Another press mention: The Irish Post -The Voice Of The Irish In Britain have published an article on Kate which is the third of a seven-part series celebrating the contribution of second-generation Irish songwriters to British pop and rock music. Unfortunately the writer of this article either didn’t know about or forgot to mention Mná na hÉireann. Still it’s one of the few articles written about Kate in the press that I’ve seen this year. (thanks to Jane Sagr for pointing out this article to me)

The Irish Post – Saturday August 29 1998

Bush Tales

Kate Bush is the focus in this third of our seven-part series celebrating
the contribution of second-generation Irish songwriters to British pop and
rock music.

In many ways, Kate Bush is the antithesis of the other songwriters in this
series. Female, middle class, secure in adolescence with a notably placid
temperament, she is seemingly free from the warring sense of cultural
dislocation experienced by many of her Anglo-Irish peers. What she does
share with fellow travellers like John Lydon, Morrissey, Kevin Rowland and
Noel Gallagher is an Irish ancestry and a strong determination to control
every aspect of her career. While her male, working-class counterparts
spent most of their lives fighting against the odds to break free from
tough environments and suffered legendary run-ins with record companies or
music journalists, Bush’s CV has been free from controversy.

Although often seen as an exotic example of English suburbia transposed to
the pop world, Bush’s career suggests a far more cosmopolitan outlook. Her
Irish roots emanate from her late mother Hannah, an Irish staff nurse,
farmer’s daughter and prize-winning dancer. All the Bush family were
artistically creative and Kate’s musical interests originally drew from her
Irish heritage. As she once explained: “I’m very influenced in my writing
by old or traditional folk songs, ballads handed down by new generations of
musicians but with the original atmosphere and emotions still maintained.
The sort of music my mother, who’s Irish, would have listened to and danced
to, and used to play for me when I was very little. It’s still probably my
biggest influence.

Kate’s father, Robert Bush, a doctor, introduced her to the harmonium at a
young age, while her elder brothers, Paddy and Jay, encouraged her
interests in roots music and poetry. Precocious and secure in her own
company, she was composing from an early age. One of her early hits, ‘The
Man With The Child In His Eyes’, was written when she was only 12. Her
break came two years later when a friend of the family, Ricky Hooper,
passed on her roughly recorded demos to Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour who duly
informed EMI Records of this new talent. Instead of exploiting her ingenue
potential, the company wisely invested in her future, providing a modest
income during which she completed her schooling, played some low-key fun
pub gigs, studied dance and mime and continued writing.

It was another second-generation Irish writer, Emily Bronte, who inspired
Bush’s 1978 debut single ‘Wuthering Heights’. When it reached number one,
the 19-year-old singer was thrust into the limelight as one of the most
exciting young talents of her era. In common with other Anglo-Irish
artistes like Elvis Costello, Morrissey and Kevin Rowland, Bush
increasingly sought control over the way her work and image were presented
in the media. She famously championed the release of ‘Wuthering Heights’ in
the face of record company scepticism and, having won that battle, never
looked back. Over the years, she would successively secure control of the
means of production, licensing her material to EMI, overseeing sleeve
artwork, managing herself, producing her own albums and determining release
dates at her leisure.

Meanwhile, her private life was a closed book. While her contemporaries
cavorted in public, she remained a model of decorum, studiously avoiding
superstar gatherings and concentrating on her work. Even the tabloids lost
interest when she seemingly retreated from the public eye. What they saw as
a reclusiveness was actually nothing more than a self-motivated woman
getting on with her life, surrounded by a loyal family and coterie of
like-minded musicians.

Musically, Bush’s series of albums resemble a travelogue, taking in a
variety of musical forms from English folk (‘Lionheart’) through Australian
traditional music (‘The Dreaming’) and a mixture of Irish and Bulgarian
influences on ‘The Hounds of Love’, ‘The Sensual World’ and ‘The Red
Shoes’. Like her Anglo-Irish contemporaries, she seems both connected to
and dislocated from her Irishness. While admitting that she is drawn to the
idea of living in éire, the whim remains unrealised. “I’ve always felt
pulled to Ireland because my mother was Irish,” she says, “but whenever
I’ve gone, I’ve never felt very at home.”

Nevertheless, she has found a home for Irish music in her work. Her
ground-breaking album ‘The Dreaming’ incorporated Irish traditional
instruments on ‘Night Of The Swallow’, which featured Bill Whelan
(pipe/strings), Liam O’Flynn (uilleann pipes and penny whistle), Sean Keane
(fiddle) and Donal Lunny (bouzouki). The experiment was continued on the
extraordinary ‘Jig Of Life’ from ‘Hounds Of Love’, which was credited to
her brother, Paddy, whose interest in Irish music had been present since
childhood. Released at a time when her record sales had hit an unexpected
dip, 1985’s ‘Hounds Of Love’ established her standing as the most
adventurous and accomplished female singer-songwriter working in Europe.

Bush’s Irish leanings reached their apogee on ‘The Sensual World’, arguably
her most accomplished work to date. Again traditional elements were notable
with Celtic harp, mandolin, uilleann pipes and tupan to the fore. The
evocative title track was inspired by Molly Bloom’s soliloquy in James
Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’. Bush had been playing around with some words which
reminded her of the speech and after reading the passage was amazed to
discover that the lines scanned perfectly with her music. “It was
extraordinary,” she exclaimed. “I’ve never had anything like that happen
before, and it was very exciting.” What seemed a highly accomplished
literary adaptation was blocked by Joyce’s literary executors. “I tried
several times,” she explained, “but they were just absolutely adamant.”
Instead, she elected to retain the rhythm of the speech and adapt the theme
to express the idea of Molly Bloom emerging from the pages of the book to
discover the “real” sensual world. “To reapproach it was quite painful,”
she admitted at the time, “especially having to let go of what I thought
was obviously a classic piece of literature that I felt worked with
contemporary music.”

‘The Sensual World’ remains the most successful translation of literature
into pop, the culmination of a process begun a decade earlier with
‘Wuthering Heights’. It is likely that Bush will return to Irish themes
sometime in the future, although aficionados have had to learn the patience
of Job while awaiting new product. The four-year gap between ‘Hounds Of
Love’ and ‘The Sensual World’ was followed by a five-year wait for 1993’s
‘The Red Shoes’. Another half-decade on, there is no news of a new album
before the millennium.

Next week, Johnny Rogan considers the dimension of Kevin Rowland, the
mainstay of Dexy’s Midnight Runners.