Kate Bush Biography

Catherine Bush, 30 July 1958, Bexleyheath, Kent, England. While still at school, the precocious Bush was discovered by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, who was so impressed by the imaginative quality of her songwriting that he financed some demo recordings. EMI Records were equally taken with the product and in an unusual act of faith decided not to record her immediately. Instead, she was encouraged to develop her writing, dancing and singing in preparation for a long-term career. The apprenticeship ended in 1978 with the release of the extraordinary ‘Wuthering Heights’. Inspired by Emily Bronte’s classic novel, Bush had created a hauntingly original piece, complete with an ethereal, almost demented, vocal that brilliantly captured the obsessive love of the novel’s heroine, and her namesake, Cathy. It was no surprise when the single rapidly reached number 1 in the UK and established Bush in Europe. The follow-up single, ‘The Man With The Child In His Eyes’, was typical of Bush’s romantic, sensual style of writing, and provided her with another UK Top 10 success. The attendant The Kick Inside, recorded over the previous three years, was a further example of her diversity and charm as a songwriter.

Bush consolidated her position with a new album, Lionheart, which featured the UK Top 20 hit ‘Wow’. During 1979, Bush undertook her first major tour. The live shows were most notable for her characteristically extravagant mime work and elaborate stage sets, but it was to be the last time the singer would tour. An EP from the show, On Stage, gave Bush another Top 10 hit. After guesting on Peter Gabriel’s ‘Games Without Frontiers’, Bush was back in the UK charts with ‘Breathing’ and ‘Babooshka’. The latter, a UK Top 5 hit, was her most accomplished work since ‘Wuthering Heights’ with a clever storyline and strong vocal. Her next album, the self-produced Never For Ever, entered the UK album charts at number 1 and further hits followed with ‘Army Dreamers’ and the seasonal ‘December Will Be Magic Again’.

At this point, Bush was still regarded as a mainstream pop artist whose charm and popularity was likely to prove ephemeral. Her self-produced 1982 album The Dreaming suggested a new direction, with its experimental song structures, even though its less melodic approach alienated some critics. Her lyrics also drew on a wider range of sources, including the Vietnam War (‘Pull Out The Pin’), Aboriginal rights (‘The Dreaming’) and the life of Harry Houdini (‘Houdini’). A comparative commercial failure, the album nevertheless proved to be highly influential on other 80s pop musicians, and in particular on Gabriel’s increasingly studio-bound work. A two-year hiatus followed, during which Bush perfected a work that would elevate her to new heights in the pop pantheon. The pilot single, ‘Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)’, was arguably her greatest work to date, a dense and intriguing composition with a sound uniquely her own. The single reached the UK Top 5 and broke Bush into the US Top 30 for the first time in her career. The chart-topping album Hounds Of Love soon followed and was greeted with an acclaim that dwarfed all her previous accolades and efforts. By any standards, it was an exceptional work and revealed Bush at the zenith of her powers. Songs such as the eerily moving ‘Mother Stands For Comfort’ (about a murderer) and the dramatic ‘Cloudbusting’ (inspired by A Book Of Dreams by Peter Reich, son of Freudian Marxist Wilhelm Reich) underlined her strengths not only as a writer and singer, but most crucially as a producer. The outstanding video accompanying the latter featured Donald Sutherland. An entire side of the album, titled ‘The Ninth Wave’ and relating the thoughts of a drowning woman, fused Arthurian legend and Jungian psychology in a musical framework, part orchestral and part folk. After this, Bush could never again be regarded as a quaint pop artist.

After appearing with Peter Gabriel on his 1986 UK Top 10 hit ‘Don’t Give Up’, Bush took an extended sabbatical to plot a follow-up album, although a new track ‘Experiment IV’ and a re-recorded version of ‘Wuthering Heights’ appeared on the chart-topping compilation The Whole Story. In 1989 she returned with The Sensual World, a startling musical cornucopia in which she experimented with various musical forms, even using the Bulgarian folk troupe Trio Bulgarka. The arrangements were as evocative and unusual as her choice of instrumentation, which included uillean pipes, whips, valiha, Celtic harp, tupan and viola. There was even a literary adaptation à la ‘Wuthering Heights’, with Bush adapting Molly Bloom’s soliloquy from James Joyce’sUlysses for the enticing title track. The album attracted the keen attention of the highbrow rock press and Bush found herself celebrated as one of the most adventurous and distinctively original artists of her era. A variety of artists contributed to her sole release of the 90s, The Red Shoes, including Eric Clapton, Prince, Jeff Beck and Gary Brooker. Though this 1993 album rarely reached the creative heights of her 80s recordings, it was a notable success for the singer in the American market. Bush subsequently directed The Line, The Cross & The Curve, a 43-minute film based around six songs from the album.

Sadly, the music world has heard less and less of Bush in subsequent years as she has devoted more time to her family, guitarist/partner Danny McIntosh and son Bertie. She made a rare public appearance in October 2001 at the Q Magazine Awards to receive the Classic Songwriter award. Rumours of the singer recording a new album were confirmed in December 2004, although the press and fans were forced to wait almost a year before a release date was scheduled. The first single from the album, ‘King Of The Mountain’, returned Bush to the UK Top 5 in November 2005. Aerial received a huge welcome, although the favourable gushing was not so much for the quality of the record but more the relief of finally getting a new Bush album. Once the euphoria has settled, it will be regarded as an interesting and good album; nothing more.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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