The Loneliness of the Long Distance Kate Bush Fan

Imagine if you will, the existence of a counselling service for pop stars and their fans. There you are, in a comfortably yet sparsely appointed office, perched nervously on a slightly-too-small sofa, with your idol, Kate Bush. You’ve spent an hour, maybe two, explaining the highs and lows of your relationship. For the most part, Kate has remained silent, offering only the occasional shrug of a shoulder and an intermittent girlish giggle. Eventually, having listened patiently and without comment, the counsellor asks Kate to step out of the room for a moment. At this point, said counsellor hurriedly grabs you, shoves a pile of Suzanne Vega CDs into your hands and points you towards the fire escape.

“Run! Run!” they cry. “There is no happy ending here. Get out while you can. Leave your coat, THERE’S NO TIME.”

You don’t run. You can’t run. Even when you leave by the front door and discover that the lady you’ve been sitting with for the last hour is in fact a highly dubious Kate impersonator, because the real Kate would never, ever agree to a musical reconciliation service. To be fair, not many would. Maybe Sinitta. Maybe Alannah Myles.

This, though, is the plight of the Kate Bush fan. It is the dysfunctional relationship to end all dysfunctional relationships. For most of us, our slavish devotion was established the moment we first heard Wuthering Heights and it has endured some thirty-three years, weathering all the hardships that most marriages encounter – bad hair days (ours, not Kate’s), protracted periods of silence and flirtations with infidelity (in this case, Tori Amos.) But it is worth it, even though we get almost nothing in return.

In the down time between releases, Kate Bush fans become Kate Bush defenders, keeping the legend alive and grooming unsuspecting Florence and the Machine fans with vinyl copies of The Kick Inside. Nothing riles us like the generalised public view of Kate as the Miss Havisham of pop, rattling around a cobwebbed mansion waving to the sky through holes in the roof. Kate, we maintain, is thoroughly down to earth, a busy mother and beacon of normalcy. Her absence from the spotlight is evidence of just that. The immense gaps between albums merely a sign of an artist who says something only when she has something to say. Even when that something happens to be about washing machines.

Musically, she’s pretty much faultless. Director’s Cut is certainly odd, but it’s good odd. Alright, sometimes good odd. Alright, it’s terrible. But as fans we can put it to one side because it’s not a proper album, more of a tidying up exercise. Even the worst album proper (The Red Shoes) is, by and large, great. Yes, one might question the wisdom of putting Prince and Lenny Henry together on the same track, but for all we know Prince thought it was a great idea. I’m fairly sure Lenny did. But then we have the masterpieces – The Dreaming, Hounds of Love and the inexpressibly sublime Aerial. Aerial, possibly the greatest album ever recorded. And one which had to suffer the indignity of being outperformed in the charts by a Westlife release.

It’s all the other stuff that gives us so much to put up with. Not least the famous Bush funny bone. I’m going to quote directly from Moments of Pleasure (a song, which although loved by many, was quite accurately described by Q Magazine as being “so personal as to be impenetrable.”)

“This sense of humour of mine…it isn’t funny at all.”

No shit, sister. It REALLY isn’t. One only has to visit http://www.katebush.com to see that. I defy anyone who cares even a little about Kate Bush not to watch open-mouthed in horror. Some fright-wigged balloon-wrangler (I am not kidding) welcomes you with an over-enunciated speech about how great it is to have you there. I’m almost certain Kate was behind the camera and was wetting herself with laughter all the way. Well, Kate – IT ISN’T FUNNY AT ALL. It may have seemed so in your kitchen, but as first point of contact for thousands and thousands of people it just screams “madwoman.” When Kate tries to be funny it’s just that – trying. But, you know, we all have faults.

General naffness, it has to be said, is an issue. To wit, the – and I don’t use the word lightly – horrendous video for her remake of Deeper Understanding. Utilising the very oldest computer graphics imaginable and a visibly-regretting-it Robbie Coltrane, it is the work of someone who has a) no concept of what constitutes “utter bobbins” and b) nobody around her brave enough to say “this is shit. No really Kate, it’s just AWFUL. Let’s go for a cup of tea while I explain how not to interpret things quite so literally.” One would think she’d learned her lesson after The Line, the Cross and the Curve, a short film made to accompany The Red Shoes and which is so stultifyingly bad that it allegedly prompted Kate to pen a letter of apology to it’s star, Miranda Richardson. (“Dear Miranda. I am sorry I gave you a mono-brow, made you look like the lost Corr sister and destroyed your career. Love, Kate.”) But it appears not.

What worries me most is that after years and years of carefully maintained radio silence, Kate seems ready to engage with the world again. She’s done more interviews in the last six months than in the last sixteen years. She’s got her own label, Fish People (I bet thinking that one up made her laugh. It makes me want to weep a little.) Her website, for so long little more than a holding page, is a flurry of badly designed activity. And this week, we hear rumours that a brand new album is on the schedules for November. As seasoned veterans of this kind of rumour, we take this news with an arched eyebrow and a “we’ll see” mentality. But I have a feeling it will turn out to be true. I can’t remember a time when Kate seemed so willing to put herself out there, and it is a little terrifying. Truth is, we love the silence. We love being ignored. We love our unappointed, unofficial roles as Kate’s mouthpieces to the world. The last thing we want is some half-crazed, witchy woman with a fish fixation coming along and spoiling it all.

We will see what November brings. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for another masterpiece and the almost total invisibility of the person responsible.

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5 thoughts on “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Kate Bush Fan

  1. If it’s any comfort, the phrase ‘what year?’ came to my mind when November was the given date of the album.

    Yes, the Deeper Understanding promo sucks – subsequently when Robbie Coltrane was in ‘Lead Balloon’ I was tempted to ask if he was in prison for throttling Noel Fielding, and whether the Voice Console had been sold via Rick Spleen’s shopping channel job!

    The thing that really gets my goat, though, is where the KB official website asks £100 quid each for prints of pictures in the booklet of DC. Nobody’s that gullible!

  2. What a great read. I share your pain. I fell in love with Kate at the age of four back in ’79 when I first saw the video for “Wow” on the telly and have been utterly entranced ever since. When you fall in love like that at four, you just know it’s going to be for life. And you know it’s true love when you just can’t get enough. Oh, the irony of life: the one you love the most, giving you so little. The twelve years between “Red Shoes” and “Aerial” were tough, but I never once considered a divorce during that long separation, although I did spend a fair bit of time with Eddi Reader.
    You have to remember that for every “Line, Cross, & Curve” there is a “Cloudbusting” video and “Running Up That Hill” video. I thought that “Director’s Cut” was very…….interesting. I am also looking forward to another masterpiece in November. If it turns out to be half as good as Aerial, we’ll all be laughing (and crying).

  3. Being french, it’s hard to be sure if behind the irony, behind the jokes you truly like Kate. Maybe because I’m french, and so I don’t understand properly Kate’s lyrics the magic still remains after all these years. Here in France, Kate is not as famous as she seems to be in her kingdom, and Babooshka is certainly the most vivid memory shared by my generation, leaving us a stronger image of Kate than the evanescent dream of Wuthering Heights…

    To me, Kate represents maybe that “cousine d’outre-Manche” that I would rarely see but each of her visit would be a nice breeze of fresh air, gently exotic, just a bit different, but different enough to bring me a nice change in my routine and an occasion to re-think about… things….

    To me, Kate demonstrates that we can evolve in constancy, we can be true to ourself but still explore and change. I like deeper understanding very much, and i like the 2011 version, including the video; maybe it’s not objectively a masterpiece, but anything else would have disappointed me I guess. Once again,kate follows her lyrics and the video is “only” an interpretation of the song : “As the people here grow colder, I turn to my computer, like a friend”… It was a good idea of her to remind us of this song …

    So yes, maybe, Kate holds some kind of nostalgy with her work, a sort of conservative artist she is, but it suits me, and I sincerely think I will always like her for that, like a true friend, that never changes and that is always there when you need him/her. And as a friend, I know she’s there when I need her, she doesn’t have to phone or produce a new album for that…

    And I never feel lonely : I just have to pick up a song and she’s here…

  4. I’m not immediately smitten with 50 Words etc. after hearing the NPR stream of it. On first listen it seems much of a one-note samba with little variation. Talk Talk have been mentioned as a comparison, but I’m afraid for me it’s a case of ‘nice publicity photoes, shame about the songs!’

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