Interviews & Articles


Dirty Linen
"Kate Bush: In Focus"
by John Anthony Wilcox
Winter 1989

To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents

Date: Sat, 6 Jan 90 21:07:18 PST
From: ed@das.llnl.gov (Edward Suranyi)
Subject: Dirty Linen

There's an article about Kate in the Winter issue of Dirty Linen, a magazine published in Baltimore. For those worried about copyright infringement, I should say that this magazine says, "Excerpts and entire reviews my be reprinted as long as credit is given to the author, artist, or photographer and Dirty Linen magazine." I intend to do that. Here's the article:

Kate Bush: In Focus

by John Anthony Wilcox

"Imagination sets in,
then all the voices begin."

-- from "Fullhouse"

Kate Bush. In the U.K. and Europe the name invokes memories of a seemingly endless string of hits. "Wuthering Heights," "Babooshka," "Sat in Your Lap," "Running Up That Hill," "Cloudbusting," the list goes on and on. But in the States, it's a different story. Here, La Diva Bush has only obtained a small, albeit devoted, audience. Her music is alternately wistful, folky, gutsy, and passionate. Perhaps it's the inability for the public to pigeonhole her into one concrete style of music that has let stardom elude Bush here. No matter. What Kate Bush the singer/songwriter/performer/producer presents has very little to do with stardom and quite a bit to do with substance and storytelling.

In a conversation I had with Kate Bush a while back, she mentioned that she seldom, if ever, wrote in an autobiographical context. She much preferred creating characters, and the songs were stories either about them or from their point of view. One need look no further than her introduction to the public -- the song "Wuthering Heights." She relates the story of obsessive love from the viewpoint ot the deceased Cathy and her beyond-the-grave love for Heathcliff. Bronte would surely find no fault in Kate Bush's homage to her timeless characters. "Wuthering Heights" was a prelude to Bush's debut album The Kick Inside. The album showcased a fragile, imaginative young woman and focused on delicate piano (played by Kate) and lush arrangements to counterpoint Bush's willowy multi-octave voice. Her sophomore album, Lionheart, was much in the same vein. Perhaps *too* much.

Lionheart came across as a somewhat lightweight Xerox of The Kick Inside but with less substance. However, for all its faults, the album did contain a few gems among the pebbles. "Fullhouse," "Wow," and "In the Warm Room" are very strong compositions, and "Wow" in particular is to date the closest Kate has come to writing about herself. This album was also backed by a brief but memorable tour that yielded both the Kate Bush: Live at the Hammersmith Odeon videocassette and the live EP On Stage. This would mark an end to a chapter in Kate's career, as the next release brought us a new and different performer.

1980 saw the release of Never for Ever. With it, Bush took a more active hand in every facet of her music -- from concept to arranging to producing, she was in on every step. The album opens with "Babooshka," a tale of infidelity, and closes with "Breathing," a prayer for our Earth. In between, Never for Ever offers a cornucopia of styles, and an impressive array of guests. Look for contributions from Preston Heyman to Mike Moran to Roy Harper (Kate would return the favor by appearing on Harper's The Unknown Soldier disc that same year). The album is full of mandolin, balalaika, bodhran, and even a strumento de porco, thanks in no small part to Kate's brother Paddy, a specialist in ethnic instruments.

As big a step as Never for Ever was from Lionheart, 1982's The Dreaming was a giant *leap* from Never for Ever. A caustic, dark album full of cynicism and shattered dreams, The Dreaming puts aside Bush's inherent romanticism in favor of kinetic energy. Bush whoops, snarls, and quivers her way through the predominently percussive "Sat in Your Lap," "Get Out of My House," and "Suspended in Gaffa," to name a few. But it is the title cut that shows Kate Bush at her strongest, her most confident. "The Dreaming" relates the plight of the Aborigines and is punctuated by authentic digeridoo and Bullroarer. Bush handles it all with sensitivity and respect for all involved.

By that time Kate was in full control of every aspect of her musical endeavors and clearly loving it. That buoyancy is reflected in 1985's Hounds of Love. Side one of Hounds... showcases Kate Bush, the quirky pop princess in "Running Up That Hill," "The Big Sky," and the title cut. Bright and poppish, they are full of color and sparkle. They are contrasted by "The Ninth Wave," a side-long concept piece. Kate informed me that "The Ninth Wave" relates a tale of a drowning person who encounters their past, present, and future. Cheer up, folks, there's a happy ending. Folkaholics should note that members of Planxty turn up on this epic to provide some musical wonder to a section entitled "Jig of Life." Once again, another chapter in Kate Bush's story closes, and the 1986 retrospective The Whole Story is a fine souvenir, collecting many of her finest moments as well as a new tune, "Experiment IV".

Which brings us to 1989. After a lengthy hiatus, Bush came back with The Sensual World. It's clearly her most "global" effort to date, incorporating rhythms and instrumentation from such diverse sources as the Middle East and the Balkan countries. One of the most well-known Bulgarian groups, The Trio Bulgarka, provides authentic vocals. Lyrically, Bush is delving more into relationships and less into creating stories from whole cloth. Songs like "Never Be Mine," "Reaching Out," and "Between a Man and a Woman" are her most direct yet. Curiously, she also chose to include an older song, the delicate "This Woman's Work", which originally appeared a few years back on the motion picture soundtrack to She's Having My Baby [sic]. Also, in a tip of the hat to her mentor, Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, who was responsible for getting Kate her big break, lends some blazing guitar to the album.

It should be noted that Kate Bush doesn't lie idle between albums. She's guested on several other artist's albums, as well as turning up on the odd soundtrack or two. Bush has also lent her considerable talents to several charitable organizations, most recently to the preservation of the rain forests. This woman's work is clearly far from finished!

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

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