The New Statesman - "The
The Independent - "Heroes & Villains"
The Guardian - "After 12 years of silence Kate Bush is back"
The Guardian - "The Guardian profile: Kate Bush"
The Evening Standard - "Another brooding epic"
The Daily Mirror - "Dithering Heights"
Scotland on Sunday - "She's here again!"
The Independent - "Kate Bush: The Sequel"
The Irish Times - "Can Bush scale the heights?"
The Guardian - "Kate Bush Rules, OK?"
Manchester Evening News - "Kate Bush, King of the Mountain"
To the Reaching Out (Reviews) Table of Contents
The Wow Factor
The New Statesman
by Jason Cowley
February 7, 2005
With her first single up for a Brit Award and a new album soon to be released, Kate Bush is back in a big way. It's been a long wait, writes Jason Cowley, but she's worth it.
When I mentioned at a recent New Statesman editorial conference that I wanted to write about Kate Bush, who is preparing to release her first album for 12 years, colleagues responded with a mixture of incredulity and awe. The incredulous still associated her with a single song, "Wuthering Heights", her first. Inspired by her teenage reading of Emily Bronte's great and rather sinister novel about unfulfilled love, "Wuthering Heights" must be one of the strangest songs ever to reach number one, as it did in 1978. Nobody who has heard Bush's wailing falsetto on that song, and its chorus of "Heathcliff, it's me, Cathy/I've come home", is likely to forget it. Nor is it any easier to forget her eccentric rendering of the song on Top of the Pops: with her thick, hennaed hair flowing wildly, as if she were running straight into a wind machine, she performed in a kind of rapture. Bush was 19 at the time and, a former student of dance and mime, desperately sincere.
The awed among my colleagues, who were all women, knew Bush for the complex and remarkable artist that she is, perhaps the most singular and talented female singer-songwriter and composer of her generation (she is now 46). There is no one quite like her. Without Kate Bush, there could have been no Madonna or Bjork, certainly in the guises--tough, independent, eccentric, committed, daring--that we know them.
Bush's career began one afternoon in the mid-1970s when David Gilmour of Pink Floyd received a demo tape from a young girl. He liked what he heard, but thought the recording quality of the songs was poor. "The demo was not saleable," Gilmour told me when we spoke. "The songs were too idiosyncratic: just Kate, this little schoolgirl who was maybe 15, singing away over a piano. You needed decent ears to hear the potential and I didn't think there were many people with those working in record companies. But I was convinced from the beginning that this girl had remarkable talent." Gilmour invited Bush to a recording studio and helped to record some more demos, which were produced by his friend Andrew Powell. They selected three songs, one of which was "The Man With the Child in His Eyes", and took them to EMI. "They signed her up," he says. She was on her way.
As an artist--and certainly as the interval between each new album lengthens exponentially--Bush occupies an ambiguous space between pop and the avant-garde, simultaneously working within and against the constraints of the pop song. She writes songs with choruses and tight, melodic structures while never abandoning her will to experiment: with form, with sampling technology, with unexpected instruments--a didgeridoo, uillean pipes, a mandolin--or with the texture and tone of her own voice, which can be at once a deep and disconcertingly powerful force and something far softer and more graceful.
As a songwriter, she can be opaque; her songs are often expressions of mood and feeling, often sexual feeling. She can write small, self-contained narratives, capsule stories such as "Babooshka" (about a husband who begins to receive seductive letters from an anonymous woman whom he discovers too late is his wife) or "Deeper Understanding" (about a lonely man who becomes addicted to his computer). She writes well about childhood and memory, but she can also be fey and hippyishly winsome: the titles alone of songs such as "The Big Sky", "Wow" and "Big Stripey Lie" offer a flavour of her "hey, man" sensibility. She draws inspiration from Irish folk music, from literature ("The Sensual World", with its ecstatic whispered cry of "Yes", is based on Molly Bloom's long, flowing soliloquy that ends Ulysses) and from film (the title track of The Red Shoes, not one of her best albums, was inspired by the Powell and Pressburger movie of the same name). And she sometimes even writes genuine protest songs--"Breathing" is about the nuclear threat, "Army Dreamers" is a fine anti-war song, and "Dreaming" is about the white settlers' murderous exploitation of Aborigines and their land.
What has Kate Bush been doing since the release of The Red Shoes in 1993? What does she do when she is not working obsessively in the studio? What is she like? The mystery of Kate Bush is her essential unknowability--to outside observers, at least. Many years ago, she retreated into semi-reclusivity, reluctant to be interviewed or appear on television, never touring. There were rumours of her exhaustion and her hurt. Too much that was wounding had been written about her; she had been gossiped about and teased too much. For a period from the late Seventies to the early Eighties, there was scarcely a television comedian, from Kenny Everett to the foolish Eddie Large, who did not hesitate to ridicule Bush, especially her near-hysterical performance of "Wuthering Heights" on Top of the Pops.
I recall watching her being interviewed on BBC2's Old Grey Whistle Test, one evening in 1985, I think, some time after the release of her best album, Hounds of Love. Her interviewers were sympathetic and evidently admired her, but it was still excruciating to watch as this then young, tentative woman, with her quiet, slightly lisping voice, who was so powerful and controlling in the studio yet so vulnerable away from it, submitted to a process that she clearly found intensely uncomfortable. It was increasingly clear that she wished only to speak through and be known by her work.
This was the beginning of her long period of withdrawal, during which she released only the disappointing Red Shoes. Her obsessive fans, the energetically self-styled Love-Hounds (log on to www.gaffa.org), became more and more restless for news about her. "I think creative control is so incredibly important," she has said. "I've always been tenacious when it comes to my work and I became quickly aware of the outside pressures of being famous affecting my work. It seemed ironic that I was expected to do interviews and television which took me away from my work. It was no longer relevant that I wrote songs."
Born in Kent in 1958, Kate Bush is the daughter of an English doctor father and an Irish mother. She grew up in a musical family: her mother sang, her father played piano and her elder brothers were both musicians (one of them, Paddy Bush, is among her most trusted collaborators). She began writing and recording songs as a young teenager, and by the time she met Gilmour she knew exactly what she wanted to do and how to do it. "When I first met Kate, she was this shy little schoolgirl, but very quickly you could see that she would have arguments with producers if they did not do things the way she wanted them to," Gilmour recalls.
When her first single reached number one--much to the delighted surprise of EMI--Bush was liberated into privilege, and she has long had the kind of creative freedom to write and produce her own material that few recording artists are allowed. "Kate is a complete one-off," Gilmour says. "I can't think of anyone like her. Joni Mitchell was also a one-off, an original, but Kate is nothing like that. We need more people like her, especially as so much music amounts to little more than formulaic copying of genres. Those who have followed in her shadow are but pale imitations."
Today Kate Bush lives with her partner, the musician Danny McIntosh, in what her friends like to call the "countryside", but which is in fact a semi-rural location somewhere near Reading, where she has a home studio. She is a mother--her son, Bertie, was born in 1999--and, after many years of preparation, she is very close to completing her as yet untitled new album. But not even EMI knows exactly when or exactly what she will deliver. "It's coming soon," was all that I was told.
In a recent novel called Waiting for Kate Bush, John Mendelssohn wrote wittily about her mystery and allure--and of how that mystery has only been exacerbated as the wait for each new album has grown longer and longer. The wait is almost over.
Jason Cowley is a senior editor on the Observer and contributing editor of the New Statesman
Heroes & Villains
by Hussein Chalayan
February 12, 2005
I FIRST heard her in the late Seventies when I was living in Cyprus. My uncle had returned from a trip to London with a video of a British documentary about Abba, and Kate Bush was the guest star. She stuck in my mind for years after, and when I came to London - at about 12 - I started to buy her records.
The first thing I bought, in the early Eighties, was the single from her Hounds of Love album, and then I started to rewind and buy all her old stuff - I think I've got everything now. Everybody just associates her with "Wuthering Heights". I'm not really into her very commercial stuff, I'm more into the songs that most people don't know about, like "The Ninth Way", which is a masterpiece, really.
I thought she was this amazing person that in some ways I could relate to. I felt that the work was such a bridge between fantasy and reality, and there was so much spirit in it. I just wanted to know everything about her work. I didn't become interested in her in that typical fan way; I didn't ever buy books about her, I was more interested in her as an artist and almost as a poet, rather than in a poppy "Oh I'm a fan, I want to put her picture up on my wall" way.
To me, she's an emotional thinker, she's somebody who made her emotions real through the music. There were so many references to emotions and to failure and to the good and the bad, your relationship to nature, and your relationship to other people and I just felt it was so much richer than most stuff that was happening at the time.
When I hear the music it makes me think that everything around me is wonderful. At times it's like almost like hearing a prayer, at other times it's like lunacy, and other times it's just incredible engineering. In my view she deserves a lot more credit, but maybe the fact that she didn't become too mainstream has made her remain more special.
And although she has a gorgeous voice what really struck me was the way she used it and the way it worked with other instruments. It animated everything else. She used these Bulgarian folk musicians on one of her albums, and then, later, I found some Bulgarian singers and used them for one of my shows, the one called "Afterwords", where I had the seats turned into suitcases, and the table into a skirt.
I listen to her music a lot when I'm working because I find that I know it so well that I don't need to think about it, but it does heighten my spirit. And yeah, of course I sing along, who doesn't? But she's not the easiest person to sing along with, so I sort of hum to it.
She's a heroine for me because she's never cared too much about public opinion. She's done her own thing and I think that in her heart she knows that she did well, up to a point. She was very experimental and before her time, and I think that can set an example for visual people like myself. I'm not saying that I based my career on her, but she inspired me to do my own thing and achieve something.
I think she was one of the first artists that made a connection between her visual work and her music. And then came Grace Jones, and then Madonna, and then Bjork. I think it became like a world, the ultimate Kate Bush world, where you heard the sound, and then you looked at the videos and the imagery that went with it. That's why I found it so convincing, because I felt like there was this genuine passion for ideas.
I'm not easily impressed. But she did with music what other people have done with writing. It's incredibly inventive and forward- thinking. I always wanted my work to have that level of openness.
I did write to her once, about 10 years ago. I was doing this project about women's roles in fairy tales. I really wanted her to get involved, although I didn't know how and I was much more audacious at that time about approaching people. I got a long message on my answering machine from her manager, saying "Oh, Kate read your letter, blah blah, but Kate already has a designer who she works with." And I thought, "Hang on a minute! I never meant to say I wanted to design for you, I wanted to involve you in the project." But, you know, I think in just writing the letter to her, it helped me articulate my ideas for myself.
After 12 years of silence Kate Bush is back
by Patrick Barkham
September 28, 2005
She is one of the most reclusive figures in the music business, but next month Kate Bush will break more than a decade of silence by releasing a new single, followed by her first album for 12 years. Bush, 47, will make up for lost time by unveiling a double album, Aerial, on November 7. Her single, King of the Mountain, was made available for download yesterday, but only in the US and Canada. Her record company, EMI, said it would be available online to British fans by the end of the week. The CD single is released in the shops on October 24.
Long gaps between albums are the stuff of legend in music. Stevie Wonder fans are waiting for A Time 2 Love, his first studio album in 10 years, while Guns N' Roses are still promising fans they will put out their new album next year, a mere 15 years after their last original recording. Bush's long absence from the charts has only heightened the mystique surrounding the publicity-shy singer since her debut, Wuthering Heights, in 1978, the first solo No 1 hit written by a British woman. The silence since her last album, Red Shoes, in 1993, has even inspired a novel, Waiting for Kate Bush, by John Mendelssohn, about a fan postponing his suicide so he could hear her new record.
Bush, who lives on an island in the Thames in Berkshire and recently bought a clifftop home in south Devon, has been so protective of her privacy that the media did not know she had become a mother for 18 months. Her son, Bertie, now seven, provided the drawing of a king on a mountain for the sleeve of her new single.
"I don't really know why it took so long, other than she took a break, had her child and was getting on with life," an EMI spokesman said.
Bush has proved extremely influential for artists from Madonna to Björk, and even indie rock bands including the Futureheads, who this year had a hit with a cover version of Bush's Hounds of Love.
by Patrick Barkham
September 28, 2005
When Kate Bush materialised with a wail, a waft of huge hair and the startling melodrama of her first single, Wuthering Heights, the teenage daughter of a doctor from Kent could have hardly made a bigger or odder impression against a backdrop of angry young men in punk bands. Nearly 28 years on, the country is again awash with angular guitar bands, and Bush, a 47-year-old mother of one, is preparing to break 12 years of silence and release her eighth studio recording. While Aerial, a double album described as "properly, properly eccentric" by one critic, won't have quite the same shock value, many in the music industry believe it will have as much resonance as ever.
Twelve years without producing a record would be a catastrophe for most
popular artists - and their record companies. But the allure of Bush has
only increased since her retreat from public view after 1993's The Red
Shoes. The twilight imagery of her songs chimes perfectly with the mystery
of her personal life. When she gave birth to a son, Bertie, she saw no
reason to announce it, and the press did not find out for 18 months.
Frustrated by her refusal to play the celebrity game, tabloids have compared
her to Greta Garbo and Miss Havisham, suggesting she is obsessed with her
privacy. The title of one of her new songs: How to be Invisible.
EMI, her record company, says suggestions she is a tortured recluse are nonsense. "I'm a quiet, private person who has managed to hang around for a few years," she said recently, with characteristic understatement. Spotted by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Bush was just 16 when she signed a £5,000 deal with EMI. In contrast to today's production line of adolescent superstars, executives felt she was too young for fame and let the teenager quietly compose, study dance and play the odd pub in south London. Their patience paid off: she became the first female British artist to reach number one with a self-penned song in 1978. From The Dreaming to The Sensual World, she matched esoteric and playful innovation with commercial success. Bush is estimated to be worth £25m, the second wealthiest British female solo artist after Annie Lennox.
EMI has been equally patient with Bush in middle age. She has recorded Aerial on and off for six years. "Kate's one of those artists who records and makes music to her own timescale rather than meet a record company's deadlines, which is fine by us," said an EMI insider, with no hint of gritted teeth.
Contrary to reports, Bush will go on television to actively promote Aerial, released on November 7 between new offerings from Robbie Williams and Madonna. Paul Rees, editor of Q magazine, believes a comparison with Madonna is instructive. Both women are 47, both have played totally by their own rules, but their careers could not be more contrasting. "There's nothing left that you don't know about Madonna whereas with Kate Bush there is everything left to know," he said. "She's retained that sense of enigma. We don't really know what has gone on in her life in the last 12 years. That's the key to her longevity. There's a lot held back."
The extraordinary voice of singer-songwriter Roy Harper was one of Bush's formative influences and he collaborated with her in the 1980s and 1990s and is still a friend. He believes Bush has been more influenced by literary writers than songwriters. "She is lovely to work with, a true musician. There is no need to tell her what to do, she has already done it and she is ahead, making suggestions. She is very honest and very gentle, bright and full of creativity, the kind of girl you should've married, really. She is very private and family orientated now. When you are that good a person, the danger is that everybody takes the piss. The cure for that is to keep yourself out of the public eye."
Those who have heard Aerial are, typically, amazed and slightly baffled, with Bush addressing a pigeon on one of the two albums, said to be inspired by bird song. Bush told Harper that one was a concept album and, "to lessen the blow" the other was "just Kate songs".
Firmly in control of her career, it is ironic that by complete chance 2005 has turned out to be the perfect year to craft a comeback. She has always enjoyed the praise of her peers but a raft of up-and-coming bands are inspired by her, from Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons to The Futureheads, whose cover version of Hounds of Love was a bigger hit than Bush's. Harper ranks her alongside Tracey Emin and Germaine Greer as "a teacher", although "a rather more gentle woman than a lot of teachers".
Bush has been ahead of her time, with dramatic videos in the 1970s and singing about seeking solace in computers in the 1980s, but mostly she has been in her own time, working to her own timescale. With the cycle turning in her direction, her moment may have come again.
Born Catherine Bush on July 30 1958, in Bexleyheath, Kent. One son, Bertie.
Career Debut single Wuthering Heights (1978, UK No 1 for a month). Albums: The Kick Inside (1978), Lionheart (1978), Never For Ever (1980), The Dreaming (1982), Hounds of Love (1985), The Whole Story (1986), The Sensual World (1989), This Woman's Work (1990), The Red Shoes (1993). Ivor Novello Award 1978-79. Best British Female Artist Brit Awards 1987.
David Gilmour on her success: "I thought of her as very talented but appealing to an esoteric audience. But she had different ideas."
Kate on being a musician: "School inhibited me. It wasn't until I left school that I found the real strength inside. All the rest was karma."
Another brooding epic
by John Aizlewood
September 27, 2005
King Of The Mountain - Kate Bush
This is a reminder of what we have been missing with Kate Bush's absence.Tori Amos, Bjork and others have attempted to eclipse Bush's otherworldliness, musicality and sheer weirdness, but none has come close and King Of The Mountain shows why.
It's a brooding epic which begins with an ominous guitar riff before that instantly recognisable voice charges in. "Could you see the aisles of women? Could you see them screaming and weeping?" she asks.
As ever, she is too subtle a writer to offer answers to who the king is and where his mountain might be, but there are references to Elvis (Presley?) and Rosebud, the talismanic sledge in Orson Welles's Citizen Kane.
The allegorical lyrical mystery makes her music more alluring. Bush was always a uniquely physical writer, but the more this song progresses, the more she sounds buffeted by the elements atop a frozen mountain. Gales howl around her before she concludes: "The wind, it blows the door closed." It is not easy listening, but it is a landmark work. I can't wait for Aerial.
She's here again!
by Alexa Baracaia
September 27, 2005
Pop music recluse Kate Bush returns to the limelight today with her first single in more than 12 years.
But her comeback song, King Of The Mountain, is only available via the internet in America and Canada and will not be released in Britain and the rest of the world until 24 October.
The singer, 46, whose last release was The Red Shoes in 1993, has not planned a supporting tour or promotional appearances. Her one and only tour was in 1979.
Bush decided to vanish from public gaze after her eerie ballad Wuthering Heights reached No1 in 1978 and her promotion of her debut album, The Kick Inside, was so successful that she was pressed the same year for the follow-up release, Lionheart.
"They took me away from everything familiar and, four months later, wanted another record," she later said. "I figured out then that music was a priority, not publicity. And that completely changed my life. I stopped doing all the things that were expected."
Bush, who earns an estimated Â£1million a year in royalties, shares a house in woodland on a small island on the Thames near Theale, Berkshire, with her partner, musician Danny McIntosh, 49. Her studio is in the grounds. Earlier this year, they bought a remote house in Devon with 17 acres and its own beach for Â£2.5 million.
She is protected by friends, including Pink Floyd's Dave Gilmour and ex-Genesis singer Peter Gabriel, and kept the birth of her son Bertie, now six, secret for 18 months.
It is one of Bertie's drawings which graces the cover of King Of The Mountain. The single will be followed by a double album, Aerial, on 8 November.
It's taken 12yrs but Kate's back at her best
Kate Bush , the most reclusive female star since Garbo, is back with her first single for more than a decade.
And from the atmospheric opening to its last eerie gasp, King of the
Mountain is unmistakably the sound of one of pop music's last great originals.
It is 12 years since her last release - a lifetime in pop history - but the
lay-off doesn't seem to have spoiled the patented Bush sound.
But then with a sound as singular as that which Kate has patented, radical
surgery isn't necessary to stay ahead of the curve. In recent years her back
catalogue has provided many contemporary acts with rich pickings.
And like some sonic sorceress locked away in her private lair Bush carries
on from where she left off with The Red Shoes in 1992. King of the Mountain,
the first release from forthcoming album Aerial, comes in a sleeve drawn by
her seven-year-old son Bertie and introduces Kate to a new generation.
Young fans may be surprised to hear that at 47 Kate, the musical force that
inspired the likes of PJ Harvey, Goldfrapp and Outcast, is still going strong.
But any thoughts that Bush is relishing a return to rough and tumble of
celebrity life, or is preparing to tackle the pop world on its own terms, are
cast aside by song itself. Lyrically, with an oblique reference to Orson
Welles' classic movie Citizen Kane and to Elvis Presley, it is Kate's
meditation on the perils of fame and power.
Elvis are you out there somewhere
Looking like a happy Man?
In the snow with rosebud
And King of the Mountain
Technology has allowed her to deepen and enrich the territory explored on
her Wuthering Heights debut single back in 1978. Long-time fans will recognise
the wildly romantic and foreboding landscape the song creates. She sings of
"the wind blowing through the house" as if the outside world is calling her
back to the limelight.
Her mixed feelings for wealth and fame come through in lines such as: Why
does a multi-millionaire, fill up his home with priceless junk?
The mood of the record is a masterful balance of opposites - cool reserve
and sonic boldness, gothic gloom and sensual awakening. Oriental percussion,
ghostly harmonies, synthesisers that whisper and howl accompany Kate's fraught
but tender vocals.
Fittingly for a woman who has taken so long to make a comeback there is no
hurry to reach a climax. King of the Mountain builds slowly and it is the
entrance of a grimy low-slung offbeat reggae guitar provides the cue for the
band to slowly come together.
When they do so it is like they are making music in a dream, while wading
through a field of honey.
It is the sort of effect musicians used to take drugs to attain. But Kate's
talent can capture it simply by going deep into her own creative whirlpool.
While never reaching the lofty peaks of Running Up That Hill (what could,
short of Elvis jamming with Hendrix?) it is a sound and a song well in keeping
with Kate's image as the painfully-shy reclusive superstar. Magnificent.
Can Bush scale the heights
The Irish Times
by Jim Carroll
September 30, 2005
Get ready to say goodbye to all of that. On November 7th, Kate Bush will end 12 years of enigmas, mystique, intrigue, mystery, daft conspiracy theories and headlines involving Wuthering Heights puns by releasing a new album.
For Bush fans, Aerial will probably be the most significant release of the year. For the music industry, it's yet another high-profile event release in the run-up to the December razzmatazz when sales all round go through the roof. For many others, it will be just another new album in the shops with all the attendant fuss that comes with a big release.
For Kate Bush, though, November 7th is hugely significant. For the first time since 1993, she will wake up to the knowledge that there's a new album in the shops (and stocked high in those all-important online stores which were not a retail factor the last time around). Now, everyone else will have the opportunity to judge what she's been quietly working on for the past few years.
Any musical hesitation, deviation or repetition will be highlighted. Ridiculous theories will be put forward about the cover artwork. Ludicrous meanings will be applied to her lyrics. Internet message boards will hum with activity. Bush could be forgiven for going right back to bed, turning off the radio and pulling the duvet over her head.
The release of Aerial may well be a Rip Van Winkle moment for Bush. After all, since The Red Shoes more than a decade ago, the music industry has completely flipped the script on how it operates. For a start, you can be sure that Bush and her advisors have had at least half-a-dozen ringtone conversations with the technology whizzkids, even if it's highly unlikely that her target audience would be in the market for such trinkets. Technology now calls the tune, whether the artist likes it or not.
Yet Bush continues to buck other trends. Acts who were once fęted, acclaimed and allowed long gaps between records to come up with new tunes are no longer so readily tolerated. There's absolutely no chance most artists would be allowed to spend 12 years creatively twiddling their thumbs while still under contract to a major music company. Long-term development of an act is very much a thing of the past as well, except in extremely rare cases and usually only when the act is signed to a US label, where there seems to be slightly more patience for the task.
But even new labels such as Sanctuary, boasting business models which involved signing established acts cast aside by other companies under the "distressed inventory" heading, have run into difficulties. Signing such heritage acts as The Blue Nile and Morrissey may add to a label's credibility, but recent profit warnings show there's not that much money to be made from these old codgers any more. After all, if there was, those acts would still be in the embrace of major labels.
For all this, the release of a Bush album is welcome because it will be the music rather than some spurious spinning which has the most impact. As with Kraftwerk, Bush is an artist whose stock has continued to rise in direct proportion to the length of time she has remained away from the release schedules. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
However, this album also needs to reach more than just the faithful, and it will be interesting to observe how EMI Records will go about this. It's unlikely that the artist will give up several weeks for pan-international telephone interviews with unwashed hacks, yet the thought of Kate Bush on the TV trail, going from Richard & Judy to Jonathan Ross, is probably just as unappealing.
Yet, as everyone from Coldplay and Robbie Williams to Richard Ashcroft and even Kraftwerk has found out with recent releases, you can't just sell new albums by sitting on your laurels and pointing to your back-pages. Watching Bush responding to these new realities may well prove fascinating.
The Mighty Bush
Scotland on Sunday
by Nigel Williamson
October 2, 2005
'KATE Bush still alive," read the headline on one over-excited report following the announcement that the reclusive singer is to release her first album of new songs in 12 years. "She's back" announced BBC Radio Four's new programme PM, between discussions of the Labour Party conference and the Tory leadership contest.
The imminent comeback of the child-woman with the other-worldly voice who
first shocked and then seduced us with the remarkable 'Wuthering Heights' back
in 1978, is generating unprecedented levels of anticipation. Never can so much
have been written about a record that few outside her closest circle and her
record company's boardroom have yet heard.
Bush's re-emergence comes after one of pop's lengthiest periods of self-imposed silence. Add to that the fact that she hasn't toured since 1979, and it is possible that there is a new generation of record-buyers and concert-goers to whom her name means little.
The extraordinary effect that Bush has on people was never more apparent than on the occasion three years ago when she and former Sex Pistol John Lydon (formerly Rotten) found themselves unlikely companions at a music industry bash in London, where both were receiving awards.
For Bush it was a rare excursion out of her notoriously private world and into the glare of publicity she has spent so much of her later career avoiding. For Lydon it was just another opportunity to show off, play up to his enfant terrible image and behave badly for the cameras. Except for once he didn't. Upon collecting his award, all he could say was how "proud" he was to be in the same room as Kate Bush.
Lydon had previously complimented Bush for being a rule-breaker and a beacon against the "slavish idiocy" of the music industry. "Her music is f***ing brilliant. She's a true original," he said. "She went through the same @#%$ I did when she started, with people saying, 'Oh, that's not singing'."
Lydon is not alone is commending the artist. From Tori Amos to Bjork, there's not a female artist over the past 25 years who has not been influenced by Bush. It's salutary to think that when she last released an album - 1993's Red Shoes - Dido was still in school and Katie Melua was nine years old.
Back in those dark ages, the internet barely existed and the iPod was many years away from being invented. For Icelandic chanteuse Bjork, Bush was an integral part of her musical education. She has said of the singer: "To me, Kate Bush will always represent the age of exploring your sexuality, when you change from a girl to a woman. All of that. There were so many records in my parents' house, so I saw a lot of album covers. I thought they were all macho and occupied with power, things I didn't like. I guess that's what I found fascinating about Kate, she totally stuck out. She created her own look and produced her own sound. There's a timelessness to Kate's music."
Such timelessness has certainly been propitious: at 47, Bush is not the only artist to keep us waiting between records. Stevie Wonder is just about to deliver his first new album in a decade. The Rolling Stones last month released their first collection of new songs after an eight-year absence from the studio. Guns N' Roses have been even more indolent and have so far kept us waiting 15 years since their last record.
Yet it's the return of Bush - the Greta Garbo of pop - that is undoubtedly the event of this and any other season. Record industry veterans are scratching their heads to remember when a new record last generated such intense pre-release interest. Bush's record company, EMI, while keen not to over-hype her return and risk disappointing fans, can barely contain their excitement, and the buzz around the industry is that the album - entitled Aerial and due to reach shops on November 7 - is something very special indeed.
"Everyone who's heard it so far has proclaimed it an absolute masterpiece, quite possibly her career peak. It's quite astonishing," said one EMI executive. It's a magnum opus of a double album, too, which is good news, for if all she had managed to come up with after a dozen years in purdah were 10 songs and 40 minutes of music, we might well have felt short-changed.
Last week, 'King of the Mountain', the first single from the album, and her first new music since 1993, was made available as an internet download in the United States, although it will not be released in Britain until October 24. A gloriously dense swirl of electronic pulses, synthesised beats and brooding guitars with a typically ominous vocal, it's as epic and elemental as you could want.
When Bush first posted the news that the album was approaching completion on her website at the end of last year, she added: "I hope you will all feel it's been worth the wait." In just four minutes and 45 seconds, 'King of the Mountain' delivers more than enough to suggest that it has.
Nineties music producer and singer, Tricky, feels it is the ethereal quality of Bush's talent that explains her success, and has said of her work: "I don't believe in God, but if I did, her music would be my bible. Her music sounds religious to me. She should be treasured more than The Beatles. That she isn't is probably down to her own personality, because she can walk away from everything, and not make albums, and I respect her for that. Just to live your life, and not play the game - to me, that's success."
Bush is hardly doing any interviews to explain her long absence, and there are no plans for a supporting tour or promotional appearances. One of those who has visited her at home is Andy Bell of Erasure, who said of the experience: "We went round her house and she was everything I expected. She was really nice, she made us tea in a proper teapot, she had baked a cake, she had loads of cats, and she was really softly spoken."
Clearly Bush is not about to lift the veil on the enigma she has so carefully constructed in the interest of something as sordid as commerce. Yet in an oblique way, 'King of the Mountain' is highly revealing. The CD cover is a drawing by her seven-year-old son, Bertie, which at least explains what she has been doing for half of her long silence, while the lyrics allude to Elvis Presley (who died as she was recording her first demos in 1977) and offer a nightmarish vision of how fame will damage you if you let it. You don't need to be Sigmund Freud to see how that relates to Bush's own reclusiveness and almost obsessive desire for privacy. Remarkably, in this age of celebrity fixation and instant gossip, it was almost two years after the birth of Bertie in 1998 before the media found out that she had become a mother.
Born in 1958 in the leafy suburb of Bexleyheath, Kent, to an English piano-playing doctor and his Irish folk-dancing wife, the young Catherine Bush's first love was traditional folk music, which she absorbed from two older brothers. She sang in the choir, played hymns on the organ and took violin lessons at convent school. By the age of 13 she was writing her own songs and was soon playing in a folk band with her brother Paddy.
At 15, she met Pink Floyd guitarist Dave Gilmour, who was impressed enough by her songs to pay for her to make a demo tape, which he then gave to the Floyd's record company, EMI. Bush was still at school, and in those innocent pre-Pop Idol times, EMI nurtured her carefully, giving her a £3,500 advance to finish her O-levels while she developed her songwriting. That was 1976, and it was another two years before her first single, 'Wuthering Heights', was released. She used her time well, stacking up 10 O-levels to fall back on should her singing career go horribly wrong, and studying under the mime artist and choreographer, Lindsay Kemp, among whose former pupils was David Bowie. It was the moves she learned from Kemp that provided the dramatic, erotically-charged gestures that accompanied her performance of 'Wuthering Heights' as a 19-year-old, tangle-haired gypsy on Top of the Pops and in a memorable video.
It turned out she hadn't even read Emily Brontë's book and her version was based on the memory of seeing the final scenes of a film of the story.
It mattered not, for by any reckoning it was an extraordinary song, matched by her extraordinary and romantic appearance. After the three-chord thrashing and grim safety-pinned wardrobe of punk, Bush was a breath of fresh air, and it was obvious that a unique new talent had arrived in our midst.
Two albums followed in quick succession, as The Kick Inside and Lionheart
both appeared in 1978, full of songs about such unconventional subjects as
murder, incest, feminism and nuclear war, and confirming her as Britain's most
original female artist.
In early 1979, she embarked on a spectacular tour that involved mime, magic, dance, theatre and elaborate costumes which she designed herself. She was drained by the experience and never toured again.
Instead, she concentrated on the studio, where she developed a reputation for control freakery, composing, arranging and producing her own records and even directing her own management company. Her third album, 1980's Never For Ever, was surprisingly the first by a British female artist to top the charts. Yet its follow-up, 1982's The Dreaming, produced the first crisis of her career. The songs were dense, experimental and non-radio friendly and it sold poorly. When she disappeared for three years, rumours circulated that she had suffered a mental breakdown and her reputation as a mysterious recluse was forged. She later appeared to confirm the rumours when she referred to The Dreaming as her "mad album".
Bush came back stronger than ever with 1985's million-selling Hounds of Love, an album that was also her American breakthrough. It was another four years before her next release, the introspective The Sensual World, and four after that until 1993's The Red Shoes. It was her most emotionally charged record to date, but it was overshadowed by the death of her mother and the end of her long-standing relationship with fellow musician Del Palmer.
Since then, she has spent her time building a fresh life with her new partner, the guitarist Danny McIntosh, with whom she lives in a house on a island in the Thames near Theale, Berkshire, raising their son, working in the studio in the wooded grounds, making sculptures and guarding her privacy more fiercely than ever. According to one rare appearance in the gossip columns earlier this year, she and McIntosh recently paid £2.5m for a second home in Devon, with 17 acres of land and its own beach.
Since her last album, British music has unearthed a rich seam of pretenders to Bush's throne, including Dido, Goldfrapp, KT Tunstall and Joss Stone. They had all better look to their laurels: the queen of them all is back to claim her crown.
THE BUSH OFFENSIVE
• In 1978 her debut single 'Wuthering Heights' tops the charts, and the song's parent album, The Kick Inside, sells over one million copies in the UK.
• Her third, self-produced LP, Never For Ever, makes No1 in the album chart.
• A state-of-the-art studio is installed in her home, where she records the hugely successful Hounds Of Love LP.
• A single from that album, 'Running Up That Hill', gives Kate her first chart success in the US, breaching the Billboard Top 30 for the first time. The video for her duet of 'Don't Give Up' with Peter Gabriel, right, is hailed as a groundbreaker in the field.
• In 1987 she wins Best Female Artist at the Sixth Brit Awards.
• Her sole 1990s album, The Red Shoes, continues the chart success story in the US.
• The teenage Kate is mortified when the posters promoting The Kick Inside are withdrawn after allegedly proving too distracting for motorists.
• The second album, Lionheart, disappoints, but not as much as her one and only full-scale tour to date, which features 17 costume changes. It is a financial disaster which Kate chooses never to repeat.
• In 1982, the single 'There Goes A Tenner' from The Dreaming album is a commercial flop, prompting some critical vultures to start circling.
• Her adaptation of Molly Bloom's soliloquy from James Joyce's Ulysses as the title track of The Sensual World in 1989 does not help her cause with those who believe her music should be more accessible.
• Her sole release of the 1990s, The Red Shoes, is heavy on guest appearances, with Prince and Eric Clapton, but light on hits. Undeterred, Kate celebrates more US success by directing a film, The Line, The Cross And The Curve, based on six tracks from the album.
Kate Bush: The Sequel The Independent by Geneviève Roberts and Louisa Reynolds September 2, 2005 She was wacky, she was mysterious, she was a child prodigy who topped the charts... and then she disappeared without trace. This month Kate Bush is back with her first single in more than a decade. Terry Kirby traces her career
In 1993, in Switzerland, something called the World Wide Web was conceived, while in Manchester, a couple of roughnecks called the Gallagher brothers decided to call their new band Oasis, although Britpop was still a marketing man's dream.
It was also the last time that Kate Bush released an album.
Although some things haven't changed much since the early 1990s, the internet and the iPod have revolutionised the way music is listened to and a whole new range of female artists such as Dido, Joss Stone and KT Tunstall are competing for our attention.
Now, one of music's most reclusive and enigmatic figures has re-emerged into what some have seen as a rich era for British female singer-songwriters. Bush's new double album, Aerial, is due out in November, only her eighth after three decades in the business. It will be treated with due reverence. This is a woman who, like Stone, was once a teenage prodigy, if a decidedly wackier one, and she is claimed by many to be the great lost talent of British female pop singers.
At 47, the elfin Bush has perhaps claim to become the grand dame of them all, above comparison to mere lightweights such as Dido, regularly cited as an influence by artists from Placebo to Goldfrapp.
There are perhaps better comparisons than Stone or Dido This is a women who was top of the charts while Madonna was still a disco dancer and - while she may not rival the so-called Queen of Pop in terms of earnings - she's more than a match in terms of the iron control she exerts over her own career and public image.
"I simply think she is one of the greatest figures in British music over the last 30 years. There are an awful lot of people in the business wandering around claiming to be artists, but she is one of the few who can genuinely make that claim'' says Paul Rees, editor of Q Magazine. He rejects any suggestion that Bush has to be judged alongside the new wave. "I don't think there is any competition, she's on a different level and quite outside them all.''
The anticipation has been heightened by the fact that even insiders in the music business have few clues what the intensely private Bush has been up to recently, although rumours of a new album have been circulating for several years. One story is that Bush invited a bunch of top EMI people down to her home and simply baked them all cakes. More prosaically, the delays may be that that her life has been occupied by other, more pressing personal matters.
Bush-watchers will already be searching for clues in the sparse announcement from EMI. Both the title of the album and the single that will precede it "King of the Mountain", downloadable on 27 September, both somehow still echo and evoke the mysterious and ethereal image that the 19- year-old Bush created for herself when she first burst onto the music scene in January 1978, with "Wuthering Heights".
Her own take on the Emily Brontë novel, written several years earlier after watching part of a television adaptation, it was UK No 1 for four weeks. Coming in the aftermath of the spit-and-bondage raw power of punk, the gargling, warbling and arm waving of Bush at first seemed like a one-off novelty act, "a ghastly apparition, an evil witch rising out the dry ice,'' as rock writer Rob Jovanovic puts it in his forthcoming biography. As became clear, Bush was in it for the long term, carefully nurtured by a close circle of family, friends and a sympathetic record company. But there was never any suggestion that Bush was being manipulated or was ever anything other than her own person.
By the time "Wuthering Heights" appeared, Bush had already been signed for three years to EMI, which was content to let her talent mature a little, an impossibility in these days of Pop Idol. She had been discovered by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, a friend of a friend of her older brother. Gilmour provided money for a demo tape and took her to EMI. One of the three songs was "The Man With the Child in his Eyes," later a hit single.
Gilmour later told an interviewer: "I didn't realise how commercially successful she might be. I thought of her more really, I suppose, in the terms of someone like Joni Mitchell - the level of a lady who's very talented, but would appeal to a more esoteric audience. But she had different ideas.''
Bush's sense of purpose was already evident and was later made clear to her parents. Her EMI contract secure, Bush carried on at school, getting 10 O-levels, but decided to leave. She said later: "My parents weren't keen on the giving up of school at the beginning to go into singing and dancing but once they saw I was serious about it they gave support. I was quite stubborn about my decision and in the end they realised it was for the best.''
They allowed her to live in a flat they owned in south London while she studied dancing under mime master Lindsey Kemp and carried on writing and singing. EMI kept a watching brief, waited for the initial fury of punk to die down and released "Wuthering Heights" in January 1978.
Some didn't get her, either then or later, being alienated by the combination of slightly contrived tweeness, the falsetto warbling and the sheer pretentious, earnestness of it all. Jovanovic notes that the late, great, John Peel, a man whose ears were open to many sounds, claimed he could not take her seriously while the renowned American rock critic Dave Marsh described her as "sounding like the consequences of mating Patti Smith with a Hoover vacuum cleaner".
Arguably, Bush is one of a handful of artists who first appreciated the power of the video. All her early singles were accompanied by imaginative videos, which made full use of her looks and her ability as a dancer. Curiously, she was always a reluctant life performer, doing only a handful of pub gigs with the KT Band in 1976 during her EMI training days and one tour, in 1979. Possibly her reluctance to tour afterwards stemmed from the death of her lighting director, who fell to his death on stage during a concert at the Hammersmith Odeon. There have been only a handful of one-off appearances.
Although her first album, The Kick Inside, went triple platinum, her artistic reputation among the cognoscenti hinges on two albums in the early 1980's: The Dreaming, released in 1982 was the first she produced herself and Hounds of Love, 1985, produced on the 48-track studio she had built at her home. Both featured a diverse and difficult to categorise blend of styles matched by her often surreal and literate lyrics. But her fans cite her bravery in often talking about subjects long before they became fashionable - gay relationships, for example.
Many see those as her artistic peak with the subsequent albums The Sensual World, in 1989 and The Red Shoes, in 1993 both being more hit and miss affairs. And at a rate of one album every four years, she could hardly be accused of burning herself out.
But since 1993, there has been virtual silence, punctuated by infrequent public appearances, such as receiving a lifetime achievement award from Q - at which she only agreed to be photographed with John Lydon, the former Johnny Rotten. Her personal life appeared to have intervened. After coping with the death of her mother, she split from her long-term partner, Del Palmer, a musician. She then began a relationship with guitarist Danny MacIntosh and in 1999, gave birth to a son. They live in a mansion in Berkshire but are reported to have another home in south Devon.
Her creative absence merely reinforced her credibility, particularly when Hounds of Love was covered by the Futureheads and a succession of new singers such as Tori Amos were dubbed "the New Kate Bush" on a fraction of the evidence.
Rumours of an album were confirmed in December last year when she confirmed she had been in Abbey Road Studios with composer Michael Kamen, (who has since died.) Gilmour is believed to be around, as he has been from the start.
At Q, Rees does admit that the expectation level is high and that, as is often the case when any artist delivers an eagerly anticipated work after a lengthy period of quiet, the dangers of an anti-climax loom. "It is incredibly difficult in this kind of situation. There is always the reaction of 'Is that it...?' And that is particular true now more than ever, when we have so much that works on a superficial level. And she is one of those that you have to listen to a lot and the more you do, the more is revealed.''
He is glad that Bush will be delivering an old-fashioned double album. "It's good to think this an artist delivering a magnum opus. One would feel slightly short-changed if she came back after all this time with 10 songs over 35 minutes.''
Stars who stepped out of the limelight
According to Time magazine she was possibly "rock's best woman singer" while Rolling Stone voted her top female vocalist, but when Linda Thompson retired from the folk-rock music scene she had helped to invent in 1985, listeners assumed they would never hear her voice again. She had split up from her husband, the guitarist and songwriter Richard Thompson. But she had also been diagnosed with hysterical dysphonia, the vocalist's equivalent of merciless stage fright. But after a 17-year break, she returned with an album aptly named Fashionably Late.
In 1960 Jean Shrimpton met David Bailey while he was assisting the photographer John French. For three years they worked almost exclusively together and "the Shrimp" became one of the iconic models of the Swinging Sixties era, wearing ever shorter skirts and creating memorable images for Vogue. Unlike her contemporary Twiggy, Jean's withdrawal from the limelight has been absolute. She now runs a hotel in Penzance, Cornwall, where she raised a family with Michael Cox, whom she married in 1979.
When fame got too much for the lead singer of Catatonia she fled to Nashville. The singer with the distinctive raspy voice set up home with her husband, Seth Riddle, a television producer, away from the British media. She had always shunned celebrity but found herself in the spotlight after the band enjoyed massive success. The album Equally Cursed and Blessed was aptly titled: she had to cancel several concert tours after suffering from anxiety and nervous exhaustion, and the band split up in 2001.
Geneviève Roberts and Louisa Reynolds
Kate Bush rules, OK?
by Michael Berkeley
October 11, 2005
Pop musicians are far more demanding in the studio than classical ones are. Michael Berkeley explains why
As a composition student I played rock music on the side, an experience that
taught me a lot about direct communication and enabled me later in life to enjoy
some brief but rewarding forays into film and commercial music. So when the
conductor Richard Hickox rang me one day in 1984 to ask if I could help with a
rather unusual job for which he and his choir had been engaged, I was intrigued.
Kate Bush, it transpired, was working on her new album, Hounds of Love, and for
one track, Hello Earth, she wanted a chorus to recreate the orthodox
singing/chanting that made such a contribution to the film Nosferatu. The only
problem, Hickox explained, was that there was no sheet music available and that
anyway it would need to be notated and completely re-written to fit the Hello
Earth track. Slightly bemused, I think - this was a far cry from his more
customary Gluck or Vaughan Williams - he asked if he could put Bush in touch
I had always considered Kate Bush truly original both as a performer and as a songwriter with an unusually fresh sense of harmony. If her new album next month is awaited with some excitement after a long fallow period, then in 1985 it was assumed that Hounds of Love would be something of a final fling at the conclusion of a waning career. I soon realised how wrong this assumption was when Kate sent me a cassette: it was zany, ambitious and yet utterly Kate Bush, but with gaps where I was to do her bidding. Having chatted at length, she sent me a long letter with the words of the song and precise instructions on how it should unfold. Her writing hand was curiously like her voice - quirky and touchingly childish; large, separated letters and with the dots over each "i" individually circled. There was, however, nothing child-like about the seriousness and certainty of its contents.
Structure was carefully delineated, verses and choruses written out fully and marked up in colour, and she talked of the sound quality in the most graphic terms. Still not having been able to identify the music of the title sequence of Nosferatu or even the language it was sung in, she suggested that, if necessary, I write something similar but added that while the key of this chorus would need to relate, it could arrive as something foreign, harmonically a surprise, as though from another world. In other words, while it had to fit, Kate wanted it to sound "collaged". This superimposition of foreign sources is a technique pioneered by visionary composers like Ives and Stockhausen. I soon realised that Bush was pretty exacting on the precise fit of the "non-fit". Indeed, she was thrilled when I suggested we create our own new language for this chorus of the spheres.
Although she had piano and violin lessons at school, Bush is essentially self-taught). I have always been fascinated by the difference of dynamics at work between popular artists and conventionally trained classical musicians, and had a similar experience with the Edge, of U2, when we worked together on the score of a film called Captive.
In fact, gifted "pop" musicians like Bush and U2 are far more demanding of themselves in the studio than classical musicians can afford to be, and will spend days working on a tiny fragment. On the other hand, they envy the technique that allows classically trained composers to write something down that can be realised by good sight readers almost instantly. The Edge was amazed that the London Sinfonietta under Oliver Knussen recorded my part of the score (some 30 to 40 minutes) in a couple of three-hour sessions while he laboured for weeks to get his sounds just as he wanted them.
The fact that Kate Bush needed my contribution to realise a specific moment of her original concept (as the Beatles used George Martin in a much wider context) was a marrying of two disciplines without diluting either. In terms of sculptural soundscape, this is the kind of midwifery role that Brian Eno fulfils for groups like U2.
Come the recording day, a group of male choristers, more accustomed to singing church services than backing vocals, descended on Bush's home, which was equipped with its own studio. Doubtless they were imagining that they were about to meet a wild-eyed rock babe, but Kate, quiet and unassuming - the kind of sympathetic, slightly shy girl who greets you from behind the counter at the local chemist - introduced us to her friend the bass player Del Palmer, who engineered the session. None of the singers or Richard had ever gone over and over four or five phrases so exactingly. No measure of Bach or Mozart had, in their experience, been subjected to such surgical scrutiny, and I began to worry that their voices might begin to tire. But Bush knew and got what she wanted and Hello Earth is, I think, a remarkable track on the album that finally broke the American market and established her as an iconic and hugely influential figure. I can't wait to hear what she has been up to now.
· Kate Bush's album Aerial is out on October 24 on EMI.
King of the Mountain review
Manchester Evening News
by Mark Richardson
September 22, 2005
After a 12-year absence Kate Bush is set to return to the airwaves with a new
album, Ariel - and the first single will not disappoint her many fans.
In these days of X Factor and Pop Idol it is almost a surprise to hear an artist construct a sound that is casually littered with musical ability.
Ever since her breathe-taking debut release Wuthering Heights, Kate Bush has consistently brought a fresh approach to her music, blending styles and technology to produce a unique sound.
Her latest single King Of The Mountain makes it clear that she has lost none of this ability. While King Of The Mountain is not ground breaking, it does offer all the dynamics that are integral to the Kate Bush sound, from unstructured electronics, to driving rhythm and soaring vocals.
Welcome back, Kate.
This single is released on 24th October.
On to Aerial Reviews, Part 2
"The pull and the push of it all..." - Kate Bush
Marvick - Hill
Willker - Mapes
Grepel - Love-Hounds