Kate Bush is no ordinary singer-songwriter. Far from it. She was discovered aged sixteen, by Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd. He recommended her to EMI. They signed Kate. In 1978, aged eighteen, Kate released her debut album The Kick Inside. Some of the songs on The Kick Inside, had been written when she was just thirteen. Her debut single Wuthering Heights became a number one single, spending four weeks at number one. Obviously, this is a remarkable artists. Remarkable yes, but prolific no.
During a career that began in 1979, she has only released just ten albums.At one point, there was a twelve year gap between albums. Unlike most artists, she has only toured once, in 1979. That was the year Kate released her sophomore album Lionheart. it was the follow up to her debut album The Kick Inside. Released just nine months after her debut album, it was another hugely successful album that demonstrated how hugely talented an artist she was. Before telling you about Lionheart, which was recently rereleased by WEA Japan, I’ll tell you about Kate Bush’s career so far.
Kate Bush was born Catherine Bush in July 1958, in Bexleyheath, Kent. Her father Robert, was a physician who was a talented pianist, her Irish mother Hannah, had been an Irish folk dancer. Her two brothers Paddy and John were also artistic. Paddy made musical instruments, John was a poet and photographer. Together, the family lived in a farmhouse in East Wickam. As a child, Kate attended school at St Joseph’s Convent Grammar School, and latterly a Catholic girls school in London.
It was during that time, that Kate started writing her own songs. By the time she started sending out demo tapes they included fifty of her own songs. It was through Ricky Hopper passing a demo tape to Dave Gilmour. With his help, Kate was able to produce a more professional a much more professional demo tape.
Ricky Hopper was a friend of Dave Gilmour and the Bush family. He passed the tape to Dave Gimour, who liked what he heard, and arranged for the new demo tape to be made. Andrew Powell, a friend of Dave Gilmour, produced the demo tape. He went on to produce Kate’s first two albums. This demo tape was sent to various record companies, but in the end, Kate signed to EMI. Ironically, Kate was signed by Terry Slater, who also signed the Sex Pistols.
For the first two years of her contract with EMI, Kate continued her studies. She spent more time at school, than she did recording her album. The rationale was that if the album failed, it would have a negative impact of Kate’s career, and she might be too young to handle this. By the time these two years were up, she’s written nearly two-hundred songs. Now it was time to record her debut album, The Kick Inside.
Before she started recording her album, Kate embarked on a tour of pubs with the KT Bush Band. Instead of using her usual band members, she used experienced session musicians. A few of these session musicians stayed with her, when she brought her usual band. Recording for what would become The Kick Inside took place in June 1975 and between July and August 1977. Before the album was released, Wuthering Heights was released as her debut single.
Wuthering Heights was a huge success. It spent four weeks at number one in the UK singles charts. The Man With The Child In His Eyes arched number six in the UK. When The Kick Inside was released in February 1978, it reached number three in the UK album charts. This resulted in Kate’s first UK platinum album. Soon, it would be two.
Nine months later her second album Lionheart was released in November 1978. Kate wrote the ten tracks, although In Search of Peter Pan features an excerpt from When You Wish Upon A Star, which was written by Ned Washington and Leigh Harline. Just like Kate’s debut album The Kick Inside, it was produced by Andrew Powell. This time, Kate was assisting with the production of Lionheart. It was recorded in the French Riviera, the only album she’s recorded outside the UK. Kate wasn’t pleased that she’d been rushed into making the album so quickly. She felt that she needed more time to get the sound on Lionheart correct. This wasn’t her only concern.
By now, Kate was having to spend more time publicising her music. This included embarking upon a tour to publicise the new album. This resulted in her setting up companies to publish her music, and manage her career. After this, she and her family would have total control of her career. Kate was ahead of her time. She’d realised the importance of keeping control of her publishing rights. This included Lionheart.
When Lionheart was recorded, the band included many of the musicians that featured on The Kick Inside. The rhythm section included guitarists Ian Bairnson and Brian Bath, bassists David Palmer and David Paton, plus drummers Charlie Morgan and Stuart Elliot who also played percussion. Richard Harvey played recorder, Duncan MacKay played synths, keyboards and Fender Rhodes and Francis Monkman played harpsichord. keyboards and Hammond organ. Paddy Bush played harmonica, mandolin, pan pipes, pan flute slide guitar and mandocello, while producer Andrew Powell played keyboards. Kate played piano, keyboards and recorder. Recording of Lionheart took place between July and September 1978. Three months later, Lionheart was released in November 1978.
Lionheart was released in November 1978, and reached number six in the UK album charts. The lead single was Hammer Horror, which reached number forty-four. Then Wow reached number fourteen. Whilst the singles taken from Lionheart were’t as successful as those on The Kick Inside, at least Lionheart was certified platinum. No wonder, given the quality of music on Lionheart.
Symphony In Blue opens Lionheart. It has a lush sounding introduction, thanks to the Fender Rhodes, guitars and bass. Kate’s vocal soars above the arrangement. She accompanies herself on piano, while the bass sits way down in the mix, plodding along. They’re joined by guitars and drums. However, the focus of your attention has to be Kate. Her voice is stunning. She uses her full vocal range, mixing power and emotion. Behind her, the arrangement is full, but melodic Listening to the lyrics, they’re really mature for someone who was still only twenty-one. They describe the way she feels, her moods and thoughts about various subjects. It’s a captivating track, that sets the scene for Lionheart.
There are always numerous literary references in any Kate Bush album. On In Search of Peter Pan, Kate references JM Barrie’s classic. Just on the piano accompanies Kate. Gradually, the understated arrangement unfolds. Percussion, then the rhythm section join the arrangement. They never overpower Kate’s vocal. It’s as if everyone is taking real care to ensure that Kate’s vocal takes centre-stage. This is only right. Her vocal is spellbinding. It grows in power and drama. Despite this, Kate’s always in control. Her lyrics are sensitive, telling a story about a young girl deeply unhappy at school, unhappy about her life overall. Instead, she escapes into the make believe world of Peter Pan. Kate ensures the lyrics come to life, while a subtle arrangement allows Kate to shine. It ensures that her voice is the most important part of the arrangement.
Strings sweep in from the distance, opening Wow. After that, a synth plays and Kate sings. Her voice is slow, atmospheric, as if she’s building up the drama. By now, the track is just meandering along beautifully, Kate’s piano and a bass unite. Then Kate unleashes a powerful, soaring vocal. Behind her the arrangement grows, mandolins, drums, guitars and bass combining. As the arrangement sweeps along, you’re caught up in the sadness and pathos. You empathise with actor on stage, as one of the characters struggles with his role. Later, Kate sings: “he’ll never make “the Sweeney,” it’s a reference to a 1970s’ police drama. This reinforces the sadness as a dream is shattered. Truly, this is a timeless track full of pathos.
Don’t Push Foot Your Foot On the Heartbrake sees the tempo increase, but gives no indication of what’s to come. Again, it’s just Kate accompanied by her piano that starts the track. She’s singing melodically, before suddenly, the track bursts into life. The contrast is amazing. From a relatively understated arrangement, it becomes nearly frantic. Drums crash, guitars chime and the piano is pounded. Meanwhile, Kate unleashes that powerful voice. She’s almost screaming. It’s like Primal Scream Therapy. As if exhausted, the band and Kate slow the song down. Then having got their breath back, they return to the fuller, frantic sound. This is impressive and effective, demonstrating another side to Kate Bush.
Many song on Lionheart have a strong narrative, espeacially Oh England My Lionheart. It tells the story of a pilot whose plane has been shot down, and as he heads towards the ground and his death, contemplates his homeland. Kate sings softly as she sings and plays her piano. Quickly, she’s joined by recorders playing. Harpsichords join in accompanying Kate, giving the song an old fashioned, historical sound. As she sings, she mentions things that are quintessentially English. Backing vocalists harmonise with Kate, completing the sound. Here, Kate gives a touching and heartfelt rendition of some intelligent, thoughtful and heartbreaking lyrics.
A gentle meandering piano solo that opens Fullhouse, but when Kate sings, her voice is loud and strong, soaring high. Quickly the arrangement becomes fuller and louder. Kate’s joined by the rhythm section. They produce a powerful backdrop. Drums sometimes are pounded, guitars soar and chime. Here, the arrangement suits the lyrics. They talk about the thoughts that fill someones head, worming their way in, niggling and nagging away, telling them about things that aren’t happening, that aren’t real. In some ways, the arrangement replicates this, many things going on at one time, each seeking your attention. Whether this is intentional, or accidental, it’s certainly effective.
In A Warm Room is the polar opposite of Fulhouse. The arrangement is far more subtle, the sound neither as full nor busy. It’s just Kate and her piano. They’re a potent partnership. She uses her full vocal range well, as she delivers the lyrics. They’re sensual and seductive, describing a woman who awaits her lover. The only problem is that she may not be around long. She’s tiring of his familiarity. Although very different to many tracks on Lionheart, its simplicity is much of its appeal. It allows you to concentrate on Kate’s voice and her lyrics. They reinforce why Kate Bush is one of the great British singer-songwriters.
Kashka From Baghdad tells of the story of a same-sex couple, who are cut off from their friends and family because of their relationship. Kate deals with the subject both frankly, and sympathetically. When the track opens, Kate’s accompanied by her piano, atmospheric sounds are heard in the background. Setting the scene and mood, a bass joins the arrangement. This provides a contrast to the piano. Quickly, Kate’s powerful vocal soars. She’s joined by backing vocalists. Mostly, the arrangement is subtle. It features mandocello and panpipes. They augment the more traditional instruments. The additional of harmonies adds to the dramatic atmosphere present during the song. Both Kate’s vocals and her lyrics are excellent, her portrayal of less enlightened times both touching and sad, because of the couple’s betrayal by loved ones.
Although there are similarities between the play Arsenic and Lace, and the next Coffee Homeground, the song was actually inspired by a taxi driver who once drove Kate about. At the start, it’s almost like the music for a tango that greets you. The music is dramatic. So is Kate’s delivery of the song. Her voice veers between a restrained style, to a dramatic soaring sound. Throughout the song, her voice is strong and clear, with Kate taking care with her phrasing. Accompanied by an understated arrangement, featuring percussion, rhythms section, piano and synths, Kate demonstrates her versatility.
Lionheart closes with Hammer Horror and Kate paying homage to the old Hammer films that many people of Kate’s age remember. In keeping with the films the start has a big, bold, dramatic introduction. Then Kate sings tenderly and beautifully, accompanied by her piano. After that, things change. The arrangement gets louder, bolder. So does Kate’s voice. That’s just temporarily, as she slows things down again. Thereafter, it’s a song of peaks and troughs, stops and starts. Here, the arrangement goes between a soothing sweeping sound that’s beautifully understated, to an almost overblown, much louder, fuller sound. Much of that fuller sound is created by synths, harmonium and piano, assisted by drums and guitars. This fuller sound is spectacular in nature, and a complete contrast to the much quieter, sweeping sound. Together, they create a great track, and it’s a fitting way to end Lionheart.
Earlier in this article, I mentioned that Kate Bush was unhappy at having to rush this album, so it could be released quickly. However, Kate is very much a perfectionist. That’s why Kate’s only released eleven albums since her 1979 debut The Kick Inside. Like many artists, she would be happy to hone an album until she perceives it as perfection. That wasn’t the case with Lionheart.
Recording of Lionheart took place between July and September 1978. Three months later, Lionheart was released in November 1978. That’s no bad thing. It meant Kate and producer Andrew Powell had to work quickly. The result was an eclectic album full of quality music. There’s no filler on Lionheart. Not once does Kate let her standards drop. No wonder. Although she was only twenty-one, she’d been writing songs since she’d been thirteen. Then when she signed to EMI, they allowed her to spend nearly two years recording her debut album, The Kick Inside. So, by the time Lionheart was released, Kate was already an experienced and talented songwriter. She’d served her apprenticeship and was already a versatile singer, capable of delivering tender ballads or unleashing a vocal powerhouse. Then there’s Kate’s songwriting skills.
Lionheart features ten songs. They’re all very different. They all have one thing in common, some wonderful lyrics. Each song tells a story. They’re cerebral and literate, full of emotion, sadness, melancholia and pathos. These songs are brought to life by Kate. Her inimitable voice breathes life, meaning and emotion to the lyrics. Accompanied by a talented group of musicians, each of the songs on Lionheart, which was recently rereleased by WEA Japan, comes to life. Indeed, Lionheart is a captivating album from one of the most successful British singer songwriter ever.
Having matured as a singer and songwriter on her sophomore album Lionheart, Kate released another eight albums. Commercial success and critical acclaim were ever-present. 1985s Hounds Of Love was certified double-platinum, 1989s The Sensual World, The Red Shoes and Aerial were certified platinum, while 1980s Never For Ever and 50 Words For Snow were certified gold. Kate’s least successful albums were 1982s The Dreaming and 2011s Directors Cut. They were only certified silver. That’s another eight reasons why Kate Bush is one of the most successful British singer songwriters. Standout Tracks: Symphony In Blue, Wow, In the Warm Room and Hammer Horror.