Saturday 30 August 2014

Kate Bush: A Dissenting View

I write these words with some trepidation. Must it really fall to my lot to be the little boy watching the Emperor’s parade who states the obvious? Is no-one courageous enough to boldly say “Kate Bush is rubbish”? 

Well not rubbish exactly, but not the transcendental genius and god-like avatar that everyone in the media is proclaiming. We can discount  John Humphrys’ opinion, of course, but when the singer adorns the cover of the new Mojo, with the gushing tag-line 


and further, 


... well, something just snapped. 

May I just say that Kate Bush is alright if your ideal of femininity is Glinda the Good Witch of the South. For deeper, more complex insights into the female condition, might I offer Bjork, a more consistently innovative artist, P.J. Harvey, who could eat Kate Bush for breakfast were she not a vegetarian, and Jenny Hvall and Susanna Wallumrod, whose joint album, Meshes of Voice is as captivating as Aerial is said to be, and a lot more edgy (and still waiting a review here)? And ... Laura Nyro.

Why Laura Nyro? Well, there I was, away from home for the first time, in 1977, grooving to ‘I Am the Blues’ by Laura Nyro (it must have been on a cassette) in my little bedsit, when, quite by chance, a neighbour's radio issued forth with ‘Wuthering Heights’, the then current hit by youthful sensation Kate Bush. The close juxtaposition didn't do Bush any favours: 'Wuthering Heights" seemed very prissy and fey by comparison.  

Unfair, I know. That competitive mentality, where the claim of one artist cancels out another, is self-defeating and juvenile, and opposed to my deep-held views about inclusiveness and respect for individuality. I know. I’m just saying what happened, and the drift of my thoughts, and the conclusion I reached back then. 

And somehow, the Kate Bush prejudice lay unexamined through all the subsequent decades, though, like everyone else, I tapped an appreciative foot to ‘Running Up That Hill’ in 1985.

I can’t here critique Aerial or its successor, 50 Words For Snow, or pass comment on her triumphant comeback concert because a) I haven’t heard them and b) I wasn’t there. I mainly dislike the unthinking, uncritical critical consensus that deems that Kate Bush can do no wrong, and object, on principle, to media-prescribed compulsory worship.

But not to be negative, we do have things to be grateful to Kate Bush for. I know that Jon Thorne was inspired to take up the string bass after hearing Danny Thompson on Hounds of Love, and has shadowed the maestro to the point of dedicating a music suite to him (Watching the Well, Manchester Jazz Festival, 2007), and has stepped into his shoes by accompanying Donovan in live performance.  

I also have a happy memory of playing Charades in a Lancaster park where Sue’s gay friend mimed ‘Running Up That Hill’ by running up a hill! In my mind’s eye, I see him running backwards. Was “backwards” part of the lyric, or am I (or possibly Sue’s gay friend) confusing ‘Running Up That Hill’ with ‘I’m Walking Backwards for Christmas’? 



  1. Maybe Sue's gay friend was thinking of David Bowie's Up The Hill Backwards?

  2. Thanks for clarifying a wobbly memory, Anon. Thinking about it, Sue’s gay friend (whose name I can’t remember) was almost certainly miming Up the Hill Backwards by David Bowie. Hmm! Bush and Bowie. Someone, rifling through the ‘B’s in a record shop, once told me that all the best pop stars’ names began with ‘B’. That person was Lorraine Bowen, and it would be a pleasure to see Lorraine herself nestled between Bowie and Bush in the ‘B’s.

  3. Bjork and Bowie both in attendance at the Hammersmith concerts, no record of PJ Harvey but a past record of appreciation, I believe."Mumsnet" had a section of its readership largely agreeing with you, but I don't think any of those were at the concerts. I imagine the cost thinned out those other than the devoted, press and business contemporaries and "competitors"!

  4. I think you don´t get Bushe´s nuances. Ask Bjork


The Complete Chris Ackroyd vs Vladimir Putin 1-61

Chris Ackroyd, who manages to lead a fulfilled life without a computer, asked if I could send a message to the world. Well, I sometimes have...