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Rough Guide to Kate Bush

Edie McWhinnie

“HEE-HAW!!!” Screams Kate Bush from my headphones. I don’t laugh when I hear it: Kate Bush is not to be laughed at… not even when she’s making donkey noises. “HEE-HAW!!!” she screams again. I nod in agreement to myself – you’ve only gone and done it again Kate, another fantastic track with a weird noise in it.

This is the last song on her album ‘The Dreaming’ and it’s been a wild ride from start to finish. Kate seems to have no limits when it comes to the range of both her vocals and subject matter, not just in ‘The Dreaming’ but across all her albums. She can scream like a banshee one minute then go into deep Barry White tones the next, all the while spanning subjects such as experiencing nuclear war through the

eyes of a foetus in ‘Breathing’, or the military

developing a sonic weapon in ‘Experiment IV’.

It would be easy to look at these songs and dismiss her as being a bit batty, but she possesses enormous musical and theatrical talent which I greatly admire. She’s been writing songs since the age of 13 – her lyrics wise beyond her years whilst simultaneously being extremely whimsical and child-like. It’s this balance that makes her so unique and keeps you guessing over what she’ll come up with next: a didgeridoo? Gregorian chants? Donkey noises? Anything goes. On top of this musical talent, she’s a professionally trained dancer and her videos are amazingly coordinated (and often bizarre).  In one she roller-skates through a void in a cape and a pointy dunce hat. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to be someone as much as her in that moment.

I’ve tried to put together some tracks that best reflect her many facets and talents as an artist to give you the full Bush experience ;)

The Sensual World (1989)

“Mmmm yes, then I'd take the kiss of seedcake back from his mouth, going deep south, go down” - very saucy! Although to me it always sounds like she’s some kind of erotic sparrow pecking at a lump of cake in someone’s mouth. Probably some of Kate’s smoothest vocals, and there are some very lovely Greensleeves-y sounding instruments backing her up on her randy adventure.

Suspended in Gaffa (1982)

I’m going to be honest; I have no idea what she’s on about in this song. There is something about a camel walking along a plank into someone’s eye at one point, but that’s all I can really pick up on. A very big bop all the same.

Hello Earth (1985)

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Extremely atmospheric, this makes you feel as if you’re floating above the Earth. Some big male vocals towards the end of the song making it a very eerie sounding piece – a severely underrated B-Side.

Feel It (1978)

This track really lets Kate’s vocals shine through as it’s just her and a piano. Probably one of her most stripped back songs which really showcases how amazing and otherworldly her voice is.

Get Out of My House (1982)

The song with the donkey noises. One of her more dramatic performances. The imagery of a house bolted and barred from anyone entering combined with her near-screeching voice is a visceral experience, and one that stays with you for a long time after listening.

If you're a music fan and would like to put together your own rough guide to a genre, city, country or artist, please get in touch to contribute to this series: helicon.magazine@gmail.com. The collection will be put together and published in a print zine by the end of the academic year.