Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Kate Bush

By now, I've realised this blog won't be going where I had originally planned in terms of content. Instead, it's just going to be full of my ramblings on various topics.

Today's ramble is about Kate Bush.

Kate Bush is a singer songwriter who made her debut in 1978 and since then has released so many top selling albums and singles that she could compete with any of the most popular artists of today. But what makes her different from these artists is the content of her songs.

Admitedly, when I first heard  Wuthering Heights (youtube) at the age of ten or so, it certainly didn't have any particular appeal to me. In fact, it wasn't until I was 16 that the song happened to sneak onto my iPod from my dad's iTunes library. It started playing in a shuffled playlist during a car trip to Sydney and, like it did when I was ten, it left me mystified by the haunting tunes and story within the lyrics.
I had never read the novel of the same name, so it wasn't until I decided to look it up that I discovered that Kate's song was actually about something.
A night of internet wandering led me to discover other songs of Kate's, such as Cloudbusting (youtube) (youtube). Again, I had no idea what the song was about, but the tunes and words I heard every now and then caught my attention.
 Some time later, I discovered that the song was actually a story of Wilhelm Reich's invention, the Cloudbuster (wikipedia) , and his subsequent arrest.

Slowly, my fascination in Kate's work continued to build each time I discovered another of her songs. And with each new song I fell in love with, I found a whole new story being told through an abundance of metaphors and abstract descriptions; such as Babooshka (youtube), A story of a woman testing her husband's faiithfulness;  or Army Dreamers (youtube) which tells of a young man who goes off to war, only to die before he is twenty; The Wedding List (youtube) (inspired by Francois Truffau's film "The Bride Wore Black" ) tells of a woman whose husband was killed on their wedding day, and so she goes on a mission to get revenge (Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill is said to have copied this plot from Truffau's film).

However, not all her songs are like this. Every now and then there comes a song that provide a window into Kate's life and soul. Her song The Man With the Child in His Eyes (youtube) is a recorded version of a love note to her first boyfriend, and her more recent piece Bertie (youtube) is a terribly corny, yet beautiful song for her son, Albert. There is also another recent piece, A Coral Room (youtube), which was written by Kate as she came to terms with the passing of her mother. On a side note, it was the first song I heard after my childhood pet died at the age of 13, making me a happy sad whenever I hear it.

After her album, The Red Shoes, Kate didn't release anything until Aerial in 2005. No matter how many times I hear it, this album is stunning. The first half (A Sea of Honey) contains individual songs such as Bertie and A Coral Room mentioned above. The second half (A Sky of Honey) however, was designed to be listened to in one sitting, like Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. The tracks strewn together are often called An Endless Sky of Honey and go through various periods of the day, from dawn to midday rain to sunset to night and then back to sunrise. The pieces are so wonderfully stitched together that you can easily visualise the day progressing. This is all aided with the chirping of birds at the beginning and end of certain pieces, though they vanish during segments of the night.

Basically A Sky of Honey flows as follows:
Prelude - A short piece spoken by Bertie Bush, it signals the start of the day and the awakening of the birds.
Prologue - Transends through the morning, the chorus sings of "What a lovely Afternoon" and then flows into..
An Architect's Dream - This describes a "painter painting" as the sun begins to go down, the colours in the sky changing constantly. Towards the end of the song, it begins to rain, bringing us to the next piece
The Painter's Link - "It's raining / What has become of my painting" remarks the painter. The rain comes down and mixes his paints - the colours of which swirl to form the colour of a sunset.

Sunset - This piece is rather poetic, speaking of the colour of the sky and how "every sleepy light / Must say goodbye / To the day before it dies"

Aerial Tal - No lyrics are in this, only the cirping of the birds and Kate chirping along with them as they go to sleep for the next two stages.

Somewhere in Between - This is a wonderfully metaphorical and poetic piece. It sings of the moment between night and day through many comparisons, always saying somewhere in between something such as "The waxing and the waning wave", "What the song and the silence say", "The ticking and the tocking clock", "Breathing out and breathing in" and so on. It ends with three lines "Goodnight Sun / Goodnight Sun / Goodnight Mum", which I always interpreted Sun as Son, as I believe it is Bertie saying "Goodnight mum", though I like any good song, it should be left up to what it means to you, the listener.

Nocturn - As we move into this movement, the listener is riddled as to whether the singer is dreaming or really naked at the beach in the middle of the night. As I listen to this song, I can't help but be amazed at how Kate transformed the more upbeat songs of earlier in the day to the calm (yet still fast) flow of this song of the night. Towards the end, the sun begins to rise and it flows almost immediately into Aerial.

Aerial - The final piece and the title of the album, this part deals with the sunrise and the waking people. It is one of those songs that seem to increase in tempo every few seconds, creating a sense that as the sun rises higher and higher, the place gets increasingly busier with all the people waking up and joining in on the day.

The song ends suddenly - drums, vocals, guitars, everything stopping except for the birds who you notice have been  chirping alongside the rest of the instruments, but drowned out by the busy world.
As I sit there for 30 seconds listening to the chirps slowly fade, I can't help but realise how we rarely take time to appreciate the world around us. The birds, the trees, everything is always there but it is so easy to get lost amongst the excitement and buzz of the day.

It is for these reasons that I say Kate Bush changed my life. She made me appreciate the deeper meaning of everything, made me see beauty where I didn't before. Her songs allowed me to be happy when I really thought I couldn't.
If anything, I recommend you give her a chance. Go for a walk, listen to An Endless Sky of Honey as you go, listen to the words and messages and just watch the world around you. If she doesn't appeal to you, fair enough, but if you, like me, love finding rich stories behind songs, then you should give Kate a shot. Her music is timeless.


  1. I can really appreciate this level of enthusiasm and research into music. I do the same with musicians that strike a note. Nice post. What genre is she? Folk?

  2. She does quite a range, Wikipedia categorises her as Art Rock, Progressive Rock and Alternative Rock, though of course there are songs here and there that are in different genres altogether.

  3. Wow !! cant believe it haha, thanks for the cool read bro! !! sharing the love with others too :D