Wednesday, 3 July 2013
At the moment, when the Beeb can find an episode that doesn’t seem to feature anybody related to Operation Yewtree, the “Top Of The Pops” shows re-running on BBC4 come from the first half of 1978, at a time when Kate Bush made several appearances in relation to her chart topping debut single, “Wuthering Heights”. My wife and I cannot get through any TV show without doing some Beavis & Butthead style directors commentary, and whenever Kate turns up, the comments come thick and fast, in relation to the acts who later were “inspired” by her whole act. “Is this the new single by Florence And The Machine” is the popular one, often followed by the classic - now celebrating it’s 20th anniversary - comment, “I never knew Tori Amos sang this one”. The oldies are always the best.
But what’s more shocking is that my wife will then say, “actually I don’t really get Kate Bush”. This is then met with a jaw dropping response of disbelief on my part, a stony silence as I am unable to comprehend how such a statement can even be uttered in public. Maybe it’s a Man Thing. Mention Kate’s name to most red blooded men, and they turn into gibbering wrecks, drooling at the mouth. To most of us, she is a goddess, a woman who has made music that often defies description, and whose allure in recent years has only increased as she has turned into a Scott Walker style enigma, spending years in the wilderness, returning now and then with a new record, then disappearing again. She hasn’t toured for over 30 years, and seems unlikely to ever again, and yet single-handedly reinvented the concert performance, indulging in theatrical presentations that pre-dated Lady Gaga by several decades.
2013 marks the 35th anniversary of “Wuthering Heights”, so I thought now is as good a time as any to celebrate the genius of this woman, especially now she is Kate Bush CBE.
1977 - 1989
The lead single, “Wuthering Heights”, based squarely on the Emily Bronte novel of the same name, was Kate’s choice of single, and was planned to be issued in the fall of 1977. However, Kate was reportedly unhappy with the sleeve design, and the release was held up whilst adjustments were made, although I am unable to work out quite what the problem was. The 45 was eventually released in 1978, and made it to the top of the charts - not bad for a debut single by a slightly kooky teenager from Kent. The single was so popular that the initial print run sold out, and thousands of repressings had to be produced, but without picture sleeves, to cut down on manufacturing costs. Some 1980’s repressings exist which do use the original picture sleeve once more.
“The Kick Inside” was a success, both critically and commercially. Like much of Kate’s output, it’s not an easy record to describe genre-wise. Like Bowie, it’s easiest to just describe her as a singer songwriter, but this gives no real clue as to how “out there” some of her material is. Her vocals hit unbelievable notes on “Strange Phenomena”, high octaves one minute, deep and booming the next. “James And The Cold Gun” is the closest she ever got to making a sort of rock and roll record, “Feel It” is nothing more than Kate and piano. Art rock, avant garde, prog, these are all labels which have been thrown as this record, but it feels like all of them and none of them at the same time.
Another piano ballad, the sumptuous “The Man With The Child In His Eyes” was issued as the next single, and featured a newly recorded intro, Kate crying the words “He’s Here”, over and over before the song starts proper. The video used the same mix, and is available on several collections that were issued in later years, such as 1986’s “The Whole Story”.
EMI were determined to cash in on the success of the album and it’s attendant 45’s, and so Kate found herself being herded into the studio to quickly tape a follow up LP. “Lionheart” was issued in late 1978, and has long been dismissed as being something of a flawed effort, not least by the lady herself. It’s not a disaster, but it veers dangerously close to MOR at times, and seems to lack the strange aura of the debut. Two singles were released from the album, the first, the slightly spooky “Hammer Horror” failed to dent the top 40, thus making the idea of rush releasing the album in the first place a bit of a failure. The follow up, “Wow”, did better, although Kate later showed dissatisfaction with the promo video, and thus created a totally new clip for the “Whole Story” video collection. On the original LP, the track before “Wow” segued straight into it, so for the single release, it faded in slightly later - again, this mix was used for the video version as well.
Kate then undertook, quite famously, her first and last “proper” tour, although she had toured the pub circuit in 1977 in the run up to the release of the first LP. “The Tour Of Life”, as it became unofficially known, was a full blown stage extravaganza, the first major tour where the singer wore a headset-microphone contraption...indeed, the music almost took second place at times - the performance of “Hammer Horror” was just that, a performance - Kate miming her way through the song, without even making any attempt to pretend she was singing, as it was all about the “art” and theatrics of her performance.
There have been plenty of thoughts as to why it would turn out, one off TV shows apart, to be her only live gigs. Fear of flying, stage fright, the death of one of the crew on the tour upsetting her badly, getting so embroiled in getting later albums just right, that she was then not up to touring said record...take your pick. An EP featuring four songs taped on the tour, at a Hammersmith Odeon show, was later issued as the “On Stage” EP, pressed at 33rpm and housed in either a gatefold or single sleeve. A video was later issued documenting - allegedly - the same show (some people claim that the four songs from the EP sound different to the VHS), entitled “Live At Hammersmith Odeon”, whilst the early 1990’s saw a revamped CD+VHS version of the original Video release, as part of EMI’s “Sound And Vision” double pack series.
If “Lionheart” was an AOR-style misstep, then 1980’s “Never For Ever” was anything but. It was a far more ethereal, vibrant and at times, mind bogglingly creative effort, with the three singles lifted from the album showcasing the sheer manic diversity on offer. “Babooshka”, which starts with a gentle finger-clicking style drum pattern, sounding like the theme tune from a BBC1 cop show, erupts into a big booming shriek of a chorus - in the video, this change of pace was reflected with Kate appearing on screen in a Xena Warrior Princess style bikini get up - still to this day, an iconic image. “Breathing” is a slightly terrifying piece of left field pop, a beautiful piece of piano balladry which masks the incredibly dark lyrics, which tells the story of a foetus, totally aware of a nuclear fallout occurring whilst it is still in the womb, before climaxing with an astonishing vocal performance, as Kate more or less screams the final few lines of the song in a fit of anguish. “Army Dreamers”, an anti-war diatribe, is a sort of Oom-Pah band waltz, and shows how in order for some of the album to work, there was no need for “James And The Cold Gun” style rock guitars, nor the relentless drumming as evident in the chorus of something like “Don’t Push Your Foot on The Heartbrake”. The songs are allowed to breath, whatever is felt necessary to make the songs work is used, whatever isn’t, isn’t.
Having not really gone down the B-sides route in the 70’s, all of the singles lifted from the LP included new non-album material on their flipsides. Some of this material deserved to be on the record itself, most noticeably the unbelievably, beautifully melodic “Passing Through Air”, reportedly taped as far back as 1973. More new material appeared later the same year when Kate put out two new songs on a Christmas single, “December Will Be Magic Again”. Two different versions of the a-side exist, the other version being tossed away on a Christmas compilation LP at round about the same time, which has never appeared on a Kate record ever since. The single mix of the track has, however, resurfaced on B-sides of singles, and on the 1990 box set “This Woman’s Work”.
And yet, when “The Dreaming” was released in 1982, everything seemed to go slightly wrong. It has long been dismissed as the album where Kate “lost it”, where her experimental/alternative pop sound went too far to the left, and confused people. It’s certainly a strange record at time - a didgeridoo solo on the title track, Kate adopting an Australian accent on the same song, and a Cockney Wide Boy slant on “There Goes A Tenner”, somebody doing an impression of a donkey on “Get Out Of My House”. It was a long way from the slightly hippy looking image of Kate that adorned “Never For Ever”, the cover of this one showed Kate with a lovely bouffant hair-do, all sexed up, whilst musically, it’s the polar opposite of the MOR-esque “Lionheart”. But I really like this record, and in recent years, opinion on the album has been a lot more positive, it’s now seen as a vital cog in the Kate Bush machine, the record which got her attention on US College Radio, and seems to fit the “kooky” tag which follows her around perfectly.
The title track was lifted as a single in preparation for the album’s release, complete with an instrumental take of the same song called “Dreamtime” on the flip, but the single stalled outside the top 40. “There Goes A Tenner” was a major flop, despite also including new material on the flip, a French language recording called “Ne T’en Fui Pas”. A remixed version of this song was later issued in it’s own right as a French 45, which included a French language version of an earlier song, “The Infant Kiss”, on the flip.
In 1983, Kate issued a boxset of her singles so far called “The Single File”. It included repressings, in their original sleeves, of all 11 UK 45’s that had been released up to that point, plus the “Ne T’En Fui Pas” release and the “On Stage” EP. It has long been a desirable item amongst collectors, not only because of the sizeable amount of B-sides it includes (many of which are still not easily available), and a UK release for a French only 45, but also the fact that it made these singles with their picture covers available once more. However, copies don’t come cheap, and it may be cheaper - but more long winded - in trying to track down the originals, although you might struggle to find “Wuthering Heights” and “The Man With The Child In His Eyes” for less than a tenner each. Also issued at the same time was a VHS collection, using a “Babooshka” image, and featuring all of Kate’s promos so far, including a clip for “Them Heavy People” from the “On Stage” EP (but not actually filmed on stage), and the non-UK single “Suspended in Gaffa”.
Although it was unlikely to be obvious at the time, but “The Single File” did mark a turning point for Kate’s career. Because her next album was her undisputed classic, 1985’s “Hounds Of Love”. Whilst a lot of albums released slap bang in the middle of the eighties often got dragged down by the bland production techniques that blighted so many records in that decade, Kate actually used the technology, the Linn drums and the Fairlight synths, to give her music a glossy sheen that was more or less absent from “The Dreaming”, and in doing so, created a bright and bold record. The record had a real warmth to it, which Kate’s vocals suited perfectly, and critics fell in love with it.
The album was split into two halves, with side 2 of the record being given it’s own title, “The Ninth Wave”, as each of the songs were designed to tell the story of somebody being “alone in the water at night...to stop them going to sleep until the morning comes”. On side 1, four of the five songs were issued as singles, all of them sizeable hits, the last of which, “The Big Sky”, appeared in a new “Special Single Mix”. Although a number of earlier Kate 45’s had been edited or revamped slightly from their original album mixes, the variants were deemed so minor that the sleeve never mentioned that the single had been adapted from the LP mix, but “The Big Sky” was so described on it’s sleeve. All four singles were given the promo video treatment, and a VHS containing all four clips was later issued as “The Hair Of The Hound”.
In 1986, Kate released her first greatest hits LP, “The Whole Story”. It included a new song, “Experiment IV”, and a re-recorded “Wuthering Heights” (well, the vocals were new). Quite what the point of this was, apart from to show that eight years on, she was now struggling to hit the high note in the middle, I don’t really know. “Experiment IV” was issued as Kate’s next single, with the revamped “Heights” on the flipside, and an accompanying VHS release was also issued, consisting of only selected highlights of Kate’s past. Although two different videos for “Wuthering Heights” were in the vaults, the version included here was the same one that had appeared on “The Single File”.
In 1989, Kate’s sixth studio LP “The Sensual World” was released. It was always going to struggle to top “Hounds Of Love”, but it’s still a sterling effort. It more or less follows the same lush, melodic, vibe that “Hounds Of Love” had achieved, but doesn’t quite hit some of the epic highs of it’s predecessor. The stand out track is probably “This Woman’s Work”, a mostly piano driven piece that showcases Kate’s astonishing vocal range, and remains one of her finest singles to date. Three songs were lifted from the LP to be released as singles, and another VHS called “The Sensual World: The Videos” appeared during 1990.
“This Woman’s Work”
Like the “Single File” box, there are people who would kill for the CD edition of this release. The reason is that this box is, to date, still the only place you can get most of those old B-sides on Compact Disc, although a few trickled out on a half hearted reissue of “Hounds Of Love” a few years later.
The box purported to be an overview of everything Kate had recorded thus far, but one or two things were missing. Single mixes were out, whilst the instrumental mixes of “The Dreaming” and “Running Up That Hill” were also absent. Also AWOL was one of the “Love And Anger” b-sides, “The Confrontation”. It’s difficult to know why this particular one is missing, as there seems to be more than enough space on the boxset to squeeze one more song on.
The running order is well thought out. Volume 1 includes the b-sides from the “Never For Ever” LP, followed by both sides of the “December” 45. You then get the “proper” b-sides from “The Dreaming” album, and the French version of “The Infant Kiss”. The rest of the disc features all of the b-sides from the “Hounds Of Love” album, and a couple of B-sides from 1989.
Volume 2, a double in the vinyl version of the boxset, carries on where volume 1 left off, starting with the “other” b-side of “This Woman’s Work”, “I’m Still Waiting”, two of the three B-sides of “Love And Anger”, and both of the new songs that appeared on “The Whole Story”. You then get the “On Stage” EP, and the 12” mixes of all of the singles released in 1985 and 86. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty damn good, and a brilliant introduction to the lady. Suffice to say, such is the demand for this (now deleted) release, that copies don’t come cheap.
1991 And Beyond
Given that Kate was starting to take longer between albums, the appearance of a new single a year after the box was quite exciting. Kate was one of a number of artists invited to contribute to the Elton John tribute album “Two Rooms”. She covered “Rocket Man” which was then issued as a single in November 91. Apparently, this was later voted the greatest cover version of all time in one newspaper, which is strange, because her cod-reggae version is arguably her worst ever single! Hey ho. Far better was her hymn like rendition of “Candle In The Wind” on the flipside.
Kate’s next LP was 1993’s “The Red Shoes”, again, taking it’s title from a pop culture reference, this time the 1948 movie of the same name. It had been planned to issue “Eat The Music” as the lead single in the UK, and a handful of copies were pressed, before the release was withdrawn and “Rubberband Girl” was chosen to be the lead UK 45 instead. Whilst genuine UK copies of “Eat The Music” are worth a small fortune, the single was given a full scale commercial release overseas, and import CD singles used to be quite easy to get hold of. “Rubberband Girl” was trailed by a “teaser” promo CD, which featured a spoken word section of some of the lyrics, but with no Kate and no music at all present!
“The Red Shoes” was probably Kate’s weakest album since “Lionheart”. You would have thought, having survived the 80’s, that she would have turned in something extra special, but “The Red Shoes”, at times, suffers from being too clinical, from being a bit too poppy, and a bit too polished. “Rubberband Girl” just seems a bit of a throwaway, too “upbeat”, the mysterious sound of “The Dreaming” now replaced by something a bit more, well, nearly mainstream.
Part of the problem was that the album was recorded digitally, giving it a very clean and glossy sound, whilst the decision to try and record the album with minimal studio gimmicks, and with more of a live band feel, helped to give the album a shiny sheen it could really do without. The reason for the latter, was so that the songs would be easier to play on stage as Kate hoped to go back out on the road, but no tour ever materialised.
It’s not all bad - indeed “Moments Of Pleasure” is this album’s “This Woman’s Work”, a towering piece of piano balladry/baroque pop, and issued as the second single during December 1993. 12” copies of the single included a new B-side called “Home For Christmas”, unavailable anywhere else since, unless you know otherwise.
Following the release of the title track as a single, which appeared on two different CD editions, in different covers, with different mixes of the A-side on each, Kate released another “stand alone” 45, as her cover of “The Man I Love” (from “The Glory Of Gershwin”) was issued as a single by Mercury. It was then followed by the fourth and final single from “The Red Shoes”, “And So Is Love”, which came backed with US remixes of a couple of tracks from the LP. Following the release of a VHS called “The Line The Cross And The Curve”, a mini movie featuring all the singles from the LP, that was it. I saw Kate in the flesh at a film premiere in late 94, and then she disappeared.
In the years that followed, there were regular rumours of a new studio LP, but the longer the wait went on, the cult of Kate grew bigger. By the time she officially announced the release of a new album in 2005, “Aerial”, she had become somebody whose mere name caused ripples of excitement - now averaging an album per decade, but with a fan base ready to worship any new material, and with critics fawning over her like never before. The album, which like “Hounds Of Love” was split into two halves (one CD each), was previewed by the “King of The Mountain” 45, which came backed with her take on Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing”.
As her personal life took precedence, Kate once again disappeared after the release of the album, before coming back in 2011 with not one but two LP’s. The first, “Director’s Cut”, was an album full of remakes, consisting entirely of songs from “The Sensual World” and “The Red Shoes”, in attempt to improve on the original recordings by using analogue - and not digital - recording techniques. This was then followed by a “proper” album, “50 Words For Snow”. Despite having a running time in excess of an hour, there are only seven songs on the album - totally prog - but it’s an engrossing listen, even though she came in for some stick with the lyrics. For every bunch of fan boys who thought the words were wonderful, there was at least one person who thought she was just singing a load of nonsense. Nonetheless, it’s a charming LP, and proof that thirty plus years after her debut, Kate was still capable of creating something overworldly.
And what next? Well, after a rumoured appearance at the Olympics Ceremony simply didn’t happen, I am not quite sure. In theory, there should be no new album until 2017, but you never know with this woman. Florence And The Machine will probably have a new record out before then, if you fancy something good, but not quite the real deal.
As ever. The list below is based around what you both really need to get, and what you can get away with buying if you own the 1990 boxset. Some formats not listed are because their sister format(s) include material unavailable anywhere else in the UK. Several Kate singles appeared on picture disc as well as in standard picture covers, so I have listed all relevant formats where this is the case. As for the albums, well, one or two have been reissued, but with nothing that exciting - if anything - so the original CD pressings are shown for all.
KATE STUDIO ALBUMS
The Kick Inside (CD, EMI CDP 7 46012 2)
Lionheart (CD, EMI CDP 7 46065 2)
Never For Ever (CD, EMI CDP 7 46360 2)
The Dreaming (CD, EMI CDP 7 46361 2)
Hounds Of Love (CD, EMI CDP 7 46164 2)
The Sensual World (CD, EMI CDEMD 1010)
The Red Shoes (CD, EMI CDEMD 1047)
Aerial (2xCD, EMI 343 960 2)
Director’s Cut (3xCD, Fish People FPCDX 001, includes “The Sensual World” and “The Red Shoes” as bonus albums)
50 Words For Snow (CD, Fish People FPCD 007)
The Single File (VHS, Picture Music MVP 99 1031 2, Music Club reissue from 1992 probably easier to find)
The Hair Of The Hound (VHS, Picture Music MVR 99 0053 2)
The Whole Story (VHS, Picture Music MVP 9911432)
The Sensual World (VHS, Music Club MC 2114)
Live At Hammersmith Odeon (CD + VHS, Picture Music 7243 491306 3)
The Line The Cross And The Curve (VHS, Picture Music 7243 4911853 3)
SELECTED UK 45’s
Wuthering Heights/Kite (7”, EMI 2719, initial copies in p/s, later reissued on Old Gold with different b-side [OG 9380])
The Man With The Child In His Eyes (7” Mix)/Moving (7”, EMI 2806, later copies issued in EMI company bags)
Hammer Horror/Coffee Homeground (7”, EMI 2887)
Wow (7” Mix)/Fullhouse (7”, EMI 2911)
On Stage EP: Them Heavy People (Live)/Don’t Push Your Foot On The Heartbrake (Live)/James And The Cold Gun (Live)/L’Amour Looks Something Like You (Live) (7”, EMI MIEP 2991, in gatefold sleeve or single sleeve)
Breathing (7” Mix)/The Empty Bullring (7”, EMI 5058)
Babooshka/Ran Tan Waltz (7”, EMI 5085)
Army Dreamers (7” Mix)/Delius/Passing Through Air (7”, EMI 5106)
Some Edited Highlights From Her New Album: Delius (Edit)/Blow Away (Edit)/Egypt (Edit) (7” flexidisc, EMI SFI 562)
December Will Be Magic Again (7” Mix)/Warm And Soothing (7”, EMI 5121)
Sat In Your Lap (7” Mix)/Lord Of The Reedy River (7”, EMI 5201)
The Dreaming (7” Mix)/Dreamtime (7”, EMI 5296)
There Goes A Tenner/Ne T’en Fui Pas (7”, EMI 5350)
Running Up The Hill (Extended Version)/Under The Ivy/Running Up The Hill (Instrumental) (12”, EMI 12 KB1)
Cloudbusting/Burning Bridge (7”, EMI KB2)
Cloudbusting (The Organon Re-Mix)/Burning Bridge/My Lagan Love (12”, EMI 12 KB2)
Hounds Of Love/The Handsome Cabin Boy (7”, EMI KB3)
Hounds Of Love (Alternative)/Jig Of Life/The Handsome Cabin Boy (12”, EMI 12 KB3)
The Big Sky (Special Single Mix)/Not This Time (7”, EMI KB4)
The Big Sky (Special Single Mix)/Not This Time (7” Picture Disc in clear sleeve, EMI KBP4)
The Big Sky (Meteorological Mix)/Not This Time/The Morning Fog (12”, EMI 12 KB4)
Experiment IV/Wuthering Heights (New Vocal) (7”, EMI KB5)
Experiment IV (12” Mix)/Wuthering Heights (New Vocal)/Experiment IV (12”, EMI 12 KB5)
The Sensual World (LP Mix)/(Instrumental)/Walk Straight Down The Middle (Double Grooved 12”, EMI 12 EM 102)
The Sensual World (LP Mix)/(Instrumental)/Walk Straight Down The Middle (CD, EMI CDEM 102)
This Woman’s Work (7” Mix)/Be Kind To My Mistakes (7”, EMI 119)
This Woman’s Work (7” Mix)/Be Kind To My Mistakes (7” Picture Disc in clear sleeve, EMI EMPD 119)
This Woman’s Work (7” Mix)/Be Kind To My Mistakes/I’m Still Waiting (12”, EMI 12 EM 119)
This Woman’s Work (7” Mix)/Be Kind To My Mistakes/I’m Still Waiting (12” in poster sleeve, different sleeve design, EMI 12 EMP 119)
This Woman’s Work (7” Mix)/Be Kind To My Mistakes/I’m Still Waiting (CD, EMI CDEM 119)
Love And Anger/Ken/The Confrontation/One Last Look Around The House Before We Go... (12”, EMI 12 EM 134)
Love And Anger/Ken/The Confrontation/One Last Look Around The House Before We Go... (CD, EMI CDEM 134)
Rocket Man/Candle In The Wind (Vocal)/(Instrumental) (CD, Mercury TRICD 2)
Rocket Man/Candle In The Wind (Vocal)/(Instrumental) (12”, Mercury TRIB2 12)
Rubberband Girl/Big Stripey Lie (7”, EMI EM 280)
Rubberband Girl (LP Mix)/(Extended Mix)/Big Stripey Lie (CD, EMI CDEM 280)
Rubberband Girl (Extended Mix)/(LP Mix)/Big Stripey Lie (12” Picture Disc in clear sleeve with backing insert, EMI 12 EMPD 280)
Moments Of Pleasure (Album Version)/(Instrumental)/Home For Christmas (12” in fold out poster bag, EMI 12 EMP 297)
Moments Of Pleasure/Show A Little Devotion/December Will Be Magic Again (7” Mix)/Experiment IV (CD, EMI CDEM 297, a “limited edition” boxset edition with alt. cat number exists, with 4 colour prints, but doesn’t play “Show A Little Devotion”)
The Red Shoes/You Want Alchemy (7”, EMI EM 316)
The Red Shoes/You Want Alchemy (Cassette, EMI TCEM 316)
The Red Shoes/You Want Alchemy/Cloudbusting (Video Mix)/This Woman’s Work (CD1, EMI CDEMS 316)
Shoedance (The Red Shoes Dance Mix)/The Big Sky (Special Single Mix)/Running Up That Hill (Extended Version) (CD2 in unique p/s, EMI CDEM 316)
The Man I Love +1 (7”, Mercury MER 408)
The Man I Love +2 (CD, Mercury MERCD 408)
And So Is Love/Rubberband Girl (US Mix) (7” Picture Disc in clear sleeve with poster, EMI EMPD 355)
And So Is Love/Rubberband Girl (US Mix)/Eat The Music (US Mix) (CD, EMI CDEM 355, limited edition copies include 3 prints [CDEMS 355])
King Of The Mountain/Sexual Healing (7” Picture Disc in clear sleeve, EMI EM 674)
King Of The Mountain/Sexual Healing (CD, EMI CDEM 674)
Lake Tahoe/Among Angels (10” Picture Disc, Fish People FPSPD 003)
Running Up That Hill (2012 Remix)/Walk Straight Down The Middle (10” Picture Disc, Fish People FPSPD 004)
Note: although the EP versions of “The Sensual World” are the only way to get hold of the Instrumental mix of the A-side in the UK, the track did appear on an overseas EP called “Aspects Of The Sensual World”. The 7” edition of “The Sensual World” (EM 102) includes “Walk Straight Down the Middle” on the b-side. It is also worth pointing out that several overseas releases are of interest in addition to the aforementioned “Eat The Music”, pick of the bunch being the North American only “Kate Bush” mini album from 1983, also housed in a classic “Babooshka” sleeve (12”, EMI America MLP-19004).