate inherited her feel for dance: Mrs. Bush was an accomplished folk dancer in Ireland, though only for fun and in amateur competitions. She was brought up in a comfortable home in Bexleyheath with two older brothers, John and Paddy. Both were fanatical about folk music and Kate listened endlessly to their folk records, sea shanties and Irish jigs.

She also liked hymns and took violin lessons at school. There was an old organ in the barn on which she used to tinker until one day her father showed her middle C on the piano in the living room. And then, in her own words, "Wow!"

School bored her and though she had some good friends she preferred to lock herself away in her room. "I worked out this dance and mime to The Beatles' Eleanor Rigby. I just lived in the world of the song for days and days, dancing it, getting it right." Meanwhile she also listened to Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, Gene Kelly and a new group just appearing on the British scene, King Crimson. ANd then she started writing her own songs, "mostly about myths, spirits, that kind of thing; not fairies... stronger than that."

What happened next was like something from a fairy story. When she was 14 she made a tape of her songs and, via a friend of a friend, it found its way to David Gilmour, guitarist from the Pink Floyd group, Gilmour, who has a reputation for helping new talent, paid to have proper recordings made and played them to EMI, who signed her up at once. She was to start recording for them when she was a little older, "when I felt ready to handle the situation."

So Kate - as she was by now - left St. Joseph's School, Abbey Wood, with armfuls of O-levels, a recording contract and a windfall legacy from her aunt tucked away in the bank.

The next step in her education was to study with the mime and dance artist Lindsay Kemp, of whom she speaks in tones of awe and gratitude. "the first time I saw him it was like a whole new world opened up for me. He did more than I'd ever seen done on the stage before and he never opened his mouth!"

She has worked hard at her dancing and is lucky enough to have long legs, which give a sinuous elegance to some of her less orthodox movements. She smokes and stays up late, though she has been a vegetarian for the last five years - which, she says, makes her feel much better in body and mind.

Kate Bush was brought up a Roman Catholic, but "it never touched my heart." She now professes to a vague humanistic belief in the central premise of most religions - that we should be kind to other people.

She is a curious mixture of naivete' and sophistication. Her avowed aim is to lay herself open to as many influences as possible - to go on gathering information and "carry on learning."

What she has yet to do is learn how to be selective - to filter the various stimuli so that she can see what is useful and what is dross. Her second-single, "The Man With The Child In His Eyes", was a touching and subtle song about the different ways in which the ageing process effects men and women [huh?], which she wrote when she was just 13. Yet her latest single, "Breathing" is about the environment [actually it's about nuclear war] - that corniest of all rock standbys [moron] - and sounds far more like the work of a teenager. [Dipshit]

Time is short and the pop public is fickle [the corniest of all rock standbys]. If the new album is a flop and there is no tour in prospect, Kate Bush has only the frequent impersonation of her on televisions (for which she is very grateful) to keep her in the public consciousness. She does not seem worried. "I'll just carry on performing. It's the only thing I know how to do."

She is very young to be facing such a watershed in her life, but luckily she has the resilience of youth as well as its vulnerability. In the long term she would like to have children, but it would be unfair to them, she says, to think about that just yet.

She lives in a plant-filled flat in a 19th century house in one of the quieter streets of Lewisham, southeast London. She and her brothers each have a floor. "A very ordinary flat," she calls it, "though I like it because it's got all my things in it. It's just far enough out to be nice and quiet. I'd like to live in the country really but the flat's best for the moment, while I'm working in London, because I can't drive, you see." [Kate does have a license, which she got after a failed attempt.]

She is understandably reticent about her private life. When she is not working she says she likes to sleep. "then I like to catch up on things - go and see my parents, go and see friends. And I like to catch up on all the films I've missed and I just like watching telly." She is also a keen cook. She makes her own bread an any number of vegetarian dishes - "Being a vegetarian makes it that much more of a challenge."

As for boyfriends, she says, "yes, sure I have one; I have lots of boyfriends, you know, I really like people."

Simon Drake, a musician who worked on her shows [close, he was a magician], once said: "There are more young men in love with Kate Bush than any other performer." Her reaction to this is: "An incredible compliment! I love it when people say I'm attractive, because I don't really see it myself - I don't think I'm beautiful. But it's the nicest thing you could say!"

And there is no false modesty of disingenuousness in that remark. It is odd that Kate Bush made her name as a performer because the audience never knew what character she would appear to be next; yet she is so irresistible as a person because she is quite guileless.

To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents

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

Reaching Out
is a
Marvick - Hill
Willker - Mapes
Grepel - Love-Hounds