When I was a kid I got laughs out of playing my mum’s Frank Sinatra albums at the wrong speed. Our Bush record player went up to 78rpm which made Frank sound like a demented Pinky and Perky, but it also went as slow as 16rpm (what records played at that speed?) which achieved a ghostly effect that was more spooky than funny.
Nothing like this Kate Bush video though, which slows “Wuthering Heights” down to the speed of a snail crawling through treacle and stretches it out to 36 minutes that are intensely trippy and beautifully hypnotic.
So why is that even though I only owned two Kate Bush singles (the first two) and none of her albums did I have this great big poster of her on my bedroom wall?
Silly question really.
I assume this must have gone up around 1979-80. My walls at the time were also decorated with pictures of Pauline Murray, Siouxsie Sioux, and Debbie Harry but those were mostly torn out of magazines and the NME. I would love to have had a big poster of Ms. Murray in particular on the wall but they didn’t make those. Somehow I don’t think she would have posed in a leotard though.
I’ve never heard Kate Bush mention the group Fox as an influence but I bet that if you’d gone into her bedroom in 1975 (and I bet you’d love to), along with the Alphonse Mucha poster on the wall and the dog-eared paperback of “Wuthering Heights” on the bookshelf, you’d find their debut album on her record player.
They’re almost forgotten now but I’ll eat my hat if the teenage Kate wasn’t a big fan of their plush, poppy psychedelia and their lead singer Noosha Fox wasn’t the virtual template for her style. Not only did she have a similar high-pitched vocal style but she also put on the same sort of wide-eyed, ethereal bohemian wispiness that was all silk dresses and theatrical hand movements. While singles like “Imagine Me, Imagine You” were jaunty, glittery pop there’s a decided Kate Bush-y vibe on their first album with ornate, spacey tracks like “Red Letter Day” which have the sort of flowery imagery (the song mentions unicorns!) and magic fairy dust that was sprinkled all over Kate’s early oeuvre. Even song title like “Patient Tigers” and “Pisces Babies” sound like something she’d write in her more purple velvet moments.
I can’t remember if I ever fancied Noosha but I know plenty of boys did (in reality she was an Australian folk singer named Susan Traynor). A lot of arty and quirky girl singers came along post-punk, but in 1975 she was pretty unique next to the likes of Suzi Quatro, Lynsey de Paul and Kiki Dee. But I’m pretty sure that when Kate Bush saw this on Top of The Pops she must have taken notes.
When I first heard Kate Bush’s debut single “Wuthering Heights” I had no idea what she looked like and her screechy, witchy vocal gave me a mental picture of some batty old woman who spent too much time locked up at home with her cats and frightened the local children. But then this poster started appearing around London which just goes to show how wrong you can be. Very happily wrong in this case.
But even though she turned out to be young and smoking hot Kate still had a touch of the dotty old bat about her — the polite English term for this is “eccentric” — with her peculiar songs, outside-the-box individuality and penchant for funny costumes and interpretive dance. In his book “England Is Mine” Michael Bracewell described her as “pop’s equivalent of the mad girl in the attic…covering the territory of Angela Carter’s A Company of Wolves in the guise of a pre-Raphaelite raised on Jackie” (if I wrote a line that good I’d retire.) But what do you expect from someone who spend her childhood dressing up like this?
Judging by these photos Kate had a rather bohemian and free-spirited childhood, growing up on an old farmhouse with a piano-playing father, folk-dancing mother, musicians and poets for brothers and lots of costumes and make-believe — it sounds like something out of Dodie Smith’s “I Capture The Castle.” The sort of atmosphere that would produce a girl precocious enough to write and record something as amazing as this when she was only 16.
I had a Kate Bush poster on my bedroom wall but it wasn’t because I was such a huge fan of her records (hint: she was wearing a leotard), though I loved a lot of her singles I had a hard time making it through a whole album and could only take her in small doses. She was like the sexy girl you meet at a college party who dazzles you with her passion for music, poetry, art, and theatre, but after a while her moody drama queen act, Ophelia complex, and habit of reciting Sylvia Plath poems out loud gets really annoying and you yearn for someone a bit less “interesting” — you only stayed with her as long as you did because the sex was amazing.