To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents
(This is originally from Andrew Marvick's The Garden.)
[At the end of 1980 Paul Gambaccini, host of a BBC Radio 1 music programme, invited Kate Bush to join him for two programmes, on which she would have complete discretion as to the music playlist. For the first day' programme, broadcast on December 30 and transcribed here, Kate provided a selection of traditional and "classical" recordings which would not ordinarily have been played on radio at all. For the second day's programme her choice included records which might be called more "popular", although most of these recordings are rarely if ever heard on radio either. During the programmes Kate's mood was noticeably relaxed. She later said that she had greatly enjoyed the chance to to introduce some of her own favourites to a large audience. The interviews have been transcribed directly from a tape recording of the programmes, by Andrew Marvick.]
...winner of the British Rock and Pop awards, Female Vocalist of Year awards for the past couple of years, Kate Bush. Hello, Kate.
Now we've invited you to pick your favourite records, and we didn't know, when we did so, what kind of records you would like--if it would be a selection of Top Forty hits, or if you liked some classical music, or perhaps, uh, females singing in high voices. We had no idea whatsoever. And you've come up with a list which is as varied as any I've ever seen on Radio One--[laughter from Kate]--and it reminds me of some of the free-form radio stations that used to exist in the United States [Gambaccini is American, though very "Anglicised".], so we're going to have an exciting time.
"That's interesting. Yeah, I bet you didn't know what you were letting yourselves in for."
We'll give an example straight away. This one is from Alan Stivell, and it's called The Kinead. Now this is one that I have not heard before.
"Well, this is a really beautiful track, and Alan Stivell, um, he's a, a Breton, and from the age of four, as far as we know, he was a, a master harpist, playing the Celtic harp. Um, his father was a master at it, and that's obviously why he learnt so young. Um, as he got older he decided that all the kids in Breton were getting into contemporary music, and didn't realise what beautiful traditional music they had in their own country. So what he wanted to do was present the traditional music in a form that they would love and understand because he felt that it was being forgotten. And it really is beautiful. And it's nice because not only is it the traditional music but he's mixing it with rock. and, uh, as far as I'm concerned this track is a tear-jerker, it's so beautiful."
From his album From Celtic Roots, here's Alan Stivell.
[The Kinead is played.]
The Kinead by Alan Stivell. Kate, are you particularly interested in Celtic music, or here are you just drawn to this artist?
"I think I'm probably drawn to this artist, because it is, uh, quite like the music that I was brought up on, which was traditional English-Irish music."
When you say you were brought up on it, you mean within the family?
"Within the family, yes, obviously there wasn't live music happening so much, um, but records. And so that's all you need as a kid, I think if your environment is there. Uh, that's what happened for me: it was such a natural thing that it seemed, um, wrong not to be singing or playing music. Which is very good, I think, especially for children, because it's so good for the imagination."
Your two brothers were musicians.
"Yes, ah, and they loved music; they still do."
And what kinds of records would they play at home, that you would hear?
"Well in fact, one...the next one that we're going to hear is a very good example. It's a sea chanty. And, uh, it's by A. L. Lloyd and Ewan MacColl. We know him as Burt Lloyd. And, uh, he is still one of my favourite singers. He's got the most remarkable voice. When he sings it's like he's telling you a dirty joke, 'cause there's this really wicked glint in his voice, it's almost like you can see his eyes. And he's now...He must be in his seventies, but he's had the most tremendous influence on people. Um, in the revival of, uh, folk music in the Sixties he was really the main figure. He's a great collector of songs. And so he's brought a lot of unknown songs back into people's, um...hearing distance.
"And this one song that we're going to hear is called Doo-me-ah-ma-ding. Um, a friend of mine calls it Do You Have a Dinghy That Will Do Me For the Day? And it's really beautiful, and it's one of the first songs that I ever learnt to sing."
[The song is played.]
Do-me-a-ma-ding by A. L. Lloyd and Ewan MacColl. Ewan MacColl may be known to listeners of this programme, because not only was he a famous singer but he wrote The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, which was made famous by Roberta Flack--
--and also he's the father of Kirsty MacColl.
But as you say, Kate Bush, one of the records you first learned to sing.
Uh, you say that your father and your brothers were keen on music, played records in the home. Have you had a family Christmas this year?
"Yes, yes. I think we, ah, normally take that time to get together. I think most families do, because it's one of the few times of the year when there is a gap. And, um, it's really good, to, to see your friends and people. I think you forget to take enough notice of them during the year, so it's a time to say hi, I, I love you."
I'm wondering if this next composer was one that you were introduced to by your family, and this of course is Delius. And you've written a song about him on your Never For Ever album. You are a fan of several of his pieces.
"Yes. Um, Delius was really introduced to me by Ken Russell, um, on television. Um, I think people have probably heard about, um Song of Summer that was shown--a beautiful piece of film, about Delius's later life."
How old were you when you saw that?
"I must have been about ten. But the imagery was just so beautiful, you just don't forget it. It's the most incredible film. And if I could make a plea, um, I really wish the BBC could show it again. There are so many people that could benefit greatly from seeing it.
"The piece that we're going to play next is called Song to be Sung of a Summer's Night on the Water. Um, this is a line I used, in fact, in the song on the album. And, uh, there's a quote from Delius as to his favourite retreat, that he imagined, and I thought it would tie in rather nicely, going into the music. Um, he says: 'White butterflies flitting from petal to petal, and golden brown bees murmuring in the warm, quivering summer air. Beneath the shade of the old trees flows a quiet river with water-lilies, and in a boat, almost hidden, two people. A thrush is singing in the distance.'"
[An excerpt from Song to be Sung of a Summer's Night on the Water, from a suite of three songs for a cappella choir, is played.]
An extract from Song to be Sung of a Summer Night by Delius. Kate, we know that, uh, many devotees of a particular form of music are intolerant of others. In the early days of rock'n'roll, for example, classical music-buffs would condemn rock. And unfortunately some rock fans are intolerant of classical music. Have any of your fans questioned the fact that you wrote a track about Delius?
"Not one. Um, I think the thing about music is that it isn't something that should be labeled; and I think it's the human element that labels it. Music, um, should be all-embracing. There should be no snobbery, because music is one entity. It's not lots of different things. But no, I've not found that from any of my fans, I think they're all extremely openminded people who appreciate music as one thing. Not, uh, sectionalised devotees, yeah."
Our next track is from a film--and a film I've seen--called Meetings With Remarkable Men, a film made by Peter Brook. And it was the story of the man Gurdjieff, who has followers, and, uh, are you one of them?
"Um, I'm not actually a follower, but I'm a great admirer of a lot that the man said. And I think indeed Peter must be too, because the film, as you know, is very beautiful. It's a quite exceptional film because of the visuals. And it is a journey. He takes you on the journey of part of this man's life. And, uh, there's a beautiful scene in it which is a competition, where there are, ah, about half a dozen men seated in this valley. And the scene is very sort of sandy, and the sun is bursting down on them. And the competition is for whoever can make the magical valley vibrate with a particular frequency of music. And so one by one they all try to make the, uh, rocks vibrate, and create the magic. And not until we get to the last one does something magical happen. It's called The Contest of the Ashoks.."
[The piece, for a kind of ethnic flute and solo male voice, is played. This flows into some joyous western music for orchestra, and fades out.]
And the people start to celebrate because the man has indeed made the valley vibrate. Uh, is there such an actual valley?
"Um, I'm not sure, but I presume so. Um, I daresay in the film they just set it up."
Right. That's one of my favourite scenes from the film.
"But, I think it is incredible: the fact that that's just a human voice. Um, I think we so often underestimate it as an instrument. Um, perhaps this is one of the points I'm trying to prove today."
Maybe that's the reason that that particular track appeals to you.
"Yes, I think it is, yes. And also, remembering the magic of the visuals with that."
Well here's one that is not from a film. And it's called And Spake Sodroc. And it's from a selection from Piper's Rock. What is piper's rock?
"Well, Piper's Rock is just the name of an album. But what's interesting about it is that it's an album full of Uillean piping, which are Irish pipes--very different from Scottish pipes, um, etcetera. They're played...they're pumped with the elbow: um, the bellows are under the elbow. And there's a selection of pipes on the bag. And it's played across the lap. And normally, um, this is something which is played by older people. It's a traditional Irish instrument and normally years and years are spent before they become experts. And what's interesting about this album is that they're all very young people. And one of them is a female piper, which is extremely unusual. And they're only about seventeen or eighteen years old. And they're playing the traditional music with a very new, fresh spirit, which is lovely."
And Spake Sodroc.
[The piece, for several sets (?) of Uillean pipes, is played.]
This is Radio One, and our special guest until 6:30 this evening is Kate Bush, who tonight is playing for us some of the traditional music that has influenced her and that she has enjoyed during her lifetime; and tomorrow evening during the same time-slot between 5:45 and 6:30 we'll be playing some of the more popular material that Kate has enjoyed during her...short lifetime, I mean, so far, and we've got a lot more loving of music to come.
I'm wondering who it was that introduced pop music into your family?
"Who it was? I suppose it was probably the radio, um, as it is with most people. Um, I think, uh, as I got older, it was much more me getting into my own music. Obviously when you're very young you're listening to the music that is supplied to you. And I think the radio was, uh, probably my main influence getting into new music. And also a large selection of forty-fives that my brothers had, that I used to plow through on wet rainy afternoons and find these records that I'd never heard before, people that I'd never heard before. And also it was good because it meant I could catch up on years that I'd not been around in...which is very useful indeed!"
About a month ago I asked you to choose your favourite single forty-five RPM record, and I'll be very anxiously awaiting your answer. I don't know if you've narrowed it down yet. [Laughter from Kate.] This next selection that we're going to play. It doesn't appear in the BBC library. It's a really off-the-wall selection and I love it. What is it?
"Well, the thing is, I don't know anyone that actually knows what it is. Um, it was given to me by a friend years ago, a man whose stories that, uh...Every place he travels to (he travels around the world), he collects a seed from every country he's been to, and he says that one day, when he gets a house and a garden, he' going to plant each of these seeds and he'll have a tree from every country in the world in his garden. Now this is the man that gave me this tape. And, it's a very strange tape: most of the music on it is Voodoo, and it's very heavy."
Is it in the English language?
"Some of it is, but some of it isn't. And it seems to be a compilation tape. And right in the middle of all these Voodoo tracks is this one track, and it seems like two completely different bits of music put together. One is a morning prayer that's being sung by a man from a temple. And the other is a Kyrie Eleison sung by a choir of nuns. Now who's put them together I don't know, but it's a very strange combination. At points the chords really clash unconventionally, and then resolve themselves beautifully."
Well let's see if this mixture appeals to us as much as it does to you.
[A portion of the recording is played.]
One of the most historic records in pop music is one by the Drifters, called There Goes My Baby. It was the first rhythm-and-blues song to use strings. And the dissonance at times, radio listeners thought they were listening to two different songs being played together. And that is precisely what we have here--
"Yes, I think so."
--the Kyrie Eleison, and this Voodoo chant, which I found haunting. [Gambaccini has misunderstood this to be a Voodoo chant; in fact, the man singing, as Kate put it, "from a temple", is clearly vocalising a Moslem morning prayer, such as those which priests cry from minarets in Middle-Eastern temples. Kate very tentatively corrects him.]
"It...it's incredible, yes. It...There isn't actually a Voodoo chant...in...in this song. Um, what I found very interesting is, again, the way he's using his voice like an instrument, the way he's projecting out of his mouth. Now, I presume that it's the prayer that he would sing from his temple as the sun's coming up in the morning. Um, and something I also find very interesting is the language thing. Although we say that music is international, and, um, you know, words don't matter, when was the last time in our charts we...we had a song with people singing in another language--other than English?"
Plastic Bertrand, Ca Plane pour moi. [Kate laughs.] That was the last Top Ten in a foreign language, I believe.
"It doesn't happen much, though."
"And, uh, I think what is interesting: As soon as you have someone singing in a different language, it automatically becomes an instrument, instead of a voice, because you can no longer relate to what they're singing about. And, uh, I find this very interesting. And it would be nice if we had more songs, um, that were sung in other languages."
This next one is by a pair we've heard before, so obviously A. L. "Burt" Lloyd and Ewan MacColl were real favourites in your home.
"Yes, they were. I think for me they really sum up a lot about traditional music. Um, as you've told them a mine of information about Ewan MacColl, I can't really say about him, but I think they do represent a lot--and especially, um, Lloyd's voice. And the next song we're playing...For me it is an absolutely classic story--the fact that they can fit in such a beautiful story, as well as such a beautiful tune."
It's called The Handsome Cabin Boy.
[Lloyd's version of the song, with several verses included which Kate omitted from her own later recording and others missing which she included, is played.]
Radio One, with Kate Bush's favourite music until 6:30, and after the news, The Talkabout Programme. And now, one of my favourites, oh yes, Kate and Anna McGarrigle. Now this is a, a duet, and it's from their first album together, isn't it?
"Yes, as far as I know. I think they're lovely. I really do, I think they're great. And their energy is very positive and very pure. And, uh, we saw them live a couple of years ago, and that was just the same: very honest, and very simple. And, um, it was beautiful. And, uh, this again is in a foreign language. We think it's in Old French; and Anna was in on the writing of this, and I just think it's a lovely track."
Dare I pronounce this one, or are you gonna give it a go?
"Well, 'ere we go! Complainte pour Ste. Catherine."
[Part of the song, actually sung in modern French with a heavy Canadian accent, is played.]
From a marvellous eponymous album, Kate and Anna McGarrigle. Kate, has there ever been an Anna with which you wished you could harmonise?
"Um, not really, I must admit. Uh, I find that working with myself is much...It's interesting because I can tell myself off and get very annoyed with it. Or I'd use a choir. Or I'd use male voices, I think, because, um, I'd rather put myself with myself or with something very different, rather than with another female. That's just the way I feel about working at the moment. [Recently (some eight years after the date of this interview) Kate has finally done some performing with other female singers, by recording two tracks with the Bulgarian vocal ensemble Trio Bulgarka, for her sixth album, released in 1989.] But, um, working with other people on any level is just so incredible, because as soon as you have another person there, you have something to bounce of, you...you haven't got your own criticisms and uh, ideals bouncing around in there."
And this is why you've enjoyed working with Peter Gabriel, even if only on backing vocals for his song.
"Lovely! Uh, that's a really good experience. What's nice about that is being able to walk into someone else's studio and not have the responsibilty of the sounds, and everything. You just go in and sing and have a really great time. And for me that was a great honour to be on that album, because the music is so good."
It's certainly one of my ten favourite albums of the year.
Now we move on to an artist not normally heard on Radio One: the choir of Kings College Chapel, Cambridge. Have you ever been to this chapel?
"No, I haven't, no. But they sing like angels. And this particular piece is remarkable."
[An excerpt is played.]
From the Miserere, by Allegri, the choir of Kings College Chapel, in Cambridge. You loved the voice of that young boy.
"I think, a-anyone that heard that would. It's interesting: every time I've played that in my room, the last few weeks when I've been getting this together, the room would go completely silent every time that boy starts singing. Just complete silence. And then when he's finished his notes everyone says 'Oh-h! Again!' I think it is stunning."
The choir of Kings College Chapel, Cambridge. Have you ever wished you'd gone to University?
And you didn't.
You left school at sixteen and never, never looked back.
"Uh, I must have been about seventeen when I left, but..."
So much for the press release.
O.K., let's go on now to another song which sounds either traditional or child-oriented, because it's called Oh Willow Waley.
"Well this track, um, this is really a novelty thing for me. There was a film called The Innocents, which I based a song on, on the new album--"
"Um, it's called The Infant Kiss. But it's a remarkable film, very spooky. It's a Fifties English film, black-and-white, and it's about the possession of two children who this governess goes to stay with. And the whole film is very strange. She keeps seeing things, hearing things. Um, and she can't really work out if she's going mad or whether there is something very strange happening. And although this is never actually sung in the film, um, the theme music is from the film and it's sung by a lady called Ida Cameron. And she's got a beautiful voice, she sounds just like a little girl, and it's very haunting."
Let's hear it then, or at least part of it.
[An excerpt of this recording is played.]
From the film The Innocents, Oh Willow Waley. And as you say, it's the one that inspired you to write The Infant Kiss. Very good, solid concept there about the possibilities of arousal and fear coming from the kiss from an infant.
"Yes. And I do think her voice is extraordinary."
We move on now to someplace we've already been, in a sense, and that's Ireland.
"Yes! Now this is from the Bothy Band, and um...I think the thing about Irish music is that it's starting to break up, but there are only certain people that are becoming popular, like The Chieftains. And although they're really brilliant, there's such a wealth of Irish music and musicians in Ireland. Now one particular fiddle-player called Kevin Burke, who happens to be in the Bothy Band, was, again, on my album. He was on Violin: he was the mad fiddler. He's the most fantastic musician. He's really a lovely guy, too. And this track...I mean heavy metal--nothing! Just listen to this. It gets so funky, it's incredible--"
What's it called?
"--and it's so natural. It's called, um, Farewell to Erin." [Part of this track is played.] Farewell to Erin, by the Bothy Band, and it's farewell from Kate Bush and Paul Gambaccini. Until tomorrow night. Kate, will you come back and join us and play your favourite popular songs?
"I'd love to!"
And will you include songs by Steely Dan, John Lennon, Frank Zappa and Rolf Harris?
"Well, I might!"
Well, let's hold you to that promise.
Telepathy in store, after the 6:30 news.
To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents
"The pull and the push of it all..." - Kate Bush
Marvick - Hill
Willker - Mapes
Grepel - Love-Hounds