Focus could be the word.
I hear him / before I go to sleep / and focus on the day that’s been.
It’s a delicious opening. An invitation to travel as well as to what – indulge? Or just be thankful?
But who is your ‘him’? Who is that you love so deeply that they are where you go… with or without Kate in that perfectly expressed moment? Probably it’s a lover – no? Whether it’s a lament depends of course on which emotions-from-now you copy and paste upon it.
I think for me that first line – so personal, so all of us? – has always been about my dad, who died at 44. I hear a lament in that tenderness but I hope you don’t, I hope you just luxuriate in its richness. Unquestionably, there’s both that ‘great toon’ thing and some seductively universal draw going on there; undeniably too there’s elite level execution of the intention – of the song.
The Man with the Child in his Eyes is classic Bush in the sense that it pulses and soars beautifully, it’s whole, it transcends pop. It’s intelligent and powerfully received (as meaningful) even if the meaning ain’t always clear. In the opening lines there’s movement – often there is some shift – back into the now. But if I was a real student of Bush maybe I’d be working up a hypothesis around the theme of… yeh, focus.
Look at a slack handful of the videos and the extraordinary (and quite dating?) backlighting or faerie-fuzziness thing. In Man with the Child that dance/tease(?)/express through-the-veil combo is striking. Firstly the dance is erm, sitting down only and yet lithe and wavelike, birdlike, swelling with movement and comfort or the search for comfort. Second the lighting is either about the softness of the song or about Bush’s insecurity about body image, depending on how you read the Kate-as-essentially vulnerable line. Or (most likely) it is some accommodation of the two wildly conflicting notions.
How do we view this? Why is there stuff in the way?
We need to be clear (ha!) that Bush was (yes!) steeped in English middle-class-ness but leaping, arcing, dancing radically free through what she thought of (thinks of) as her art. Her performances and the performances for video and television were extraordinarily brave. That which was seen was not only central, inseparable from the song and expressive in a way that was utterly exposing (but) it was the only way in which this artist could or apparently would work.
Most of us hadn’t seen dance like that or been pre-schooled in any sense for the lit-conversant art-school hand-grenades that this doctor’s daughter was about to fling surreally round the gaff. In short she was unique – obviously so, defiantly so – from the first moment.
Announcing herself with Wuthering Heights was some move. God I’ve love to speak to Dave Gilmour (who allegedly kinda bankrolled her early doors) about the early Kate and how she got there, how she was. Did she reek of prodigy or genius or precious wee thing? How much power did she wield? Were those around her vipers or were they in awe? Who plumped for all those leotards, all that sexuality and what boundaries were discussed? Was it actually all awash with drastically necessary drug-use or was Kate cruising in a kind of searing creative pomp?
I hope it’s not unseemly that I’m fascinated by what on a kindof visceral level fuelled the dance. I’m perfectly willing to believe that she was simply a majestic talent. But later, in that unhinged Babooshka vid, for example, was she simply unaware? I know there’s always some character-acting going on (and three hundred-weight of i-rony) but I worry that there was some self-hatred in there too.
Maybe all these things are more my problem than hers. Maybe the desperation I fear simply isn’t there. Perhaps the fact that Kate was instantly precious was gathered in, presumed and anticipated even by her and that frisson around how far she might go, how out there, became essential to the whole project. Maybe I’m out of order bringing us anywhere near this idea that things point to a level of vulnerability – predictable, girlie vulnerability – that Bush had to fight a way through.
Again let’s be clear; I personally rate and revere Kate Bush for her fearlessness and her ambition. Back then she was profoundly original, gem-like in the banal matrix of duff ‘bands’ and duffer cheesy-pop fluff. She took a huge lungful of something wonderful, loaded up with Klimt-like sensual expressionism and hurled her soul out into the audience. Zillions of us got just enough of it to hold her aloft.
But this becomes too breathy. Let’s grab a hold of something else – politics.
Breathing / breathing my mother in / breathing…
Bush would accept, I reckon, that she is broadly un-political, placing herself in the broader-than-that category we might term Artist. However I imagine there are folks out there who adore her for the revelatory nature of her Woman-as-Artisthood.
Breathing may be a seminal work of feminism as well as another fabulously intriguing product. Go listen.
An end-of-the-world crypto-dirge meets some extravagant, challenging and in truth maybe only partly successful homage to… Mother(s). It’s a line in the sand, yet another exposure and also a triumph of plain weirdness. We may not know whether to wallow in its sexiness, join some protest group, get back to art school or possibly campaign to get every art school in the nation closed down. How are we supposed to view this when the questions are so e-nor-mous and the milieu so colourful and new?
The Gift is surely that it pays to experience this stuff. Of course some of it don’t work – this is the edge. It’s also personal and pure and recklessly giving. So no wonder.
There’s no safe way for me to spill out the feeling that in the 70’s/80’s Kate Bush was a beautiful, beautiful specimen of womanhood who did something liberatingly special. That dancing/those toons/those lyrics. Loaded with something fantastical and real.
Tonight, I wonder where is she now?
She was (I think) an art or dance-school philosopher – and yes there is a wee criticism in there – out there somewhere bold, somewhere only hers. I’ve heard folks lump her in with Bowie as some un-Englishly cracked actor and I can see why… but why compare? Kate Bush was incomparable. I hope her return to the stage does nothing to diminish that.
I can see today that she was, in the midst of the masturbatory blandness of the pre-punk or un-punk music scene, gorgeously unique, bewitching, luminous and credible. How will we view her tomorrow?