SIMPLE MINDS Themes--Volume 1: March 79-April 82 Themes--Volume 2: August 82-April 85 (Virgin) Melody Maker, September 1990
By Simon Reynolds
It's a trick of history. Just as it's difficult to listen to U2's genuine peaks without looking for the seeds of the fatuous flatulence of Rattle N' Hum, so too is it nigh on impossible to remember that Simple Minds could often be inspirational, now that Jim Kerr is lost in the realm of platitudinous populism.
The first two volumes of Themes, a rather unnecessarily deluxe collection of their 12-inch singles (each colume contains five silver discs, where two would have sufficed), both invites and confounds speculation as to exactly whenabouts Simple Minds went astray. When did heroic vagueness degenerate into vague heroics?
The standard interpretation is that all went awry when Simple Minds exchanged fascination with Europe for the challenge of America's wide-open spaces (and markets). "I Travel" was doubtless inspired by the confusion of being on the road on the Continent, but nonetheless manages to render this tawdry experience as a form of spiritual nomadism: perpetual motion as an eternal exile from everyday life. Musically, the track sounds a bit dated: it's basically Eurodisco, a Moroder pulse-matrix and a chorus that sounds uncannily like Sparks's "Beat the Clock". The calvacade of "Celebrate" sounds far more alien and unsettled. It's not as schizo as side two of Empires and Dance, but it's still a celebration of travel as not so much a means of broadening the mind but of breaching it: the story of an "I" scattered and saturated by stimuli.
Simple Minds didn't exactly deflect all the prog rock accusations by choosing Steve Hillage to produce "The American", and despite the slap-bass and sequencers, there was no disguising the rockism of this dirge. But "Love Song" has real funk propulsion beneath its swirling vistas. It's a love song to geography ("America is my boyfriend"), a kind of reversal of Lyotard's idea of the lover's face as a landscape in which you lose yourself. "Sweat In Bullet" is another surge of panoramic, only slightly stiff-joined funk-rock: the line "rolling and tumbling/mission in motion" is valorously unspecific, there's a vague desire for some kind of crusade or Holy Grail, but Live Aid and Mandela Day are still a long way off. Thank God.
The glistening "Promised You A Miracle" was Simple Minds' breakthrough (into the charts and out of the fug of progressive rock production). Its brimming anticipation ("golden daybreak wondering/everything is possible") perfectly captured the feel of the moment, as the charts were engulfed by the accessible-but-weird New Pop of The Associates, Human League, Japan, et al. "Glittering Prize" is possibly even more ardent and awake. These two singles and the shimmering New Gold Dream album were Simple Minds' moment of perfect equipoise. For a moment, they hovered in mid-air: between grandeur and grandiosity, nobility and pomp, abstraction and woffle. And then came the plunge…
Well, not quite. Sparkle in the Rain is supposed to be when the rot set in: a regressive step back from pop to stadium rock. But the ambient bombast of "Waterfront" is actually pretty magnificent in a Jim Morrison sort of way. And "Up On the Catwalk" is probably Simple Minds' s most underrated single, their last bout of topsy-turviness and abstract euphoria, before the descent into facile transcendentalism and blunt, unwarranted affirmation ("Alive and Kicking", etc). But "Speed Your Love To Me" is as bad and boring as "Don't You Forget About Me".
Thereafter, Kerr and Co exchanged their glory daze for Springsteenesque glory days; the quest became concrete and coercive; finally, they abandoned wonderlust/wanderlust for roots, responsibility and homecoming to the heartwarming hearth. From outlandish alienation to "a big country" and "the little people". Pah!
BEDOUIN ASCENT Melody Maker, 1996 by Simon Reynolds
Listen to Bedouin Ascent's recent LP
"Music For Particles", and you quickly realise that, for
its 27 year old creator Kingsuk Biswas, percussion is the thing. The Bedouin sound --a shimmying mist of drum
machine polyrhythms and
synth tics, interwoven with ribbons of ultra-minimal
melody--is steeped in the influence of African and North Indian Classical music
(the latter thanks to Bis' Bengali background).
"Western music emphasises harmony and
melody over rhythmic complexity," Bis explains.
"The most empty music, I thought, was the most melodious music, and it's easy to
indulge in that with an electronic keyboard. But with West African percussion
ensembles, melody is the product of 40 drummers jamming together; the
melody, rhythm and harmony is blurred.
That discovery was the holy grail for
me!," he gushes, adding that he aims to achieve the same effect with drum
machines and computers. "As for Indian classical ragas, that music contains some of
the funkiest rhythms on the planet!".
Dub is another crucial influence; as a
ten year old he'd listen, amazed, to Dave Rodigan's
late '70s show on Capital. "It was mad, mental music, beats stopping and
weird noises, lots of toasting." Later, after a spell as a punk-rocker, he got
into the Adrian Sherwood/On U skool of dub-terrorism and early '80s avant-funk
(A Certain Ratio, 23 Skidoo). Then came electro and street soul.
Being Asian, Bis says, gives him the
"privilege" of being marginal. "It's made me more
objective, cos I'm less involved. I can look at the cultural institutions that
surround me and just laugh at them. Because of this, my music background is
very broad, I'm willing to penetrate anything I encounter and find
positive in it."
After a period of guitar-noise
experimentation, Bis got into electronic music circa
1988's acieeed explosion. "At the time, I was listening to minimalist composers like
Steve Reich, and it was thrilling to see music based on the same ideas become
mainstream. To go to a club and hear things that were far out was really
exciting. That hasn't really
changed--the barriers between avant-garde
music are still totally irrelevant".
Enthused by the idea of 'aciiied as
avant-gardism for the masses', and inspired by performance art, Bis actually busked
his early electronic experiments: "I'd take my drum machine out into shopping
centres in the middle of Cardiff, and people would gawp!".
"Music For Particles" stems from
these early days. (As with most art-tekno boffins, Bis has
a huge backlog of material; hence the timelag). "Particles" chimes in with
the lofty titles of his earlier releases--1994's "Science, Art and Ritual",
EP's like "Pavilions of the New Spirit" and "Further
that it's informed by Bis' interest in the 'new mysticism in science'. This is
the convergence of the latest theories in physics (quantum
theory) with the ancient mystical intuitions of the East (Zen, Tao, etc). Bis is
not eager to spell out any of this stuff, though.
"I've never been a preacher, I'm very
much an amoralist and a spiritual anarchist. But
there's stuff in the music for those open to it. And if not, fine! We don't all have
to be mystics and eso-terrorists!".
Bedouin Ascent's rhythm-as-melody
aesthetic has much in common with jungle,which Bis loves
("I can't wait for the weekends, it's pirates all the way"). Thankfully, he's
savvy enough to be wary of 'intelligent jungle', preferring instead
"jungle that isn't trying to sound like jazz, but is being itself."
but after all, this is the bloke who uttered the pearl-of-wisdom: "'intelligent
techno' was the most unmusical phenonemon ever".
"Intelligence, as far as I'm
concerned, is not a musical virtue. A lot of the stuff put out
as intelligent techno was beautiful, but calling it 'intelligent'
misses the point: it was about human enquiry and the abstract, and those are to do
with intuition, not intellect. Primitive
impulses. Just the
fact that there
are thousands of people in their bedrooms each making thousands of hours of this
music--for no money whatsoever, believe me!--indicates there's a compulsion to do
it. Intelligence is just one facet of
music. Personally, I like to leave
things as open as possible, 'cos it's in possibility that exists
Kate Bush is very... unlikely. A teen prodigy, she rocketed to the pinnacle of the British charts with her 1978 debut, "Wuthering Heights", a very... unlikely pop single inspired by the Gothic/Romantic novel. Her keening, cloudbusting warble ("it's meeee, I'm Katheeeee") immediately marked her out as an original. Over the next few years, Bush's florid art-pop, outlandish image and lofty lyrical concerns won her a devout cult following, while a larger mass audience was seduced by pop hits like "The Man With The Child In His Eyes". If her feminine glamour and the lavish loveliness of her music prompted sneers from critics (punk was all the rage), Bush connected with the imagination of suburban youth, and particularly with the fantasy life of introspective young women. Her albums, "The Kick Inside" and "Lionheart" (both released in 1978), found a place right next to Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side Of The Moon' and Genesis' "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway' in every small-town dreamer's collection.
Kate Bush gradually whittled away her mass popularity by pursuing an increasingly experimental course, a tendency that surfaced on 1980's 'Never for Ever' and the harrowing nuclear-Armageddon scenario of the single "Breathing", and blossomed with the extravagantly uncompromising 1982 album "The Dreaming". Bush faded from public view for a while, then returned to enjoy a second phase of pop stardom with the ecstatic lyricism of singles like "Running Up That Hill" (from 1985's "The Hounds Of Love") and 'The Sensual World' (from the 1989 LP of the same title). And for the first time, Bush began to make an impression in America, hitherto rather baffled and bemused by her Englishness and arty-ness.
Her new LP "The Red Shoes" could be the one to break her big over here. It's a diverse affair, almost a collection of singles rather than an 'album', ranging from a classic Bush- style keyboard-based ballad like "Moments Of Pleasure" to a futuristic funk-rock scorcher like "Big Stripey Lie", which sees Bush wrenching out some feral noise-guitar. And it surely won't hurt that she's got a raft of illustrious guest players on board this time, 'big names' like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Prince.
"My guitarist [Alan Murphy] died a few years ago," says Bush, now in her mid-thirties but remarkably ageless. We're sitting in a North London film editing studio where she's putting finishing touches to her directorial debut, "The Line, The Cross, The Curve" (see side panel). "And there were a lot of tracks I wanted guitar in and I felt a bit lost. So when I wrote a song I'd start to imagine who would be the best guitarist I could possibly have. It was a bit of game at first! But people were so responsive. It did concern me a bit that if I wasn't using these people well, it would just come across as very flash. Sometimes having someone who has a distinctive sound doesn't always work very well in other people's music."
The subdued, desolate ballad 'And So Is Love' features Eric Clapton and, on keyboards, Gary Brooker (ex-Procul Harum). "When I was writing that song, it took on a certain flavour. Quite empty, slightly bluesy. And I felt how wonderful it would be to have Eric to play on it. What he played was so beautiful, it became a question of finding other sounds that would suit the texture. I love the Hammond organ, and I'd met Gary Brooker years ago on some charity thing and I'd wanted to work with him."
Other guest players include Jeff Beck, the punk-coiffed classical violinist Nigel Kennedy, and the Black British comedian Lenny Henry, all of whom Bush describes separately as "a bit of a mate". Lenny Henry doesn't tell any gags, but does some rather fine soul singing on "Why Should I Love You"--the same song to which Prince contributes guitar, keyboards, bass and vocals, lending the track a distinctly Paisley Park feel. Apart from obviously having some kind of mutual admiration pact, Prince and Bush share some affinities: hippy-dippy mystical leanings, but more importantly, a love of sumptuous arrangements, a delight in molding the exquisite stuff of sound, frolicing in the studio playpen. Prince and Bush both make records that are so luscious, tantalising and succulent, they're almost edible.
"I think he's so talented," gushes Bush. "One of the few people in this business who's very prolific, but very consistent. Again, it was a bit of a whim, I was writing the song and I thought 'who'd be nice to play guitar?'. We never actually met while doing the track, only later. But that appealed to my sense of humour, sending tapes back and forth."
"The Red Shoes" also sees Bush resume her periodic delvings into non-Western ethnic music. The sprightly "Eat The Music" is the result of a recent infatuation with Madagascar's folk music. She first heard it through her brother Paddy, who hips her to a lot of world music. (He plays 'fujare' and Tibetan singing bowls on "Lily", another song on the album).
"If I hear things and think they're really great, it's hard not to be influenced. I've always had an interest in traditional music. Madagascan music is so fantastically joyous. And I really wanted to do something that could hopefully use that joy but fit it into a rock context. It was wonderful working with this Madagascan guy, Justin Vall. His energy was extraordinary. Just like the music, so very innocent and positive and sweet.
"Paddy's always listening out for traditional music. It probably came from my mother, who was Irish. She was always surrounded by traditional music when she was a kid. When I was growing up people would come in and they'd just start playing a tune. So there was always, in my early life, this thing of music being treated as a joyous thing, part of life. Someone would pick up a fiddle and everyone else would get up and dance." Bush mourns the absence today of that festive, convivial, participatory approach to music. "It's to do with our English temperament, it's hard for us to learn to enjoy ourselves. In Ireland, people just play music all the time cos they love it."
"The Red Shoes" also renews Bush's collaboration with the Trio Bulgarka, whose Bulgarian harmony singing stems from a folk culture in which music is intertwined with the prosaic textures of everyday life. The Trio can sing songs about doing the laundry and make it sound transcendental. "Well, not all of their songs are so trivial as that," says Bush. "Some of the stories are really quite sad. But yes, they can make you cry to a tune that's about making bread!"
Bush first called on the Trio's services for her last album, "The Sensual World". Again, it was Paddy Bush who turned her on to Bulgarian music, but it was Joe Boyd (legendary producer of The Incredible String Band and other folkadelic weirdos associated with Elektra, and founder of Hannibal, the pioneering world music label) who hooked her up with the Trio, and equally important, with a translator and an arranger. "I was scared," recalls Bush. "'Cos what they do is so... profound and so ancient, and I felt naive in my musical ability. I didn't want to involve them in some... pop song, y'know, and end up abusing their talents. They're people with such integrity. Such lovely people. They have such hard lives."
The everyday hardship of Eastern Bloc life led the Trio Bulgarka to respond rather oddly to one line in "You're The Only One I Want". It's a song about breaking up a relationship, and Bush proclaims herself a free spirit who can go where she pleases 'cos "I've got petrol in the car". "The Trio were most jealous, cos they have to queue for 48 hours to get a gallon of gas. They had a totally different way of looking at it!"
There's a similar soundclash of folk traditionalism and modern studio artistry on the title track, "The Red Shoes", where acoustic textures (mandolo, whilstes, valiha) rub up against synthesisers. The effect suggests that Bush was trying to make connections between ancient and modern ideas of dance, between the Celtic jig-and-reel and the techno- pagan rites of raving. "I was trying to get a sense of delirium, of something very circular and hypnotic, but building and building, so that you transcend the normal.
With its dervish-whirling frenzy, the song is vaguely evocative of the Tarantella, in which angst-racked young Italian women would dance away the heartache, dance their way out of their "constrictions" (as Funkadelic put it in "One Nation Under A Groove"). Dancing has sometimes had that same trance-endent function for Bush. Earlier in her career, she used to relate an anecdote about how, as a small child, she would dance whenever pop music came on TV, quite unselfconsciously. But one day, some family friends saw her and laughed, shattering her innocence, and "from that moment I stopped doing it. I think maybe I've been trying to get back there ever since".
"I remember being incredibly unselfconscious," says Bush now, "but it wasn't that people laughed at me, so much that they came as an audience, and it made me self-conscious that suddenly I was being observed. I was only 3 or 4 and I would dance to anything. Children all reach that point where they become self-conscious about things that are obviously extremely natural to them. and then you either never get back there, or you spend a lot of time trying to recover it."
A yearning to recover lost innocence, to attain a state of grace and easy connection with the world, is something of thread running through Bush's work, from her early obsession with the 'eternal child' Peter Pan to the spiritual and religious allusions that still pepper her lyrics (in the past she's had hit singles inspired by oddball mystics like Gurdjieff and Reich).
Although Bush is too "wary of doctrines" to align herself with any particular belief system, she admits that she's something of a seeker. On the new album, "The Song Of Solomon" is inspired by the famously sensual and erotic passages from the Bible, while "Lily" is riddled with apocalyptic imagery: "unveil to us the face of the true Spiritual Son", ""walking in the Veil of Darkness" . The song was written as gift to its namesake, a "very dear and a wise lady" who helped Bush through a "rough time" (a veiled reference to the death of her mother Hannah, to whom 'The Red Shoes' is dedicated). And it's the real Lily who recites the song's first verse.
"She's one of those ladies who has gifts, and she's very giving. She believes very strongly in angels, in a way I've not really experienced before. My concept of angels comes from when I was a child. But the way she understands angels is not like that at all, she sees them as very powerful, helpful forces - a bit like that film 'Wings Of Desire'. And angels are something that are coming forward in the public consciousness, in films and art - don't you think?"
* * * * *
Along with her "wispy" mystical leanings, if there's one thing that makes Bush a love-or-hate, adore-or-abhor proposition, it's her voice. For some it's swoonily intense, a voice to drown in; for others, it's gratingly over-the-top, frilly and overwraught. Bush's bursting, exultant style is unique and unprecedented, and, as is the way with originals, it's been a big influence on subsequent female singers. Not that Bush appears to have noticed (indeed she likes to make out she doesn't listen to much contemporary music). She's non-committal when I reel out the roll-call of the indebted. These include Tori Amos (whose piano-based melodrama owes a lot to Bush's early style), Sinead O'Connor, 'kooky' Canadian singer-songwriters like Mary Margaret O'Hara and Jane Siberry, and even a few post-punk chanteuses (ex-Sugarcube Bjork, Liz Fraser of Cocteau Twins).
Bush has always loved to make an unusual voice even more unearthly, by revelling in studio treatments and multi- tracking herself into a disorientating schizo-chorale polyphony. On the new album's "Rubberband Girl", she lets loose a geyser of scat-vocalese mid-song, a sort of horn solo for the human voice, then spirals off into an eerie drone- chant roundelay. "A lot of those vocal experiments just happen in the studio," she says. "But then a lot of the times I'm writing in the studio, onto tape, as opposed to taking a written song in with me."
From very early on, Bush made production an inseparable part of composition. She's vigorously and flamboyantly seized on the studio's possibilities for sound-sculpting. Surprisingly, given that she's one of the few female artists to go so deeply into studio-mastery, she's done hardly any production for other artists.
"I've had offers, but I've been too busy. I do love the idea of helping someone else to make a record, 'cos it's a very difficult process. The whole question of songs and sounds and which ones go together and which don't, it fascinates me. You have to use very strange language to describe sounds to musicians or engineers, like 'cold' or 'warm'. Sound's a bit like smell, in that it's hard to describe without comparing it to something inappropriate. They say that smell is most closely connected to the memory centre of the brain, and I've always been obsessed with the fact that you can just smell something and it'll take you right back. You can't even place where it comes from, but you just know it's from someplace way back in your childhood. And in some ways, maybe music does the same thing."
Bush's interest in exploring the possibilities of the studio-as-instrument, the importance she places on "chromatic" timbres and textures in music, makes her very much part of the British art-rock tradition. In particular, she has much in common with Brian Eno (his first band, Roxy Music, was a childhood favourite of Bush's). Both are fascinated by what Eno regards as the most radical aspect of rock, the timbres, textures and treatments that can't be scored with traditional notation, can only be gestured at feebly with metaphor and simile. Eno too has pointed out the affinities between smell and sound as sensory zones for which we have no verbal map.
As it happens, Bush has "a lot of respect" for Eno. "I think he's had a very big influence on the music business. The album he did with David Byrne, "My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts", that's been incredibly... revolutionary. A lot of the sample-based music that's happening now stems straight from that. Such a turning point in music, the whole use of repetition. It was a big influence on me too. It's a shame that 'My Life In The Bush' was so under-rated at the time. But that's always the way: the innovators tend not to have such big hits. And then you get people who copy two or three stages down the line, who get huge hits and are hailed as the new sound. "
Could this be a veiled allusion to Bush's own neglected mistress-piece, "The Dreaming"? While far from a flop, the 1982 album was sufficiently avant-garde to alienate some of her audience, and it didn't spawn many chart-toppers.
"I had bit of a rough time with 'The Dreaming' but I'm not surprised really. It's kind of a weird album. But it was a very important period for me, I just wanted to do something that meant something to me and wasn't at all commercial. I was happy with what we achieved, even though a lot of people didn't get it. It consolidated feelings in me about doing things that felt right as opposed to doing things so they'd be incredibly popular."
As well as containing her first concerted embrace of world music influences (like the didgeridu-driven, aboriginal soundscape of the title track), "The Dreaming" was also the album on which Bush got to grips with sampling, in the form of the then expensive and rather exclusive Fairlight. Nowadays samplers are cheap and commonplace, and the sampladelic sorcery Bush trailblazed is part of the fabric of modern music, from hip hop to techno. Appropriately, Bush recently found herself being 'sampled'. For their rave hit "Something Good", British techno unit The Utah Saints took a slice of vocal euphoria from her "Cloudbusting" hit (off 'The Hounds Of Love'), and modulated it into a swooning loop. Bush's mystic ecstasy ("I just know that something good is going to happen") was transformed to evoke the raver's breathless anticipation as the Ecstasy starts to come on strong. Perhaps unaware of its full naughtiness, Bush approved of the song, and with typical, almost thespian modesty, says she was "flattered".
These days, of course, it's hip to declare that you always liked Kate Bush. But when she started out, she was very much identified with progressive rock (Pink Floyd's Dave Gilmour helped kickstart her career, and she's long been a close friend with ex-Genesis art-rocker Peter Gabriel). While Bush's success dwarfed most of the punk bands, critically she suffered somewhat from punk's overhaul of values, which decreed that social realism and raucous minimalism was where it was at, and Bush-style conceptualism and sonic maximalism was passe. For many, Bush was a bit of a hippy chick, a throwback.
"It was one of those points in time when stuff was being thrown up, and it was quite incongruous, me turning up at the same time," she remembers. "At that time, there was a certain over-the-topness that needed to be expressed by a lot of people. But I did like a lot of punk music at the time. It an important period of music, it shook things up a bit."
Looking back, it's now possible to reappraise Bush as a sort of nicer, more palatable version of Siouxsie Sioux, the punk Ice Queen. They share a similar piercing, banshee- like vocal style, a similar delight in ransacking history's wardrobe for striking images, a similar blend of proto- feminist strength and feminine mystique. Unlike the rock tomboys (from Joan Jett to L7), who emulate cock-rock mastery, the likes of Bush and Siouxsie use mystery as a weapon. Like Stevie Nicks' Welsh witch "Rhiannon", they elude and evade the male gaze, even as they enthrall it.
Which is why so many teenage girls in the late Seventies and early Eighties fixated on Bush or Siouxsie (and sometimes even both). With her interest in literary and mythological archetypes of wild women, Bush connects with that part of female experience that involves adventures in "the great indoors". Where boys go wild in the streets, girls more often roam the wilderness of their imagination.
Talking to female friends, I discovered that Kate Bush had much the same formative effect on them as someone like Johnny Rotten/Lydon had on me. There are some parallels between Bush and the ex-Pistol: the influence of a Catholic mother; the fact that Bush was a Pink Floyd protege, whilst Rotten was wearing a Pink Floyd T-Shirt when he first met his svengali Malcolm McLaren. Admittedly, Rotten had scrawled 'I Hate..." on top in biro, but he must have liked them once (his tastes in prog, glam and art-rock were otherwise remarkably close to the young Bush's). There's even a parallel between Public Image Limited's experimental 1981 album "Flowers Of Romance" and Bush's "The Dreaming": both Lydon and Bush messed around with a palatte of exotic, non- rock instruments, and there are remarkably similar stories about them devoting days to extracting strange percussive sounds by bashing together unlikely objects.
But what they really have in common is the originality and sheer Englishness of their voices - Rotten's Dickensian snarl, Bush's quivery stratospherics, were both defiantly un- American. So now that the punk versus prog wars have long since faded, it's possible for a new Brit-and-proud-of-it band like Suede (current ringleaders of a 'Yanks go Home' anti-grunge backlash) to talk of loving the Pistols, Kate Bush and Bowie all in the same breath.
Bush doesn't respond too well to questions of gender, perhaps wary or plain bored of the 'women-in-rock' fix, but she is very interested in androgyny (an Anglo-pop tradition recently revived by Suede). In "Eat the Music", she celebrates the fact that "not only women bleed". "It was just playing with the idea of opening people up, the idea of the femininity in a man that's hidden, and the man in a woman," she says. In fact, Bush believes that there's "a world movement towards androgyny. Whether people are consciously controlling it, or not, I do think it's what's happening. The main thing I'm aware of is that the concept of 'anima' and 'animus'" (she's referring to Carl Jung's female and male archetypes) "has entered the public imagination in quite a big way. Then there's the way people are dressing too. I think it's very positive. It's seems such a shame that men and women don't help each other, that they're always working against each other."
Back in 1978, Bush confessed that "when I'm at the piano writing a song, I like to think I'm a man, not physically but in the areas that they explore." While this may simply be an indication of the extent to which Bush was venturing into a field - art-rock - almost totally barren of female role models, it also suggests that pop is a space for androgyny, for playing with gender and transcending limits. A utopian space.
"That's what all art's about - a sense of moving away from boundaries that you can't, in real life. Like a dancer is always trying to fly, really. To do something that's just not possible. But you do as much as you can within those physical boundaries. All art is like that, a form of exploration, of making up stories. Stories, film, sculpture, music: it's all make believe, really."
SIDE PANEL: THE FILM
The title of Kate Bush's new album is a tribute to the late film-maker Michael Powell, who, in partnership with Emerick Pressburger, made "The Red Shoes" and other classic British movies like 'Black Narcissus', 'The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp', 'A Matter Of Life and Death' and 'Peeping Tom'. Confusingly, Bush is making her directorial debut with 'The Line, The Cross, The Curve', based on the same fairy story as "The Red Shoes".
"I'm a big fan of Michael Powell's films. They're just very lovely - very sumptuous in their look, but very human as well. There's this lovely sort of heart all the way through his stuff. I also think he had a really wonderful attitude to women, they're always portrayed as women AND as people. I was very lucky in that I got to meet him just before he died, and he was such a lovely person. He left quite a big impression on me. My film is nothing like his film 'The Red Shoes' really, but it's based on the same idea of these shoes that have a life of their own, and if you're unfortunate enough to put them on, you're just going to dance and dance. It's almost like the idea that you're possessed by dance."
For 'The Line, The Cross, The Curve' Bush hooked up with two of her heroes, the dancer and mime Lindsay Kemp (with whom she used to study with in her early days of pop stardom), and actress Miranda Richardson (Oscar-nominated star of "The Crying Game"). "I just think she's one of the best actresses we've got," gushes Bush. "I'm just so pleased she got involved."
The hour long film was made with amazing swiftness. "It was written and rehearsed in a couple of months, and took three weeks to film - we should really have had twice as long. It's been hard work, but really interesting for me, really educational. For years I've been saying to friends, 'oh, I'd love to make a film', but I hadn't really planned on doing a film like this, one that's partly based around tracks from the album. I would like a shot at making a proper film one day. See, I'm not really sure if there's a a lot of opportunities to show short films like 'The Line, The Cross, The Curve'. I've no idea where it will actually be shown, but it would nice for people to get to see it in its entirety. Just once!"
extracts from Fred Vermorel's piece (Village Voice/Voice Literary Supplement, October - November 2000) on his approach to renegade biography Fantastic Voyeur:Lurking on the Dark Side of Biography
"There was a metal fire escape up one side of her house. At the top was a black emergency door with a bar, the kind you find in cinemas. Such doors could be jimmied open. But was it alarmed? I often climbed to the landing outside this door and made a nest, camping on the iron slats. Sometimes her cats passed below and looked up at me. Would they tell? Sometimes she passed below, wheeling her bicycle for nocturnal sorties. Squatting there, refreshing myself with sandwiches and tea from a flask, I would listen to her dwelling as a lover sprawled over her body, detecting her heart."....
.... "There is also a sensuous and flirtatious aspect to biographical research: breaking seals and confidences, untying ribbons from bundles of documents, raising the dust of strangers' lives, dealing and unpacking other people's intimacies, deciphering their photos . . ."
.... "Sometimes I pressed my ear to the door and heard distant comings and goings. The gist of events and conversations, uncertain threads and emissions of her and her brother's lives. Explosions of hoohas, pounded stairs, slammed doors, flushing cisterns, music. It was as if they were putting it on to fascinate and tease me. Listen here, Fred! What is this noise here? And that one?"...
"All games I played while researching The Secret History of Kate Bush, an absurdist experiment to see how far the rock bio could be stretched without snapping. I adopted the persona of a mad professor so obsessed that he traces Kate Bush's genealogy back to the Vikings. And I also stalked the woman, as a phenomenological acting out of that uneasy and twisted boundary between fascination and obsession. Oddly (or perhaps not), the book became the bestselling bio of that singer. But what most struck me was how straight were the readings people made of this text. I still find discussions on the Internet debating whether "I" was "really" obsessed with Kate Bush, as well as allegations I not only had an affair with her, but that while researching her life I ran over her cat.
Far from running over her cat, I seduced both her cats, Zoodle and Pywacket. I'd watch her let them out the door at night and coo them over to my hiding place, where I'd stroke their grumbling fur. Her cats were my Trojan horses to carry the smell of the hand I caressed them with back into her house, into her very lap. "
... "The morning John Lennon was shot I woke suddenly around 4:15. Numbers were flashing through my head: a phone number. I jotted it down on a pad. Turned over but still couldn't sleep. Around seven I turned on the radio and heard the news. A few days later, out of curiosity I rang the number. Kate Bush answered."....