Sunday, January 21, 2024


My musical listening journey has created a list of artists and bands for whom I don’t have a physical copy of any of their music, an omission to remedy someday: Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell, the Spice Girls and so on. Some works demand better than the lossy compressions of MP3 or streaming.

Kate Bush is a different matter. Upon realising I had none of her albums, I felt embarrassed by this admission - how can I have all of David Bowie’s studio albums, but nothing by Kate Bush? I practically ran to the nearest HMV to stock up: “Hounds of Love”, “The Red Shoes”, “Never For Ever”, “The Kick Inside” and “The Sensual World”, one each of what the store had in stock. 

My CD collection felt complete in that moment, and seemingly remains so until I decide I really need something by Pink Floyd, for Kate Bush always feels like a special occasion, whenever I hear a song by her, and no matter how often I hear those songs. 

From the ethereal nature of early hits like “Wuthering Heights”, “Them Heavy People” and “Wow”, to the spiky characters of “The Dreaming” album, and the triumph of both sides of “Hounds of Love”, Kate Bush’s output became better as more creative freedom was afforded to her, and her increasingly experimental albums, made in her own time, at home through technological advances and portability, like the Fairlight CMI album first used on “Babushka”, have allowed this experimentation and freedom to become mainstream.

My favourite Kate Bush album is 1985’s “Hounds of Love”, and my favourite song of her songs is “Running Up that Hill (A Deal with God)”, from the commercial-led side A of that album – the perceived failure of 1982’s “The Dreaming”, which still reached number 3 in the charts despite singles not charting, led to a compromise that put more avant-garde material onto side B, while also becoming Bush’s first album recorded entirely at home, in her own time, at her own pace.

“Running Up That Hill” reached number 1 in the UK singles chart for three weeks in June 2022, having been used as a plot device in the Netflix TV drama “Stranger Things”. Having a song that talks about exchanging sexes to achieve a greater understanding to have come back from 1985 to become more relevant and celebrated than ever intended, is perhaps one of the best things that could have happened in pop music, and it was entirely deserved – it was like us, as the audience, had caught up with the song at last.

Kate Bush’s last album of new material was 2011’s “50 Words for Snow”, a chamber-pop-jazz-ambient album based around a single theme, with no track shorter than seven minutes in length. There is a natural expectation for any future release, but I currently like to think that she thought long enough to make music her way, having achieved a position where she can make music entirely for herself, any clash this makes with the image of a publicly accessible rock star is her audience’s problem alone.  

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