Interviews & Articles


Music Collector
"The High Poetess of Rock"
by Mike Day
Sept. 1990

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Date: Fri, 14 Sep 90 14:15:40 PDT
From: ed@das.llnl.gov (Edward Suranyi)
Subject: Music Collector September 1990 by Mike Day

The September 1990 issue of the British magazine Music Collector has an article about Kate. The author could have used a better proofreader, but here it is:

KATE BUSH -- The High Poetess of Rock

by Mike Day

I have noticed him seven times or more
But he has not seen me.
He may have seen a girl called by
My name --
But neither he, nor anyone else will
Ever really see me.

A shy, quiet, introverted girl called Catherine Bush wrote these lines for her school magazine. Years later, they still illustrate the mystery, the enigma and the magic which surrounds Kate Bush.

After twelve years of recording success, she continues to fly in the face of tradition, constantly setting her own standards and making her own rules. Despite her highly photogenic looks, this is one pop superstar who'd be insulted to be seen as a pin-up. Naive young Catherine has become mature Kate. Deep, committed and intense about her work, she's a serious musician who also exudes charisma and sex appeal but with Kate Bush the music definitely comes first. Perhaps that's why she still appears distant -- even threatening -- to journalists and media people who seek to discover the REAL Kate Bush.


Born on July 30th 1958 at Bexleyheath Maternity Hospital in South East London to wealthy parents who were easy-going, openminded and musical. Her father, a doctor by profession, was also a keen pianist who constantly filled the house with music. Both brothers played in local folk groups and mother had been an Irish folk dancer. This all helped to make their home, East Wickham Farm, a happy and contented place. Kate even had her own den in the house where she'd spend hours on her own or with a select group of friends. The time was spent writng poetry, painting butterflies on the walls, and sitting by an open fire toasting marshmellows. This was the private world of Kate Bush; a world often misunderstood by her school-friends, who thought a loner. Certainly her school days weren't happy ones. She found it hard to relax in the traditional surroundings of St. Joseph's Convent Grammar School, which she described as a cruel environment where she learnt to get hurt, but also learnt to cope with it. She achieved that largely through writing, pouring out her deepest pent-up emotions onto powerful, stark poetry. There was also her music.

From the age of twelve, Kate had been recoding songs at home on her brother's tape recorder, and later, a friend of the family who worked in the music business played some of them to Pink Floyd's singer and guitarist Dave Gilmour. He was so impressed that he paid for her to make some professional demos, and lost no time playing them for EMI's Bob Mercer. The company were impressed enough to sign her up, but they didn't launch her recording career immediately because they felt she was too immature; instead she gained experience by gigging in South London pubs with brother Paddy and future boyfriend Del Palmer. Their band was called appropriately enough, the K.T. Bush Band. Around this time, Kate was also given mime and dance lessons by the legendary Lindsay Kemp, whose past work included the Rocky Horror Picture Show [first I've heard of this --Ed], as well as providing an early spark to the imagination of the youthful David Bowie.

Those early dance sessions certainly had a lasting effect on Kate, making her very aware of music's potential as a visual medium. It's worth noting that without Dave Gilmour's perserverance and position of influence, the world might never have heard of Kate Bush. On her first album, he is credited with much thanks and love for 'rolling the ball' in the beginning, but for the record-buying public, the beginning came with one haunting single which possessed the airwaves in February 1978.

Written on the night of a full moon, the eerie and ethereal "Wuthering Heights" had been inspired by Emily Bronte's classic novel of that title. This was three minutes of Pop magic that grabbed the hearts of some listeners -- whilst others couldn't believe what they were hearing and couldn't bear to listen to it! "Wuthering Heights" certainly was a love or hate it record. .. . the wailing, freakish vocals caused some critics to dismiss 19 year old Kate as a one-hit wonder. One music reviewer categorised her voice as a cross between Linda Lewis and Macbeth's three witches! Even John Peel proclaimed that he couldn't take her seriously.


Yet "Wuthering Heights" was a bold and totally original single which was only released because Kate insisted on it. A number of EMI executives had felt that it wasn't commercial enought. Ironically, twelve years on, it remains her only No. 1 hit, and if not her best song, it's undoubtedly her best-known. Interestingly, battles over commercialism and marketing were to become a regular occurrence between Kate and her record company, but they were always resolved peacefully, usually with the singer getting her way! A typical example came with the "Wuthering Heights" single. EMI wanted the picture cover to carry a snap of her wearing a thin cotton vest, with breasts clearly defined. She vetoed this, but EMI used the photos on posters which appeared on buses and billboards all over London. Despite the continued efforts to be promoted for her music rather than her looks, Kate has always endeavoured to use her image imaginatively and creatively in her promotional videos. She turned a few heads on her debut Top Of The Pops appearance, with her eye-catching shaggy long hair, and multi-coloured outfit. Looking back later, Kate described her first TV appearance as bloody awful.. .. millions of viewers disagreed!

Both "Wuthering Heights" and Kate's first album, The Kick Inside, featured a kite image designed by Kate, but when the album received a poor response in the States, EMI again pushed her image to the fore, by completely revamping the LP cover for the American market. The Kick Inside was relaunched with a cover photo of Kate looking provocative, wearing knee length red socks and patched jeans. The back of the album, however was identical to the British release, with the song lyrics and kite motif printed over an angry-looking countryside skyline. The US version of The Kick Inside is still available on import. [Note this is a British magazine -- Ed] (In later years, Kate and her family gained much more control over her product by setting up her own management company which licensed her work to EMI.)

Aside from its visual merits, the musical content of The Kick Inside was particularly strong and innovative for a debut album. Produced by Andrew Powell, it featured early Bush compositions such as "The Man With The Child In His Eyes," the lyrics of which she'd written on the walls of her room at East Wickham farm, at the age of fourteen. Bearing in mind her tender years, the LP's songs were lyrically daring, obsessed with weird images, mysterious forces and sensual feelings.

The Kick Inside peaked at No. 3 in the British LP charts in April 1978, and her follow-up album Lionheart (also a top-tenner) was relatively easy to put together, because when it came to material, Kate was spoilt for choice. During the past few years she'd written some two hundred songs, and with the confidence gleaned from her initial success, she was influencing the production on her records much more. Lionheart, released in Autumn 1978, has been described by various critics as a very English album -- in fact Kate's often been called a very English artist -- but on this album she's anything but a traditional English rose. A Leo by starsign, Kate Bush the Lionheart adorns the cover wearing a pantomine lion's skin and sitting on top of a case in an attic. The album includes an ironic anthem to her home country, "Oh England My Lionheart", a bizarre theatrical song "Hammer Horror," (which on its single release missed the Top 40 due to limited airplay); and also a bold kick in the teeth for the media with "Wow". Kate has always disliked being interviewed, especially about her personaly life, and despite her new-found success, she'd been very hurt by some of the negative things which had been written about her. In interviews, she developed a habit of over-using superlatives, especially "amazing," and one paper derided her by claiming that if they'd had a good night out, at EMI, they'd never say it was amazing -- they'd just say Yes I had a Kate Bush!

In "Wow" she poured all the superlatives into the lyrics of one song, and made it to the Top 20 -- the best possible way of hitting back at her critics. However, one aspect of Kate's work which definitely won critical acclaim was her live performances. Reviews for her stage shows at the end of the seventies were positively ecstatic. Her first UK tour featured eccentric, unique and stunning sets. The stage was filled with a gigantic kite-shaped circular screen, used as a backdrop for films and slides, and Kate made no less than seventeen costume changes per show! There's no doubt the audience were impressed -- the ambitious visual effects and non-stop all-action dance routines combined music, art, theatre and dance in a way that left its audience spellbound. Melody Maker 's Mike Davis was sufficiently moved to call it the most magnificent spectacle he'd ever encountered in the world of Rock! Kate finished that tour totally exhausted after 28 two and a half hour shows in Britain and Europe. She was so drained both mentally and physically that she's resisted touring ever since.


Record-wise though, the hits continued unabated. In Autumn '79 the live Kate Bush On Stage EP reached the Top Ten, and the uncommercial but brave single release "Breathing" reached No. 16 in Spring 1980, even though it tackled the subject of nuclear war. The lyrics describe a baby which will die inside its mother's womb, due to nuclear contamination; part of the video showed a nuclear explosion which the BBC refused to screen on Top Of The Pops. Kate described "Breathing" as her little symphony, the most ambitious song she'd ever done, and in later years, Greenpeace included it on an anti-nuclear album.

"Babooshka" and "Army Dreamers" were other single successes from the 1980 album Never For Ever, which Kate co-produced. The cover shows a host of monster-like creatures falling out of her skirt and the back shows a collection of bats -- certainly keeping up the Kate Bush tradition of eccentricity! Dedicated to Kate's lighting engineer Bill Duffield, who was killed in an accident on the first night of her tour, the album quickly went gold and achieved two landmarks for Kate; as well as being her first No. 1 LP, it was also the first ever chart-topping album by a British female solo star.

A genuine Christmas release, the single "December Will Be Magic Again" sustained her success, but Kate Bush was becoming increasingly restless. Her next album would see her strike out in an entirely different direction, but to achieve creative fulfilment she came close to committing commercial suicide. She was now working in her own home studio [no, not until Hounds of Love -- Ed] and producing herself. She'd also been inspired by recording with Peter Gabriel (she sang backing vocals on his 1980 hit "Games Without Frontiers" and would later record a duet with him). Press rumours abounded that Gabriel and Bush were lovers, but Kate always denied the gossip, insisting they were just good friends. [Gabriel denied it also. -- Ed]

Getting back to Kate's new-found ideas, the intense driving beat of "Sat In Your Lap" (No. 11 in Summer '81) was only a foretaste of what was to come. DJs, reviwers, and fans weren't quite sure what to make of this new harder sounding Kate Bush. The emotions and moods she created were as evocative as ever, but this was raw, daring music with a cutting edge, and the ensuing album, The Dreaming, left many people baffled. Despite being Kate's most adventurous, ambitious and intelligent work to date, initially it was only appreciated by serious music critics and die-hard fans. The title track dealt with the plight of the Australian Aboriginals, who'd been pushed out of their land by white men. Another track, "Pull Out The Pin", detailed the ordeal of a Vietcong guerilla preparing to kill a white victim.

Kate Bush was proud of this album. She was giving full reign to her imagination and creative abilities, whilst stretching her music to new boundaries and new levels of advanced production. EMI on the other hand, were dismayed!

After the single "The Dreaming" peaked at the dizzy height of No. 48 in the chart, they didn't even bother to plug the next release, "There Goes A Tenner". Consequently it didn't go anywhere and became Kate's first single to miss the charts completely. At this time rumours abounded that EMI were about to ditch the girl whom they'd greeted with so much enthusiasm a few years earlier. These rumours intensified when all her previous singles were released together in one collection. Surely there was an air of finality to this, asked the music press?

Kate responded typically, by retreating to her private world, the world which had inspired her so many times before. With the help of boyfriend Del Palmer, she upgraded her small studio in the old barn of her parents' house. It was there that she fashioned a quite superb come-back.


In 1985, Kate's new album Hounds Of Love came straight into the album chart at No. 1. Combining the depth of production skills exhibited on The Dreaming with a hard (but more commercial) edge to most tracks. The first single to be lifted from the LP, "Running Up That Hill", gave Kate her biggest hit since "Wuthering Heights", peaked at No. 3. Even now though, her instincts wer to take a risk. Wanting to call the song "Deal With God", she was persuaded not to by EMI executives, who claimed that this would be the kiss of death to the single, denying it airplay. For once, Kate relented.

The next single from Hounds of Love, "Cloudbusting", gave her a vehicle for what she later described as her favourite video. Featuring actor Donald Sutherland, it told the story of a boy and his father who used a machine to create rain. The authorities heard of this, and arrested the father. Directed sympathetically by Kate [wrong -- Ed], the "Cloudbusting" video was a masterful production, illustrating sadness and depth of emotion through a child's eyes. Kate played the part of the boy in the video. She appeared to have short hair but this was an illusion; her hairdresser designed a special wig for her to wear.

1986 was a good year for Kate with three more chart entries, "Hounds Of Love" (the LP's title track); "The Big Sky"; and "Experiment IV", whilst at the end of the year, the compilation album The Whole Story topped the LP charts, and has since gone one to sell a million copies. Containing the best of her hits and near misses, this was a master stroke of marketing by EMI, the kind of album that many people bought at Christmas as a gift. The gatefold sleeve opens out to show cover pictures of all Kate's singles and albums, a variety of photos taken at different stages of her career, and a close-up of Kate looking wistful and demure against a white backdrop. The album succeeded in breaking her in the United States, a territory which up to then had resisted her talents. [I'd say what broke her here (if she can be called broken) was Hounds Of Love, which peaked at No. 30, rather than The Whole Story, which peaked in the 70s. It's true that TWS introduced a lot more people to her older stuff than had heard it before. -- Ed] It also featured a completely new recording of the debut hit, "Wuthering Heights".

Despite the adventurous (not to say weird) subject matter which she writes about in many of her songs, Kate Bush herself is a quiet, reserved and remarkably well-adjusted woman. By all accounts, her fame hasn't changed her. Indeed, she's probably more laid-back about the music business now than at any time during her career. The press have made their usual attempts to drag up negative aspects of her personality, but they've encountered little joy because Kate appears to have very few vices, although she admits to being a heavy smoker and has a passion for chocolate. Luckily her hobbies of dancing and running help keep her fit. She also loves gardening and is a vegetarian. Other miscellaneous likes include science-fiction books (not surprising when you consider the mystical quality of much of her work); television and cinema; cats; and folk music. Her favourite recording stars have mainstream appeal; The Beatles, David Bowie, Elton John, Steely Dan, and the aforementioned Peter Gabriel. Her pet hates include flying and reading books about herself! One book she did make an appearance in was Patrick Lichfield's collection of the World's Most Beautiful Women.

For determined collectors, there are a number of Kate Bush "bootlegs" available, although the quality of sound reproduction tends to be weak. The first Kate Bush bootleg to be marketed was Wow, a double album of Kate at The Hammersmith Odeon, combined with recordings from her first TV special, broadcast in 1979. Other notables include Secret Message, a Japanese flexidisc including messges from Kate and her brother John; Bush -- The Early Years, a rare and highly collectable German recording of her early demos; and What Katie Did For Amnesty International, a live recording of Kate and Dave Gilmour at the Amnesty fundraiser, The Secret Policeman's Other Ball, 1987. [Actually, it was The Secret Policeman's *Third* Ball. -- Ed] Her best-selling videos include Kate Bush -- The Whole Story, The Singles File [sic]; and Kate Bush Live At The Hammersmith Odeon, footage of a concert recorded in May 1979. There are a variety of fanzines available on Kate and the address of her fan club is P.O. Box 120, Welling, Kent, DA16 3DS.


The end of the eighties saw Kate Bush, now in her early thirties, releasing her seventh album, The Sensual World. She described it as her most feminine yet, and when compared to say, Hounds Of Love, it's certainly a more relaxed but perhaps less striking collection. Having said that, the title track (lifted as the first single) made the top ten, notable for its infuriating catchy rhythm, based apparently on the literary style of James Joyce. A song written for the John Hughes (director of The Breakfast Club ) film This Woman's Work [Hold on here! That was the name of the *song*! The movie was She's Having A Baby. Maybe the reason the writer got this so egregiously wrong is that the movie was never released in Britain! -- Ed], unfortunately got swamped in the pre-Christmas market, and ended up as only a minor hit.

The Sensual World album also sees a new departure for Kate: the use of the Bulgarian acapella folk group, Trio Bulgarka but lyrically, the most ambitious track has to be "Heads We're Dancing".

As we enter the nineties, Kate Bush's records appear increasingly out on a limb. Although she's always enjoyed a cult following, her current recordings are in competition with a youth-dominated world of House, Rap and Hip-Hop sounds. It'll be interesting to see if the deep, thoughtful and highly polished music which she records can sustain its success as the decade continues. With Kate Bush, you're never quite sure what's coming next! Whenever people have written her off in the past, she's hit back with her boldest and most adventurous work. With twelve years of recording success under her belt, Kate has emerged from the depths of middle-class Essex [ESSEX?? Everybody knows she's from Kent! -- Ed] to a unique status in terms of critical acclaim and respect within the music industry. Very few artists could go as long as her between album releases, only to see their work come straight back to the top again and again. She's consistently topped even her own high standards, and for that reason alone, you can't help thinking that Kate Bush, The Whole Story is incomplete. The best is yet to come!

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

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Marvick - Hill
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