It's her, Cathy.Kate Bush
is one of the most unique musicians on the planet. Besides her eccentric music, she is known for her unforgettable voice. At first, it was high-pitched. Her voice got deeper (and arguably better) over the years
. Her music cannot be shoehorned into one category.
Usually, people just label her as "art rock" or "alternative
" and call it a day. She has touched many genres, including pop, electronic, jazz, flamenco, rock, waltz, Renaissance, and disco-funk. Her lyrics are another unique aspect of her music. They are often based on history, films and literature, such as her signature song "Wuthering Heights
", which was inspired by the 1970 film and the book.
Kate was a musical prodigy. She was signed by EMI at the age of 16 after being recommended by Pink Floyd
's David Gilmour, who was amazed by her voice and talent as a pianist. In 1978, at age 19, she topped the UK Singles Chart for four weeks with her debut song "Wuthering Heights", becoming the first woman to have a UK number-one with a self-written song. She later released her debut album The Kick Inside
, which proved that teenagers are capable of releasing quality music.
The success of The Kick Inside
forced her to make a quick follow-up album (Lionheart
,). It contains one of her most well-known songs, "Wow". She followed up with her first and last tour, called the Tour of Life
, which she was very involved in creating. It was quite theatrical. Kate had a costume change after virtually every single song, and she danced and moved gracefully on the stage with a few dancers and mostly eschewed playing piano. Even though it was filmed, only an edited version is available. One-and-a-half hours were left out, so it could be shown on TV. It's highly unlikely that the full concert will be released. Fortunately, some performances can be found on YouTube
While she liked the experience of touring, it was very exhausting to her, and it detracted from her making new music.
When she was making her third album, she was exposed to drum machines & synthesizers (especially the Fairlight CMI), which became a part of her sound. In 1980, she released it under the name Never for Ever
. It included the hit "Babooshka". It was the first album she co-produced. She took complete control of the production in her next album The Dreaming
. It was very loud, percussive, and aggressive; a drastic change from the relatively calm music she was known for. It was initially not well-received, but it has been Vindicated by History
as one of her masterpieces.
In 1985, her most famous album Hounds of Love
was released. It was quite a revolutionary album. It made her famous in America, and it is considered one of the best albums released by a solo female artist. Its lead single "Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)" was deservedly a major worldwide hit. The album was ahead of its time, and is still influential. The next year, she released her Greatest Hits Album The Whole Story
, which is her best-selling album.
Kate continued to make unique music with the release of The Sensual World
& The Red Shoes
. The latter was accompanied with a short film called The Line, The Cross and the Curve
. Kate then took a 12-year hiatus. She took that time to raise her son, and to record her comeback album Aerial
, which was very well-received. It sold 1.5 million copies, despite little promotion from Kate. After a contribution to the soundtrack to The Golden Compass
, Kate dropped out of the public eye yet again until May 2011, in which an album full of re-recorded songs originally on The Sensual World
and The Red Shoes
was released. An album of brand new material, entitled 50 Words for Snow
, was released on November 21, 2011.
Kate remains one of the most influential female artists ever. If Joni Mitchell
paved the way for female musicians, then Kate paved the way for eccentric
female musicians. Kate has since passed the torch on to people like Tori Amos
, ensuring that the world will always have creative, eccentric music and musicians. In 2002, her songwriting ability was recognised with an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music.
In 2014, she announced she would be doing her first live shows since 1979 with a run of performances at the Hammersmith Apollo in London. The twenty-two concerts, entitled Before The Dawn
, sold-out in minutes of being made available to the public, and were critically acclaimed.
- The Kick Inside (1978)
- Lionheart (1978)
- On Stage (1979, EP containing tracks recorded live in London)
- Never for Ever (1980)
- The Dreaming (1982)
- Hounds of Love (1985, which contains the sidelong concept piece The Ninth Wave)
- The Whole Story (1986, a greatest hits collection that included two new tracks)
- The Sensual World (1989)
- This Woman's Work (1990, box set compiling her first six albums, but two CDs of additional material)
- The Red Shoes (1993)
- Aerial (2005, a double album)
- Director's Cut (2011, which consisted of re-recordings of songs from The Sensual World and The Red Shoes)
- 50 Words for Snow (2011)
Tropes of Love:
- Ambiguous Ending: Does the heroine at the end of The Ninth Wave (side B of Hounds of Love) survive her ordeal and get rescued? Kate has gone on record as strongly hinting that she does, but whether she's been rescued or is still awaiting rescue is unclear.
- Anti-Love Song: She once performed a duet with Rowan Atkinson, "Do Bears...?"
He's an utter creep and he drives me 'round the bend
To alleviate the boredom, I sleep with his friends
- Artistic License: She'll generally go with what makes a better story rather than the gospel truth; for example, 'Houdini' ends with the titular escapologist dying while performing a trick as his wife watches in horror and grief rather the truth of his death (which was due to peritonitis after being punched in the stomach).
- The video for "Cloudbusting", which dramatizes the arrest of psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich by the feds for practicing quackery. (The title refers to the cloudbuster, a machine Reich invented to harness an invisible energy he called orgone and control the weather, which was just one of his many kooky ideas.) In the video, as the government agents drive off with Reich in the back of their car, his son activates the cloudbuster and causes a rainstorm, and Reich is overjoyed to see the machine works. In real life, of course, the thing never worked, and Reich was just delusional (ironically, considering his profession, he may have had schizophrenia).
- Atomic Hate: "Breathing" is about the moment that follows a nuclear strike. "After the blast, chips of plutonium are twinkling in every lung..."
"After the flash a fireball can be seen to rise, sucking up under it the debris, dust and living things around the area of the explosion, and as this ascends, it soon becomes recognisable as the familiar mushroom cloud."
- Bitter Almonds - "Coffee Homeground," which seems to resemble the Roald Dahl story "The Landlady," has the singer-as-protagonist rejecting kindly offers of tea and sweets out of a conviction that it's a plot against them:
Offer me a chocolate,
No thank you, spoil my diet, know your game!
But tell me just how come they smell of bitter almonds?
It's a no-no to your coffee homeground.
- Book Ends: The whale song that appears at the beginning of "Moving" appears again as it fades into "The Saxophone Song".
- Brief Accent Imitation: She sings "The Dreaming" (the song, not the whole album, mind you) in a fake Australian accent, a reference to the song being about the Australian Aborigine concept of the Dream Time (that's also why there's a didjeridu in the song).
- Also on The Dreaming, she sings "There Goes A Tenner" in what has been called a Mockney (fake Cockney) accent, since the lyrics are about a small-time crook and a bank robbery.
- Brother-Sister Incest - "The Kick Inside"
- Brown Note - Experiment IV: "But they told us All they wanted Was a sound that Could kill someone from a distance."
- And in the video, the scientists deliver; although the sound does not manifest anything like what might have been expected. (The video is also notable these days for featuring the then-virtually-unknown Hugh Laurie in a cameo role!)
- Call-and-Response Song - "Constellation of the Heart"
- Camp Gay - Gay characters feature in many of Kate's songs, in particular "Kashka from Baghdad" (and the even less subtle early demo, "Eddie the Queen"). The song "Wow" - about theatre types - features the immortal line He's too busy hitting the vaseline... - in the video, Kate pats her backside while singing that line.
- The Caper: The video for "There Goes a Tenner" is a Bank Robbery with Kate as the mastermind behind the whole operation (also what the song is about).
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Kate has a reputation for being ... eccentric, let's say.
- The Coconut Effect: The train whistle at the end of "Cloudbusting", according to Kate herself, had to be created on a synthesizer because all the samples of real trains she found sounded wrong.
We got so many tapes of steam trains, and they don't sound anything like what you'd expect steam trains to sound like. They sounded so pathetic. So we had to build up all this steam sound and big wheels and brakes, you know, coming to a halt and everything. We had to totally exaggerate what the real thing sounded like, so that people would realize what we meant.
- Concept Album - Hounds of Love. Side one is a collection of songs loosely arranged around the nature of love. Side two is more cohesive - a story about a woman lost at sea (and arguably dying) who has a dream flashback to a previous life and a visit from her future self.
- The Red Shoes was inspired by the famous ballet film of the same title; it was also a partial soundtrack album to the Bush-directed short film The Line, The Cross and the Curve.
- The second disc of 2005's Aerial "consists of a single piece of music reveling in the experience of outdoor adventures on a single summer day, beginning in the morning and ending twenty-four hours later with the next sunrise." According to That Other Wiki.
- The newly-released 50 Words for Snow is, of course, centred around snowscapes, and the titular song features Stephen Fry listing fifty words for snow.
- Concept Video - Kate Bush used to love making weird mini-movies for her songs in the 80s. Notable examples include:
- "Army Dreamers", a harrowing wartime scenario befitting the song's anti-war lyrics.
- "There Goes a Tenner" depicts a bank robbery, following the song's lyrics directly.
- "Experiment IV", a horror movie pastiche in which a bunch of government scientists in a spooky military facility, including Dawn French and a pre-House Hugh Laurie, create an unstoppable sonic weapon. As you expected it might, the weapon, played by Kate Bush in a ghost outfit, rampages around and kills everyone horribly. Hoorah!
- "Cloudbusting" - this one is based on the life of Wilhelm Reich. The reclusive scientist pursued by naughty government types is played by Donald Sutherland, Kate Bush plays his eight-year old son (in a hilariously unconvincing child costume) and the design of the very cool rain machine (Cloudbuster) was inspired by H. R. Giger.
- "Hounds of Love" - a pastiche Hitchcock thriller.
- The Line, The Cross, And The Curve, a 1993 short film based on her album The Red Shoes, starring herself, Miranda Richardson, and Bush's favorite choreographer, Lindsay Kemp.
- "Running Up That Hill": Largely an elaborate dance piece done as a Take That at those critics who slammed the "Wuthering Heights" video.
- "This Woman's Work": A renarration of the Movie "She's Having a Baby"
- "Misty": an animation about a woman who sleeps with a snowman and wakes up to find that he's melted.
- Contemptible Cover: The U.S. cover for The Kick Inside was changed to this◊ (though still a relatively mild image) for obvious reasons.
- Darker and Edgier - "The Dreaming".
- Downer Ending - Kate usually ends her albums with a negative song. Notable examples are:
- The Kick Inside - the title track. Brother-Sister Incest + Driven to Suicide = Tear Jerker
- Never for Ever - "Breathing", a song about a fetus wanting to stay alive during a nuclear fallout.
- The music video ends with a nuclear blast taking place in the distance.
- The Dreaming - "Get Out of My House", a song based on The Shining, which according to Allmusic is "Part ghost story, part nervous breakdown, part rage in the face of violation."
- Aerial: A Sea of Honey - "A Coral Room", one of her most beautiful and poignant songs, about the death of her mother.
- Averted on Hounds of Love with the very upbeat "The Morning Fog."
- Driven to Suicide - "The Kick Inside", "The Wedding List".
- Ethereal Choir: The male choir from "Hello Earth". It's the chorus from the traditional Georgian (as in the country, not the state) folk song "Tsintskaro".)
- Face on the Cover: Many of her albums, notably The Dreaming (as Houdini's wife Bess), Hounds of Love (with a pair of dogs), and The Sensual World.
- Fading into the Next Song: Under Ice into Waking The Witch.
- From The Dreaming, the title track fades into "Night of the Swallow".
- Gainax Ending: "There Goes a Tenner". Possibly.
- Gaussian Girl: "The Man With the Child in his Eyes".
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: The strongly implied reference to anal sex in "Wow" (the line about "Hitting the Vaseline", with Bush patting her bottom during live performances) surprisingly did not result in "Wow", her third single, from being banned anywhere in 1979.
- Iconic Outfit: Many, such as the red dress in "Wuthering Heights" and the Chainmail Bikini in "Babooshka".
- The grey hakamas from "Running Up That Hill" (they look purple because of the lighting).
- Improbable Age - Most teenagers wouldn't write a song based on a 19th-century novel ("Wuthering Heights"), or a song based on an 18th-century English/Irish folk ballad about a girl, Lizzie Wan, who falls in love with her brother and then kills herself while carrying his child ("The Kick Inside").
- In the Style of... - According to Kate herself...
- "Kite" is in the style of Bob Marley.
- "Don't Push Your Foot on the Heartbrake" is in the style of Patti Smith.
- Indecipherable Lyrics - Kate Bush's "Leave It Open", in which the vocals are distorted to the point of incomprehensibility because Kate played the original recording backwards, did her best to imitate the sounds she heard, and then played the resulting recording backwards for the final song.
- People claim that she's saying 'we let the weirdness in'.
- "The Dreaming" (the faux Australian accent doesn't help)
- Intercourse with You - "Feel It" reminds us that love & lust can go together - and it was released when she was only 19! Another song, "The Sensual World", has these lyrics:
''And at first with the charm around him, mmh, yes,
He loosened it so if it slipped between my breasts
He'd rescue it, mmh, yes,''
And his spark took life in my hand...
- "Running up That Hill" involves the two lovers in question switching bodies and then finding out what sex is like for the other. Or, less magically, it may simply be an elliptical and metaphorical depiction of woman-on-man anal sex.
- "Symphony In Blue" doesn't even try to be implicit. "The more I think about sex, the better it gets!"
- "Wow", on the other hand, is entirely about stage actors. And that's all. It is not at all about ones reaction to having great sex, or about the expectation that you'll say these things even if the sex is only so-so.
- Kangaroo Court - The voices in "Waking the Witch" who chant "Guilty!" in unison give this impression.
- Large Ham: Kate's vocals can be ... dramatic. Her facial expressions in her videos, even more so.
- Lighter and Softer - Hounds of Love and The Sensual World, compared to The Dreaming.
- Lotus-Eater Machine - The computer in "Deeper Understanding".
- Mile-High Club - From the song "Do Bears" by Rowan Atkinson and Kate Bush (originally performed at Comic Relief 1986 and later included on one of the Not the Nine O'Clock News albums):
I met her in the first class lounge of a jumbo jet
It was love at first sight, Romeo and Juliet Kate:
He looked pretty rich and I was down on m' luck
So I charged him a fortune for a flying fu... Rowan: ...for crying out loud!
- Mouthful of Pi - She wrote a song called "π", about a mathematician who's fascinated with the number, and some verses consist of her singing a few hundred digits
- Ms. Fanservice: She didn't go there that often, but occasionally:
- The cover of Lionheart
- The Chainmail Bikini of "Babooshka" (which is also featured on the cover of the 1983 EP Kate Bush)
- My Beloved Smother: "Mother Stands for Comfort" is sung from the perspective of a girl who's ambivalent towards her overprotective mother.
- My Future Self and Me - "Jig of Life" from The Ninth Wave has the protagonist encounter her future self, who begs her to "let [her] live" by not dying.
- Near Death Experience - "The Ninth Wave" (the B-side of Hounds Of Love) is about a woman's frightening night alone while lost at sea. Unable to sleep ("And Dream of Sheep") because she's freezing to death ("Under Ice"), she briefly becomes psychotic and starts hallucinating about demonic voices ("Waking the Witch"). She thinks about her lover while possibly having an out-of-body experience ("Watching You Without Me"). She contemplates dying until a vision of her future self tells her to pull herself together and live through it for the sake of her (possibly unborn) children ("Jig of Life"). She calms down and decides she wants to live ("Hello Earth") and then the sun comes up and she gets rescued ("The Morning Fog").
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly - Her music sounds so "out there" to most of the general public that only genre that most people can agree that she is the very broad genre of "alternative rock", or "art rock".
- It becomes especially obvious on her album The Red Shoes with songs like "And So Is Love" "The Song of Solomon" and "Lily" practically sounding like their own genre.
- New Sound Album - The Dreaming, which is more loud and aggressive than her previous albums.
- Hounds of Love after that was a fusion of New Wave sounds (notably the Fairlight synth she first used on Never For Ever) and the Baroque Pop of her earlier work.
- Not So Different: Basically the point of "Pull Out The Pin".
- Ominous Latin Chanting - "Waking the Witch" has a chorus of female voices in the background praising God. And it is creepy.
- One-Woman Wail
- Reference Overdosed: The many, many references to film and literature in her work, as well as historical figures.
- Sampling: One of the first artists to make heavy use of the technology with the Fairlight CMI.
- Scare Chord - "Waking the Witch".
- Self-Backing Vocalist - Many of her songs feature multiple overdubs of Kate's voice.
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Hinted to be at least partly the case in "Babooshka". The wife who sets up the Two-Person Love Triangle to trap her husband in the act of infidelity is implied to have 'freezed on him', leading to him being easily tempted by a woman who reminded him of her before the tension arose between them — essentially, her own paranoia and bitterness over her suspicions of his infidelity are the main thing that led to him contemplating infidelity in the first place.
- Shut Up, Hannibal! - In The Line, the Cross and the Curve, toward the end:
: We have a lot in common
, you and I. It took me years to be rid of those shoes! You are so weak. So stupid. So...
Kate Bush: You're scared. You're scared, because you know you're losing your power over me.
- Sibling Team: Kate's brother Patrick (known as Paddy) has played on quite a few of her albums and was part of her backing band from the very beginning.
- Sleight of Tongue - Kate Bush depicted Houdini's trick in her song "Houdini" and on the cover of her album The Dreaming◊. Take a good look in her mouth.
- Snow Means Love - Used in the Flashback sections of the video for "This Woman's Work".
- Soprano and Gravel - Kate Bush used it in 1985 with "Waking The Witch". In this case she provided both voices: one track is her natural voice, the other is a drastically slowed down demonic growl.
- Also to some extent in "Don't Give Up", her duet with Peter Gabriel.
- Spoken Word in Music
- "Hounds of Love" opens with a sound clip from the film Night of the Demon: "It's in the trees... It's coming!" (Due to a longstanding fan/urban legend that she wrote an episode under a pseudonym, this is often mistakenly said to have come from an episode of Doctor Who.)
- There's a long, eerie instrumental break near the end of "Breathing" with a recording of a man describing the effects of a nuclear bomb.
- "Houdini:" "Rosabelle, believe!"
''Oh thou, who givest sustenance to the universe
From whom all things proceed
To whom all things return
Unveil to us the face of the true spiritual sun
Hidden by a disc of golden light
That we may know the truth
And do our whole duty
As we journey to thy sacred feet''
- "The Fog" opens with Kate Bush saying "You see, I'm all grown up now." Then her father says "Just put your feet down, child, 'cause you're all grown up now."
- "50 Words for Snow" also prominently features Stephen Fry reciting 50 words for snow.
- The 12" version of "The Big Sky" has a section of various voices discussing the shapes of clouds.
- Much of side B of Hounds of Love has it, which makes sense since it's a mini-concept album that tells a story.
- Summon Backup Dancers: In the video for "The Dreaming".
- Surreal Music Video: "Running Up That Hill" is mostly a interpretive dance routine, but has an element of surrealism to it, like when Kate and her partner get separated from each other in a sea of people wearing masks of their faces.
- The video for "The Dreaming" is pretty weird too, being mostly Kate dancing and singing outdoors in the moonlight in what we can assume is meant to be the Australian outback.
- The video for "The Big Sky" is probably the weirdest thing she's ever done, involving the following: Kate outside on top of a building looking through binoculars; falconry; Kate in a raincoat/dressed as a firefighter/as a pirate; Kate wearing a silver jumpsuit and goggles and dancing onstage while men in military uniforms play guitar; an astronaut; Superman; a bunch of people holding national flags, and a Dance Party Ending.
- "Sat In Your Lap" has a pretty weird video featuring Kate wearing a white dress and a Dunce Cap, roller-skating, jesters, and guys dressed as minotaurs. Also, the part where Kate stares unnervingly into the camera while she sings the bridge.
- Two-Person Love Triangle - "Babooshka" is this gone very, very wrong.
- Unrequited Love Lasts Forever: "Never Be Mine".
- Vocal Evolution - Kate Bush had a tendency to use the upper range of her voice in her early work, but shifted to a more natural singing style later on. Compare the version of "Wuthering Heights" on her debut to the one on her Greatest Hits Album The Whole Story. Her voice is quite low in her more recent recordings (most noticeable when comparing her Director's Cut remakes with those from the original albums).
- Wild Hair
- Word Salad Title: "Suspended in Gaffa" (ie. gaffer tape); "There Goes a Tenner" (ie. a bank note); "Army Dreamers"; "Rubberband Girl"; probably many more.
Works, people, and other things that inspired Kate songs:
- Wuthering Heights
- Hammer Horror
- The Innocents - "The Infant Kiss"
- Elvis Presley - "King of the Mountain"
- Joan of Arc - "Joanni"
- The Shining - "Get Out of My House"
- Peter Pan - "In Search of Peter Pan"
- The Red Shoes 1948
- Ulysses - "The Sensual World"
- The Vietnam War - "Pull Out the Pin"
- Harry Houdini - "Houdini"
- Houdini's most famous trick was the Chinese Water Torture Cell. In the song she is Houdini's wife/assistant, and she passes him the key to the locks via a kiss just before he goes into the tank. The line right before that one is, "With a kiss I'd pass the key, and feel your tongue teasing and deceiving..." The tone is foreshadowing Houdini's death during the trick later in the song, which unfortunately is not doing the research — Houdini died of peritonitis.
- The 1953 film Houdini starring Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis, does however, end with Houdini dying in the Chinese Water Torture cell and not of peritonitis. If we assume that Kate saw the movie then she most definitely *did* do the research.
- The Bride Wore Black - "The Wedding List"
- The Abominable Snowman - "Wild Man"
- Wilhelm Reich - "Cloudbusting". Specifically, she read a biography by Reich's son, a copy of which appears as a Shout-Out in the music video. See Artistic License for the whole story.
And if I only could, I'd make a deal with God, and I'd get him to swap our places
Be running up that road, be running up that hill, with no problems.