The latest news about the musician Kate Bush and her work

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The HomeGround Christmas Story – 2011

DaveThe Homeground Christmas story has been a tradition over the past 30 years – at least in our minds –  and I have wanted to do a Doctor Who/Kate crossover tale for a while… So this story doesn’t actually mention either Homeground or Christmas but it is something fun for the festive period. It was inspired by the recent series of Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures and of course an important moment in Kate’s own time and space continuum. Special thanks to Collin Kelly, who did some lovely tweaking for me and I’d like to dedicate it to the memory of the wonderful and much missed actress Elisabeth Sladen.

Dave

Yeti

Whatever Happened to Catherine Bush?

As someone clever once said, “The universe is big… really big.” Billions of stars in billions of galaxies and stars are only part of the story: there are comets, nebula, black holes, white holes, worm holes, rifts, tares and tears. There are planets with oceans, deserts, forests, shopping malls, intelligent life, monsters, traffic wardens and some with nothing at all. And then there is time – the most solid, reliable, dependable and predictable thing in the universe, except when it twists and turns and pops up when and where it shouldn’t. Sometimes it brings what you least expected, but needed the most.

The young girl couldn’t sleep, but she also couldn’t do much of anything else. She had been trying to write a song, had a great idea for a tune, but every time she went anywhere near the piano, she started to hear things. There was something scratching around just on the edge of her hearing and if she picked up a pen, the fear came sliding into her mind, something twisting and shiny and dark. She could almost hear words, or maybe those were in her head, telling her she was no good. Why bother? No one will ever care, no one will ever hear your silly songs, you aren’t worthy…

And, somewhere in space and time, in the Tardis, The Doctor was talking and Amy and Rory were doing their best impression of listening and understanding. “The future, you see. It’s complicated, it’s not written in stone. That’s the past, and actually most of that isn’t even in stone. You would be amazed at what hasn’t turned up as a fossil. Anyway, the future: one minute it’s all about moon bases and flying cars, you know, like in `Back To The Future’, and then, suddenly, the only place where you find cars that fly is in Harry Potter, which is not about the future at all, so they have stopped being futuristic and are now magical. Does that make sense?”

The Doctor paused and Amy glanced at Rory, managed an “err” before he carried on. “ So, it’s about what people think and do more than anything, and the smallest thought can change everything. The whole of time and space is replete with turning points, some fixed and some not.” He looked expectantly at his two friends. “What? Doesn’t that help?”

Without risking another glance at her husband, Amy replied: “As fascinating as that was, Doctor, we actually asked you to tell us about The Yetis? You said you’d run into them a few times in the past.”

Realisation dawned on the Time Lord’s face. “Oh, yes, well I was getting to that, yes, Yetis. Actually the one’s I met, were alien robots.”

“Of course they were,” Rory said almost under his breath.

The Doctor ignored this and carried on: “They were soldier’s of  ‘The Great Intelligence’ and, actually, they didn’t really look anything like your actual Yetis, the Wild Man, The Kangchenjunga Demon. Hmmmm… I remember a rather good song about that, in fact…” But The Doctor didn’t finish his sentence, as suddenly the Tardis lurched and the sound of its ancient engines changed to become the familiar noise of dematerialisation,

Amy grabbed at the consol. “Doctor, we’ve landed, what’s happening?”

The Doctor was pulling levers and banging buttons. He stopped, scratched his face, banged another panel and said, “We’ve landed.”

“Yes, we know,” Rory said, “but you said we wouldn’t be getting home for a while.”

The Doctor looked at the two of them, as if seeing them for the first time. “What? No, yes, I think the Tardis has made us land She has sensed something wrong; a fixed point being threatened. Wherever we are, the future is being rewritten and not in a good way. There is something out there that needs saving or rescuing or something, probably going to be very dangerous… ooh, fantastic! Come on!”

He took out his sonic screwdriver, gave it a flick and twirl and headed to the Tardis door. The Doctor stuck his head out, there was a pause and he looked back in.

Amy stepped forward. “What is it, Doctor, what’s out there?”

He looked at them blankly and said, “I think it’s a barn”

The young girl had given up on sleep and on the piano in the house. She headed out to her refuge, where the old church organ was, maybe out in the garden, in her half of a Heaven, she could escape the fear. But this time, there was something different; a strange noise and then voices, coming closer to the old barn, friendly voices, talking about stupid things.

“So, Doctor, we were talking about Yetis, both sorts, Wild Men and the alien robots,” Amy said. “Is this gonna be another one of those Tardis coincidences? We talk about them and there’s Yetis here? Wherever here is? Actually, where are we?”

The Doctor paused, sniffed the air. “South London, Kent… Welling maybe. I think it’s the early ’70s.

Amy and Rory had long ago given up on asking how The Doctor knew where he was, or thought he was. The three reached the door of the barn and gently pushed the door open. “Hello,” The Doctor called out.

There was a moment of silence as The Doctor, Amy and Rory stood in front of the young girl. “Hello, are you friends of my brothers,” she asked, “or did my Mum or Dad send you? Is it about the organ?”

The Doctor hesitated for only a moment. “Ummm… the organ? Ah, the pipe organ. No, not really. I’m the Doctor and these are The Ponds, Amy and Rory. We heard there was something wrong, a problem” He smiled at the young girl and carried on. “There is something wrong, isn’t there? Sorry what was your name?”

The girl came forward into the light and extended her hand. “It’s Catherine, Catherine Bush.”

The Doctor grabbed her hand. “Of course, hello, Catherine. So tell me, what’s been happening here? Why are you in the barn?”

Catherine led them outside to sit in the garden. “You will probably think I’m completely mad,” she started “but it’s the piano. Or maybe it’s in my head. I write songs, you see, and just in the past week or so, every time I go near the piano, I can hear something – a scratchy noise like bats or rats, and there’s a fear that comes. It’s like I can hear a voices telling me I mustn’t, I shouldn’t be making music.” Catherine stared at The Doctor. “I am mad, aren’t I?”

The Doctor thought for a minute and was about to speak, when Rory jumped in. “I know this seems like a strange question, Catherine, but what year is it please?”

Without hesitating, she replied, “It’s 1972. Is that important… and how can you not know what the year is?”

“It’s complicated,” the trio chorused.

Rory continued. “You write songs on a piano? This is Welling in 1972? And you are 13 years old?

“Yes, how do you know that?” Catherine asked curiously.

Amy elbowed Rory in the ribs. “What are you doing? Don’t frighten her.”

But Rory carried on. “Your name is Catherine Bush?”

The girl just smiled and nodded again.

Rory turned to The Doctor. “Can I have a word?”

“What about? I need to scan,” The Doctor said, pulling the sonic screwdriver from his jacket pocket and aiming it at the girl.

“What is that?!” Catherine exclaimed.

“Doctor, it’s important,” Rory insisted.

“Ah ha,” The Doctor said, looking at the screwdriver. “Definitely something here.”

Rory grabbed The Doctor by the shoulder and spun him around. “Doctor, listen. Catherine Bush writing songs on a piano in 1972. Catherine often shortened to Kate.”

The Doctor seemed to draw a blank and then his mouth slowly opened and closed. “Ah… oh, blimey. She’s going to be…”

“Yes,” Rory said, “and we know she is supposed to be a prolific songwriter at this age, so the question…”

The Doctor picked up Rory’s line of thinking. “The question is what or who is trying to stop Kate Bush from writing songs and why?”

The Doctor turned to look at the girl, who smiled and said, “I do quite like being called Kate, it’s a bit more grown up than Cathy.”

Kate took them into the house to where the old piano was and explained exactly what had been happening. The Doctor did some more scanning with his screwdriver and finally announced, “Okay, yep, I know what it is.”

He sat down with Kate, while Amy and Rory stood near the piano watching. “Kate, you are an intelligent girl,” The Doctor said. “I know you are, so I can tell you the truth. There are things – life forms or creatures, if you like – that feed on wasted lives. They try and change history. I’ve met these monsters before. Friends of mine, Sarah Jane and Donna, ran into them, and they tried to rewrite their futures. These creatures are part of The Trickster’s nasty little gang. The Trickster feeds on depression and chaos and one of them has been trying to stop you from being whom and what you are supposed to be. I think that whatever song you have been trying to write, and will write, is going to be really important to you and to a lot of people.”

Amy spoke. “Doctor, where is this thing and can we get rid of it?”

The Doctor raised a finger to his lips, stood up and in his best stage whisper said, “That could be really tricky, Amy. I’ve no idea where it is.”

The Doctor spun around and stuck his hand down the back of the old piano. There was a muffled squeak, and The Doctor pulled out a creature that resembled a wriggling, dark blue mole.

“What is that thing?” Amy whispered and took a step back.

Kate stared wide-eyed at the creature. “Oh, it looks frightened. It’s so small and harmless.”

The Doctor tightened his grip on the creature. “Don’t be fooled, Kate. It’s a vile little thing and its only goal was to ruin your life and rob the world of everything you will create.”

As if on cue, the creature spat and hissed at her. The Doctor flicked a switch on the sonic screwdriver and pointed it at the mole. There was a loud hum and the creature wriggled violently before suddenly disappearing with a loud “pop.”

Kate looked horrified. “Oh, no. You didn’t kill it, please no, the poor thing!”

The Doctor took her hand gently “Kate, even though you knew it was trying to hurt you in a really nasty way, you still cared about it. No, it’s not dead. I just sent it back where it belongs. It doesn’t belong in this reality.”

He smiled and winked at her.

Rory spoke. “But won’t there be other creatures, Doctor? Is Kate safe now?”

The Doctor turned to his companions. “I think so. She knows now, and once someone knows it’s very difficult to fool them again. And the Tardis leaves a trace wherever it’s been, and The Trickster won’t like it.”

The Doctor knelt down and looked Kate in the eye. “Listen to me, Catherine Bush. You are something special. You need to write songs and make music and don’t ever let anyone else tell you different. It won’t always be easy, but you must stick to doing it your way and if you want to write songs about classic books or horror movies or Russian wives or aborigines or clouds or water or even Yetis, you just do it and be brilliant.”

Kate looked quite shocked. “Okay, but…” she hesitated. “That’s all I really want to do, and I have a great idea for this song.” She blushed and then almost shyly asked, “How old are you, Doctor?”

Amy and Rory rolled their eyes. “Go on,” Amy said, “tell her Doctor.”

The Doctor hesitated for two heartbeats. “Oh, Bush, I am a lot and I mean a lot older than you. Why do you want to know?”

Kate smiled. “I thought you seemed quite old… in a nice way.” She paused and stared at the Time Lord’s face for a moment. “Except there’s something in your eyes, something child like.”

A little while later, a young girl carried a cup of tea and some chocolate to the piano. She placed her fingers delicately over the keys and began to write a song.

The Wuthering Heights Story …

Five years after Wuthering Heights reached no.1 in the UK charts in issue no.5 of HomeGround (February 1983) we started our chronological scrapbook of Kate’s career Five Years Ago with a peice which traced the story of the single:

“Is she Black?”                                                                  “No, I think she’s from Devon.”

As far as we know, Kates most famous song was written sometime in March 1977, late at night, with a full moon shining in at the window. It was the final exorcism of a presence that had haunted her since she had caught the scene with Cathy at the window in a black and white BBC adaptation of Emily Brontes novel a few years before. Though not originally conceived as her début single, to Kate, as the recording session wound on in August 1977, it became both musically and vocally the obvious track to break through the hard shell of public indifference. EMI were not at first convinced. To them, James and the Cold Gun looked much more like the obvious lead − pause now and consider what might have happened if they had had their way. Would it have been so big? Would that have been better in the long-run for Kates career development? Would Kate have been perceived by the general public and the rock establishment and press in a totally different light?

EMI finally relented and allowed Kate her own choice, and a release date was set for November 4th 1977. The “demo” copies were pressed up and many were sent out. One of these landed on the desk used by Eddie Puma, then the producer of ‘The Late Show’ for the London commercial radio station Capital Radio. He was entranced on his first hearing and left the disc for the presenter of the show Tony Myatt. They were both convinced that it was a superb single of rare quality and began playing it right away. The other DJs on the station were not so sure.

Meanwhile back at EMIs Manchester Square headquarters a dispute had broken out over the artwork of the sleeve. The company had conceived an integrated publicity campaign centred around a Gered Mankowitz photo of Kate in a pink dancing leotard − which apart from being the centrepiece of the posters would also form the covers of both single and album. Kate wasnt so sure she wanted a campaign built more around her body than her music, and began to argue for an album cover design featuring a concept of the song Kite which Del Palmer had originally put together. Though it was late in the day, EMI again relented and allowed Kate to have her way.

The release date of the single was put back, and put back again. Afraid that premature exposure of the song would ruin the publicity build-up, EMI wrote to the radio stations that had received their demo copies to ask them to hold airplay for the time being. Most agreed, but Tony Myatt and Eddie Puma did not, and on Capital Radio Wuthering Heights was played throughout November and December. In the north of England, Manchesters Piccadilly Radio also kept it on the playlist, and BBC Radio 1 was finally obliged by public request to break its silence.

By the time the new artwork was ready, Christmas was upon the popular music world, and it was decided that it would not be a good idea to throw Kate into the Yuletide maelstrom. A new release date was therefore set for 16th January 1978. In the new year airplay was already buoyant as DJ after DJ picked up on the baffling song and the mysterious singer. Who is she? Is she really Japanese? The music press presented its reaction in the 21st January editions. Sounds did not notice Kate at all, and the NME declined to review her record, lumping it with some “thirty other thing-hells distinguishable because of vomit-inducing contents… manufactured entirely to be consumed”, an ironic attitude perhaps for the music paper that was later to invent New Pop and eulogise Dollar.

Rosaline Russell in the Record Mirror jumped in feet first. Under the heading: B-o-r-i-n-g she opined that Kate’s single was a “Rotten song”, which however “might be a hit” on its “novelty value”. In the Melody Maker Ian Birch put Wuthering Heights with five other new singles under the subheading of The Cream, and attempted to tackle the matter honestly:

Bizarre. Kate is a complete newcomer, is 19, was first unearthed by David Gilmour, and has spent time with mime coach to the stars Lindsay Kemp… the theatre influence comes through strongly from the cover… to every aspect of Kates song. The orchestration is ornate and densely packed, but never overflows its banks, Kates extraordinary vocals skating in and out, over and above. Reference points are tricky, but possibly a cross between Linda Lewis and Macbeths three witches is closest. She turns the famous examination text by Emily Bronte into glorious soap opera trauma…

The reaction amongst the general public was usually extreme: hatred or ecstasy, though many in both camps admitted that they could not understand a word. One DJ played the record one line at a time, and then read from the lyrics he had obtained from EMI. This didnt clear up all the confusion of course − the conversation with which this chapter is headed was reported to the author from a works canteen at the end of January.

In early February Kate went to Germany and then to Holland to promote the single, and in Germany made her first TV appearance, on the rock programme Scene 78 made in a disused railway station popularly known as Bios Banhof after the middle-aged presenter.

On the official BMRB chart announced on February 7th Kate was in at no.42, and one week later crashed into the top 40 at no.27. Suddenly all hell broke loose. Kate Bush the household name in the UK dates from this week. She was called to do Top of the Pops on the 16th February, all flaring hair, sheer black top, red slacks and black stiletto heels, going through her routine like a demented witch. Kate was not taken with her own performance and later described it as like: “watching myself die”!

The national press were now into the act, besieging Manchester Square for interviews and photos, and at the end of the month the first interviews appeared in the British music press. The TV was not far behind − Kate appeared on on the BBC programme Saturday Night at the Mill and the ITV programme Magpie, performing on the former Them Heavy People and Moving live for an unbelieving audience and on the latter a rather well studied if overacted Wuthering Heights. In the next chart she was up to no.5 and unstoppable.

On Tuesday March 7th 1978 the inevitable was announced: “Shes made it, Kate Bush is top of the charts with her début single”. It had already gone silver, and rapidly went gold. The following day the popular press celebrated:

 “WUTHERING WONDERFUL!”

splashed the Daily Express, ecstatic in the fact that a British act had dislodged Abba from the chart summit.

 “A TONIC FOR THE DOCTOR’S DAUGHTER”

the Daily Mail shouted. Kate was total public property. She had penetrated through to the British public in a way of which most rock stars could only dream. She was in demand from all sections of the media, and even ended up being interviewed between the politicians on the BBC late-night current affairs programme Today. We can only wonder if she had time to reflect where her brother Paddy’s innocent request to help him with his violin practice by banging out some chords on the family piano had taken her. Her life could never be the same again.

It has been suggested by some that Kate arrived and made her initial impact in a time when “nothing much was happening”. It is therefore instructive to look at what else was in the charts in that first week of April 1978. In the singles chart amongst others Blondie was at no.2 with Denis, Nick Lowe at no.7 with I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass, Bob Marley and the Wailers at no.9 with Is This Love, Elvis Costello at no.17 with Chelsea, and Elkie Brooks at no.24 with LilacWine. In the album chart amongst others Elvis Costellos This Years Model was at no.4, Gerry Raffertys City to City was at no.8, Blondies Plastic Letters was at no.10, the Buzzcocks Another Music in a Different Kitchen was at no.15, and Bob Marley, Abba, Ian Drury and a host of other classic rock musicians were also represented. It was that immediate post-punk ferment of good and interesting music – and Kate came through on the basis of her talent.

An open letter to Kate

This is by Krystyna Boswell “Sky Lady”, a long time fan and HomeGround reader, and our thanks to her.

kbnewsroses8Inspired by my dear friend Paul Thomas’ open letter to ABBA, here’s one to Kate Bush.

Dear Kate,

I have loved your music since the first time I heard Wuthering Heights. I’m sure it was on Capital Radio; I literally stopped what I was doing I was so blown away. I thought, “This is the music I’ve been waiting to hear all my life.”

I cut out and kept every news clipping about you I could find, I still have them in a scrap book, very old and faded now but treasures to me. I was too late to get a pic bag for the WH single, same for TMWTCIHE but after that I was there the moment the shops opened every time a single was released. Holding each new single, looking for the scratched message in the run off vinyl was pure magic. Waiting for every new Kate music release, every TV appearance, made my life bright.

Memories : the first time I received my KBC membership card (still have it); meeting people through the pen pal ads in the KBC magazine; the first time I met my friend Peter and he showed me his letters from Kate – I was awed. People used to tease me about looking like you; a group of schoolkids would sing Heights to me when they saw me in the street but I was totally delighted. For the first time in my life I felt worthwhile, not insignificant – even if it was because I reminded people of someone else, someone who had a profound effect on my whole life.

All my friends have been made through our mutual love of your music, good people who mean so much to me. We’ve shared great times, met to celebrate your birthday and album releases. Those treks across Haworth Moor; visits to the Farm at birthdays and Christmas and meeting your lovely parents; the Video cafe, the video shoot for The Big Sky – all such special memories.

I spent hours miming your dance routines in the bedroom mirror; I crimped my hair mercilessly to look like your Lionheart photos. You were doing exactly what I wanted to do but was too self conscious to try. It was years before I had the courage to start singing, and then writing music. You were my big inspiration. Now you live your life quietly, but still give us extraordinary music. You have been a part of my life longer than anyone else. And finally I’m ready to sing again, to get a band together. I’m slow to do things, not confident, but I think about you and all you have done and know it is possible. And that you will always be part of my life, along with my wonderful ‘Katy’ friends.

Thank you Kate. Without your music I would not have met some wonderful and extraordinary people who I know will walk with me as I go through life; I would never have realised just how beautiful true creative endeavour can be, and I cannot imagine a world -my world – without your music.

Sky Lady

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