Interviews & Articles


Philadelphia Inquirer
"A Return to Innocence"
by Tom Moon
Jan. 1994

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Date: Tue, 18 Jan 1994 11:10:45 -0500 (EST)
From: "Robert P. Keefer" <keefer@msmary.edu>
Subject: Kate in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan. 1994

Several people asked me to post this here, so here it is. I also have a more complete version of the side bar on other female singers which Kate may have influenced from the same paper, same day.

Philadelphia Inquirer, Sunday January 9, 1994, Section F, pp. 1, 7

A Return to Innocence

by Tom Moon, Inquirer Music Critic

Kate Bush found a way to break out of her shell and cut loose for her new album. But she still fears flying.

[subhead, pg. 7] With no one around, the shy Kate Bush finds a way to cut loose

New York -- Every now and then, and idea comes along midway in a creative project and becomes the flash of insight that pulls it all together. For Kate Bush's new album 'The Red Shoes,' it was a remote-control device.

The notoriously shy composer, vocalist and cult heroine works in a studio she built in her house outside London. Bush finds the house, filled with floppy old couches and homey furniture, a "far more relaxing" place than most recording studios, where the air is often thick with stress.

But even the comforts of home weren't enough when it came time for Bush to lay down her tracks. She sent away her musicians and her engineer-producer (who is also her boyfriend), and rigged up a remote that allowed her to operate the tape machine and mixing console from the isolation booth where vocals are recorded.

She was alone. No distractions. And the result, Bush recalls, was "a major unblocking." At various times on 'The Red Shoes,' the usually reserved vocalist can be heard scat singing, babbling nonsense syllables and screaming with abandon, reacting to the moment rather than to a plan.

"You have to have a real lack of inhibition to make records," Bush said last month, on a rare trip to the United States to promote 'The Red Shoes' and it accompanying film, 'The Line, The Cross, The Curve,' which she directed.

"If I feel I'm being observed, I get very nervous. I'm more likely to play with ideas if there's no one around. And it's boring for someone to have to sit and operate the tape machines. [With the remote] I could do it myself.

"That made a huge difference," said the 35-year-old singer, sitting in an Upper East Side hotel lounge. "I didn't have to do the quick thing that would work. I could try 10 things, I could do things without worrying what anybody would think.

"It made me realize we get to a certain age, and then the rest of our lives we do everything we can to get back to the way we were when we were little ... using wisdom to come back to innocence."

That maxim neatly sums up Kate Bush. Since her 1978 debut 'The Kick Inside,' she's used all of the wisdom at her disposal -- high-tech sequencers, a full orchestra, lyrics filled with literary allusions and nursery-rhyme mantras -- to achieve an innocence absent from most pop. Whether singing about the aftermath of nuclear holocaust or guru-philosopher G.I. Gurdieff, Bush is unburdened by the clutter of adult reality. Some reviews of 'The Kick Inside' insisted that it was the work of a preteen prodigy. Music this fragile could not have come from an adult.

Bush's distinctive Victorian soprano reinforces the impression. Her haunting, mewling vocals have helped her carve her own subgenre, somewhere between too-sweet pop ballads and ostentatious art-rock, between no-bull and florid love poetry, between the tactile and the abstract.

Whether they focus on grand themes or tiny frailties, her songs are wracked with a hovering doubt, wary that fate might rearrange things at any moment.

Bush maintains that she lost her innocence before she knew how valuable it was. And now, she said, she's immersed in the job of getting it back. She's investigating past-lives therapy and communicating with her angels.

She's even doing a few of the mundane music-business things she tried for so many years to avoid: like sitting for two hours at Tower records in Lower Manhattan where 2,000 pilgrims journeyed to see their idol on her first promotional trip in nearly a decade.

Respectfully, they shuffled by in an orderly line. Couples with tears in their eyes who gave Bush credit for bringing them together. A woman who begged for Bush to sign her arm, so she could go directly to the tattoo parlor. Legions of fans who waited in freezing weather for nothing more than an autograph.

For personal reasons as well as commercial ones, Bush is relieved that response to 'The Red Shoes' has been so positive. The album, three years in the making, represents an attempt by Bush to lighten up. On her debut, she cribbed from literature and quoted Scripture, setting straightforward notions of love in grandiose, and occasionally pretentious, language. Now, she's comfortable with the simple statement, the reduction of complex concepts into childlike observation.

On 'The Red Shoes' "Moments of Pleasure," she sings, "Just being alive, it can really hurt," and infuses the line with a suffering she might once have probed in painstaking detail.

"Lily" (which Bush said was written a full year before the "angels" meta-pop boom) finds her chanting a prayer that her friend Lily claims will summon a celestial guide. "It's an incredibly positive message to be given, I think, at a time when people are wandering," muses Bush. "Lily says they're very powerful, benevolent beings whose purpose is to help us."

Bush is aware that many of her ardent fans misunderstand songs such as "Lily," analyzing them word-for-word, like clues in an autobiographical puzzle. "People seem to read a more ethereal dreaminess into my lyrics. I like messages in songs that are much more based in reality."

Often, that reality is suffused with melancholy. Though she acknowledges that the album has its weepy moments, she draws a distinction between morose songs and her work, which she believes are "the complete opposite." On the affecting "Moments of Pleasure," for example, "I'm not talking about only pain or only ecstasy, but this notion that life is so precious. The moments of pleasure couldn't exist without the sadness."

Bush speaks from a hard-earned perspective: Her own career has been a seesaw. She was 20 years old when her debut album (which was guided and partially financed by Pink Floyd's David Gilmour) was released, and before she knew it, her song "Wuthering Heights" was an international hit. She went on one promo outing after another and, in the process, acquired a fear of flying that explains her current reluctance to undertake extended concert tours.

When she returned to England, Bush's record company was clamoring for a follow-up. That's when the singer snapped.

"They took me away from everything familiar and, four months later, wanted another record," she said. "I figured out right then that music was [my] priority, not publicity. And that completely changed my life. I stopped doing all the things that were expected."

After 1980's 'Never for Ever,' which contained the apocalyptic hit "Breathing," Bush stopped touring completely. Her next project, 1982's 'The Dreaming,' was slammed not just for being noncommercial but for being fundamentally inaccessible. Its somewhat pandering corrective measure, 1985's 'Hounds of Love,' yielded the single "Running Up That Hill," but little else -- a three-years-in-the-making disappointment.

Though Bush wrote the songs for 'The Red Shoes' quickly, and intended to be less fussy about recording them, she became obsessed with creating a more "live" sound, a record "full of the human element." Her goal was to "let the songs speak more strongly than the production."

She made sure that her somber ballads alternated with buoyant celebrations. And she opened her studio to a parade of guests -- Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, the Trio Bulgarka.

If Bush's lyrics are more direct this time, their settings, and the way each guest's contribution is utilized, show that her musical gift has also matured. The best material on 'The Red Shoes' plays to the strengths of her collaborators: "And So Is Love," for example, features Clapton's guitar in a tense duet with Bush's voice.

With that tune, "I really wanted to get at the rawness of relationships, the way things just burn at people but never quite erupt," Bush explained. "And Eric just sensed that. The track couldn't say it, it just had to unfold, holding the tensions until the voice goes up into the higher octave. He followed brilliantly, like it was a conversation. It feels like the guitar is answering the voice. I was so moved by what Eric played."

When she began work on 'The Red Shoes,' Bush said, one objective was simply to overcome the internal doubts that plague her at the start of every project. But the larger objective was t link her music with a story -- in this case, Hans Christian Andersen's tale of the magical ballet shoes that force whoever wears them to dance, nonstop.

Bush's loose interpretation of the fairy tale -- an hour-long film she calls 'The Line, The Cross, The Curve' -- gives a nod to Michael Powell's 1948 film 'The Red Shoes' and links six of her thematically divergent compositions into a narrative. Slated for limited art-house release in the spring, it stars Miranda Richardson ('The Crying Game') and finds Bush dancing for the first time since her highly theatrical concerts in the late '70s.

"Getting up and dancing again was another thing to overcome," Bush said. "I'd not done anything that physical in years, and it brought back all the self-consciousness and the fear.

"But then I discovered that I did have this ability I hadn't been using. I started listening to the little voice rather than what people were telling me, which is the same thing that happens every time I record.

"Through the process, I slowly get the sense of having some ability again. I start to regain the confidence I lost in those in-between years. And I lost a lot."

Included Pictures:

Page one:

Large Picture of Kate with a flower-print babushka over her head; Caption: "You have to have a real lack of inhibition to make records," say Kate Bush. She sought Privacy to achieve her sound.

Small, column-sized picture of TRS cover above the text; Caption: Bush was alone when she cut "The Red Shoes."

Page seven:

column-sized picture of Kate's head with a flower in her hair, and the hair somewhat 'tousled.' Caption: Kate Bush recently sat down to sign autographs in New York.

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