It’s not easy being a Kate Bush fan, but as Getintothis’ Jon Kennaugh proves with his hand-picked top 10, it’s hugely rewarding.
It’s never been an easy life as a Kate Bush fan.
Entire decades have been known to pass without so much as a note of new material, and this month’s 50 Words For Snow is only her second album of new songs in the last 18 years.
It’s a record that rewards repeated listening – sparse and lacking the structure of her best work at first, its atmospheric landscapes of sound eventually emerge to complement the lyrics of falling snowflakes, amorous snowmen and hunted yetis.
It’s an album to spend the winter with, and 12 months from now at least one of the songs could earn a place in the pantheon of greatness, the Valhalla of magic that is the Kate Bush top ten…
1. The Kick Inside (1978, The Kick Inside)
Standout track from her remarkable debut, this rivetting voice-and-piano ballad dealt with incest, pregnancy and suicide and was an early sign of Bush’s willingness to tackle taboos.
Her vocals ache with innocence and regret, yet manage to convey the twisted darkness of the subject matter.
2. The Man With The Child In His Eyes (1978, The Kick Inside)
Her second single, a gorgeous, tender three minutes of lovelorn adolescent angst set to gentle piano and a sweet, subtle string arrangement – and written, extraordinarily, at the age of 14.
3. Rocket’s Tail (1989, The Sensual World)
A collaboration with Trio Bulgarka, this begins with a minute of swooping, soaring acappella pyrotechnics before exploding into a catherine wheel frenzy of guitar, drums and – let’s be honest – shouting. One of her most powerful and intoxicating songs.
4. Sat In Your Lap (1981, single)
Complete with video featuring roller-skating ballet dancers wearing dunce’s hats, and sounding like nothing else on earth in 1981, this driving, breathless hymn to laziness was an early portent of her self-styled ‘weird era’.
5. Somewhere In Between (2005, Aerial)
Not many artists could make a line like ‘we went up to the top of the highest hill.. it was just so beautiful‘ sound sincere and romantic, but she manages it here. About as blissed-out and serene as she has ever got.
6. You’re The One (1993, The Red Shoes)
One of her most accessible, but strangely lesser-known songs, this was written in the wake of her break-up with long-term partner and musical collaborator Del Palmer.
The rolling Hammond organ recalls A Whiter Shade of Pale, while the lyrics perfectly capture the agony of a lost love (‘It’s alright, I’ll come round when you’re not in/ And I’ll pick up all my things.‘)
7. Wuthering Heights (1978, The Kick Inside)
Still her only number one single, this has to be the most eccentric and imaginative debut single ever.
If you weren’t there, it’s hard to explain just how much of an impact this had at the time – passionate, dramatic and thrilling, no-one had ever seen or heard anything like this before. Almost 34 years later, it’s still every bit as beguiling.
8. Pi (2005, Aerial)
A track that divided opinion even among her most adoring fans.
Against a warm, pulsing electronic backdrop, every schoolkid’s nemesis Pi is recited to several dozen decimal places.
Many found it irritating and inconsequential, but they’re wrong. It’s subtle, imaginative and completely irresistable.
9. The Morning Fog (1985, Hounds of Love)
Best appreciated in the context of concept album The Ninth Wave, this is one of her simplest but most affecting songs in which a woman rescued from drowning celebrates her life and gives thanks for her loved ones.
It could so easily be trite and mawkish, but unobtrusive production and a flawless vocal performance create a genuinely moving moment.
10. Get Out Of My House (1982, The Dreaming)
In a career studded with eccentricity, this is without doubt the most bizarre six minutes of all.
Inspired by The Shining, it’s a disturbing and oppressive tale of isolation and rage that Bush sings like a woman possessed.
Suffice to say it ends with her being transformed into a braying, screaming donkey. (‘Eee-YOOOOORE! Eee-YOOOOORE!‘) Once heard, never forgotten.
Over, as they say, to you – all comments, howls of protest and hoots of derision welcome.