My woman crush Wednesday (and woman crush all other days of the week) is Kate Bush. It might seem puzzling because a woman mostly famous for donning a white, lace number and swanning about on the Yorkshire moors wailing seems a questionable choice for a woman crush. Yet, Kate Bush is one of the most innovative, creative musical talents homegrown from Britain. Having influenced everyone from Florence + The Machine, Antony and the Johnsons, St. Vincent and, according to Wikipedia, Tupac Shakur!
Who is Kate Bush?
If you ask me subjectively, I will tell you Kate Bush is a goddess from which eternal life beams out of. If you ask me objectively, I will tell you she was born Catherine Bush in Bexleyheath, 1958. In popular culture, she is known for that impossibly high-pitched voice thanks to her often parodied but magnificent first single Wuthering Heights, and, in the early days, frankly mad dancing. In fact, you might see some of her moves in Canal Mills now. Yet, she has grown to be one of the most respected artists in the industry, taking full control of her career from her mid-twenties and being a trailblazer for other musicians who want to create something a bit different without fear of ridicule.
Why should I care?
There are many reasons to care about Kate Bush, in my humble opinion. Not only is she one of the most influential female musicians of all-time, but she also reshaped the music industry. Using literary, political and cinematic allusions for her songs, as well as fantastic melodies and thematic music videos at a time where women were seen merely as sex symbols, she is one of the most enduring artists who did everything on her own terms, to the extent that it is rumoured when her record company went to see how her album was getting on she presented them instead with a tray of cakes.
Kate Bush holds a number of records within the music industry. She was the first female singer-songwriter to have a self-penned number one in 1978 with Wuthering Heights. It might seem baffling that this happened less than forty years ago – that’s for another post, the music industry is notoriously sexist but arguably became more progressive with Kate’s presence in it. She was also nineteen years old when she achieved this feat, which is worrying when I consider that at twenty-two I struggle to open a tin. In 1980, she released the album Never For Ever, the first to go to number one by, you guessed it, a female solo artist. In 2014, she became the first woman to have eight albums in the charts simultaneously. Also, a fun fact but nonetheless important is that during her first tour in 1979 she, with the help from her musical director, invented the headset microphone to be used on stage fashioned from a piece of coat hanger. Being a nineties’ child I bore witness to the headset microphone being a key fashion accessory for the likes of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera and I am sure theirs would have been far more vogue than an old Topshop hanger. On the other hand, I’m sure many of these female performers have Kate to thank for their ability to move about on stage free-handed.
Where do I start?
If trying to delve into her music, the 1985 Hounds of Love album seems like the best place to start. Arguably her seminal work, it is a concept album of two halves. The first half is mostly the singles, Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God) probably being the well-known in the UK (for all contemporary dance fans check out the video if you’re not too frightened by masks and eighties’ hair). From the first half of the album, you might also recognise the title track from the 2005 cover North-East indie band The Futureheads did. The original is different; it is orchestral, swooping and almost foreboding. The second half, The Ninth Wave, tells the story of a woman lost at sea, her turmoil at being away from her family and her eventual rescue. Watching You Without Me is probably my favourite from that half. It’s classic Bush: weird, wonderful and genius, with a very freaky reversed voices bit throughout it that may make you think you’ve bought a dodgy copy of the song.
The other great thing about thing about Hounds of Love is that it is entirely self-produced, something unheard of at that time by a woman. She had produced two albums beforehand, but Hounds of Love is consistently hailed as one of the greatest albums of all time because of how well crafted it is. With its Irish influence and mixture of dance beats and great song writing, it is a must have for any music aficionado, but also one of her most accessible albums.
A couple of other great songs to listen to are Breathing (very weird video where Kate swims about in a womb but it’s about the impact of nuclear war on an unborn child) and This Woman’s Work (most notable for being on the NSPCC advert but it’s really beautiful and has been bastardised on talent shows worldwide if that’s any testament to its emotiveness).
When will she tour?
If you ever hear someone moaning about their favourite band not touring enough, refer them to a Kate Bush fan. She has toured twice in her entire career: Tour of Life in 1979 and more recently, her 2014 Before the Dawn tour. The chances of her touring again are very slim and this is the intrinsic struggle of being her fan: she’s toured twice in thirty-seven years! Both shows are an absolute spectacle, the former being available in full on YouTube. The second I was lucky enough to get tickets for, in what might have been one of the most nail-biting moments of my life as they sold out in fifteen minutes. Both shows are an amazing mixture of cinema, dance and extraordinary live vocals. I had never seen anything like it, and both shows received critical acclaim in the press.
So there you have it, a shortened version of why Kate Bush is my #womancrushwednesday. I could keep word vomiting, but even if you do not like her music she is a great example of an independent woman coming up against the odds of being pigeonholed as “another pretty girl singer” to create her own niche within the music industry.