Released today in 1989: This Woman’s Work

EMI EM119

EMI EM119

The KATE BUSH Story Part 4

The biggest selling album of Kate Bush’s career is The Whole Story, the 1986 compilation which featured 12 of her best-known songs released up to the end of that year. With the music available on vinyl, cassette and compact disc (and later, mini-disc), and promotional clips issued on companion VHS and Betamax video cassettes, EMI unleashed a huge advertising campaign for The Whole Story, including television spots. Arguably the title was something of a misnomer. ‘Stories’ usually have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and yet the order of the story as presented here was apparently random, the track-by-track progression leaping backwards and forwards through her catalogue. As for most people Bush’s story had begun with Wuthering Heights, it seemed odd not to include the original version; instead, a version with a re-recorded vocal was used. The very successful Tour Of Life was not represented in the track listing either, despite the On Stage EP, which included songs recorded at the shows, having been one of her few Top 10 hits. These (minor) points aside, it was a worthy attempt to represent her career to date and was beautifully packaged. The cover utilized an understated font for the text and featured a black and white photo of Bush set against a white background, a timeless design. Inside the gatefold sleeve, effort had been made to provide an accurate overview of her discography, with pictures of records sleeves and video cassette covers together with details of their issue dates and chart performances. Released in time for Christmas, it was an ideal gift for fans and the generally-interested alike.

It also got 1987 to a good start, reaching #1 at the beginning of the year. (It would also top the music video chart, and become one of PMI’s longest-sellers.) Although there was no new release from Bush, she was involved in various projects during the year which kept her name in the press. She won Best British Female at the BPI Awards in February, backing up the numerous readers’ polls in the music press that she had topped. There were a couple of live appearances, including most notably unexpectedly joining Peter Gabriel on stage at one of the final dates in his current tour to perform Don’t Give Up. She provided guest vocals on Go West’s single The King Is Dead; her song from the movie ‘Castaway’, Be Kind To My Mistakes, was released on the film’s soundtrack album; she recorded a new song This Woman’s Work for the soundtrack of ‘She’s Having A Baby’; and she was featured prominently on the charity single Let It Be for The Sun’s Ferry Aid appeal in response to the Zeebrugge disaster. On 16 July, Kate Bush Complete, the sheet music and lyrics to all her commercially released songs together with photographs and a chronological account of her career, was published. Meanwhile, Bush started work on her next album.

It was a long time coming. News was scant in 1988, with Midge Ure’s new album providing a rare opportunity to hear Bush’s voice on a new track via its song Sister And Brother. (It was prepared for release as a single but this was cancelled.) Just as the two years between Never For Ever and The Dreaming had been superseded by the three year gap between the latter and Hounds Of Love, so now there was a four year wait for The Sensual World. Again, the title did not quite match the content. There were moments that were warm and sensual, but much of the rest was dark and stark with a production style that was raw and clinical. The title track was probably the most accessible cut, depicting James Joyce’s character Molly Bloom from Ulysses stepping out of the book and into the real world. (Joyce’s estate refused her permission to use actual quotes from the text.) But for the most part, this was a serious work by a serious artist and there was very little light relief.

The reviews were uniformly positive: “Her confidence grows and we benefit from a music which is so naturally outside, so gracefully above the sweatings and strainings of those who strive to be alternative,” said Melody Maker; “Kate Bush remains alone, ahead, and a genius,” said NME; “wonderful.. incredible emotional depths,” said Music Week. Sales were good too: the album went to #2 and lead single (the title track) reached #12; this despite radio airplay seeming to be at the whim of individual DJs rather than as a result of inclusion on a playlist.

☛ What happened next
In 1990, EMI issued a box set of all Bush’s studio albums, plus albums of B-sides, alternative mixes and rare tracks, as This Woman’s Work. The following year, her cover of Rocket Man, recorded for a tribute album to writers Elton John and Bernie Taupin (a project involving many artists that had been on the cards for several years) was released as a single and was another #12 hit. Then there was a hiatus while she completed work on The Red Shoes (1993), her next album. Lead single Rubberband Girl reached – once again – #12, and the album’s remaining singles all peaked in the 20s. Bush promoted the album for over a year and a short film, ‘The Line, The Cross and The Curve’, based on the album’s songs, was given a limited theatrical release. Then, she retreated into obscurity for several years. At first, fans and the media were unconcerned, as one or two years of limited news about her was par for the course. When nothing else was forthcoming from her for the rest of the 1990s, rumour and speculation about when she would next appear began, punctuated by the occasional piece of hard news (the birth of her son, Albert; the announcement of the occasional ‘lifetime achievement’ type of award at ceremonies where her catalogue was celebrated). Her work was continually reappraised and her standing in the British music industry was undiminished: she was one of our most vital female artists.

When she came back, it was with double album Aerial (2005). The first disc featured a collection of unrelated songs under the title A Sea Of Honey, which included lone single King Of the Mountain, her first Top 10 hit for nearly 20 years. The second disc was a 40+ minute concept piece called A Sky Of Honey which is probably her masterpiece, a song sequence describing the passage of an English summer’s day and set to a background of birdsong. (The titles of the discs and the birdsong explained the album’s cover image. At first glance a mountain range reflected in sea water with the sun setting in the sky behind it, it was in fact a stylized image of a waveform of blackbird song.) On this opus, Bush demonstrated just about every skill she had honed throughout her thirty years as a recording artist.

Her most recent albums, Director’s Cut and 50 Words For Snow (both 2011) were her least satisfying collections to date. The former was a compilation of selected tracks from The Sensual World and The Red Shoes re-worked, the first time since the ‘New Vocal’ of Wuthering Heights that she had revisited old material. The new interpretations added little to the originals (although her status is now such that the Joyce estate allowed her to use his words on Flower Of The Mountain, the new take on The Sensual World), but it was an innovative way of bringing The Whole Story up to date. Winter-themed studio set 50 Words For Snow was similarly inventive but flawed, with just seven songs stretched to fill nearly 70 minutes. What was most disappointing about it was that she was no longer the star of the show: one track was a duet (with Elton John) and on two others she provided backing vocals only (lead vocals coming from Stephen Fry on one and her son on the other). Then again, it was still very much ‘her’ work: she wrote it, she produced it, she had full creative control. It was released on her own Fish People record label.

Nevertheless, these releases met with acclaim from the contemporary reviewers, and the following year 50 Words For Snow won the South Bank Arts Award for best album and was nominated in the same category at the Ivor Novello Awards. Bush herself was once again nominated for a BRIT Award for Best British Female. Also in 2012, a new mix of her song Running Up That Hill featured as part of the Opening Ceremony to the Olympic Games, and this version of the song restored her to the Top 10 in the singles chart. But it was her return to the stage in 2014 that caused the most excitement. She had a 22-night residency at the Hammersmith Apollo theatre which sold out in minutes, received positive press leading to all 11 of her albums featuring in the Top 50 for the chart of the week ending 6 September.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Nov. 20
1981
The ASSOCIATES White Car In Germany (Situation 2 SIT11)
The BEAT Hit It (Go Feet FEET11)
The BOOMTOWN RATS (Bob Geldof) Never In A Million Years (Mercury MER87)
David BOWIE Wild Is The Wind (RCA BOW10)
The CLASH (Joe Strummer) Radio Clash (CBS CBSA1797)
1989
Kate BUSH This Woman’s Work (EMI EM119)
CURIOSITY KILLED THE CAT First Place (Mercury CAT7)
Debbie HARRY Brite Side (Chrysalis CHS3452)
Sydney YOUNGBLOOD Sit And Wait (Circa YR40)

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Released today in 1986: Don’t Give Up

Virgin PG2

Virgin PG2

The KATE BUSH Story Part 3

The third part of the Kate Bush story begins with her falling from critical and commercial grace, and ends with her establishing herself as one of the most vital female recording artists that Britain has ever produced.

In September 1982, Bush released her fourth album, The Dreaming. She had received mixed reviews before, but the press seemed baffled by this LP. “As much as I’d like to drag her up from the depths of MediOcRity and say she’s found the candyfloss and bubblegum appeal of once sadly boring acts like Dollar, I’m afraid to say she’s missed the boat this time,” said New Musical Express. To describe so highly-wrought a work as The Dreaming as occupying the ‘middle of the road’ perhaps indicated that the reviewer in question was overwhelmed by it. It was admittedly “difficult”: each of her previous albums had included a handful of commercial, radio-friendly cuts that could ease the listener into the more obscure pieces, but this time there was none. Neil Tennant, reviewing for Smash Hits one track from it that EMI did see fit to release as a single, said that “obviously she’s trying to become less accessible.”

Smash Hits was one of the few journals to give the album a good review, scoring it 8 out of 10. They described it as her “stab at a Major Piece Of Work,” and although the write-up was not without criticism (it referred to her “cat-like vocals, varying between sugar and spit, [which] edge perilously close to parody much of the time”) it concluded that “the whole effort is so full-blooded and carefully wrought that she gets away with it. It’s good to see someone go over the top and come back in one piece.” Melody Maker agreed, conceding that while it was “initially bewildering and not a little preposterous”, listeners should “try to hang on through the twisted overkill and histrionic fits [because] there’s much reward.” The reviewer confided that it was “the sort of album that makes me want to kidnap the artist and demand the explanation behind each track” – Bush had already been developing the kind of audience that would hang on every word in her lyrics and every note in her music. Numerous fanzines devoted to Bush were being advertised in the music press, including titles such as Homeground, in which fans would produce detailed essays and artworks inspired by her songs.

But elsewhere, Sounds said The Dreaming was “drowning in a sea of vocal overdubs” and Record Mirror pointed out that “a little outside quality control might not have come amiss” in reference to her decision to produce herself – although they did admit that the production was “hard to fault” and that she was “growing technically,” if “showing few signs of really maturing in her work.” The album entered the Top 10 straight away but it quickly dropped in the chart. A single was needed to boost its chances and There Goes A Tenner – the subject of Neil Tennant’s previously quoted review – was chosen. Tennant said it was “Very weird. Kate sings a fractured tune partly in a cockney accent and – strangest of all – dresses up as one of The Virgin Prunes on the cover.” The promotional clip explained these affectations: the song was about East End robbers involved bank heist, hence the accent and the boiler suit. While Tennant appreciated the “haunting atmosphere that lingers after the record has finished,” it received next to no radio airplay and only just scraped inside the Top 100. It was the first time she hadn’t had a hit with something she had released.

Thereafter, while there were releases in other territories, there were no further singles or albums in the UK for over two-and-a-half years. Suspended In Gaffa, which sold reasonably in continental Europe, was not selected for release as a single in Britain; neither was Night Of The Swallow which was issued in Eire. Import company Conifer tried to release the French single Ne T’En Fui Pas in the UK in August 1983 but EMI blocked it. What they did release, in late ’83, was The Single File, a video cassette featuring the promotional clips made for her British singles to date, together with the one made for Suspended In Gaffa. This was a hit, topping the music video chart the following year, and to compliment it a collectors’ edition box set of reissues of the singles (which included the only British pressing Ne T’En Fui Pas) was released in January 1984. But this retrospective collection, together with the plundering of her back catalogue in territories such as America and Canada, led to rumours that EMI had dropped her. With few media appearances, and her autobiographical book Leaving My Tracks shelved permanently, some sections of the press believed her time in the spotlight was over.

What she was doing during her three-year absence from the singles chart was installing a home recording studio and planning album number five. In the year leading up to its release in the late summer of 1985, Bush disappeared from public view almost entirely. But when she came back, it was with a Top 10 single and an album that received uniformly glowing reviews. Titled Hounds Of Love, the album received 9 out of 10 from Smash Hits: “If you for a moment imaged that Running Up That Hill [the so-called ‘comeback single’] was a fluke, then one listen to this will put you right. Side one’s crammed with songs that are just as good and even side two’s ambitious ‘concept’ piece about a drowning girl (The Ninth Wave) is surprisingly successful.” There was high praise from even the papers who had been her fiercest critics. “Our Kate’s a genius,” said NME; “Kate Bush the genius,” said Sounds off-shoot Kerrang!. The second single, Cloudbusting, promoted with a lavish-looking story-lined video featuring Donald Sutherland, followed its predecessor into the Top 20, as did the album’s title track in early 1986. Bush was now in the most commercially successful phase of her career. In addition to completing her own album, she had also found time to work with Peter Gabriel again, on his record So. When their duet Don’t Give Up was released as a single in the autumn of 1986, it saw her back in the Top 10 once again.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Oct. 20
1986
DURAN DURAN Notorious (EMI DDN45)
Peter GABRIEL with the voice of Kate BUSH Don’t Give Up (Virgin PGS2)
The SMITHS Ask (Rough Trade RT194)

Released today in 1982: The Dreaming

EMI EMI5296

EMI EMI5296

The KATE BUSH Story Part 2

The first of the long gaps between releases mentioned at the end of Part 1 of If You Were There’s brief history of Kate Bush’s career came immediately prior to the release of this, her tenth single. The thirteen-month wait for The Dreaming was same duration as the pause between her fourth and fifth singles referred to in the previous article, but her public profile was high in that period due to the Tour Of Life, its attendant EP, and a guest appearance on Peter Gabriel’s hit song Games Without Frontiers in early 1980, which helped to plug the gap between her own singles. In the year prior to The Dreaming, there were no releases at all and she had been absent from the charts.

But to pick up the story where we left off last time: her third album Never For Ever, released in September 1980, was a resounding success. She became the first woman to have a chart topping album of new material in Britain. (The following month, Barbra Streisand would become the second; both she and Connie Francis had previously had #1 albums, but with compilations of archive material.) What was all the more remarkable about Bush’s achievement was that the album actually entered the chart at #1, and she had written it and co-produced it herself. The diversity of reference points and influences was as wide as ever: her writing was inspired by people, places, music and film. There was Egypt, celebrating the titular country; The Infant Kiss, inspired by the disturbing 1961 film ‘The Innocents’; Blow Away, an exploration of an imagined showbusiness afterlife which name-checked a number of deceased entertainers; and Delius, a tribute to the composer, which she talked about on Russell Harty’s BBC chat show in the presence of Delius’s amanuensis Eric Fenby, himself mentioned in the song’s lyrics. Bush was experimenting confidently with her writing and her vocals – perhaps most affectingly on the brief, lyric-free interlude at the centre of side 2 of the album, Night Scented Stock – and importantly, she had discovered the Fairlight, a digital sampling synthesizer that had a significant impact on her composing. The tool was introduced to her by Peter Gabriel on whose third album she had appeared and from which the single Games Without Frontiers had been taken.

1980 finished with the release of standalone Christmas single December Will Be Magic Again, which she had written a year earlier. Then, the periods of silence she would become famed for started. Her focus was album number four, which she had already started working on. Seeing Stevie Wonder in concert at Wembley in September 1980 had inspired the writing of the extraordinary Sat In Your Lap, more on which later; she had recorded an initial demo within days of attending the concert. More demos were made the following month and then in early 1981, she took some weeks off to recover from the prolonged period of promotion for Never For Ever. Recording for the album proper started in May and it would take a year of effort to get the recordings sounded the way she wanted them: this time she was producing on her own, and the sessions took place in five different studios, initially at the Townhouse, then to Abbey Road in June, Windmill Lane in Dublin in July, back to London at Odyssey from August to December, and finally Advision from January to May 1982. During this period, she made occasional appearances on television and gave a press interview here and there, so she could not be described as ‘reclusive’. She was rumoured to be writing a book about her life and work, and it was true that she had talked to publishers Sidgwick & Jackson. The idea of Kate setting the record straight might have come from the publication of the bizarre Kate Bush: Princess of Suburbia, the first of a number of unauthorized books about her. Smash Hits described this as a “very thin and appallingly designed book,” featuring “half-baked theorizing and Sun-style rumour-mongering … nobody should be surprised if [Bush] decides to take some kind of legal action against the authors…”. Allegedly, Bush and her family did indeed take action and author Fred Vermorel (who later wrote another book about her) claimed he was simply spoofing tabloid journalism; it wasn’t supposed to be taken as a scholarly work.

During the year of the fourth album’s gestation, Bush’s only release was the percussion heavy, vocally acrobatic Sat In Your Lap at the end of June 1981, her first for just over six months and her last for over a year. Dramatic, theatrical, with no discernible chorus and lyrics on the theme of education and learning, it maintained her reputation for the unusual and challenging, and did well, reaching #11. Its abrupt and startling climax was one of the most thrilling endings to a pop song in the 80s. But while the critical reception to this single was favourable, the reaction to her next was mixed. Smash Hits’s response to The Dreaming was uncharacteristically uncharitable: “The oddball single to end all oddball singles. Slow, spare, distinctly tribal and very bizarre. Sample lyric (one of the clearer ones): “Dangle devils in a bottle and push them from the pull of the Bush”. Shepherd’s Bush? Steve Bush? [Smash Hits’s designer and later editor] Kate herself? No dear, the Australian Bush. Oh, silly me. Strictly for aborigines.” New Musical Express praised her experimentation: “Kate… has zoomed into the stratosphere with the first piece of ‘Aboriginal’ pop since Rolf Harris’s Sun Arise (Alice Cooper made it too Detroit to count). Apparently Rolf actually appears on this single! The Dreaming is the most unusual record of the week, full of environmental drones and atavistic thumps, with Kate singing in some kind of accent, presumably supposed to be aboriginal, that I’ve never heard before. Bold and good.”

Over at Melody Maker, a detailed review concluded with an open verdict: “Last week they did a ‘blind date’ and played this on Roundtable1 without telling anyone who it was. I burst out laughing when the guy from Bucks Fizz said he thought it was Kate Bush – and passed out when they said he was right. The Roundtable panel slagged it mercilessly. It’s the weirdest damn record I’ve ever heard (this week anyway), a clanking chain-gang rhythm, tribal, primitive and relentless, and then in comes Kate’s fearsome twisted voice diving and swooping in different accents. ‘Bang goes another kanga on the bonnet of the van.’ To be honest it put the fear of God into me. Who can conjecture what was on her mind when she wrote it? – it could be a soundtrack for ‘The Chant Of Jimmie Blacksmith”, a protest song for aborigines, or any race driven from their own land by ‘civilization’. Maybe she just wanted to do a tortured update of Sun Arise. Among the nightmarish array of hoots and howls that explode around Kate in the jungle, Percy Edwards and Rolf Harris contribute their odd vocal acrobatics to the sounds of the animal kingdom. And the B-side is basically a dub version of the same disquieting episode. I’m not entirely sure, but I think Roundtable were wrong.”

Crucially though, radio show presenters and producers didn’t think Roundtable were wrong, and The Dreaming received little airplay. It was a brave choice for a single from someone promoted as a mainstream artist. Whether it was Bush’s decision to release it immediately prior to her next album, with EMI again trusting her instincts on what was the right song to go with, or whether it was EMI’s choice, it didn’t pay off: the single climbed no higher than #48. Although fans’ loyalty to Bush would become very evident in the future, at this time and over the next few months it seemed her audience might have abandoned her during her lengthy period out of the charts.

1 ‘Roundtable’ was a review show on BBC Radio 1, launched in October 1970 which ran with occasional breaks for fifteen years. DJs (and later on, performers) offered their comments on the latest singles releases; Bush was a guest herself in August 1979. It was replaced by a similar show called ‘Singled Out’ in 1986.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Jul. 26
1982
Kate BUSH The Dreaming (EMI EMI5296)
1985
TRACIE I Can’t Leave You Alone (Respond SBS1)

Released today in 1980: Babooshka

EMI EMI5085

EMI EMI5085

The KATE BUSH Story Part 1

The first part of the Kate Bush story concerns the nurturing of a raw talent, an emerging artist taking creative control of her career, and a list of initial achievements few saw coming. As always with such success stories, luck plays a part: Bush was blessed with a supportive family, contacts who arranged help from established industry professionals, and an unusual amount of patience and trust from her record company. But when the awards started to come in, the credit was ultimately due to her alone.

Bush was encouraged in music at home and at school from a young age. She began writing in her early teens, and demo tapes were sent to record companies in 1972, largely in hope of a publishing deal. All were rejected. A tape did however reach Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd and he took an interest. The following year, he invited Bush to record some of her songs at his home studio. (A track from these sessions, Passing Through Air, was released commercially following a clean-up of the sound in 1980, with a note on the sleeve to say that it was “Recorded in 1973 on a sunny afternoon at Dave’s”.) As there was still no interest, in June 1975 Gilmour put up the money to record three songs professionally at AIR studios in London, including later hit The Man With The Child In His Eyes. Gilmour had a copy of the tape of these songs the following month when he was in the studio recording his own record, the Pink Floyd album Wish You Were Here. When the general manager of EMI’s pop division visited one day, Gilmour played him Bush’s tracks. On the strength of this, negotiations between EMI and Bush and her family began.

These took a year to finalize, but eventually deals on publishing and recording were agreed. The protracted length of time it took for Bush to sign on the dotted line showed that from the outset, she was managing to avoid the mistakes a great many others looking to break into the music industry made. She waited until the best offer possible was on the table before committing, while other newcomers grabbed whatever terms were available and regretted it further down the line. The risk during the negotiations was that EMI would walk away, but Bush was fortunate in that her career was beginning in a time when record companies would wait if they thought the artist was worth it. EMI’s restraint was further demonstrated by their allowing Bush’s talent to mature before pressing ahead with an album. She was given time to write more material and develop her performance style, helped in April 1977 by becoming the lead singer in her brother Paddy’s band (named The KT Bush Band in her honour). While this outfit generally performed cover versions, at some gigs there was the opportunity to try out Bush’s own songs, such as James And The Cold Gun, which EMI wanted as her first single.

The choice of debut single was an early example of Bush standing her ground where other artists might have capitulated with the wishes of managers and record company executives. She wanted Wuthering Heights, a song she had written based on the Emily Bronte novel, to be her first release. A highly unconventional song with a highly unconventional performance, it was completely out of step with the singles market of the autumn of 1977, which is when EMI planned to launch her career. Such was her determination that this was the right track to begin with though, they allowed it and prepared the promotional campaign, working towards a release date of 4 November. Promotional copies of the single had been pressed and sent to radio stations when Bush then raised an objection to the photograph chosen for the single’s sleeve. The marketing collateral was scrapped and replaced with the image Bush preferred, but this meant delaying the single’s release until January 1978, EMI unwilling to launch a new artist in the already busy lead-up to Christmas. As it turned out, this worked in her favour: some radio stations were playing their promo copies for weeks in advance of its eventual appearance in the shops, by which time audiences had become familiar with this unusual tune. It went to #1.

She didn’t always get her way. Her debut album, The Kick Inside, was produced by Andrew Powell (who had been present at the 1975 sessions at AIR Studios) who selected the musicians who performed on it. Bush was not able to use The KT Bush Band and was herself limited to vocals and a little piano playing. On second album Lionheart Bush was credited as “assisting” Powell with the production, but as she was unable to have the control she wanted the sessions were tense. EMI put pressure on her too: the delivery timescales for Lionheart were tighter than she would have liked (both albums were released in the same year), and when she recorded the song December Will Be Magic Again at the beginning of November 1979 for release as a Christmas single, EMI rejected it with concerns that it wasn’t sufficiently commercial. (She performed the song on a special show for the BBC, called ‘Kate’, broadcast between Christmas and New Year.) In fairness, it was rather late in the year to be submitting new material for immediate issue, as EMI’s release schedule for the rest of the year was already fixed. It did mean, though, that there was an unfortunate gap of over a year between Bush’s fourth and fifth singles (the former from Lionheart, the latter a taster from her forthcoming third album), punctuated only by the release of an EP of live songs in September 1979.

The songs on the EP were recorded at shows on Bush’s Tour Of Life in the spring of 1979, which remains the only tour of her career. The shows were theatrical: there was song, of course, but also storytelling in the form of dance and mime, and extravagant – for a music gig – sets and costume. The touring experience apparently exhausted her and among the opportunities she turned down following it was one to record the theme to that year’s Bond movie, ‘Moonraker’. Instead, after a short rest, she worked with Jon Kelly, the engineer on her two albums, on preparing the recordings made of the London dates of the tour for release. The lead track on the EP was Them Heavy People, which had appeared on The Kick Inside: EMI had wanted this to be the follow-up to Wuthering Heights while Bush had insisted, and got her way, on The Man With The Child In His Eyes. It proved both the artist and the record company could pick the right songs as both made the Top 10.

Her chart placings and record sales weren’t her only achievements. In the two years from the release of Wuthering Heights, she received a great many awards. She took the silver award at the 7th Tokyo Music festival in June 1978 for her performance of Moving, the opening number on The Kick Inside and her debut single in Japan, where Wuthering Heights was relegated to the B-side. In November, the latter song was named Best Single of 1978 at the prestigious Edison Awards in Holland (one of the oldest music awards ceremonies in the world). Back in the UK, in the same month Melody Maker named her Best Female Vocalist (and would do so again in 1979) and Brightest Hope of 1978; she was Best New Artist of 1978 in Record Mirror’s year-end polls too when those were revealed in the New Year. At the Capital Radio Annual Awards in March 1979 she was Best British Newcomer and the Best British Female Vocalist of 1978 (winning the latter award again the following year). She was nominated in three categories at May’s Ivor Novello Awards: Wuthering Heights lost out to Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street in Best Song Musically And Lyrically and Best Pop Song, but The Man With The Child In His Eyes won for Outstanding British Lyric – not bad for a song written when she was 13. And the awards kept coming in 1980 – in addition to the repeat Melody Maker and Capital Radio awards for Best Female Vocalist she won equivalent awards in New Musical Express, Record Mirror and Sounds. Music Week also named her Top Female Albums Artist at their awards gala, and she won Best Female Singer of 1979 at the British Rock & Pop Awards in March.

In the meantime, Bush worked on her third album, for which this time she took credit as co-producer (with Jon Kelly). “It means I have more control over my album, which is going to make it more rounded, more complete, more me, I hope,” she said. 1 She also mentioned that although “there’s no specific theme… [the songs] are saying a lot about freedom, which is very important to me.” An example of the greater freedom she allowed herself with this album was the timescale she worked to: still tight, but more comfortable. Her debut album had been recorded in a couple of months from August 1977, and its follow-up over ten weeks in the summer of 1978. For her third, she spent three months at AIR Studios in the late summer of 1979 and well over four months from the beginning of 1980 at Abbey Road. Originally due for release in early 1980, its release was put back to June as the recording sessions ran on. When Bush was still working almost around the clock to finish the record in May, its release was pushed back again to allow her time for a holiday. To prevent another long gap between releases, the track Babooshka was issued as her sixth single, another preview from the album and another Top 10 hit. But before long, extended breaks with no new material from Bush were to become a regular feature of her career.

1 Pearson, Deanne. “The Me Inside”, Smash Hits, EMAP, 15-28 May 1980.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Jun. 27
1980
Kate BUSH Babooshka (EMI EMI5085)
DEXY’S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS (Kevin Rowland) There There My Dear (Parlophone R6038)
1988
JOHNNY HATES JAZZ (Clark Datchler) Don’t Say It’s Love (Virgin VS1081)

Today in 1986

Die-cut 7" sleeveSpotlight Research compiled a weekly chart of music video (VHS and Betamax) sales in the mid-80s and this is the Top 20 for the week ending 19 April 1986:

1 > Alchemy Live, Dire Straits
2 > The Visions of Diana Ross, Diana Ross
3 > Hits 4 Video Collection
4 > Stop Making Sense, Talking Heads
5 > The Single File, Kate Bush
6 > Video Hits 2
7 > The Virgin Tour, Madonna
8 > The Making Of Arena, Duran Duran
9 > Live In Rio, Queen
10 > Live In Concert, Dio
11 > Wham! ’85, Wham!
12 > The Unforgettable Fire Collection, U2
13 > The High Road, Roxy Music
14 > Live After Death, Iron Maiden
15 > Dance On Fire, The Doors
16 > Live In NYC, John Lennon
17 > Mirage Tour, Fleetwood Mac
18 > Live, Big Country
19 > The Video, Wham!
20 > Greatest Flix, Queen

The tapes in the list above are representative of the type of visual material that was available for sale in the 80s, which can be divided into five categories:

>Concert or tour films (positions 1, 4, 7, 9, 10, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18)
A recording of a concert, or a collection of footage from various shows in a tour. The #4 tape, ‘Stop Making Sense’, was unusual. Directed by Jonathan Demme for cinema release, it was a recording of a concert but shot differently to the standard live video, attempting to more accurately capture the experience of what it was like to actually attend a Talking Heads gig. Accordingly the usual establishing shots of the audience were kept to a minimum (when you’re at a show, you look at the stage, not the audience); crowd noise was also removed from the soundtrack as far as possible, to allow cinema and home audiences to react to what they saw on screen themselves, rather than being prompted by what people present on the night of taping had responded to. Close ups of the group members weren’t used (again, you don’t see the group’s faces up close at a concert) and lighting effects were kept as plain as possible. There was also no attempt to conceal stage hands or the movement of instruments and equipment about the stage during the show – what the audience on the night saw stayed in the film; typically in other ‘live’ videos, this type of thing would be edited out.

>Video EPs (positions 2, 11, 19)
So-called ‘video EPs’ were collections of promotional clips, usually from an era in an artist’s career rather than films set to related musical pieces. Ross’s collection included one or two clips used to promote singles from each of her albums Why Do Fools Fall In Love (1981), Silk Electric (1982), Swept Away (1984) and Eaten Alive (1985) – but curiously nothing from 1983’s Ross. The two Wham! tapes featured between them the clips to all their singles to date, except Young Guns (Go For It!) and Bad Boys.

>Various artist compilations (positions 3, 6)
The visual equivalent of the Now That’s What I Call Music! audio compilation series, but usually featuring B-list artists. The #6 collection was your chance to own the promotional clip for Su Pollard’s Starting Together.

>Album accompaniments (positions 5, 12, 20)
Themed collections of promotional clips tied to an album release. E.g. Queen’s ‘Greatest Flix’ was the companion video to their Greatest Hits album and contained all the songs on that album for which a promotional clip was filmed. U2’s collection featured the promotional clips to the singles taken from their album of the same name, but was extra value for money in that it included a ‘making of’ featurette unavailable elsewhere. Kate Bush’s cleverly titled The Single File originally referred to box set EMI had made available in January 1984, containing reissues of all 12 of her UK singles from 1978 to 1982. Bush had made promotional clips for all but one of these singles PMI (EMI’s video arm) had issued this video cassette simultaneously collecting them all in chronological order. The box set contained a bonus, the single Ne T’En Fui Pas, issued in France in 1983 (EMI had issued an injunction against import specialist Conifer in August that year to stop its release in the UK). Similarly, the video contained a bonus clip: Suspended In Gaffa , a single in Europe in place of the UK choice, There Goes A Tenner.

>Archival footage (position 15)
Typically footage from television performances, interviews, extracts from stage shows, etc from across an artist’s career, especially if they were no longer performing and were from before the MTV era (as Jim Morrison wasn’t and was).

That leaves one video that doesn’t really fit into any of these categories, so obscure was its premise: ‘The Making of Arena’ by Duran Duran. ‘Arena (An Absurd Notion)’, a previous release, had subverted the usual concert/tour video format by including a fictitious storyline running alongside the usual stage footage (the visual equivalent of a ‘concept album’, I suppose). The tape in the chart above was the behind-the-scenes story of the making of that film.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Apr. 19
No release scheduled for this date.

Released today in 1980: Breathing

EMI EMI5058

EMI EMI5058


???????????????????????????Protect and Survive was a government information pamphlet advising the public how to protect themselves if Britain should find itself affected by a nuclear war. Enquiries made of the Home Office by the BBC in the mid-1970s regarding civil defence arrangements led to confirmation that guidance, in the form of print and television resources, was in preparation. Initially though nothing was issued: it was intended that the ‘protect and survive’ series, including public information films, would only be made generally available if a nuclear attack seemed likely. A suspicion that the guidance was being kept secret from the public, propagated through letters and articles in the national press, led to the decision to publish the Protect and Survive pamphlet on 20 May 1980. Interest in the nature of the guidance it contained, given the lack of general information on the subject, was high, and its arrival was keenly anticipated. The release of Kate Bush’s single, Breathing, in the weeks leading up to the publication, was therefore timely.

The song is sung from the point of view of an unborn foetus whose mother is breathing in radioactive dust from nuclear fallout. Interviewed on the national television news programme Nationwide shortly after its release, Bush was asked if Breathing was a return to kind of ‘protest’ songs that were prevalent in the 1960s. “Yes, I think that’s a very interesting angle,” she said. “I think people were very aware at that time of what could happen and I think at this time again people are even more aware because there is such a real shadow of it happening all over the world.” Extracts from the promotional clip for the song were shown during the interview, including a scene depicting a nuclear explosion. The spoken section in the middle of the song, which references the flash generated by such an explosion, runs as follows:

“In point of fact it is possible to tell the difference between a small nuclear explosion and a large one by a very simple method. The calling card of a nuclear bomb is the blinding flash that is far more dazzling than any light on earth, brighter even than the sun itself, and it is by the duration of this flash that we are able to determine the size of the weapon. After the flash a fireball can be seen to rise, sucking up under it the debris, dust and living things around the area of the explosion. As this ascends it soon becomes recognizable as the familiar ‘mushroom cloud’. As a demonstration of the flash duration test, let’s try and count the number of seconds for the flash emitted by a very small bomb; then, a more substantial, medium-sized bomb; and finally, one of the very powerful ‘high-yield’ bombs.”

Bush wasn’t the only Smash Hits cover star to release a single with the theme of nuclear war in 1980. Others included Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’s Enola Gay, which concerned the attack on Hiroshima in the final stages of World War II (Enola Gay was the name of the aircraft used to drop the bomb), and Pete Wylie’s Wah! Heat, whose Seven Minutes to Midnight referred to the Doomsday Clock, the device used by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists to illustrate how close the world is to a nuclear catastrophe. The ‘clock’ was set at seven minutes to midnight when created in 1947 and had returned to that position in 1980. The time it was set to was adjusted several times during the 1980s: in 1981 the time was 23:56 and in 1983, 23:57. This time of three minutes to midnight was confirmed in 1984, although that year Iron Maiden released a single suggesting 2 Minutes To Midnight was more accurate. (In fact, the clock had only been set to that position from 1953-1960, when the threat was most prominent following the United States and the Soviet Union testing thermonuclear devices within nine months of other.) In 1988, the hands of the clock were moved back to 23:54 following the signing of a treaty between the two superpowers to eliminate intermediate-range nuclear missiles.

For information, the time as of 22 January 2015 is 23:57.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Apr. 3
1980
BLONDIE Call Me (Chrysalis CHS2414)
Kate BUSH Breathing (EMI EMI5058)
1989
U2 with B. B. KING When Love Comes To Town (Island IS411)

Released today in 1983: Get The Balance Right!

Mute 7BONG2

Mute 7BONG2

Why is Depeche Mode newcomer Alan Wilder miming to a line very obviously sung by Dave Gahan in the promotional clip to Get The Balance Right!? Apparently, because director Kevin Hewitt wasn’t familiar with who was who in the band, and the band themselves didn’t want to make a fuss on the day. A mistake in a music video was excusable as they were still in their infancy at this point in the 1980s: despite some memorable ones having been shot (Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody was widely broadcast), they were still thought of as modern visual ephemera that would hardly be remembered once the song they were marketing has dropped out of the charts.

Prior to the 1970s, a promotional clip might be prepared if the artist was shooting a movie for cinema release, Elvis Presley and The Beatles being amongst the artists in the 1960s with short films made to accompany particular songs, similar to the modern music video. Despite The Buggles’ pronouncement in 1979 that Video Killed The Radio Star, the sentiment was not (yet) true, although some artists debuting at around that time were, from the outset of their careers, considering the visual presentation of their work at the same time as the audio: for example, Kate Bush, all but one of whose singles had a music video. Although simple, her first few films – directed by Keef Macmillan and featuring dance, lighting effects, dry ice and performed in infinity coves – stood out amongst the typical promos being made of a mocked-up ‘live’ performance of a track with a singer in front of a mic backed by his band. For Bush, ‘miming’ did not mean ‘lip-syncing’ – she acted out the entire song, her interpretive dance mocked and celebrated in equal measure. For an artist as peculiarly ‘English’ as her, music videos were not thought to an essential marketing tool at the start of the 80s; they were the preserve of internationally established acts such as ABBA who needed to be in several places around the world at once to promote their work.

But when MTV arrived in 1981 (The Buggles’ aforementioned single was the first clip shown), the demand for innovative, memorable short movies suddenly went up. If an artist already had a unique look or a striking sense of style (Adam Ant, for instance) half the job was already done, but it was when established directors such as John Landis who directed Michael Jackson’s Thriller became involved that the clips became something that people might actually want to purchase and retain as long as the music itself. By the end of the decade, directors were making names for themselves as well known as the acts they made promos for.

Later entries in If You Were There will look at specific video clips in detail…

NEW SINGLES on sale from Jan. 31
1983
DEPECHE MODE Get The Balance Right! (Mute 7BONG2)
1986
INXS (Michael Hutchence) This Time (Mercury INXS4)