Not Dubya – Kate.
Next month sees the release of the first Kate Bush album in thirteen years. The Times gives it a mixed review but takes the opportunity to list five caterwauling classics from 1978’s Wuthering heights to 1989’s The Sensual World.
Executed, as always, with an assurance beyond her years, this 1980 single tells of a woman who tests her husband’s fidelity by sending perfumed letters signed Babooshka — which also happens to be the Russian word for grandmother.
Another Day/Don’t Give Up
Two very different duets with Peter Gabriel. The first, performed by the pair on Bush’s BBC Christmas Special, had the pair stonily intoning their lines as bored husband and wife over the breakfast table. The video for the second song — from Gabriel’s So album — had them locked in tight embrace.
The Sensual World
Drawing together Middle Eastern, Celtic and East European influences, the Joyce-inspired title track of Bush’s sixth album was rewritten after she was refused permission to use Molly Bloom’s soliloquy at the end of Ulysses.
Talking to Michael Aspel in 1993, Bush confessed that she hadn’t read Wuthering Heights when she got the idea for song: “It was a television series they had years ago and I just managed to catch the very last few minutes . . . I didn’t know what was going on, and someone explained the story . . . I read the book to get the research right and, wrote the song.” The single was released only after a tearful Bush, then 19, confronted her label boss after he insisted it would “hit a wall”. She stood her ground, A year later, her boss bought her a £7,000 Steinway by way of apology.
One of her best songs and most memorable videos was inspired by the psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, whose son Peter claimed that his father had devised a rain-making machine. In the video Bush played Peter while Donald Sutherland was Wilhelm. “I didn’t know who she was, so (initially) I refused,” recalled Sutherland, “Next thing I knew there was this knock at the door and it’s her. She was so funny.”
I don’t disagree that these are all great singles but much of the attraction of Bush for me at least are the album tracks where she allows herself the luxury of rummaging around the world’s musical heritage and knitting together odd scraps of material to see what the result might be. Distinctly odd as far as the Dreaming is concerned but sublime in the case of the follow-up Hounds of Love.
It’s common now for musicians to plunder phrases and textures from what’s become ‘world music’ but in 1985 – the year of Wham! and Madonna as well as Hounds of Love it was an act that guaranteed Bush leading edge status.
She might have posed for some of the maddest publicity photographs of the 1980’s but it’s easy to forgive her.