I love Kate Bush’s music. I’ve been a fan ever since I first heard those jingling notes of Wuthering Heights’ opening bars. I’d just fallen in love with the novel – having had to read it for my English Lit O’Level – and so Cathy and Heathcliff were already occupying a lot of my headspace when Kate started singing about their ‘wiley, windy moor’. Perfect timing, as far as I was concerned.
Kate was unlike anything else Top of the Pops was offering back in the late seventies. Her unique voice and style certainly made me sit up and take notice. I loved her hair. At 16, I saved all my Saturday job money to pay for a Kate Bush perm, and I absolutely adored it. When I got back from the hairdressers, my dad was shocked at how my long dark hair had doubled in size. He called what I considered my gorgeous new style ‘punk’. I’m not sure he’d actually seen any punks at that point and, as I angrily informed him through the bathroom door, he’d got off lightly if all he had to worry about was my wavy hairstyle – I could have come home with a safety pin through my nose. Thankfully, no photos still exist of my Wuthering Heights phase – all safely burnt.
Kate’s hair wasn’t the only thing I copied. Bizarrely, I loved the way she danced. It was a style even I could copy – me, who couldn’t actually dance at all, who had never had even one ballet or tap lesson. I’d throw myself around the bedroom, mimicking her moves, while her iconic first album, ‘The Kick Inside’, blared out. I never took my new found ability to any discos though – no one except Kate actually danced like that in public.
But the main thing I loved was her vocal style. She has a Marmite voice, I know, and I fell into the ‘adore’ camp. I still do. And, along with her hair and dance moves, I discovered I could copy her singing too. Back in ’78, I would wail the opening lines of Wuthering Heights at full volume in our newly installed shower, much to my family’s despair. To be fair to them, they were already putting up with me clomping about my bedroom every evening with the record player at full blast. Even now I’m tempted to launch into a bar or two of the song when the urge takes me – my poor husband!
I’ve found Kate’s singing quite inspirational over the years. While I was writing my novel, I played her music on a loop and found that I only needed to hear a particular song to tap into the emotions of my five-year-old protagonist, Tomos. While I guess ‘This Woman’s Work’ should have been the obvious choice to conjure up the feelings of a small child, it was actually ‘Moments of Pleasure’ that worked best. The lyrics bear no relation to the subject I was writing about, but there’s such vulnerability in Kate’s voice, a sadness mixed with optimism. It summed up Tomos perfectly, all his unhappiness and hope.
And in a curious twist, my novel has another connection with the singer. Ruth Rowland, the lettering artist who designed the wonderful cover for ‘Not Thomas’, has also designed the script for Kate’s latest album, ‘Before the Dawn’. I smile every time I think of that fact. At last I have something that connects me, however tenuously, to my icon. Apart, that is, from my avant-garde dance moves and a long grown out perm…
Here’s a link to that song