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Jack Graham

Jack Graham writes and podcasts about culture and politics from a Gothic Marxist-Humanist perspective. He co-hosts the I Don't Speak German podcast with Daniel Harper. Support Jack on Patreon.


  1. Megara Justice Machine
    October 5, 2015 @ 1:07 pm

    Well, to be fair, season 18 of Doctor Who is pretty damn good, and I say that as a venerable JNT detractor.


  2. Dan
    October 5, 2015 @ 2:16 pm

    the Hounds of love track still makes me stop and go wow every time i hear it. It’s just amazing.


  3. Matthew Parsons
    October 5, 2015 @ 2:20 pm

    “Empathy is the organizing logic, but it isn’t one-sided or soppy. It’s weaponized empathy. Critical empathy. Empathy that demands to be returned on pain of being declared meaningless. Empathy that changes you, and forces itself upon you by changing you, transforming you.”

    Yes, yes, yes. That is nearly the whole of what makes Kate Bush awesome. I’m constantly amazed at her ability to inhabit her characters’ psychology. Like the magical thinking of the child narrator of Cloudbusting: he associates his father with his glow-in-the-dark yo-yo, so he assumes that by burying the yo-yo he can protect his father. The naiveté of the logic makes the fact that it doesn’t actually work even more heartbreaking. It’s brilliant psychological portraiture.

    Perhaps this is why Kate Bush is often regarded as an eccentric, potentially alienating sort of artist. But I suspect it’s also the reason why we fans are so deeply affected by her music: it regularly forces us to experience the world from the perspective of somebody who is not one’s self. And as you say, it changes us.

    Lovely stuff. I’d read you on music any time.


    • Matthew Parsons
      October 5, 2015 @ 2:23 pm

      Also, here’s a fun game: summing up Kate Bush songs in one sentence. A few of my favourites:

      “A personified lighthouse falls asleep.”
      “A woman unknowingly dances with Hitler.”
      “Kate bush sings Pi.”


      • Chris C
        October 5, 2015 @ 4:43 pm

        “A house transforms into a donkey.”


    • Daru
      October 6, 2015 @ 4:08 am

      Oh my yes, so agree with you – I would so read you Jack on music anytime. Loved this post so much.


      • Daru
        October 6, 2015 @ 4:09 am

        Replying to Matthew.


  4. Jane Campbell
    October 5, 2015 @ 2:24 pm

    Wow, Jack, a beautiful and intimate essay. Thank you.


  5. Evan Forman
    October 5, 2015 @ 5:45 pm

    I never got why Running Up That Hill was so acclaimed until right now. And now i’m listening to it and i’m shocked and smiling and I love it. Love it love it love it for reasons as personal and unique as yours. Thank you.


  6. The Man in Black (Bill Silvia)
    October 5, 2015 @ 8:32 pm

    So I just realized I haven’t gotten this blog in my RSS reader in quite some time. Looking around it appears as though it’s been switched to a different blog service, which would explain the RSS change if the first one wasn’t created manually. I guess I have some catching up to do.


  7. Daru
    October 6, 2015 @ 4:15 am

    Wow, I adored reading this so much Jack.

    “That voice. Oh my god that voice.”

    This. Absolutely this.

    “It’s weaponized empathy.”

    And this.

    Kate is really for me a shaman, a priestess of music and song. I saw a rather lovely and well produced documentary on the BBC a while back that talked about her development and one thing that wowed me was how early she had such songs as ‘The Man With the Child in His Eyes’ fully realised.

    The Red Shoes, The Sensual World, Arial and Pi sang as a love song. Simply ‘Wow’.


  8. Simon
    October 6, 2015 @ 6:15 am

    Fantastic writing. Yes, you know music alright!

    If anyone might be interested, Lena Friesen wrote this last year:



  9. Shannon
    October 6, 2015 @ 10:47 am

    I asked for Hounds of Love last Christmas, as I’m a big fan of female singer-songwriters. And I listened to it and frankly, just didn’t get it. Compared to my usual folk-rock, it was much more “pop” and definitely more 80s than I expected it to be. But this essay made me go re-listen to it and I definitely appreciate it more. I still don’t think it’s quite my style of music, but I understand the power of it much more.

    For me, I had a similar reaction that Jack did but to Tori Amos (who is obviously quite influenced by Kate Bush). I got From the Choirgirl Hotel as a teenager and although I was at first baffled, I totally fell in love with it after a couple of listens. Her simultaneous power, vulnerability, and sexuality was so striking to me and different from anyone else I had ever heard. I had listened to “angry girl” music (my second CD ever was Alanis Morrisette), but never anything this mysterious and intense. And her voice is really striking as well.


  10. Gavin Burrows
    October 6, 2015 @ 12:40 pm

    Opening an album with a track containing the lines “c’mon angel, c’mon darling, let’s exchange the experience” is audaciously promissory. And yet it delivers!
    True (and hopefully pertinent) story, when I first heard ’Running Up That Hill’ it seemed so left field, so removed from any other music I’d heard I couldn’t even tell if I liked it or not. I had to hear it a few more times just to process it. And I was watching it on ‘Wogan’ – primetime BBC1. Gotta love that!
    Could it be a little ironic that you got into Kate for having such a “woman’s voice” (clumsy phrase, I know) via Gabriel’s ‘Don’t Give Up’? Which, while its undoubtedly a great song, is almost the polar opposite. She’s given an almost classic woman’s validating role there.


  11. Acar
    October 6, 2015 @ 3:39 pm

    I agree that Running Up That Hill is the greatest pop song ever recorded, but so is This Old Heart Of Mine by The Isley Brothers, Pictures Of You by The Cure, about a fifth of David Bowie’s stuff, and Siouxsie and the Banshees’ cover of Hall of Mirrors.


    • Jack Graham
      October 6, 2015 @ 6:11 pm

      Yeah, fair enough.


    • encyclops
      October 8, 2015 @ 7:01 pm

      That Siouxsie cover is astonishing. I loved it even before I heard the original, and then when I discovered how much they’d changed it I was even more in love with it. That’s still my favorite covers album because of how thoroughly and successfully they made each song their own.


      • Daru
        October 16, 2015 @ 9:53 am

        One of my favourite albums that Siouxsie one. Stunning.


  12. markoneinfour
    October 7, 2015 @ 11:23 am

    There’s a fabulous thing about Kate Bush in that she functions as a kind of symbol for places that people don’t usually go. Not the way that folk musicians function as a signifier of the past being a place we can no longer go to; but more a kind of embodied version of magic, visionary, otherplaceness.

    She’s a kind of dark side of pastoral. She’s a country person but one for whom the countryside is not a place of peace. She’s like rock gods who moved to the country to get their head together and then found that all that happened was that the peace amplified the weirdness in their head, their kitchen, their small patch of land and people.

    I live very near where she lived in London during her brief period of trying to join the ‘real’ world and even that is infused with a kind of magic unreality.

    Wickham Road in Brockley is a huge wide victorian steet; tall trees and tall houses, odd shadows and a big sky above, not flat like much of London but on the ridge of a valley. Foxes criss cross the road under dapple of streetlamps, houses recede from the pavement, undergrowth and engine parts in the mews and backlanes.

    She’s always had that essence of otherworldliness: musically she is out of time, not quite of any era except obliquely. So a kind of magic force; a magnet for a certain kind of longing and a transmitter of oblique mixtures.

    In that she has an element of guide which, were you to write her, would come very, very close to manic pixie dream girl. She consciously ducked out of the authority of that role by giving up live performance, almost as if apprehensive at what she had turned the key upon and what she might enable other to turn the key upon in future.

    In popular culture she is that shorthand for gothic femininity. I’ve just been reading some of the 8th Doctor novels and thinking ‘Blimey, I bet Compassion looked a bit like Kate Bush’


  13. Nicholas Caluda
    October 8, 2015 @ 7:02 pm

    I think my favorite bit in this (largely because I can’t hope to add anything to the Kate Bush discussion other than “my favorite album of hers is ‘The Dreaming’ and I think it has to do with the drum sound”) is the mention of “Mercy Street.” It baffles me that nobody talks about that one more often, because it seems in many ways the quintessential Gabriel track.


    • Jack Graham
      October 8, 2015 @ 7:13 pm

      I love ‘Mercy St’ so much.


  14. encyclops
    October 8, 2015 @ 7:06 pm

    I was hoping to come up with something more interesting to say than “I loved this essay,” but that’s pretty much it. My experience of Kate was more — whatever the opposite of unheimlich is, a coming to an unfamiliar place that feels more like home than home.

    I’m a big season 18 fan too. Which is sort of like saying “I like ice cream” but whatever.


    • Jack Graham
      October 8, 2015 @ 7:14 pm

      Really? I get the impression that Season 18 is undervalued, on the whole.


  15. jsd
    October 8, 2015 @ 8:24 pm

    Thanks for writing this. Great job! I’ve been a huge fan of Kate since 1986. Hounds of Love is indeed one of the supreme “pop” albums of all time. I wish you had mentioned that it’s really two albums in one. “The Ninth Wave” (which on the original vinyl/cassette was side 2) is a complete self-contained story of someone drowning at sea. Full of amazing lyrics, music/soundscapes, psychological conceits. She becomes a ghost and haunts her own life to see how they are getting on without her (“Watching You Without Me”). She is visited by her future self who admonishes her to fight for survival because otherwise her future self will never exist, her children won’t be born, etc (“Jig Of Life”) – very Doctor Who, no?


  16. Lucy
    March 9, 2021 @ 6:24 pm

    Wow. I think you hit the nail on the head about everything I love about Kate Bush and her music. That imagery of the elf above your bed is so specific but captures the feeling I get from her music perfectly. Her voice is both alluring and frightening, best mix haha!


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