To the Reaching Out (Interviews) Table of Contents
This is originally from Andrew Marvick's The Garden
[Here is the second of Kate's radio interviews with Paul Gambaccini. This programme, aired on BBC One Radio on December 31, 1980, features a selection of Kate's favourite "popular" recordings by other artists. Transcribed from a tape by Andrew Marvick.]
Thank you, Newsbeat team.
This is Paul Gambaccini, and we are with Kate Bush on this New Year's Eve. Hello, Kate.
You've made it back from last night.
"Yes, I have, thank you."
Now we'll be playing some of your favourite popular songs. Let's begin straight away with Roy Harper's Another Day.
[The recording is heard. Kate had already recorded at least two versions of this song as a duet with Peter Gabriel by this time. The first version was recorded for Kate's own BBC television special, which aired in December of 1979; the second was undertaken several months later in the studios with the hope of a single release. A b-side co-written by Kate and Gabriel was even recorded to this end, but the project was unfortunately abandoned. Kate also contributed vocals on a song from Roy Harper's 1980 album The Unknown Soldier.]
Roy Harper, and a song called Another Day. Kate, if I were asked to choose a quintessentially English track, I would choose a Roy Harper one: When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease. And, uh, I'm wondering if you consider him a typically English artist.
"Yes, uh, I think that's a very good point. I think he is a very English poet. I mean, I think Roy is a poet, I really do. And that one particular song is classic. Uh, It's funny you should mention Cricketer Leaves the Crease, because for me that's the other all-time classic, and it was a matter of choosing between the two, for me. Um, this track is incredible. In fact, I asked Roy what he wrote the song about, and he said the whole thing is true. It's a completely true story about a lady he'd met, and who he really loved, and he was after her. And she kept putting her nose in the air and running away from him. Then he met her a few years later, and suddenly realised that she was chasing him, and he saw the irony of the situation, and wrote this song about the rooms that the'd been in together. It's a very personal song, and I think that's why it works so strongly. It's a very emotional, intimate song."
If I may ask a crass question after such an intimate song: An artist like yourself has enjoyed success in a commercial sense quite early in her career. How do you relate to an artist like Roy, who has the respect of his peers but who has never really broken through commercially?
"I think it's tragic, I really do. Um, one of the main reasons that I've chosen these tracks, and the ones from last night, is that I'm choosing people--deliberately--not like Bowie, Pink Floyd, who are people I love very much. All the big, famous artists, I really love a lot of them. I deliberately chose people who I think are very underestimated, who aren't really recognised as the great talent that they are. And for me, Roy is one of the greatest English songwriters we've had, and people just don't realise it. And I really think that when they do we're going to have another top songwriter up there. He's brilliant."
Well, here's certainly one of the all-time cult figures: Captain Beefheart, and his Magic Band. Uh, here's a man who for over a decade has been making music which some people have been absolutely raving about, and yet he's never broken through to mass acceptance.
"Yes. Again, I think, um, he's [laughs], he's such an obvious person to be big here. When you look at a lot of the new wave groups and the punk groups, they're really nothing compared to Beefheart. He's the original. And for me he's a, a natural poet. I mean, he's incredible. Um, I've heard a beautiful quote of his. When he was backstage one day, um, there was someone hanging around who he didn't want to be there; and he told them to get out. And when the someone said why didn't you want me here? he said he's had too much to think.
And if I may just quote a couple of lines from one of his songs called Bat Chain Puller. It's about a Voodoo train. Um, his poetry's incredible. It says: 'A chain with yellow lights that glisten like oil-beads;' and another line: 'It whistles like a root snatched from the dry earth. Sod-busting rakes with grey-dust claws announces it's coming in the morning.' [inaudible]...is a poet. Then listen out for the line in this song, which is called Tropical Hot Dog Night, and it's 'Like two flamingos in a fruit fight.'"
[The song is played.]
Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, and Tropical Hot Dog Night. Kate, I--I think I would like to stash that one. Maybe it's the New Year's party I'm going to tonight.
"Let's play it again right now and get up on the table!"
[Laughing] Are--are you going to go to a New Year's Eve party, do you think?
"Um, well, I might do. It depends on if I'm--if I get home in time tonight."
Oh, that's right, well...
"We could have a drink here and then get up on the table! [Laughs]
Oh, yeah, we could have a lot of fun after this show! Yes, this is the show during 1980 when you have the most fun afterwards.
We're coming up now on one of Kate's favourite songs of all time. Ladies and gentlemen, this could be the only show in history to feature both Frank Zappa and Rolf Harris.
"[Giggle from Kate.]"
And I remember, I remember hearing this song on the radio in America in the Sixties. Did you hear it on the radio or from a copy at home?
"Um, from the radio but very much a copy at home, too, a forty-five. I don't know whose it was. Uh, I think it's the most fantastic track, I really do. I don't think there's anything being done like it since then, and I, uh, I wish Rolf would, uh, do some more musical ventures. I think it's fantastic. I mean to be the discoverer of the wobble-board, and to be able to play the dijeridu, and sing and write and draw. He's a very talented man, he really is. And I think he's very underestimated because of the areas he's got into now. He's a sort of top television personality. But it seems to me he's got a great deal of musical talent, and for me this track is just magic. It's just...Oh..."
In the early Sixties Sun Arise was a very experimental sound.
[The record is played. It is immediately obvious how direct and heavy was the influence of this recording upon Kate's track, The Dreaming. Not only the rhythmic pulse and instrumentation, but even the unusual use of a major-key tune that avoids resolution in the tonic, using instead a single, unchanging dijeridu drone; as well as the use of the vocal lines as a group of peculiar instruments--all these qualities are echoed, even reproduced in Kate's track.]
I was just thinking if John Peel had an experimental radio programme then as he does now, he would have been playing that Rolf Harris song.
"[Laughing] Maybe he would. I wonder what he'd say about that."
Just shows you how some artists do change in their career direction.
Sun Arise, that track by Rolf Harris.
An interesting comment is that, uh, apparently Alice Cooper has since done a version of Sun Arise. I've no idea what it sounds like, I've not heard it, but, um, it's an interesting thought."
Hm, one to drag out for sure.
This is Radio One, on New Year's Eve. And we're playing Kate Bush's favourite songs of all time, and here's one by John Lennon, who was killed in the most apalling way earlier this month, and Kate I'm wondering if you are too young at the age of twenty-two to have fully understood what all of the media fuss was about. So many people were affected so traumatically for so long. Could you really understand what Lennon and the Beatles meant to them?
"Yes, absolutely! I think probably people of about sixteen or seventeen, that's the age where it wouldn't really mean that much. But even at my age they really meant so much. I wasn't aware of them first happening and then being the 'new thing'. But I was aware of them as the most incredible source, and of Lennon being the most fantastic songwriter. He really was one of my favourite artists--not as The Beatles, but as Lennon. And in fact, in compiling this list a couple of months ago before the news, I'd chosen this track as one of my favourites. So it wasn't meant as a tribute, it was genuinely planned as one of the tracks."
Why this of all his songs?
"Um, for me it's just magic. Um, his voice; the production--it's the most incredible production; uh, little backwards voices. They're really things that I love. And just, the song and everything--it's wonderful. And I--I'm really sad, because he's left the biggest hole in the business that we've known yet, I think."
Here's John Lennon's Number Nine Dream.
[The record is played. In my opinion there is no single record that Kate's music reflects the influence of more clearly than this track. All references to Peter Gabriel's influence--even as regards production--pale beside a comparative listening between Number Nine Dream and any of a dozen of Kate's recordings.]
One of the dozen or so most important human beings of my lifetime so far: John Lennon and Number Nine Dream. We're playing the favourite records of Kate Bush on this New Year's Eve, and Kate, I have to admit: you've stumped me. I don't know our next artist.
"Well, his name's Eberhard Weber. Veh-ber-- [in heavy German accent:] Eberhard Weber. And he's German. And he's a fantastic fretless bass-player. He' got his own solo albums, and he works beautifully with glockenspiel, vibes, uh, vocal pieces. And uh, it's very spacey, um, jazz-rocky. But what I like about him is always there's Jaco Pastorius, Stanley Clarke, they're right up at the top with all the big bass players, but again there're lots of very talented people that aren't that well known. So I'd like to give him a bit of exposure. And this is off the album called Fluid Rustle. And the track's called Quiet Departures.
[An excerpt from the track is played.]
Quiet Departures by Eberhard Weber, from the album Fluid Rustle. Kate, does music like that influence you as well as entertain you?
"Oh, absolutely. I really feel that anything that I see, read, listen to, feel, eat, etcetera, is an influence. Because anything you like you're going to have an automatic attraction and want for. And so even subconsciously you, um, you use it, somehow it gets in there."
Well if that's the case let's, uh, throw you a hard one here and ask you a question you haven't prepared for. What books have inspired you?
"What books? Well, my problem with books is that I used to read a lot more than I do now, and so I think my book inspiration is now coming from television, films, newspapers--you know, all the modern media. But I really do think that all the books I've read have had a tremendous influence on me because of their strong imagery. I think books really are a fantastic form of inspiration."
Well here's a man who grew popular with his images and his unusual voice, 'cause in the selections you played both last time and today I know you love the use of the human voice as an instrument. The man I'm talking about is Donovan.
"Yeah, Donovan has got the most beautiful voice--that very slow vibrato that people like Cliff Richard can put on; but [Donovan] has it very naturally. I mean he sings like this all the time. And again, he's an incredible songwriter, lyric writer, he can play the guitar and he has that fantastic voice. And it seemed that he'd got really caught up in the copying of Dylan when he first signed up and was singing. And he was wearing the hats and he was carrying the guitar and everyone thought he was just a Dylan copy. When in fact he wasn't at all. And it seems that he's just, um, been forgotten, he's gone under."
It's unbelievable. He was one of Britain's leading, hit-making solo stars of the Sixties and a great international artist. And now it's almost as though he'd never existed.
"It's ridiculous. I can't stand to see that happen to people, especially someone like him. Um, one of my favourite albums of his is H.M.S. Donovan-- which I think has been deleted now, which is even more ridiculous. And it's beautiful: fantastic illustrated cover; a double album, and each song is either a fairy story or something he's written to other people's words. He's used Blake's poems, he's used some Lewis Carroll--a big selection of fantasy stuff. And one of my favourite tracks from there, which he actually wrote himself to his own music, is Lord of the Reedy River.
[ The record is played. Donovan actually performed this song well before recording it for H.M.S. Donovan. He appears in the 1968 film If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium, singing this song to his own guitar accompaniment. Of course, Kate herself recorded this song, and put it out as the b-side of the Sat In Your Lap single in 1981. A rumour persists that Donovan actually contributed a bit of backing vocal on Kate's track, though this has not been confirmed.]
Donovan, and Lord of the Reedy River. I suppose--
--all it would take would be one or two really good tracks and--
"Ah, but he's got them, you know, that's the silly thing, he's got so many good tracks. I think that song there too, is so essential and erotic. And you know no-one's even heard of it--incredible. I mean if you put a bit of film to that...what a fantastic..."
Most people don't realise that most of his hit records were produced by Mickie Most.
"I didn't realise that either, no."
There's another track of his that you like alot, a b-side.
"Yes. Uh, it was the b-side of [indecipherable], called Mr. Wind [I am unsure that this is what she says here]. What I liked about it was he was using 'Vari-Speed', Um, he was using very low voices and very high voices [Kate imitates these--precious audio unfortunately not transcribable] all mixed in together: Mr. Wind spoke like this! And all the people that he woke up in the morning spoke like this! [Laughs] And it was beautiful; it was just a really fun track putting a different speed to the voices of the various characters. And it was really fabulous for kids, uh, you know? I...I wish there had been more."
Let's come right up to date now, with an album currently in the charts: Steely Dan, Gaucho LP, and from it, Babylon Sisters.
[Part of this record is played. Then Kate comes back on, announcing in a surprising, very uncharacteristic imitation of an American accent (perhaps prompted by Steely Dan's music, which she has elsewhere described as quintessentially American):]
"Hi, everybody! This is Radio Fun, and I'm here with Paul Dictionary and with him, Miss Bush."
[Laughing] And--and we have just heard Steely Dan from their Gaucho LP, and Babylon Sisters. Now, Kate, this brings us right up to date, 'cause this is an album that's out right at the moment. And this is a, a funky little track by these two chaps, Becker and Fagin. And they're monstrous stars in America--not so here.
"No, that's uh, again why I played them. I think they're very underestimated. They're the most incredible musicians. This is it. They are here--a musician's band. I mean, all the musicians in this country just rave about them technically, and uh, as songwriters. But you know, they're not really played on the radio, but they're just incredible--really good jazz [indecipherable]."
Kate, if we go beyond the current charts and look beyond this program and beyond the parties we'll be attending tonight, into 1981, what are your immediate plans?
"Well, my immediate plans now are to make another album. That's what I've been doing the last couple of months: writing, too, and trying to demo. It's been a really good time for me, actually. I love writing. That's the thing I'd like to do all the time."
As you have had three LPs, do you find that the songs come quicker, or they kind of take longer?
"It definitely goes in phases. And I find that if I'm not busy working on something else, then the songs are going to flow in much easier. There does seem to be a, a brain--sort of cooperation thing. If it's busy working on something else then it won't allow me to use up the back bit for a song [laughing]! But if it's vacant, then I can fill it up!"
Do you ever think you'll do anything with Peter Gabriel again?
"I hope so, yes. Uh, we're trying to work on something at the moment, but uh, it's quite hard to get all the business uh, through, but I hope that will happen. He's great to work with."
He worked with our next act, didn't he?
"Yes, he did. It's a very strange coincidence. Uh, because I saw him the other day, and just mentioned if he'd heard of Jules and the Polar Bears--which is uh, one of the next tracks we're playing. And he said yes, he had because he was producing their live EP, and he sent it on a couple of days later. It's very good.
"And the track that I've chosen is called The Smell of Home. And it's off an album called Phonetics. Which is very interesting, because all the lyrics on the lyric sheet they've actually written pho-net-i-cal-ly! So you can try to read the words, and it's uh, all in phonetics. And I think they're great. I've never heard of them in this country. They've not been played on the radio, as far as I know. And they're great--he's got an incredible voice, the lead singer."
Well, I think, I have been played in the evening--
--but not so much during the day, really.
"No, I've not heard them getting enough recognition anyway."
Well, let's hear them in one of their earliest time slots: Jules and the Polar Bears, The Smell of Home.
[This record is played.]
The Smell of Home, by Jules and the Polar Bears, one of Kate Bush's all-time favourite tracks. Kate, the time has now come for me to spring on you that question: What is your all-time favourite single?
"My all-time favourite single. Very, very difficult question, it really is, because just, just trying to compare songs, you know, let alone trying to put one higher than all the others...I think I would say at this point in time John Lennon's Number Nine Dream-- for lots of reasons."
We will close with an artist who has had a long career beginning in the late Sixties, when Lennon as part of the Beatles was so popular. I'm talking about Frank Zappa, in those days with the Mothers of Invention, and in the Seventies doing a series of bizarre LPs on his own. And one of these has particularly tickled your fancy.
"Yes. Uh, I think Zappa's great, and one of my favourite albums is Bongo Fury, where he and Beefheart are together, so we've got two loonies on one album. It's wonderful, so exciting. And the track I've chosen is Montana, off of Overnight Sensation. For me this is one of Zappa's more commercial albums: uh, more instant songs, but at the same time very versatile. I really do hold it as one of my favourite albums. And the track's called Montana.
[The record is played.]
I still like We're the Brain Police, myself. That's my favourite by Frank Zappa. That one's called Montana, and that is Kate's favourite.
Kate, many people would like to know if they will be able to see you in live performance again in 1981. Do you think that's a possibility?
"It is a possibility, but I wouldn't like to say any more than that, 'cause, uh, you know, things take so much time. It's incredible. Uh, the album is the thing that I've decided that's happening, and we'll see what happens after that's out of the way!"
Have you enjoyed 1980?
"Um...Yes, on the whole, but I think, to be quite honest, it's been a really hard year, and I think so many people will be glad when it's over. It's been a very testing year. In many ways it's almost been saying 'All right, let's see if you can get through this, and if you can then one up to you.' And I think an awful lot of people have really coped with this year coped with this year fantastically well. So, uh, here's to them, and here's to 1981!"
Reason to celebrate.
O.K., we'll do that right now! Uh, but Radio One continues, first of all with Mailbag and then with other programs to help you see in the brand new year.
Thank you, Kate Bush.
And thank you, folks, for listening.
Right now it's six-thirty, and here's the 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