In 2005 Kate Bush released ‘Aerial’, her eighth studio album and her first in twelve years. There could be a similarly extended gap before we hear the next one, but the singer’s recent lack of productivity hasn’t affected the depth and reach of her influence. You need only listen to recent albums by the likes of Bat For Lashes, Fever Ray, St Vincent and Charlotte Hatherley to appreciate Kate’s continuing relevance to contemporary female musicians.
Clash temporarily adopted the mindset of one of Bush’s legions of obsessive fans in order to unearth a dozen fascinating Kate facts…
Kate Bush was the first woman to have a UK Number One with a self-written song; also, her 1980 album ‘Never For Ever’ made her the first British solo female artist to top the UK album charts, and the first female artist ever to enter the album chart at Number One. Given that all this was attained when reaching the summit of the charts was the musical equivalent of climbing Everest, that’s a quite staggering achievement.
Kate’s work has found favour in some far-flung corners of the music industry. For instance, Andre 3000 adores the music of Kate Bush. “Kate Bush’s music opened my mind up,” the dandyish Outkast member once gushed. “She was so bugged-out, man, but I felt her. She’s so fuckin’ dope, so underrated and so off the radar.” John Lydon is similarly enraptured by the Bexleyheath-born songstress. “Kate Bush is a true original,” the former Sex Pistol once said. “It’s not nice that she’s been imitated [by artists like] Torrid Aimless, sorry, Tori Amos.” Ouch!
Indeed, Lydon went as far as to write a song for Kate in the form of a little number entitled ‘Bird In Hand’. The lyrics concerned – but of course! – the illegal exportation of parrots from South America. “I don’t think she understood it,” he said back in 2007. “I think she thought it was a reference to her, which it certainly wasn’t!”
In 1979 Kate carried out The Tour Of Life, a twenty-eight-date trek around the UK. It might as well have been called The Only Tour Of Her Life, as Kate has not toured since.
In a stunningly premature move, the NME featured Kate Bush in a ‘Where Are They Now?’ article in August 1985. By the end of the year, her album ‘Hounds Of Love’ – generally regarded as her masterpiece – had reached Number One in the UK album charts.
Kate once politely declined a request by Erasure to produce one of their albums. “We got to meet her and everything but she didn’t feel that that was her area,” Vince Clarke admitted. “It would have been great if she could have done it but that’s just the way it goes.” Is Clash alone in thinking that this doomed collaboration had the potential for amazingness?
She shares a birthday with Emily Brontë. Kate’s debut single, ‘Wuthering Heights’, is, of course, based on Brontë’s novel of the same name. Uncanny, isn’t it?
There was a twelve-year gap between Kate’s 1993 album ‘The Red Shoes’ and her next full-length release, ‘Aerial’. Kate’s epic silence generated a feverish level of expectancy – it even inspired a novel, John Mendelssohn’s Waiting For Kate Bush, which concerned the inhabitants of a boarding house in which a group of obsessive Kate fans whiled away the time while awaiting their heroine’s return to public view. One of its characters is a Bush obsessive who sent the singer two thousand unanswered e-mails.
Kate’s prolonged absence from the fold gave rise to a number of rumours. Perhaps the sweetest of these – literally as well as figuratively – was a story about a visit of some EMI executives to Kate’s country retreat. It’s claimed that the singer boldly announced, “Here’s what I’ve been working on,” before producing some cakes from her oven. In a 2005 interview, however, Kate denied this ever happened. “I don’t know where that came from. I thought that was quite funny actually. It presents me as this homely creature, which is all right, isn’t it?”
It seems that Kate has never had a problem with seeming homely. In 1980 Bush appeared on Delia Smith’s cookery show. Footage of this appearance is available on YouTube. It is very 1980. Kate talks about being a vegetarian (“One day I had a stew and there was a bit of meat in the stew and it was so raw that I just identified immediately that this was an animal and I just thought, ‘No, I’m not into this’”) and shows off some of her favourite dishes. One of Kate’s featured dishes is a Waldorf Salad. “I notice you’ve left the skins on the apples and I like that,” says Delia. “Yes, there’s so much natural goodness in the skins,” notes Kate, sagely. Kate’s comments on nuts are similarly insightful: “There are things that I think people miss out on because they think there’s a very select area where you use nuts but I think you can use them in anything.” “I agree,” said Delia.
Although EMI treated the young Kate Bush sensitively (the teenage Kate spent the first two years of her contract receiving funded dance classes in preparation for the limelight), they didn’t fail to capitalise on her good looks during early promotional campaigns. One particularly striking photo featured Bush in a tight pink vest. It’s a fair bet that many teenage boys (and some girls, too), er, ‘enjoyed’ the photo at various points during the late Seventies. At the 2001 Q Awards – at which Kate was awarded the Classic Songwriter award – one male attendee was apparently led to state, “There’s not a man over forty here who can look at Kate Bush in the eye!”
“I’ve just come!” Those were the words uttered excitedly by Kate when accepting her Q Award.
Words by Christopher Monk