I got the new Kate Bush album for Christmas this year: 50 Words For Snow. Now, Americans reading this will have started scratching their heads in unison since the name will be unfamiliar. Or maybe, if you've been around long enough to know who Peter Gabriel is, it will have tickled a small memory stuffed at the back of your brain like that discarded t-shirt in your closet that you used to wear when you were younger and thinner.
Kate has been knocking around since the late 70's, after being discovered by Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd, and has only produced and recorded a handful of albums (10) and toured exactly once, way back in 1979. Her style can only be described as original and she has directly influenced an eclectic and bizarre range of artists from Tori Amos, Lily Allen and Goldfrapp to Tricky, Big Boi of OutKast and Coldplay.
A true original.
I've been a fan since she first showed up singing a song based on the book: "Wuthering Heights". I was a little boy when she appeared on the British TV show Top of the Pops. She sang and she acted out her song with balletic movement, her wild hair and long dress in stark contrast to the disco spandex of other 70's artists. The song was a big hit and though her style and voice were gently mocked, it never deterred her. Each album she produced was an original, tackling dark topics or citing literary references in her lyrics and sometimes even a slice of humor. The music is always new, experimental and like nothing else around. Unlike Madonna or other long standing musicians, she has never altered her style beyond using technology to tackle more interesting and unusual sounds.
So, back to that memory that was tickling your synapses. Peter Gabriel had a well known hit song called "Don't Give Up" which features Kate in the video and singing back-up vocals. The song has now been covered by Pink and John Legend and most recently by Lady Gaga (of all people). Kate also had a song which was a moderate hit in the States called "Running Up That Hill". Various versions of her songs crop up occasionally but she herself has never really enjoyed success in America.
Her new album is not her best work but it's still something that people should attempt to listen to. Her stuff is not easy pop to wash over you but if you can feel it, you can be immersed in it. And bizarrely, even though there is so much femininity present in her songs, she appeals to men too.
'50 words for snow' is good writing music and so I'll be adding it to some other albums on my playlist: The Hounds of Love, Never for Ever and Aerial.
If you ever get the chance, you should delve into her music. You may not get her to begin with but you will be rewarded for you persistence. Or if you're lucky, you'll be like me and just love her from the opening bars of Wuthering Heights - a song she originally wrote when she was 14 years old.
Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights (1978)
Kate Bush - Babooshka (1980)
Peter Gabriel - Don't Give Up (1984)
Kate Bush - Cloudbusting (1985)
Kate Bush - This Woman's Work (1988)