Queens of British Pop: Part 1

No one featured in the first episode of the Queens of British Pop had their lapels attacked by Eric Morecambe! Dustie Springfield, Sandie Shaw, Marianne Faithful, Suzie Quatro and Kate Bush escaped the spectacle and their careers carried on regardless.

Only Dustie Springfield is gone, the others continue to this day albeit in various guises and eccentricity. What caught my attention in this programme was how much artistic freedom Kate Bush enjoyed.

So what, I hear you ask. Well, consider the fact that Bush was nineteen when she released her first album The Kick Inside. EMI, her record label wanted the first single to be James and the Cold Gun. They thought she was mad when she insisted on releasing Wuthering Heights first, but she insisted, dug her heels in and proved them wrong. Wuthering Heights went straight to number one in the UK charts.

This self-confidence and determination would, over the next thirty five years, manifest in a slow process of taking control of every aspect of her music; writing, performance, production, engineering, videos, the one tour, and even the timing of her albums – refusing to give in to the demands and expectations of her fanbase. We take it for granted now that empowered female artists control their image and their music, but it’s really just an illusion, terrified as they are of disappearing off the public’s radar. Kate Bush disappeared for twelve years between The Red Shoes in 1993 and Aerial in 2005. Most female singers nowadays wouldn’t last twelve minutes without thinking their careers were about to perish.

kate bushBush’s videos were startling, bizarre, her huge mad eyes bulging out at the camera and effectively sidetracking the audience’s concentration on her finely crafted lyrics about anything and everything: marital relationships (Babooshka), secret technology (Cloudbusting) or meeting Hitler (Heads We’re Dancing). I’d forgotten how good she was. In fact, I’d forgotten how good she still is.

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