Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Drippy Hippy

The latest issue of Mojo contains a nice profile of Kate Bush. It really says something about the musical climate of the late seventies that Kate was considered a lightweight when she first hit the scene. “[The press] mocked her as a drippy-hippy purveyor of ‘wow’ and ‘amazing’” says the article. I also have a Not the Nine O’Clock News record from 1980 that features a Kate Bush parody song called “England My Leotard” (sample lyrics: “People buy my latest hits/because they like my latex tits”). I suppose a mixture of sexism and musical snobbery was at play. She took a nice photograph, and she didn’t downplay the whole soft-focus, raven-haired, ruby-lipped schtick at the time. For the highminded and skeptical, it must have looked like wank fodder for schoolboys. But everyone knew she wrote her own songs, and had been for a long time (she composed “The Man With The Child In His Eyes” when she was 13). She also, the article reveals, called all the creative shots behind the scenes, picking singles and collaborators from her first album onwards.

And I expect the flights of fancy and romantic yearning that her songs evoked clashed with the post-punk, spartan sensibilities of the day. It's interesting to note that one of her earliest champions was David Gilmour of the Pink Floyd. By the turn of the decade the world had loosened up enough to accept her subject matter on its own terms, having become used to the psycho/political mini-dramas of Peter Gabriel and the earnest stylings of the New Romantics in the meantime. Mainstream pop branched off in some strange directions in those days.

If a young Kate Bush emerged today, might her handlers quickly shuffle her off to that “serious” female artist ghetto, and pigeonhole her as Bjork and Tori's polite English cousin? The parodists these days have their hands more than full with Christina, Shakira, B****y, et cetera. She’d be the merest blip on the cultural radar, and I doubt she’d make the cover of Mojo or its equivalent in 20 years.

But I'm just saying. I need a copy of Hounds of Love now.

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