Kate Bush is anything but cool. Yet despite her oddness, particularly her brand of pop music, she hit a strange accord with me early in my teens. The first ever Kate Bush song that I heard was from her third album Never for Ever (1980) called Babooshka. My sister played it to death and for a while it drove me crazy. Years later I heard Running Up That Hill on the radio and I fell in love with Kate Bush. Just simply the haunting mood of the song was enough for me to convince my mum to buy me Hounds of Love (1985), which I secretly tucked in between my KISS albums so my sister wouldn’t get her hands on it.
In my opinion, Kate Bush is one of the greatest female artists of all time. Seriously, most artists would die for a back catalogue so widely diverse and original in concept like Kate Bush. Interestingly, like Fiona Apple, Kate records at snail pace when it suits her. It’s something she didn’t intentional set out to do, but it definitely made her fans savour the moment when eventually a new album was released. In total , Kate has released ten studio albums of which I have The Kick Inside (1978), Never For Ever (1980), The Dreaming (1982), Hounds of Love (1985) and The Sensual World (1989). You might wonder why I am missing the rest of her catalogue? I have to admit, I have no real reason, other than to say that in the 90’s, while she contemplated life, I discovered Pearl Jam and alternative rock. That said, with Kate unintentionally put aside, it opened the door for me to discover her many imitators like Tori Amos and Bjork, who easily filled that void of eclectic rock.
Kate Bush’s music overall is a remarkable piece of art, from the first sounds of high pierced shrill of Wuthering Heights (at only the age of 19) until the equally bizarre closing of electronic beats of Wildman, released as her lead single for the album 50 Words For Snow (2011). In between, Kate has left us (so far) a wonderful legacy of songs that showcase her originality as an artist. Here below are a few of my favourites that are worth mentioning.
Sat In Your Lap (taken from The Dreaming, 1982.)
The pounding drums and shrills of Sat In Your Lap (1982), maybe one of the most bizarre songs I have ever heard, but you cannot fault Kate’s brave attempt to push the boundaries of experimental pop. I absolutely love it. Deciphering its meaning though can be a challenge, but in essence lyrically it is about the quest for knowledge.
Running Up That Hill (taken from Hounds of Love, 1985.)
I can’t make a short list of influential favourite Kate Bush songs without mentioning Running Up That Hill. It is arguably her most famous song where the rolling sounds of drums and delicate synths, equally matched by her haunting vocals give us a pure feeling of wonder. I look back at this song now and lyrics like “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/ Be running up that building/ See if I only could, oh….” and consider it to be one of the greatest songs ever made. The fact that it came out of the ‘overproduced’ 1980’s makes it even more special.
Don’t Give Up (taken from Peter Gabriels album So, 1986.)
Kate Bush throughout her career managed to collaborate with many great artists such as Elton John, Prince and Peter Gabriel. Kate’s reassuring voice in Don’t Give Up with Peter Gabriel (from his album So 1986,) is one of my favourite songs I listen to for inspiration. Although Gabriel deserves credit for its creation, there is no way it would have worked without Kate’s brilliant vocals, to create one of the best duets in music history. Its central theme about adversity and overcoming obstacles really tugs at your heartstrings.
Cloudbusting (taken from Hounds of Love, 1985.)
Kate’s own ability to break hearts and leave us sobbing other than Don’t Give Up is best felt in her own songs such as Suspended In Gaffa(1982), Moment Of Pleasure (1993) and The Man With The Child In His Eyes (1978) and Cloudbusting (1985). The latter is one of a handful of exceptional songs taken from the album Hounds of Love that still moves me, some thirty-five years since its release. In short, Cloudbusting ebbs and flows with its wonderful string arrangement before eventually building to its choir climax. Moreover, only Kate as an artist could ever find inspiration from Peter Reich’s memoir ‘A Book of Dreams’ to write this gem. Interestingly, for the music video Kate plays a young Peter Reich whose controversial psychoanalyst father (Wilhelm Reich) invented an alleged rain-making machine.
Violin (taken from Never For Ever, 1980.)
If there’s any doubt that Kate Bush is anything but cool, it is by way of one of my favourite tracks from Never For Ever called Violin. In short, it contains a wonderful and completely bizarre vocal performances from Kate. Her famous shriek is so loud here that it can be heard for miles around. I kid you not! Even more impressive is Kate’s ability to mix it up, making Violin a surprisingly straightforward rocker, a song seemingly about Kate’s own anxiety and resentment over the violin.
Babooshka (taken from Never For Ever, 1980.)
Finally, I would like to leave you with a song I’ve had a love-hate relationship with most of my life. It is called Babooshka (1980), which I mentioned earlier on. Why it drove me crazy was probably due to my reluctance to embrace its undertow of eastern folk influences (and the fact that my sister played it to death!) However years later, I came to appreciate its genius, especially the clever accompanying music video for the song. The song a story of a wife’s desire to test her husbands loyalty, by taking on the pseudonym of femme fatale named Babooshka, is Kate Bush’s greatest creation.
Note: This featured article was originally published in 2017, but has been moved to the front pages to further highlight this site’s original content.
Good article. I have to disagree with you on the point about Bjork and Tori Amos being imitators. Amos maybe – but Bjork doesn’t really owe much to Kate Bush, in my opinion. I also personally think Tori Amos surpassed Kate Bush in terms of songwriting and composition. But I accept, of course, that these things are all a matter of personal opinion.
Yet another amazing story Robert. I love her too. I can’t stand Babooshka it’s a bit too cheesy for me. My favourites are Under the Ice and Jig of Life. In fact all of that album is superb. I may have to give it a listen again you have inspired me!
Great article. And I say that as a Tori Amos fan. A great article
She’s amazing – Cloudbusting is my favourite. I can’t believe she’s not in the rock and roll hall of fame – she’s up there with Joni Mitchell, Aretha Franklin, Bjork et al.
Spot on. Her work IS art, with all the challenges and occasion head-scratching that entails.
The Red Shoes album was pretty good too..
With a couple exceptions, there are more Tori Amos songs that make me feel more intensely than Kate Bush songs. There is an emotional depth and intensity there that is more palpable. And sometimes just raw, bleeding emotion, like “Playboy Mommy”.
She is odd in a way that makes her cool. She is one of the coolest!
Love your Review!
Kate is indeed the most amazing aritst I know