Viewing posts by Christine Kelley

Ran Tan Waltz

This will be my last blog post to be crossposted to Eruditorum Press, as Elizabeth’s Tori Amos project, “Boys In Their Dresses,” will begin its run on the site come Monday. In the meantime you can still follow me at katebushsongs.wordpress.com, or financially support me in exchange for exclusive writing and personal editing at my Patreon. I am literal days from moving out of my current apartment and haven’t found an affordable replacement, so my partner and I could really use your help. Thanks so much for readingIt means the world to me.

Ran Tan Waltz
Xmas special

Numerous times on this blog we’ve talked about Kate, Bush’s classic 1979 Christmas special. As one of the few extended performances of her music Bush has done, and the only one made for television, it documents some of her less performed songs. While the bulk of Kate’s setlist was played on the Tour of Life, with the exceptions of Peter Gabriel’s contributions and a couple of Never for Ever songs, the BBC’s style of “televised theatre” differs from the musical theater Bush spent the tour performing. 20th century BBC shows were often boxed into a ...

Another Day

CW: child sexual abuse

Another Day
Another Day (Bush/Gabriel)

We must address some important facts in this blog post. For starters, folk musician Roy Harper is a songwriter of note. He’s got solid and interesting work in his discography, bits of which get covers by remarkable artists like the Cocteau Twins or, as this post demonstrates, Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel. It’s intuitive that Bush and Gabriel would choose to duet on a cover of “Another Day”; an sturdy and compelling break-up song, whose themes of wistfulness and the cognitive dissonance of desire overlap with both artists’ interests. The Harper album “Another Day” hails from, Flat Baroque and Berserk, has songs that are the equal of mid-tier tracks from Joni Mitchell’s Blue, Bob Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home, or Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer’s Flowers of Avalon. Harper’s work is firmly second-tier folk music, respectable but not transcendent. Given that he’s a direct influence on Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd (with whom he cut a lead vocal on “Have a Cigar”), and Pete Townshend, he’s clearly a figure with some relevance to both rock and folk music and a force to be reckoned with.

The other thing we ...

Blow Away (For Bill)

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Blow Away (demo)
Blow Away

After the Tour of Life wrapped, Bush stayed out of the studio for a few months, giving herself room to breathe in between albums. By August, she’d gone to Abbey Road with engineer Jon Kelly to mix the EP On Stage, a collection of four live recordings from her tour and the only EP she’s ever produced herself (other Bush Eps have been promotional efforts by EMI). Shortly afterwards, Bush and Kelly moved to London AIR Studios to record Never for Ever. The initial 3-and-a-half-month-long sessions that followed heralded the masters of “Violin,” “Egypt,” “The Wedding List,” and “Blow Away.” Given that “Violin” dates from around 1976 and Bush wrote “Egypt” for her tour, “Blow Away” ...

Egypt

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Egypt live at Manchester
Xmas special
Egypt

While Kate Bush was staging her only tour, the 1980s were being born. The Labour government of James Callaghan collapsed, and Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives came to power, a major step towards the austerity policies and neoliberalism that’s defined the last forty years.  The Camp David Accords were orchestrated by American President Jimmy Carter, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, and Israeli Prime Minister Menachim Begin, and the Egypt-Israel Peace treaty, effectively terminating the Israeli occupation of Sinai while also seeing to it Egypt began supplying Israel with oil. Soon afterwards, Carter lost a presidential election to Ronald Reagan, the American half of neoliberalism’s early regime. CNN was established, arcade video games were becoming a viable commercial presence, and John Lennon was killed in New York. To be an artist is to be a cultural marker for a moment in history. To be one in 1980 was to ...

The Tour of Life

Tour of Life
Hammersmith Odeon
Manchester Apollo
Let It Be
I Don’t Remember
Nationwide documentary

The touring career of Kate Bush consists of 29 shows across 6 countries in roughly 6 weeks, with performances of 2 existing albums and a burgeoning third. Bush’s singular tour defines her career as much as “Wuthering Heights,” Hounds of Love, and her 12-year moratorium on new albums between The Red Shoes and Aerial. The difference between that music, that gap, and the tour, however, is accessibility. You can listen to Bush’s music pretty much whenever provided you have the physical media, or a steady Internet connection. The Tour of Life is Bush’s only tour — if you wanted to see her do a full concert outside of the UK, you could only have done so in April or May 1979. Sparseness is a key ingredient of Bush’s career, one that perhaps makes her especially suitable for a project like this blog. She builds her work piece by piece, letting it be an accumulation of important steps.

Planning for Bush’s tour (known then and during its existence just as the Kate Bush Tour) began at the end of December 1978 with a brainstorming session ...

Magician

Magician

A good landmark of an artist’s prestige is when they start doing music for films. A new star will show up on the scene and filmmakers will take advantage of their star power to grab a young, hip audience for their movies. There was a period a few years ago where young bands like Florence + the Machine and Paramore gained traction by recording songs for the Twilight Saga. Of course the inverse is also true, as long-established stars are also likely to help a film earn more press. The UK’s bestselling single of 1979, Art Garfunkel’s “Bright Eyes,” is inextricable from its haunting appearance in Watership Down. Just as a song can mark a film, a film can mark a song.

Of course, this is in no way an assurance of a song or movie’s quality. A song and a movie can both be deservedly forgotten. Such is the case with “Magician,” which, while a footnote in Kate Bush’s wider career, still marks the beginning of a trend for her.

“The Magician,” or “Magician” as it’s usually called, was written by lyricist Paul Webster and composer Maurice Jarre for the virtually unseen film The Magician of ...

Wow

Wow (album version)
Video 1 (Keith Macmillan)
Video 2 (The Whole Story)
San Remo
ABBA
French TV
Tour of Life

It begins with the sound of an orchestra warming up, strings humming in anticipation of an incoming trobairitz. Then, a four-note synth loop, which is played for nearly the entire first minute of the song, when it gives way to the song’s rhythm section. Twenty-nine seconds in, the wail of a processed guitar ushers in the vocal of Kate Bush, who delivers the opening line. “We’re all alone on the stage tonight,” she sings with equal trepidation and excitement. “We’ve been told we’re not afraid of you.” With that, the audience is hoisted onto the stage, and “Wow” commences.

The similarities between “Wow” and “Wuthering Heights” are largely structural. Both songs have arpeggiated hooks (“Wow” opens with the notes of a C major chord), followed by tense, melodically wrought verses, before breaking into the song’s triumphant chorus. “Wow” is shorter, its album version capping off at four minutes, compared to the four-and-a-half minutes of “Wuthering Heights,” with its intro which is built into the verse, keeping the song moving after its chorus. The chorus and ...

Coffee Homeground

Coffee Homeground
Tour of Life

“Coffee Homeground” comes at the tail end of Lionheart, when the album’s slower and quieter tracks have all trailed off. As the album’s penultimate track, it provides Lionheart with a relatively bombastic and staunchly theatrical climax. For all that Lionheart explores stagefright and theatrics in depth, it’s a much quieter album than that description might suggest. There are few especially up-tempo songs on it, and Bush’s piano guides her backing musicians through her songs. “Coffee Homeground” almost sounds out of place on the same album which has “Oh England My Lionheart” and “In the Warm Room,” with Bush’s camp attempt at a German accent and Kurt Weillian orchestral scoring. It’s by the grace of Lionheart’s strong thread of camp that “Coffee Homeground” is allowed to work, exploding into full blown theatrics at the end of an album which previously treated them as something more to be discussed than outright embraced.

As we’ve discussed at length in this blog, Kate Bush is a consistent purveyor of camp. Her mime training, her focus on character in her songwriting, and a constant awareness of form are camp attributes of her songs thus far. When we get ...

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