And away we go!
30. And So Is Love
Eric Clapton is the guitarist and Gary Brooker of Procol Harum plays the hammond organ on “And So Is Love,’ the fourth single from 1993’s The Red Shoes. The single was actually released in 1994 and it would be 11 years before she released her next single, “King of the Mountain.” During the time in between records, most reports suggest she just focused on having and raising her son, Bertie (subject of a song on 2005’s Aerial album, but kind of a subject of her music for decades). Anyhow, its fitting that this was her last song for over a decade since it basically a break-up tune about a pair of lovers who decide its in their mutual best interest to split. “Life is sad, and so it love.” I feel like this song suffers from the same production issues that the rest of The Red Shoes does but I really enjoy the arrangement (especially the backing vocals) and the passion Bush brings to the vocal. This is one of those “its good, but there’s 29 singles better” songs.
29. Experiment IV
That video features an all-star cast including Gary Oldman, Hugh Laurie and Dawn French (among others). Its a terrific little horror film in music video form. “Experiment IV” is Bush’s horror story song and I have strongly mixed feelings about it. It as the only original song on her 1986 greatest hits package, The Whole Story (with a reminder that putting a single original song on a greatest hits package is the way you force fans to buy songs they already own). My mixed feelings stem from the verse/chorus structure on this song which I think shares some of the same problems as “π.” Specifically, the chorus seems deliberately added based on the mistaken premise that the verses can’t stand alone. I sort of wish the chorus only happened the first time through and that Bush had structured this in such a way that the music started to reflect more aurally the sounds she imagined might be coming out of her dreadful machine (the song is about a machine that produces a sound that can kill). Also, the mid-80’s production bombast sort of overwhelms the rest of the tune. I think if this hadn’t been included on her greatest hits album, the odds are fairly good that this would be a mostly forgotten deep cut. I’m glad it wasn’t forgotten because the parts that do work work very well.
28. Army Dreamers
I heard “Army Dreamers” for the first time when I acquired 1986’s The Whole Story hits package but its originally from 1980’s Never For Ever. I’ve been critical of the production on some of her albums, but her second through fourth albums (Lionheart, Never for Ever and The Dreaming) all feature excellent production. Her next album that sounded as good was 2005’s Aerial. I thought there was something wrong with my recording of “Army Dreamers” because it was such a quiet soft song (especially in context of the sheer volume of the 80’s). However, this is a deliberately “small” song – its a mother mourning for soldier son, killed in war. The chorus in particular (“What could he do he should have been a rock star”) is softly heartbreaking. Her restrained regret belies a deep grief. The song is performed at a waltz tempo which made it sound deliberately old fashioned. A powerful little song written and performed by a 21 year old. What have I done with my life?
27. Un Baiser d’enfant
This 1980 French language version of “The Infant Kiss” was released as a single in France and Canada. If Kate Bush’s lyrics are to be trusted, she loves babies. This is what I meant when I wrote that she’d sort of been writing about her son Bertie for years before he was born. Bush has a bunch of songs about childbirth, loving babies, being trapped in the womb as nuclear war rages outside, etc. “The Infant Kiss” is a love song from Bush to a little baby boy she just picked up. Even as a young adult she had babies on the brain! I think this song works splendidly in French but I defer to French speakers.
“Moving” was a single released from 1978’s The Kick Inside that was only published in Japan. Wikipedia details some of the history of this song, but the salient detail is this is a song about her dance and mime teacher, Lindsay Kemp. Bush only toured once (in 1979) and her concerts at the time (and to this day) featured a great deal of dancing. You can see Bush dance in the video she made for the song at the opening of the Efteling amusement park above but she dances in many of her videos. Yes, singers, a strong dance background makes you a more versatile performer even if your music is more on the art end of the spectrum. I know my dancing in our Oil in the Alley shows is a joy for everyone to behold.
25. Deeper Understanding
In 1989, Kate Bush wrote “Deeper Understanding” for The Sensual World. Its a song about a person getting so absorbed by a program on their computer that they abandon real life. Hey, she predicted the Internet. Well done! Bush wasn’t satisfied with the 1989 version so in 2011, she rerecorded the song from an album titled Director’s Cut (which included reworked versions of a bunch of songs from The Sensual World and The Red Shoes). The lyrics seem less prescient and more a reflection of reality in this century. The two major changes are general better production and the fact that the voice of the computer on the new version is played by her son, Bertie, who wasn’t even born when the original came out. Bush, as you’ve likely noticed, often uses her songs as a storytelling platform and I think she’s especially good at composing music that supports the story. This version of the song works extremely well in that regard.
In addition to writing story songs and baby songs, Kate Bush writes songs about performing. “Wow” was the second single off of 1979’s Lionheart. Its sort of been a guidepost song for this ranking thing – I ask myself “do I like such and such a song more or less than “Wow’” as I’m ranking. One of Bush’s mentors was David Gilmour of Pink Floyd and, according to Bush, this was her attempt to write a Pink Floyd song (probably “Have a Cigar” was a direct influence). The lyrics (particularly the chorus) are largely centered around on how management glad-hands artists – they tell them how great they are in lieu of offering them opportunities or money. I get it (no, really, I get it). Its a great song and yet… Maybe its because I’m in the arts, but part of me doesn’t especially care for works of art about art. Just a personal preference I guess.
23. Rubberband Girl
“Rubberband Girl” was the first single released from 1993’s The Red Shoes. Its a song about how Bush wishes she could be more flexible, metaphorically. Of all the songs she released as singles, “Rubberband Girl” is quite likely the most straight forward pop song. With most of her songs, I can’t imagine anyone but her writing them. This one sounds more like a deliberate attempt to create a top 40 hit. Sure enough, it almost hit the UK Top 10 and was a reasonably big hit for her – I sort of felt like this was her attempt at writing a “Sledgehammer” size hit. That all sounds like a put down (and I guess it sort of is) but its a terrific single and my only other real issue with it is the same production complain I have about that whole album.
22. Room for the Life
“Room For A Life” was apparently a promotional single from 1978’s The Kick Inside – something released to radio station but not as a 45rpm for sale. While writing this, it has felt like every single song from that album was released as a single at some point. Bush often celebrates being a woman on her songs and, in this case, she offers a woman’s ability to have children as evidence that they are tougher than men (and thus shouldn’t “play games with them.”) I’ve made the point earlier that some of Bush’s views are deeply conservative (indeed, she has recently come out as supporting Tory prime minister Theresa May and hinting that she was in favor of Brexit) which is actually a good thing as it gives lie to the idea that one must be progressive to be a great artist. Anyhow, “Room For A Life” opens with Bush at the top of her teenage register (remember she was all of 18 or 19 while recording her debut) and really allows her to explore her vocal range.
21. Them Heavy People
I have a really, really hard time believing Bush would deliberately use the phrase construction “them heavy people” in real life. When you’re 19, it sometimes seems pretty cool to use phrasing that makes you seem more connected to a different class of people. The song is about how much she admires the great thinkers of history and how she wants to learn as much as she can from them while she’s still young. There are several songs on 1978’s The Kick Inside which make allusions to her youth – something that I assume was deliberate both in the sense that that is what she wanted to write about and in the sense that her record company wanted to promote that idea. Its weird to think of Kate Bush being marketed as a good looking teen idol but I feel like that’s exactly what they were doing in 78-79. Anyhow, Bush was learning a bunch about philosophers, but she was also learning a bunch about record industry people. She quickly used her early success to take control of her own career and good for her for doing that.
Coming Next: Songs from Bush’s most recent album.