Friday, December 2, 2011

"The Man With the Child in His Eyes"

Back in my record store daze, I had a manager named Robyn Royball (who helped get me hired) who was a big across-the-board pop music fan -- BIG Tom Petty fan, British pop & new wave bands, 10 c.c., Ramones, Cheap Trick, Hollies, like that. Also a big booster of women artists -- BIG Chrissie Hynde fan, just like I was. Liked Fleetwood Mac but couldn't always figure what all the fuss was about. Knew a lot about a lot, like the rest of us at the store. Also a big enuf fan 2 turn people on 2 stuff that was good 4 them.
Don't know how we got on the subject, but at 1 point she tossed me a tape of Kate Bush's 1st 3 albums + stand-alone singles. MayB it was cos I picked up a copy of Kate's 1st, THE KICK INSIDE (1978), & said something about always wondering what the British child-prodigy (helped along by Pink Floyd's Dave Gilmour) was like.
& Robyn said "Oh, she's GREAT. She's AMAZING. I'll make you a tape...." That would B Robyn....
Somehow Robyn squoze 3 albums (KICK INSIDE, LIONHEART, NEVER FOR EVER) + 3 uncollected single-sides on2 a 180-minute cassette (remember those? Ever have 1 that didn't break?) & I got sucked in2 it almost immediately. I was amazed by Kate's singing & keyboard-playing & her spacey adventurousness. & I ended up buying all the albums & singles anyway. Most of 'em were only available as imports.
I say I was sucked in "almost" immediately. 1 of the big knocks against Kate on this side of the pond is that her voice is "too weird" -- 2 high, sometimes almost shrieking. I think 1nce you adjust 2 her voice you don't even notice the high notes NEmore. & I think KICK INSIDE leads-off with 1 of its weakest trax, "Moving." Maybe it was the whale sounds that put me off....
But after that the 1st side coulda bn minted in gold -- with the gorgeous, moody "Saxophone Song," the upbeat "Kite," the women's-mystery "Strange Phenomena," & the wondrous, perfect, brief miniature "The Man With the Child in His Eyes."
Ah, I've got it! I wondered what Kate was like cos Robyn & I had both heard (over&over while working in the record store) Pat Benatar's version of Kate's "Wuthering Heights." If you kept Kate's sometimes a-little-loopy vocals & added Neil Geraldo's guitar pyrotechnics from Benatar's version, then the song'd B perfect! ...I thot back then. Now I think Kate's version is sorta ... modest. She coulda shrieked even higher.... & summa the lyrics were pretty great: "How could you leave me/When I needed to/Posess you/I hated you/I loved you too...."
I wasn't that thrilled with the 2nd side of KICK INSIDE -- "Feel It" was embarrassingly sensual, "Them Heavy People" sounded kinda preachy, others fell flat. But the intimate closing title track was great. & the guys from British rock band Pilot (Ian Bairnson, guitar; David Paton, bass; Stuart Eliot, drums -- also the instrumental core of the Alan Parsons Project) made sure the music hit hard; Andrew Powell's strings & production added nice studio polish.
So I listened more. LIONHEART (1979) was Kate's difficult, rushed 2nd album. She's mayB a little Mbarrassed by it now, but there were some great things on it: "Wow"'s story about what stardom is really like is pretty hilarious, & Kate's singing is great; "Don't Push Your Foot on the Heartbrake" has some nice drama; "In Search of Peter Pan" is pretty; & "Symphony in Blue" is a nice positive opener. The spooky closer "Hammer Horror" is about the only thing on the 2nd side that I can stand. But there were some nice production touches here & there. Just maybe rushed a bit.
Kate co-produced NEVER FOR EVER (1981), & it's more solid. & MUCH more adventurous.
"Babooshka" opens the album with a rush of loopy energy in a song that seems 2 B about an affair -- Kate had never bn this outgoing B4. "Delius" is 1 of my favorites -- a moody, summery picture with a lotta sound effects & neat instrumentation. "The Wedding List" is an ironic scream, if you're in2 irony. "Infant Kiss" is a bit like "Feel It" -- a bit uncomfortable. Peter Gabriel guests on "Breathing," a dramatic tale of the bombs dropping as told by a baby still inside her momma's tummy. It's pretty unnerving.
There were some things I didn't care 4 -- "Army Dreamers" is pretty downbeat, "Violin" is feverish, almost outta control. But all the songs were pretty wild. I was looking 4ward 2 more.
Robyn saved the best 4 last -- 2 of the singles made me a permanent fan: "December Will be Magic Again" is just glorious, a gorgeous Christmas song that'd make a great video -- you can almost see Kate floating down thru the sky atop a snowflake, waiting 2 land on the "icicled roofs" of her song. The stark "Empty Bullring" is Kate alone at the piano telling a brief story of a relationship falling apart. It's freaking brilliant.
From then on, I was on the lookout 4 more music by Kate Bush.
But the record store job ended. B4 that, the company had $$$ troubles & the store had nothing good or new left 2 sell, & Robyn & I both got cranky & said mean things 2 each other. I didn't leave under the best of circumstances....
Years later, I tripped over a Kate best-of called THE WHOLE STORY that features summa the above + 2 more great songs, the intense "Running Up That Hill," & the vivid & hypnotic "Cloudbusting," another song that'd B perfect 4 a video. You can already see it in your head....
While in Turkey I grabbed a copy of Kate's THE SENSUAL WORLD, mainly 4 "This Woman's Work," an intense & hypnotic piece that I 1st heard in a John Hughes movie, SHE'S HAVING A BABY. The song works as a metaphor 4 a lot of diffrent things -- I think there's a lot of pain in it, & now it's hard 4 me 2 even listen 2. When my son was 2 years old it was his favorite song in the whole world.
A few years back I got a copy of Kate's CD-era best-of, THIS WOMAN'S WORK, which features mosta the songs mentioned above. It's worth tracking down, tho I didn't like the sevral re-mixes included in the package. The originals R good enuf 4 me.
If she'd come along earlier, I think Kate woulda bn classified as "art rock" or Prog. I haven't heard much of her more-recent work. But I never woulda heard her at all if my old boss Robyn wasn't such a big music fan. I owe you, RR....

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