It began in a car park, way back in ’93. One of Bromley’s fine youth orchestras was rehearsing a baroque piece in the magnificent hall of a local school. Reflecting the level of my musical talent, I was outside in the car, waiting for one of the second violinists to emerge. Then the radio played a song called Moments of Pleasure, written and sung by Kate Bush. That first hearing intrigued me so much, I wanted to listen again. I’d heard Wuthering Heights - who in Britain had not? - but this was striking because it was so different. If the same artist could produce both, it must be worth exploring more of her music.
So began a discovery of her albums, one by one, starting with the then latest, and working through the others in an order determined solely by their appearance in the nearby shops. I didn’t expect to like them all, but in fact I loved each one with an intensity typical of those who admire her music. The appeal isn’t always immediate, although even on first listening there are signs that you will be forced to listen again.
Her ambition was always to produce recorded music, and after an early tour, and with the exception of a handful of TV appearances, there were no live performances. In 2014 that changed, and a new series of concerts began 35 years after the last.
This is a personal blog, and in case you ask, I did manage to buy a ticket, and was blown away by the magnificence of Kate Bush's performance.
There is much more to say about Kate Bush. The way she took control of her music at an early age, dispensing with a producer; a determination to produce what she wanted; a rejection of celebrity in favour of privacy; fascinating interviews, rarely granted; a theatrical approach to concerts; and quirky music videos before such became the norm. In addition, the many musicians who have worked with her are unfailingly complimentary, about her music and her personality. Not only do I love Kate Bush but, as this picture proves, she loves me too.
Does all this matter? Well, no, not really. Such information is interesting, but none of it would persuade me to listen to a song. The music is the thing. The melodies, the arrangements, the lyrics and the performance: these are what make her brilliant to so many, and send others running with their fingers in their ears.
Other songwriters have commented on the complex song structures, the changes of tempo, the long phrases between repetition. The lyrics have been praised for their story-telling qualities, and their meaning analysed in fine detail. Originality is a word often used. Her vocals are varied but always distinctive. Yet none of these characteristics is a Kate Bush monopoly.
There is some other quality to the music, as there is to all music which moves and absorbs us, which we cannot put into words. If we could, then music wouldn’t be necessary. And to some of us, Kate Bush’s music is absolutely essential.
Drawings © Iwona Brejwo, 2014