IN THE TELERAMA ARCHIVES – As her ’80s hit ‘Running Up That Hill’ tops the US charts thanks to its use in ‘Stranger Things’ season 4, memories of an encounter with the ex-mermaid of British pop that appeared in our columns in 2005.
In the heart of London, the mythical white building of the Abbey Road studios, sober and elegant, exudes a feeling of timelessness. From the entrance, a plaque commemorating the English composer Edward Elgar (1857-1934) reminds us that the memory of the place dates back well beyond the 1960s. The place is haunted by the most prestigious and sympathetic spirits, including the photos ( Fats Waller, Glenn Miller, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Radiohead and, of course, the Beatles) adorn the long corridors or the narrow staircase. Studio 2, where the four from Liverpool have engraved all their work, sits on the ground floor. But it’s on the third floor, in a small mixing studio overlooking a garden from another age, that we receive another legend of the place, the returning Kate Bush.
As warm as it is intimidated, the enigmatic siren of British pop has nothing to do with communication, like Bowie or McCartney. By choice, by will. The rare bird, with simple and courteous manners, finally breaks his long media silence to accompany the release of his new album, Serial. His first for twelve years. Which is to say an eternity. “With Peter Gabriel, we competed for who would take the longest to make a record”, she jokes. The Beatles had produced twelve albums in seven years, Kate Bush is only on her eighth since 1978. Question of time, but not only. Temperament, too. From its early beginnings, Bush succeeded in imposing its own conditions and pace of work. An almost unique case: to find an equivalent, you have to think of the more confidential Robert Wyatt, Roy Harper or David Sylvian, craftsmen who, like her, make all the nobility of a certain sensitive and inhabited English progressive rock…
“Human beings are not equipped to bear excessive fame.”
However, Kate Bush knows nothing of the cogs and rules of business. But she acts like they don’t concern her. Completely ingenuous in a world of calculations and compromises. “Human beings are not equipped to bear excessive fame. Unless you aim for it expressly, like a Madonna, you inevitably end up getting lost, forgetting what you really want. Fame has never been a motivation for me. Only creation and its process interest me, make me vibrate »she says, recalling the tone of one of her most ardent fans, Robert Smith (of The Cure).
Serial, a sumptuous double album, completes an exemplary discography, enriching a little more one of the most singular sound universes of popular music. And openly admired by a slew of diverse artists – Björk, Prince, Outkast, John Lydon, PJ Harvey, Rufus and Martha Wainwright – having in common to refuse to take the marked paths of a formatted rock song. From his first single, in 1978 – the swirling Wuthering Heights, with dizzying vocal pirouettes – Kate Bush was already working in the exception. But few imagined that it would be long-lasting. So much grace, talent and originality for just one frail 19-year-old girl, it was too good to be true. For David Gilmour, of Pink Floyd, “discoverer” of Kate in 1975, there was no shadow of a doubt. Since that day when an acquaintance had given him a tape of songs by a 16-year-old pianist with a high pitched tone.
The daughter of a doctor, obsessed with classical music from childhood, fascinated early on by the piano and the idols of glam, Marc Bolan, Elton John and David Bowie (in 1973, at age 14, she attended, overwhelmed, the “farewells” of Ziggy Stardust), Kate spent her free time laying song after song. Signed at EMI, she left school, rode on stage, took dance and mime lessons. Two years of intense work make her a small phenomenon: a confirmed artist, with a fragile look but ferociously determined. Kate knows what she wants.
Against everyone’s advice, it imposes the strange Wuthering Heightsinspired by Stormwind Heights, as the first single. Then refuses, politely but firmly, the “sexy” cover offered to him for the album. Instant success proves him right. From the outset, the artistic independence of Kate Bush is acquired. “My status allows me to work as I see fit. If my new record doesn’t work, I’m free enough to record another one. I feel much closer to writers or painters whose tranquility allows them to stay closer to their primary passion: creation. »
Kate Bush follows a second album, followed by a tour, in 1979, which remains engraved in the memories: each title gives rise to a staging with costumes, sets and adapted choreography. “It was insane. The funny thing is that we had invented this little “helmet” microphone that we find today in all shows with choreography. It is believed that I hated doing the scene, it is false. It was just exhausting. »
Embarrassed by the overexposure, she has not performed in concert since. From 1980, her work was confined to the studio (her own, at home) where, a perfectionist, she designed day and night, for months or even years, her polished albums, with musical pieces nourished by various influences (classical, folk , pop, world…), while his texts are full of literary or cinematographic influences – from the Brontë sisters to Michael Powell, from James Joyce to François Truffaut… Only his music videos (Babooshka, Cloudbusting, The Sensual World…), which she will end up directing herself, allow us to continue to verify her advanced sense of staging and spectacle.
Cut off among her family – father, mother, brother and lovers are very present in her work – Kate Bush tirelessly explores a universe that is both dreamlike and carnal, between romanticism, taming fears and celebrating the pleasure of all the senses. His record The Sensual World is one of the rare “female” albums in the rock sphere that does not focus on resentment, frustration or the pain of having to fight in a man’s world.
“I am sometimes called crazy or a recluse. It is unfair.”
After The Red Shoes, in 1993, Kate Bush had therefore disappeared. Need to breathe, to travel, to live something other than this music that monopolized him since childhood. But, nine years ago, she gets back to work, writes a song, then two, foresees a theme that could link them. She has a baby. A son, Albert (Bertie), of fellow guitarist Dan McIntosh. At 40, Kate Bush discovers a new priority: from now on, she devotes to her music the time that her life or her son will want to leave her. She learns to work under time constraints, accepting the unexpected, external obligations. An imposed but beneficial distance. “I am sometimes called crazy or a recluse. It is unfair. Basically, I’m blamed for having a normal existence rather than that of a celebrity addicted to power and money. But for me, it’s about integrity. »
Serial is nourished by the daily discoveries of his son, the sounds of nature, the song of birds. We hear the voice of another Kate, serene, fulfilled. The woman-child who often addressed her father in her songs of the past has become a mother, an adult at the service of a child’s soul. But the magic happens. Like before. “Those who listen to my records have matured with me. They accompany me. Life is about accepting change. And the music must reflect that: evolve, move forward without betraying or denying anything of its past, or of what we are. »
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Seventeen years ago, “Télérama” met the bewitching Kate Bush in the heart of London
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