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A Kate Bush reading list
Our own Kerry Meech (over-?) shares her selection of the best books for Kate Bush fans, ahead of her triumphant return next week - taking us through the literary inspirations behind the songs.
Like many, I vividly remember the first time I heard Kate Bush. You see, like the first time you try alcohol (bleurgh!), or your first kiss (ditto), hearing Kate Bush for the first time is a memorable experience.
Mine was as a 7 year old sat in the back of my parents red Ford Escort waiting to go to Cricket St Thomas (aka, Mr Blobby Land) on a lovely spring Devonshire morning. The song was Wuthering Heights, the station, Radio 2, my thoughts – Who is this woman?!
Only later did I learn that this strangely familiar, yet otherworldly voice had been played pretty much on loop (I suspect my dad had a bit of a crush on Ms Bush. Sorry Mum.) as my young parents tried to crack the parental enigma code of speedy nappy changing, perfect milk temperatures, oh and keeping an eye on our jealous baby-hating cocker spaniel. With the likes of Sat in your Lap and The Dreaming soundtracking the chaos, it’s nothing short of a miracle that I wasn’t dropped as an infant. However, 27 years later, here I am living the booklovers dream with my Kate Bush reads.
In Search of Peter Pan and
Oh England, my Lionheart
Peter Pan and Wendy
J. M. Barrie
I think it’s fair to say that Kate is a fan of J.M. Barrie’s classic tale of one boy’s quest to never grow up; she even goes In Search of Peter Pan, which is the level of commitment we’d like to see from all our young booklovers who visit Neverneverland. Childlike inquisitiveness and joy pervade a lot of Kate’s music. From songs about the mechanics of washing machines to the creation of the Rubberband Girl, Kate could quite easily have a science-fiction or fantasy bestseller on her hands if she were ever to put pen to paper.
Inspiration: Wilhelm Reich
Sadly A Book of Dreams has long been out of print, however, with every cloud (or should that be cloudbuster?), comes a silver lining. An in print book, with a glorious title, Adventures in the Orgasmatron: Wilhelm Reich and the Invention of Sex.
Wilhelm Reich was a radical Austrian psychoanalyst who claimed to have built a cloudbuster, which could create rain in even the driest deserts…unfortunately the only eyewitness to the downpour was Wilhelm’s son, Peter, however we still reckon it happened. The story of Wilhelm’s creation and subsequent arrest is played out beautifully in the video for Cloudbusting, with Donald "Don’t Look Now" Sutherland playing Wilhelm and Kate donning a particularly fetching wig to play his son.
Please note: The Orgasmatron was a very different kind of invention. You’ll have to read the book...
Arsenic and Old Lace
Imagine Last of the Summer Wine, but with arsenic and murder and you have the gleefully dark play, Arsenic and Old Lace, the inspiration for Coffee Homeground.
Coffee Homeground is the mad aunty to the heartfelt Wow, whilst Wow slowly builds to its spectacular theatrical chorus, Coffee Homeground is a brash, music-hall stomper. And it’s all about murder.
You’ll never accept a cuppa from your landlady, or your grandma for that matter, again.
If there’s one thing you need to know about snowmen, it’s that whilst they do make awesome friends they do have a tendency to melt. Sure they will return next year, but what are you supposed to do in the meantime? There is after all only so much heartbreak one gal can take. So you would have thought that Kate would have known better than to go in fall in love with one. With all that hugging and heavy petting it’s no wonder Misty melted. If only she’d listened to Raymond.
Sensual World/Flower of the Mountain
Songs of Innocence and of Experience
We’ve all been there, you’ve written the perfect piece of music, it has pipes and whistles, everything. But it’s missing that tiny little thing… a soliloquy from Ulysses.
Nevermind, you release it anyway without the Joyce (a nod to Jerusalem will do nicely), and then, lo and behold, two decades after you’ve released it you are granted permission to use Molly Bloom’s soliloquy from the end of Ulysses. Flowers of the Mountain is born.
Why just settle for one heavyweight literary reference when you could have two, eh Kate?
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
This is song is one of our absolute favourites at Head Office, we’ve even been known to enact the dance routine. Never a dull moment. If you haven’t yet watched the video, please do, never has a garden chair been manhandled in such an aggressive manner, also see if you can spot the backing dancer.
Anyhow, whilst this is technically a tribute to the best film company in the World, Hammer, Kate perfectly captures the foreboding, gothic atmosphere of one of France’s most famous novels. I would recommend listening to this on repeat whilst reading the novel.
Last but by no means least, the book most associated with Kate Bush. Everything about this song is great, the twinkling piano at the start, the build to the chorus, THAT CHORUS, the dance routine, and then the glorious Ian Bairnson, guitar solo at the end. Perfection.
But did you know that one of pop music’s greatest hits was actually inspired by a BBC adaptation rather than the classic love story? Yeah that’s right; Kate cheated and watched the film! She did however read the book eventually, which is a lot more than can be said of me when I was studying my A-Levels. However, having said that since finishing my A-Levels (a long time ago) I have made my reading of Wuthering Heights an annual event and with good reason. It is the ultimate love story and it’s set on a moor, what more do you want?*
*A balcony, warring families and Verona you say? You’re wrong.
Kerry Meech, for Waterstones.com/blog