[Here is Kate's article for the eighth issue, December 1980]
For the album to have been so warmly embraced has made me very happy. It's hard for me to explain how easy it is to get anxious with your own songs once they're on disc. They can easily be up to a year old already, and so the unveiling of the album felt very like the prodigal son coming home to me. I was willing to leap into anything that would help move it along. As you all know, most artists will do promotional work--which we will call "the rounds"--to accompany their product. It was my turn for "the rounds". What makes that fun are the people that you meet and you are with--the travelling, the talking are tiring and monotous. Among the major promotional events was a radio p.a. [personal appearance] tour, which you'll hear more of in A. B.'s [Andrew Bryant?] article. This means travelling from city to city, visiting radio stations and record shops to meet people and give autographs, and to do the odd press interview. The tour was to start in Edinburgh. Hil [Hilary Walker, Kate's manager] had booked a motorail ticket for us to travel by train to Carlisle, taking the car to drive us from there onwards. The train left at five minutes to midnight, and things were packed: a flask of tea, a couple of sandwiches, some books, etc. And as the car had been put on the train an hour or so before our departure, I decided I'd visit a friend in between that time and get a taxi to the station. I was having a great chat in a nice, warm, cause environment with homemade fruit buns and a steaming cup of tea, when I realised the taxi that I had ordered had not arrived yet and it was getting late. I rang again--they said it was on its way, but we know they always say that, don't they?
Eventually, with an excited driver speeding to the station at the thought of the mentioned "big tip" if he got me there on time, I arrived at midnight: no train and lots of weridos. Another train was quickly sorted out which left an hour later, and so I bedded up in a little cabin set for Scotland. The first thing that really hit me when I got in the cabin was it was so quiet. I couldn't remember the last time I'd been anywhere so silent, and it scared me. Its silence made me feel uneasy because of me being so unused to it.
The scenery was beautiful, waking up as the sun peeped over the transient countryside and factory chimneys. We arrived in Edinburgh and the first radio station. The schedule had begun. Meeting the people in the shops is a very strange experience--whilst I sit at the back of the shop and watch them all come in, as anxious as me, some of them. All these faces feeding me, one by one; they think I'm feeding them, but they're giving me so much it's like they've all come to my party and the more the merrier. That's something that struck me, how most of the people are remarkably warm and kind and unbothered, and they're not trying to prove anything. I get a certain kind of "pride", if that's not too arrogant, thinking how lucky I am to have these people receptive to my music. It means a lot in terms of artistic reward.
A lot was covered on the tour, including a brief meeting with Ranchor, our friend from the Hare Krishna movement, who has now moved to Manchester, which was one of the cities on our route. Eventually, the tour completed, and a long, warm, sleepy drive back to London listening to taped stories.
A TV show in Germany meant a dance routine, choice of dancers and a trip to Munich. Babooshka and Army Dreamers had been asked to be performed. The Babooshka video, if you remember, had double bass sections, and this is what I "bassed" my routine on, using the instrument all the way through the song. The evening I was working on the choreography, Paddy, Andrew [Bryant] and Del [Palmer] were in the room. We decided to try it, as I had some ideas, and we worked the night through very enthusiastically, eventually coming up with a very dramatic and very pleasing routine. "Army Dreamers" is one of those songs that could take many different concepts as a visual choreographic piece. For Germany we decided a cleaning-woman of abstract barracks would be fine, joined by three army dreamers, one of whom is a mad sergeant-major who shouts commands at invisible troops, one who carries a gun and mandolin, and one who blinks blankly and carries a small brown teddy bear. The routine was rehearsed, army uniforms bought, Mrs. Mopp's costume improvised with an old jumble-sale dress, a pair of pink rubber gloves, a head scarf, Ma's kitchen apron, her wooden broom and a small brown teddy-bear for one of our "dreamers".
Arriving in Germany, we were met and taken straight to the TV centre, where we were to spend the day. The rehearsal went well--borrowing some toy guns from the TV people, and a broom which I'd forgotten to bring as hadn't looked like a prop standing in my hall as I left for the airport. It was time for the performance. I was Mrs. Mopp, and the three army dreamers were somewhere in the building, waiting, too, for the call. As I came down the stairs, receiving many funny looks at my dress, I saw three men in uniform standing in the doorway with black, made-up faces looking very heavy and official, and it was not until I got very close and noticed the grinning, familiar faces that I realised who they were. Everything went very well; and, joined by two MM [Melody Maker] scouts, we had a great time. The show was done, and out to dinner, incorporating an MM interview. The Germans looked after us very well, and at one point in rehearsals we had been hesitant that people around us were offended or worried by three Englishmen dressed in Army uniforms strolling around the studio with little guns, but no problem--it shows how little these people hold grudges that we were still suspicious of.
"Babooshka", again, was to be performed abroad, this time in Venice. Venice is an extremely beautiful place, and if you ever get the chance to see it, please do, it really is magical. Water is the way of everything there--even lampposts are on water. I took lots of photos, and we've included one of a canal. The hotel that we were staying at was beautiful, with an incredible view of the ocean out of my window. For this TV show Gary [Hurst] and I had rehearsed a duet which we had made up the night before. Often this has strangely good results; maybe it is due to adrenalin. Gary had hired a suit from Moss Bros. the day before, and I'd pulled out an old dress which I used to wear when I was in the KT Bush Band and we performed in pubs. This TV show was live, and as the studio was only across the road (the other side of the hotel backed onto one of the few pieces of dry land in Venice), every performer dressed and made up at the hotel and walked to the TV studio fully equipped .
Our turn came, and as we hit the street we saw silver-suited spacemen; red-, blue-, green-haired people; electric guitars; pantomime horses; one yellow submarine and two dancing bears spilling in and out of the TV centre. We squeezed past the various brightly coloured suits and smiles, did our bit and squeezed past them again on the way back to the hotel. In many ways it reminded me of Noah's Ark: two of every kind in a place on the water.
Just as we entered the hotel we met Peter Gabriel, plus band, who were also on the same show and were on their way out. We exchanged very English greetings on foreign land: "Break a leg, old chap!"; and Peter headed on his way to the bizarre circus. Meanwhile, we had heard that there was a TV room upstairs, so we rushed up to a mini-circus where all the artists that had already performed were sprayed around the floor, glued to the television, expressing kind words of comradeship in the relevant language to whomever was on the screen at that point in time; an unusual live, friendly feeling. Peter's performance was powerful and stood out amongst all the others, and the viewing-room certainly seemed to agree.
The next version of "Army Dreamers" was to be the promotional video. For a long time my vision of "Army Dreamers" on screen had been in green woods, heavy and sad, and the extent of the visual production I wanted on this occasion would only be possible where we had the time, opportunities and budget: not unlike an unknown TV studio, where you have no control over the set or lighting--you go for the simplest, easiest concept possible without spoiling the image. I drew a storyboard from which we worked. I have never had a talent for drawing [I don't agree at all. A very clever and sensitive landscape drawing by Kate, dated 5th November 1978, appeared in issue number 14 of the Newsletter. It shows great style and natural ability which Kate, unfortunately, has never developed.] and so I got a lot of laughs, as well as being able to communicate the ideas in a more concrete way. The cast had to be big--we were to represent an army unit, therefore needing a Sergeant-Major. I gathered all the people that I knew would not only look good but act the part; the choice was obvious--the band, Andrew [again last name not given] as our Sergeant-Major. Phone calls were made, and I couldn't have asked for a more positive reaction from everyone concerned, to the point of someone putting off a [recording] session. A second phone call was made immediately afterwards to find the size boot required for the uniforms. This became very Pythonesque, especially when people replied "Size 9." Everyone involved was a natural actor and performer, and a rehearsal was called. The cast were to turn up at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, Keef at 2 and Rocket and Barry (who were the two cameramen) at 3. From 2 until 3 Keef and I excitedly worked out the details, using my storyboard (which certainly got a giggle out of him) and bouncing ideas that we would get in turn. Most of my inspiration came from every war movie I have ever seen, from the original All Quiet on the Western Front to Apocalypse Now, and this was then applied to the subject matter and concept of the song. When Barry and Rocket turned up, Keef and I were bursting with anticipation of letting them in on the epic. They'd hardly got in the door before I thrust my storyboard under their noses and Keef was talking special lenses. Rocket and Barry are the two best cameramen I have worked with on a frequent basis. They soon joined in the "Ooh!"s and "Hey, what if we...?"s and "Well, we could try..."s, and we were away on a very challenging prospect, having to wait just for the confirmation of safety before we could definitely write the jerk-jacket into the script (we will talk more about this fabulous device later). 4 o'clock arrived, the band arrived, and the good weather had arrived; so we were set for an outdoors rehearsal. It went so smoothly, and all the cast were so professional, that Barry and Rocket could not hide their respect, and neither did we for them (you can see Barry being charged and Rocket being jumped over in the photos). The rehearsal broke, we sabotaged the crew as they left, and we all went our ways to prepare for the big day tomorrow.
It was a very early start, having to reach Pinewood by 8 a.m., and everyone's prayer for mild weather had been answered uncannily. The sun lit up the fern-swamped woods in a way I could never have hoped for; it was a good omen for a good day. Philip and Graham are two child actors; they both have pure white hair that, in that day's sunshine, shone and glittered, and they behaved very professionally and looked stunning on the screen. The day was long and full, and so much was achieved that apparently in film terms the amount we covered would have taken a week, which was encouraging to hear. Everything had gone as planned, all the action shots covered, and everyone looked superb. There were some magical moments created both on and off screen by the talent and humour of those people who I'd be lost without. Jay took some incredible shots during the day, which perfectly catch the moods and the lighting of those people and woods. Lisa [Bradley] took some fabulous movie-film which expressed not only the effort that was taken, but also, again, the comedy of the personalities involved. Al was blown up as beautifully as could be [this is a repetition of an aesthetic attitude which Kate expressed in an NME interview by Danny Baker in the fall of 1979: "Well, whenever I see the news, it's always the same depressing things. Wars' hostages, and people's arms hanging off with all the tendons hanging out, you know. So I tend not to watch it much. I prefer to go and see a movie or something, where it's all put much more poetically: people getting their heads blown off in slow motion, very beautifully."] of course only in terms of video fantasy land; Paddy somersaulted and fired, Stewart tripped and danced, Andrew roared and soared, Brian was flying, Preston kept his vest on, Kevin was in heaven, we all tumbled and ached and played soldiers until all was finished, bar the jerk-jacket.
We had lost our daylight by now, and as the trees echoed the screams and yells of musicians and dancers in soldier's clothing, I turned to see them leaping over the camera in the most dramatic light I have witnessed outside a studio. Two huge spotlights leaking smoky light across the clearing in the wood. It's these little moments I lock away as thrills of the theatre manmade. It was time to get into the jerk-jacket. The idea was to finish the video with myself symbolically representing my son, as well as being his mother. We wanted a very violent movement of my body, ideally being thrown off the ground. The effect we used was the jerk-jacket, which we would film and then put into slow motion at the editing stage. The jacket consists of a harness and a wire, with a man manually pulling the wire via a pulley system. The wire is connected to the back of the harness, with a hole through various layers of clothing to allow the wire to be straight when taut. As the man pulls the wire, the person wearing the harness is pulled off their feet backwards, landing on an appropriately camouflaged, padded area to soften the landing.
I was very excited at the prospect of experiencing the feeling, and with the professional help of stunt-men it was an unforgettable event--very exciting--and we got the footage we'd hoped for.
Everything over, wires being wrapped up, vans driving off, cameras tucked in for the night and us off to do the edit of that day's filming. The edit was in my opinion the most complete so far: it was like a well-made wooden jigsaw, with all the edges smoothly planed, and by two in the morning, with the excellent help of our visual engineer, Brian, we had made and edited the movie, and it was now complete and very satisfying.
It was a busy week. The next day, an Austrian interview and mixing Warm and Soothing were on the schedule, and off to Holland the next day to do Babooshka and yet another slightly different version of Army Dreamers in Holland. [See Paddy's description of the Holland performances in his Newsletter article, Memoirs of an Army Dreamer, in the same issue.] I was feeling tired when we started rehearsing the routines that evening for the next day, and by the time I had packed and finished rehearsing, it was about five in the morning; and so, as I was being picked up for the airport at 6:15, I ended up without that night's sleep.
At one point I looked at Pyewacket, my cat, and said, "Help me, Pye, I'm so tired." And she looked at me and said, "Me'ow?" It became one very long day, and my energies were going, but they survived with much help from those around me.
The show went very well, including the floor-manager being searched as part of our routine. It went out very late at night and, as it was the first one in the series and was live, everyone was very relieved when it was over. At last, a few hours' sleep before leaving early next morning for Munich and then Hamburg on a two-day radio/press tour; which was fun, meeting up with Werner from EMI-Munich. He was very good to me: earlier, he had given me the copy of Bowie's album before it was released here, and on this trip he did exactly the same with Stevie Wonder's new record. It is an incredible album [The Secret Life of Plants], and I was lucky enough to see him tour when he was here. The whole of the arena was dancing and laughing--I've never seen anything like it. And by coincidence Paddy bumped into none other than Werner while leaving. It certainly was a happy concert, and was marked with many ticks by me, alongside The Wall [Pink Floyd's concert] and others. [Kate says nothing here about the direct result of her excitement over the energy of the Stevie Wonder concert: that very night she went home and wrote/demoed the first version of Sat In Your Lap, which is arguably the most important recording she has made to date, in terms of stylistic development.]
Since my promotion has eased off, the nights are drawing in. It is colder, and I must soon draw to a close. I have spent as much time as possible on writing--and I think that shows by the length of this introduction! I'm more than happy to be concentrating on my songs at the moment.
I hope all of you are feeling happy and looking forward to Christmas as much as I am.
It's wonderful to know that December will be let out of the chimney this year--I was worried that it might get sooty. Have a very happy Christmas, and as children have the best time, why don't we be children at Christmas, too?
KaTe's Newsletter Writings Table of Contents
©1990 Andy Marvick