Kate Bush

TrackAlbum / Single
Wuthering HeightsThe Kick Inside
WowLionheart
BreathingNever For Ever
Suspended In GaffaThe Dreaming
Running Up That HillHounds Of Love
CloudbustingHounds Of Love
Never Be MineThe Sensual World
The Sensual WorldThe Sensual World
This Woman's WorkThe Sensual World
Among Angels50 Words For Snow
The People's Choice
The Man With The Child In His EyesThe Kick Inside
The Saxophone SongThe Kick Inside
Passing Through AirArmy Dreamers B-side
Sat In Your LapThe Dreaming
Hounds Of LoveHounds Of Love
And Dream Of SheepHounds Of Love
Under The IvyRunning Up That Hill B-side
Love And AngerThe Sensual World
One Last Look Around The House ...Love and Anger 12" B-side
Moments Of PleasureThe Red Shoes

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Contributors: Joyce Gibson & Stuart McLachlan

On 28th March this year, tickets went on sale online for a 22-night Kate Bush residency at the Hammersmith Apollo in London (26th August to 1st October 2014). The tickets sold out in 15 minutes. I tried to buy one for 45 minutes! A few days after the first concert, and aware that we did not have (surprisingly) a Kate Bush toppermost on the site yet, we put out a shout on twitter. Joyce and Stuart were the first to respond. Because of all the mammoth publicity and the place that Kate holds in so many hearts, it was clear that this was going to be a very special toppermost that would concentrate, rightly, on the songs. We then invited toppermost followers on twitter to let us know about their “all-time favourite Kate Bush song” and the results of that survey are also listed here.

Over to Stuart then to begin our celebration of Kate Bush CBE:

 

“A little girl in the park does a selfie of her red-and-gold-face-paint covered face, whilst simultaneously skipping and singing about snow.”

Thus tweeted Miranda Keeling, a peerless observer and poet of the minutiae of everyday London life. I wondered if she’d somehow slipped through a hole in time and encountered the infant Kate Bush. Kate would, of course, get round to sharing the songs about snow with us eventually; just a few years after her skipping-in the-park days, however, she’d hit the world with something strange, new and very immediate.

So, Wuthering Heights. Yes, it’s an obvious choice, and yes, lots of the people complaining about her not playing it at Hammersmith probably do only buy two CDs a year, one of which, once upon a time, was The Whole Story. There’s an awful lot to love on Kate’s teenage debut, The Kick Inside (a personal favourite is The Saxophone Song, an early fusion of her themes of spirit, music and sexuality) but Wuthering Heights cuts to the quick as strongly today as it did in 1977. It’s still one of those songs that can stop a room, and bring out responses from joyous singalong to silent awe.

It’s a perfect pop song too, for all its weirdness. It was at number one in March and April 1978, but always feels Christmassy to me despite its darker-than-thou subject matter. Maybe tinkling piano and bells will do that, but I reckon it’s more to do with the song’s air of raw, wintry magic. Finally, please, let’s take a moment to marvel at Ian Bairnson’s long closing guitar solo, which ought to be as widely beloved as the coda from Layla, and is at least as beautiful.

Skip a decade and more. The Sensual World came out in 1989 and was thoroughly raved about, but I’d lost touch with Kate, except for when she was all over the radio, and murkily raunchy songs from the viewpoint of James Joyce characters didn’t trouble the charts like the barnstormers from Hounds Of Love. So I didn’t get to hear this album until I borrowed a friend’s copy a few years later, and I found it hard to love until very near the end. Then this song happened. I hear This Woman’s Work even today and I’m back in a barely-lit room astonished that anyone can render love, pain and (the threat of?) loss so perfectly in music. It starts like a hymn, and frankly finishes like one too if you’re thinking of the kind of Psalm that seethes with naked emotion and divides soul and spirit, joints and marrow. There’s childbirth, the awful vulnerability of the human body and the hovering threat of bereavement in here. There’s also, for me, the greatest vocal of Kate’s entire career. You may have guessed that I think this is the finest thing she’s ever done.

Among Angels, which closes 50 Words For Snow, treads much of the same territory as This Woman’s Work: piano, voice, suffering, compassion. This isn’t a heart-howl though, but a song of comfort and support, a fireside lullaby to a hurting loved one. It sits perfectly at the end of the latest album; nothing could follow it for fear of breaking its gentle spell. It also sits, after all the concept-album hijinks from Hounds Of Love and Aerial, very nicely at the end of Kate’s spectacular current Hammersmith setlist, and would be a delightfully cosy note on which to go out into the night. Kate has enough classic singles to keep going for another couple hours though, so it’s only decent of her to close with one of those – Cloudbusting.

It’s a great call on her part. The nagging string figure is first ominous, then thrilling and finally cathartic as Kate weaves her take on the story of the visionary and arguably quite mad polymath Wilhelm Reich. The 1985 video featuring Donald Sutherland as Reich and Kate as his son Peter is of itself a masterpiece, and unlike Reich’s own life it has a happyish ending. Maybe that’s the point of Kate’s music: the triumph of love over all else, be it the weather and the sinister G-Men in Cloudbusting, the unnamed heartbreak of Among Angels, the knife-edge of life and death in This Woman’s Work or even a fatal love affair with Heathcliff. I’m glad she’s back, sharing that love with over 80,000 people over 22 nights. I’m even gladder that these four songs, and oh so many more, will be with us forever.

Stuart McLachlan @stuartmwrites

 

And now, over to Joyce:

Before the Dawn

My first introduction to Kate Bush came when I was just about to turn 14 years old. Wuthering Heights came out of nowhere and it sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before. I used to drive my dad nuts by playing it over and over again. Kate followed this up with the remarkable The Kick Inside – which spoke to me like no album had before, as it had been written by a mostly adolescent girl.

The following year Kate toured the UK. She didn’t play Glasgow, only Edinburgh. However, as I was only 15, I wasn’t allowed to make the trip to see her. At that point, though, I wasn’t too upset as I figured she’d be back after I turned 16. Of course this didn’t happen – there was no further tour from Kate and I figured she was someone I wasn’t destined to see play live.

Fast forward 35 years and the announcement of her Before The Dawn concerts. I had mixed feelings about going to see Kate – both of us are now 50-something. Although I was a massive fan in my teens and twenties, I had lost interest to some extent in her more recent work. But I knew it was probably my only opportunity to see her live, and by good fortune a friend had got a pre-sale link and asked me if I wanted to go with her. She duly got the tickets and six months later we were in London, sitting in the Hammersmith Apollo awaiting Kate. I won’t go into too much detail as some people still have a show to see, but it was quite a thing to finally see her on stage, sounding magnificent, and well worth the wait.

 

Here are my choices for the Kate Bush toppermost.

Breathing is sung from the point of view of a foetus in the womb. Kate challenges the notion of nuclear war. Not always an easy listen, but powerfully put.

James Joyce’s Ulysses is not a novel I’ve dared to take on – it’s a notoriously difficult read. Yet here is Kate on The Sensual World singing a passage from the novel, almost wholesale, accompanied by the uillean pipes of Davy Spillane, and carrying it off with aplomb. Sensual indeed, but beautiful with it.

Also from The Sensual World album, and on Never Be Mine Kate is backed up by the haunting voices of the Trio Bulgarka on this song of loss and regret. It never fails to make me cry.

Running Up That Hill is from her masterpiece, Hounds Of Love. Kate originally called this A Deal With God, but her record company told her that would cost her airplay. She reluctantly renamed the song.

Joyce Gibson @northseacrashes

 

These are some of the comments from our Kate Bush song survey:

A surly lady in tremor…, The Saxophone Song still makes the hairs on back of my neck stand on end. Beautiful.
Neil Waite @NeilWaite1

I love The Man With The Child In His Eyes for its simplicity. I know it has many layers and some lush production but the heart of the song is Kate’s vocal and piano melody. It’s wonderful, and very beautiful, and undoubtedly my favourite KB song.
Dave Harris @Chops_Top_Fives

The only 45 I have of hers is Wow … when she suddenly drops an octave … Gets me every time.
@SpeedOfSoundUK

Moving or Wow. Wow just gets the nod.
Tony Alien @TonyRites

So I read ages ago that Kate Bush recorded Passing Through Air in her mid teens. That’s always blown my mind! It’s lovely. (clip here)
Jojo @MaRaineyBlues

Hard to choose but still Sat In Your Lap, powerful and stunning vocals.
Jude Crowther @jcrowther9

Suspended In Gaffa. But I’m partial to Babooshka and Wuthering Heights too, probably shamefully.
David Lewis @dlachlan

Kate Bush fav? – cos I’m odd, Suspended In Gaffa from The Dreaming. Just been listening to it this afternoon in a rainy Torquay hotel.
Rob Morgan @durutti74

This Woman’s Work because it is simply heartbreaking.
Richard Johnson @richard0x4A

When I was looking for a track to finish off the last of my Thursday
DJ nights at the Cobbler’s Thumb in Brighton, Kate’s One Last Look Around The House Before We Go, on the B-side of the Love and Anger 12″, is a slight thing, but it was the perfect sound for the
end of an era.
Keith Shackleton @RiverboatCapt

Breathing. The subject matter is compelling & it’s executed with perfect aplomb, but passionately so. the melody is spine tingling.
Kat Himmel @kathimmel

Fave KB song? The Sensual World – as it sounds like something from “another” world. Great video too.
Carl Burnett @carldogwalker

Love And Anger – I had the lyrics printed out on my wall in college. Have to dance every time.
Meredith Tarr @mpressmeredith

Under The Ivy … Simple, English, go right to the rose, beautiful …
Mark Binmore @MarkBinmore

Moments Of Pleasure. A life spent with Kate Bush is full of them … Makes my toes curl.
Martin Smith @foxxmetamatic

Was listening to this, right at present. Hounds Of Love. Cause it’s Great! Brilliant album too – and hadn’t heard the alternative version of the title track until recently.
Jock the Frock @nigemcadam

Have to be honest, obvious or not. The Sensual World. Four minutes of sonic bliss.
@antmeals

And Dream Of Sheep – such quiet fragility before the sonic storm of Waking The Witch & the true heart of the whole album.
Steven Rayner @Steven_E_Rayner

 

This topper-ten is made up of Stuart and Joyce’s choices plus two most voted. All the other songs name-checked, from the People’s Choice, are also listed above and most of the highlighted songs appear on the toppermost playlist (click on the spotify link above).

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this post. The clear finding of the fan poll – and it’s maybe hardly surprising as we asked for the “all-time fave song” – is that there’s only one song here from the two most recent albums, Aerial and 50 Words For Snow. Let’s ask the question again in ten years! Ed.

The official online home of Kate Bush

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Kate Bush biography (iTunes)

TopperPost #356

2 Comments

  1. Ian Ashleigh
    Sep 24, 2014

    Like many people my age (a year younger than Kate Bush) I was captivated by Wuthering Heights and bought the album ‘The Kick Inside’ which was (and still is) a magnificent collection of songs. But there are 3 tracks on ‘Never For Ever’ that need a mention: Army Dreamers is simply outstanding; Babooshka is an incredible song and Violin is great fun, not least because we played it when a friends wife said in her broad Lancastrian accent ‘ooh, I can’t stand warbling women and violins’. Happy days!

  2. Peter Viney
    Sep 25, 2014

    Great lists on one of the greatest British artists. I had to work on an ELT adaptation of the book Wuthering Heights earlier this year, and her song played in my head continually for a month. Couldn’t get it out, just as I couldn’t on the initial release. Both lists focus quite rightly on songs that Kate Bush wrote. But I’d like to suggest a few that she didn’t. The screamingly obvious is Don’t Give Up duetting with Peter Gabriel from “So,” which is a fantastic performance. Then there is Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing, which was the (virtual) B-side of King of The Mountain. It had been recorded ten years before its release with Davy Spillane playing uilleann pipes. Her version of Rocket Man (from “Two Rooms” the Elton John tribute album) was even a hit record in 1991. Then there’s Comfortably Numb with David Gilmour.

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