Depending on your age, the news either left you cold or had an immediate effect.
By immediate I mean being propelled, almost against your will, into dancing in a late-1970s style while keening in a high-pitched wail: “Out on the winding, windy moors...” frightening the dog, and embarrassing the kids but not yourself, because when Kate Bush ruled the world, that’s how we all rolled.
Yesterday’s announcement that Bush would be playing a series of live shows in London this August and September, her first in some 30 years, was one of those side swipes that set you back on your heels a little bit. When Philip Larkin said that when you suddenly find yourself saying 20 or 30 years ago about your own life, he didn’t mean it in a pleasant way. It can be a sobering experience to explain to your kids you first saw this lady on television almost 40 years ago.
That’s part of Kate Bush’s enduring appeal, of course. There are other constituent elements: That rarest of commodities in popular music — a unique voice — not to mention a songwriting touch that mixed high-brow lyrics with hit melodies and a striking visual image which acted in counterpoint with a reticence that bordered on the reclusive.
If she were starting out as a singer-songwriter now, it would be very different. For one thing, she’d probably be channelled towards the syrupy power ballads that form the staple diet of televised talent contests; for another, she could count on being processed by the image factory in order to remove any trace of individuality in outlook or appearance.
More significantly, I think that the modern spin cycle of Twitter, tabloids, and 24-hour news channels would have investigated Bush as a person so thoroughly that her great trump card wouldn’t have lasted a week beyond her first television appearance: Her air of mystery.
The long silences and infrequent interviews are a key part of the Kate Bush legend. When she came to our attention with ‘Wuthering Heights’ all those years ago, there was just the odd trace element of information, not the overload we see nowadays.
Back then, the details were few and far between: She was rumoured to be a Catholic; she was rumoured to have come to the attention of Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd as a 16-year-old prodigy; and most improbable of all, some people believed her mother was Irish.
(All of which were true, by the way: Her late mother was Hannah Daly of Waterford.)
That jab of nostalgia you felt when you heard yesterday’s news — nostalgia, the ache for a place we love but can never return to — might have less to do with ‘Army Dreamers’ ‘Cloudbusting’ than a wistful longing for the comfort of a Thursday evening watching Top of the Pops in the 1970s, maybe with a Catch bar on your lap.
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