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Bush, Kate (Catherine)

album bush’s rock hit

Bush, Kate (Catherine), reclusive English thrush who gave art rock a good name; b. Bexleyheath, Kent, England, July 30, 1958. Kate Bush’s physician father allowed her the liberty to study music and dance. She and her brother had bands through most of their teens. One of them came to the attention of Pink Floyd’s David Gilmore, who served as a mentor and put her in the studio. By the time she turned 19, her single “Wuthering Heights” had already reached #1 in England, where it caused a major increase in sales of the Emily Brontë book of the same name.

Most Americans first became aware of Kate Bush when she appeared on Saturday Night Live at the behest of Eric Idle. She offered a combination of modern dance and classical/romantic pop that flew in the face of new wave in 1978. Her voice, clearly as much a product of careful classical training as her body, soared and dipped like a kite in a windstorm, exhibiting nearly all of her four-octave range. It was one of the most atypical musical moments in the show’s history. It was also the last time Kate Bush performed live in the U.S.

Her appearance coincided with the release of her debut album, The Kick Inside . In addition to “Wuthering Heights/’ “The Man with the Child in His Eyes” (#6 U.K., #85 U.S.) solidified her status as a bona fide star in Europe, while she established a core cult following in America. Both songs showed off Bush’s startling voice but only hinted at a rock aesthetic. The album went to #3 in England, but didn’t chart in America.

Lionheart, released a scant 11 months later, was a continuation of The Kick, concentrating on the quasi-arias befitting an art-rock diva. However, there was little on this record that really cut loose. Even the (U.K. #14) hit, “Wow,” still relied on heavy orchestrations. The album went to #6 in the U.K. and again did not chart in America.

The irony of “Wow” is that the song deals with performing, something Bush had minimal experience with. She had played some 30 dates in Europe before deciding that touring was too exhausting. Fortunately, before reaching this conclusion, a video was made of her show. In performance, Bush wore a headset mike, allowing her freedom of movement. Wearing a body stocking and brief shorts, her live music was even more rococo than her recordings. However, as the live EP Kate Bush on Stage illustrates, it freed her band up, and every now and again they really stretch out and rock. The reggae beat of “Those Heavy People” became more pronounced, the chords in “James and the Cold Gun” crunchier (with an extended guitar solo tossed in at the end), and the break in “Don’t Put Your Foot on the Heartbreak” damn near boogies. The album reached #10 in the U.K.

The powerful chords and a blaring guitar solo carry over to “Violin” on her next studio album, 1980’s U.K. chart-topping release, Never for Ever . Max Middleton’s keyboards added the same jazzy inflections to Bush’s music that he had brought to Jeff Beck a decade earlier, albeit in a much lower-key setting. Also low key but evident is the presence of what was then the latest in musical technology, a Fairlight musical computer, able to emulate any sound in a single bound. Again, the record sold to a cult following in America (which included a young Tori Amos). Two U.K. hits, “Army Dreamers” and “Breathing,” hit #16. The other single from the album, the #5 U.K. hit “Babooshka,” illuminated Bush’s future direction. It rocks on the chorus, with the keys and bass giving the song a jazzy air. Like Peter Gabriel—Bush was a featured artist on his third eponymous solo album that same year—she was learning/creating a new contemporary vocabulary for progressive rock.

This vocabulary became manifest on her next album, The Dreaming . Given Bush’s previous work, The Dreaming might have been made by a different artist. The album kicked off with the rip-snorting, soulful rocker, “Sat in Your Lap” (#11 U.K.), a song that interestingly dealt with peaking too soon, having success too young. Synthetics and samples replaced the strings, but the most notable change is in Bush’s voice and attitude. The high end of her range is reserved for backing vocals more often than not, and her middle range, while less exotic, serves the material better. At age 24, Kate Bush, artist, was introduced to the world.

Bush took three years to make her next album, Hounds of Love, with most of that time spent putting together her own studio, where she could experiment at her leisure. Not as consistently satisfying as The Dreaming, the high points offer some of her best material ever. The album did produce the one thing that had eluded her during her entire career: an American hit. “Running up That Hill” made the top 30, as did the album. They fared better in England, where the single rose to #3 and the album topped the charts.

Five years later, after a chart-topping greatest hits album, a video, and a new record deal, Bush made one of the most stunningly voluptuous records ever, The Sensual World, which she called, “my most personal and female album.” James Joyce’s Ulysses is the inspiration for the title track, with Kate as everyone’s favorite “yes” girl, Molly Bloom. “Deeper Understanding” offers a love song to her computer. The album explored the emerging influence “indigenous” music had on pop, using Uilleann pipes and the unearthly harmonies of The Trio Bulgarka. The Sensual World rocked more consistently and more convincingly than any of Bush’s previous albums. It hit #3 in the U.K. and rose to #43 in the U.S. as well.

The Red Shoes (1993) featured heavy stars including Prince, Eric Clapton, and Jeff Beck. Ironically, none of them performed on the hits “Rubberband Girl” (#12 U.K., #88 U.S.), “Moments of Pleasure,” or “The Red Shoes” (#26 U.K.). Intensely visual, as her initial performance demonstrated, Bush traded in dancing for film, directing most of her videos. She actually brought the two back together in 1995, directing a 50-minute film, The Line, the Cross & the Curve, based on the album and starring Bush and Miranda Richardson.

Bush takes a good deal of time between projects because she can: Cosmopolitan proclaimed her one of England’s richest female pop singers. She can also do what interests her. On the 1994 tribute The Glory of Gershwin, she sang “The Man I Love,” and more recently she performed “Brazil” on Michael Kamen’s Opus . She took up painting, and a pair of her canvases painted black with a small, red, battery-operated flashing light went for 1, 150 pounds at a charity auction.

London Times critic David Sinclair thought he was making a joke when he observed upon the release of The Red Shoes, “If her work rate gets any slower, we’ll be lucky to see another Kate Bush album this side of the millennium.” Actually, he was correct.

Bush, Vannevar (1890-1974) [next] [back] Bush, John E.(1856–1916) - Organization founder, politician, activist, entrepreneur, Chronology

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