Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I keep the lights on to ease my soul

Midweek Music - Kate Bush, "Hammer Horror"
from the album Lionheart

For those of us who must pine away during the unbearable stretches between Kate Bush album releases, Lionheart is a major reason why we must. After the smashing success of her 1978 debut The Kick Inside, record company EMI pressed the 19 year old singer-songwriter into producing another album quickly - within the same calendar year. Her debut had the luxury of containing material she had composed over the previous six years, but could she produce under a time restraint?

Kate's answer was, no, she couldn't. Lionheart remains the one lp in her back catalogue with which she is displeased, and owes it all to feeling rushed. She would never allow herself to feel rushed again, as the gaps between new releases grew from two years to four to - between The Red Shoes and Aerial - twelve.

"Hammer Horror" was the first single from Lionheart, but it just missed the UK Top 40, providing further ammunition for Kate in answering those who wanted her to work faster. For EMI it had to be a disappointment; she was coming off an album that had just produced the first #1 UK single by a female singer-songwriter ("Wuthering Heights"), but WH was not the single the label wanted. That was Kate's call, and so the convergence of all these events empowered Bush to chart her own musical destiny.

Kate has long had a fascination for horror movies, and has composed songs inspired by the films The Innocents, The Shining, The Bride Wore Black and The Night of the Demon. She got the notion for "Hammer Horror" while watching Man of a Thousand Faces, and seeing an actor (James Cagney) play another actor (Lon Chaney) playing a character (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) and wondering - what if you were haunted by the ghost of the actor who had originated your role in an iconic performance? (Someone ask Vince Vaughan if he ever received annoying phone calls from Tony Perkins.) When she performed the song in concert - during her only tour - she emerged from a giant projection of Sir Christopher Lee's eye.

You'll see from this video that Kate, the daughter of an Irish folk dancer, is also an accomplished mover. When she received her advance from EMI for her debut album, she didn't spend it on a flashy new car like other teenagers would. She spent it on dance lessons.

I love Kate Bush.


James Gracey said...

I love Kate Bush too! And now I also love your blog. Strange coincidence - I just read a Kate Bush biography over last weekend and have been listening to Lionheart... Weird.

Anyway, great post - thanks for posting the Hammer Horror video too.


senski said...

Thanks, James! Glad to have you drop by!