Viewing posts by Christine Kelley

James and the Cold Gun

James and the Cold Gun
Hammersmith Odeon

I’ve recently set up a Patreon, which has gotten off to a good start with 14 Patrons. If you enjoy my work, consider pitching me some money over there. My financial situation is strained to say the least, and every bit helps. Plus you might get to read some writing you’ll enjoy. In the meantime, here’s “James and the Cold Gun.”

A ragtag group of session musicians is enveloped in an infernal red backlight, which makes good on its promise to swallow the entire stage. A cowgirl from some dark dimension swaggers onstage, posing in a black and gold robe for the presumably dumbfounded audience. For close to nine minutes, the cowgirl sweeps across the stage, wailing over the cacophony of her band and illustrating her lyrics with suitably on-the-nose gestures. It culminates, as any Chekov-honoring song featuring “gun” in the title does, with a murder, as the cowgirl blasts the life out of an adversary, each gunshot met beat-for-beat by accompanying drums. Contorting her body in a freakish victory dance, the cowgirl ends the song lifting a rifle above her head in triumph, as her audience roars its approval.

“James and ...

L'Amour Looks Something Like You

Demo
Album version
Tour of Life (Paris)

1978 was the year of Kate Bush both in terms of her career narrative and the press’s fixation on her. The fansite Gaffaweb records no less than 34 print interviews with Bush from that year alone. It was Bush’s most prolific year for press coverage: the press latched onto every detail they could find about her, as it does, and what couldn’t be directly evidenced was inferred. So Bush was treated like any other “eccentric” media sensation: an object of spectacle having more to do with her perceived ostentatiousness than her actual work.

There are strongly gendered dynamics at play in this. Read Bush’s press around the time and you’ll find all the standard tropes in journalism about women: comparisons to other female artists (Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, and Lyndsey de Paul are frequent points of nonsensical comparison), calling Bush a “hippie girl,” and the inevitable objectification of Bush herself (there’s more than one article in which Bush is made the target of a journalist’s foot fetish). The nadir of this fixation came when a promotional photo of Bush taken by rock photographer Gered Mankowitz achieved ubiquity. The infamous picture stages Kate ...

Moving

Moving (demo)
Moving
BBC Saturday Nights at the Mill
Efteling
Tokyo Music Festival
Hammersmith Odeon

In our last two entries, we touched on Kate Bush’s affinity for dance. “Wuthering Heights” sports a video with choreography every Bush fan in the world has attempted to emulate, and “Kite” has its own aerial hyperdance. “Moving” foregrounds the act of dancing. If Bush had previously treated dance as a companion to her music, “Moving,” as its name implies, canonizes it as an integral part of how her songs work. “[Dancers are] beautiful, they’re so free and they’re just purely stating what they’re feeling and it’s so delightful…” said Bush in 1980. “And I think that’s what dance is about, the enjoyment of that feeling of movement and freedom, it’s like suddenly breaking through a barrier.”

From its opening moments, “Moving” has a sense of weight and motion, commencing with a fifteen-second sample of whale song from environmentalist Roger S. Payne’s LP Songs of the Humpback Whale (“whales say everything about ‘moving’…it weighs a ton and yet it’s so light it floats”). Then Bush’s vocals and piano greet the listener with “moving stranger, does it really matter?/ as long as you’re ...

Kite

Kite (demo)
Kite
Kite (Bios Bahnhof)
Kite (Tour of Life)

Kate Bush makes her television debut in a disused railway depot in Germany. Behind her stands the KT Bush Band, the musicians she chose to play her music, in front of a backdrop of green land and a volcano, apparently the German realization of a Yorkshire moor. Bush begins her idiosyncratic mime-shaped dance and the music follows her in a jumpy, facetious rendition of “Kite.” Bush uses her full body as an instrument, using shakes and poses to fill the stage.

It’s unsurprising “Kite” should be the runway Bush launches her television career on. The track is the B-side to “Wuthering Heights,” and a chirpy enough deep cut. “Kite” responds to “Wuthering Heights,” sharing its A-side’s fascination with stepping out of ordinary human experience; visualizing this process as a sort of skyborne anabasis.

“Kite” is a dance song in a different fashion from “Wuthering Heights”; whereas “Heights” is famous for the dance retroactively applied to it, “Kite” actually depicts a sort of radical bodily movement. “Kite” depicts an Icarus-type character: a person being drawn from the ground and towards the air. Over the course of Kite’s run ...

Wuthering Heights

I've been admiring Christine Kelley's Dreams of Orgonon since before either of them were called that. It's smart, insightful music criticism that lived up to its obvious debt to Chris O'Leary's Pushing Ahead of the Dame and was no small influence on my own decision to make a song by song Tori Amos blog my next project. So when I needed someone to fill in for a few months while Jack wrote his book, asking her to crosspost her work to our site was the obvious choice. And when it became evident that her first post for us would be Kate Bush's first big hit, well, that just seemed like destiny. It's my absolute pleasure to give Christine a bit of a boost and to have her on the site. If you want to read the story thus far, her blog archives are over here. But for now, welcome to the site, let's get on with it. -El

A misty morning

Begin with an instrumental call-and-response in the form of a spine-tingling arpeggio which is met by the same figure repeated an octave higher. Eight seconds in come the vocals, which sound ...

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