After a twelve year absence Kate Bush returned, and how. A double album, on which Bush proved she was still able to make idiosyncratic, beautiful music.
On July 30th, 1958, Catherine Bush was born in Kent, England. She taught herself to play piano and quickly started to compose her own music, later on providing it with lyrics. When Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour heard recordings of the 16 year old Bush he was very impressed. A professional demo was made, which led to a contract with EMI Records.
On January 20th, 1978, the world first got to know Kate Bush when she released her debut single. Wuthering Heights was an immediate smash. At the time, I was 12 years old and bought the single right away. I had never heard anything like it, that voice was enchanting, the song was moving. The debut album The Kick Inside followed on February 17th, 1978. It signaled the start of an exciting, innovative, deviant and unique career. Following her second album Lionheart Bush went on tour. The Tour Of Life lasted 6 weeks and presented total theater, leaving audiences dumbfounded. It would last until 2014 before Bush would do another series of concerts.
After the album Never For Ever Bush started to produce her own music, resulting in the astounding The Dreaming, on which Bush experimented with sound, styles and the Fairlight CMI (sampler). In 1985 Hounds Of Love was released, which she had recorded in her own studio. It was another masterpiece, the music was intoxicating, the production impressive and it was a huge success, helped by the singles Cloudbusting and Running Up That Hill.
In 1989 The Sensual World was released, according to Bush “her most honest, personal album”. At the end of 1993 her seventh album, The Red Shoes, was released (containing input by Prince). Next, Bush took a break for a year, which turned into a twelve year absence. She occasionally appeared in public and participated on some songs here and there. Apart from that, nothing was heard from Bush, who was labeled a singular eccentric on her way to madness, particularly by the English press. In 1998 Bush and her husband (Dan McIntosh) had a son, Albert, also known as “Bertie”. Bush spent her time and attention to raising her son.
On September 21st, 2005, the silence was broken when BBC 2 Radio presented Kate Bush’s new single: King Of The Mountain, which was officially released on October 24th, 2005.
On November 7th, 2005, the eighth Kate Bush album was released, her first double album. It didn’t take long to realize that Aerial was (another) masterpiece. Although experimentation wasn’t that obvious, the music still sounded like only Bush could make it sound. Completely unique, compositional and singing wise, drawing from different influences, like folk, Renaissance (!), classic, reggae, flamenco and rock, which she blended into an irresistible melting-pot. I bought the album at the time and was heavily impressed.
The album is divided into two parts, disc 1, A Sea Of Honey, containing 7 songs and disc 2, A Sky Of Honey, which contains one long piece of music meant to portray the dealings on an average summer’s day.
A Sea Of Honey
The album starts off with the single King Of The Mountain, which deals with Elvis and how his life would have turned out had he still been alive today (“Elvis are you out there somewhere / Looking like a happy man?”). It’s followed by the amazing π, which tells the tale of a “Sweet and gentle sensitive man / With an obsessive nature and deep fascination / For numbers / And a complete infatuation with the calculation / Of π”, with Bush singing the number PI (π) up to the 78th decimal digit and from decimal digit 101 to 137. An incredible experience that is moving as well.
Bertie is a tribute to her son, set to Renaissance music. The message is simple but sincere: “You bring me so much joy / And then you bring me / More joy”. The following Mrs. Bartoluzzi is about a woman and her daily work in and around the house. Scrubbing floors and doing the laundry. The second part of the lyrics deal with the wash in the washing machine. Subtle eroticism: “I watched them going ’round and ’round / My blouse wrapping itself around your trousers / Oh the waves are going out / My skirt floating up around my waist / As I wade out into the surf / Oh and the waves are coming in / Oh and the waves are going out”.
How To Be Invisible and Joanni are both mid-tempo songs with great instrumentation. The closing A Coral Room finds Kate Bush alone behind her piano. A beautiful, intimate tribute to her deceased mother and the transience of being. It was the last song to be recorded and almost didn’t make the album, due to the deeply personal lyrics. On November 4th, 2005, Bush said:
There was a little brown jug actually, yeah. The song is really about the passing of time. I like the idea of coming from this big expansive, outside world of sea and cities into, again, this very small space where, er, it’s talking about a memory of my mother and this little brown jug. I always remember hearing years ago this thing about a sort of Zen approach to life, where, you would hold something in your hand, knowing that, at some point, it would break, it would no longer be there.
Kate Bush, Front Row, BBC4, November 4th, 2005
A Sky Of Honey
“Mummy… / Daddy… / The day is full of birds / Sounds like they’re saying words”
As stated above, the second disc contains a musical journey of an average summer’s day (24 hours). The events of the day are hardly spectacular, but the musical interpretation is beautiful and deeply moving. The emphasis on the natural flow of the day is what’s really impressive.
The cover shows a sunlit landscape alongside a river and/or lake. The ‘landscape’ is the display of a sound wave. As far as I can tell, it’s unknown what part of music is displayed in the wave shown above.
So what is it that makes Aerial so good? Is it that triviality can become art, is it that from isolation something that’s globally moving can be born or is that small personal happiness ultimately brings the thing mankind really craves?
Of course, the answer is that it’s a combination of all those, and more. With Aerial Bush made a unique, self-contained piece of art, that sounds deeply human. Still, it’s an album that only Kate Bush could have made and doesn’t sound like anything she did before. Bush delivered a sublime masterpiece with Aerial, which, as far as I’m concerned, is equally brilliant as that other masterpiece, The Dreaming. Aerial comes very highly recommended!
All songs written by Kate Bush.
A Sea Of Honey
- King Of The Mountain
- Mrs. Bartolozzi
- How To Be Invisible
- A Coral Room
A Sky of Honey
- An Architect’s Dream
- The Painter’s Link
- Aerial Tal
- Somewhere In Between
In the 2010 release A Sky of Honey was merged into one continuous piece of music, titled An Endless Sky of Honey. For the 2018 remaster the original song cycle was used, but the vocal contributions by Rolf Harris were replaced (due to Harris’ 2014 conviction for sexual abuse 2014).
- Kate Bush – vocals, keyboards, piano
- Dan McIntosh – guitar
- Del Palmer, Eberhard Weber, John Giblin – bas
- Steve Sanger, Stuart Elliott, Peter Erskine – drums
- Bosco D’Oliveira – percussion
- Eligio Quinteiro – Renaissance guitar
- Richard Campbell, Susanna Pell – viol
- Robin Jeffrey – Renaissance percussion
- Chris Hall – accordion
- Gary Brooker – backing vocals, organ
- Paddy Bush, Lol Creme – backing vocals
- Michael Wood – vocals
- Albert McIntosh (Bertie) – voice
- London Metropolitan Orchestra – strings
- Rolf Harris – voice and digeridoo
In 2011 Director’s Cut was released, which contained 11 songs previously released on The Sensual World and The Red Shoes, which were re-recorded and/or edited. It was the first release on Bush’s own label Fish People, a subsidiary of EMI Records. In 2011 the tenth Kate Bush studio album was released, 50 Words For Snow, seven songs “set against a backdrop of falling snow”.
In March 2014 the unexpected happened: Kate Bush announced a series of concerts, her first since 1979. Titled Before The Dawn Bush played from August 26th to October 1st, 2014, at the London Hammersmith Apollo. Ticket demand was huge, all 22 shows were sold out within 15 minutes. The show was divided into 3 parts, the last part being a performance of the entire A Sky Of Honey piece of music. In 2016 the live album Before The Dawn was released.
By the end of 2018 Bush published her first book: How To Be Invisible: Selected Lyrics, a collection of her lyrics. On November 16th and 30th, 2018, boxsets of Bush’s entire body of work were released, on March 8th, 2019, followed by a compilation of rare songs, covers and remixes, entitled The Other Sides.
Kate Bush’ body of work needs more consideration. That will take place in the future, also here on A Pop Life. For now, what do you think of Kate Bush, and Aerial in particular? Let me know, it is highly appreciated!
This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: Kate Bush makes her comeback with the beautiful Aerial. The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.
Kate Bush 2005 image: nicholasjennings.com
Kate Bush – Aerial – Ads image: omshiva1967.blogspot.com
Kate Bush – Before The Dawn – Hammersmith Apollo London image: katebushencyclopedia.com
Other images: katebush.com