Tuesday, July 30, 2013

"Call Upon Those You Love"

Today is the 55th birthday of British singer-songwriter Kate Bush (pictured at left in 2001).

Knowing I greatly admire Kate and her music, my friend Walter posted one of her music videos on my Facebook page earlier today. It was "Moments of Pleasure" from Kate's 1993 album The Red Shoes.

The video is actually part of a short film Kate made at around the same time as The Red Shoes, called The Line, the Cross, and the Curve. It features Miranda Richardson and Lindsay Kemp but is not one of Kate Bush's greatest artistic endeavors, as she herself now readily admits. But it has it's, er, moments. And "Moments of Pleasure" is definitely one of them, thanks to the strength and beauty of the song itself.

I often find myself drawn to that part of the song's spoken word introduction where Lindsay Kemp tells Kate's character in the film, a poor soul cursed with a pair of possessed red shoes, to "call upon those you love." By doing this, the film implies, the love we've shared and/or continue to share with others empowers us to deal with difficult situations. Because in the song Kate calls upon those dear to her who have died, there's also the sense that, if called upon, our loved ones who are departed can somehow channel to us guidance and strength. In The Line, the Cross and the Curve, Kate's character begins to reclaim her soul from the red shoes after calling upon those she loves through the singing of "Moments of Pleasure." One can't help but think that Kate's writing and recording of the song was a way for her to reclaim a sense of connection to a number of people in her life who had died.

Notes Wikipedia:

[In "Moments of Pleasure"] Bush remembers friends and family who have died, including guitarist Alan Murphy, film director Michael Powell, dancer Gary Hurst, lighting engineer Bill Duffield and others. . . . Bush wrote the chorus "to those we love, to those who will survive" for her mother, who was sick at the time of recording. She died a short time later.

Following the music video for "Moments of Pleasure" (below) is a review by Terry Staunton of The Red Shoes. It's a review that offers a number of insights not only into the music and journey of Kate Bush but of the complexities and struggles of life, the "genuine fears, emotions, doubts, worries and problems . . . that plague us all." On a number of levels I've always appreciated this particular review by Staunton. Indeed, I've held on to a cut-out of it from the November 6, 1993 issue of New Musical Express for 20 years! So I'm happy to be able to share it's wisdom – along with the beauty and talent of Kate Bush – with you this evening.

. . . Just being alive,
it can really hurt.
And these moments given
are a gift from time.
Just let us try
to give these moments back
to those we love,
to those who will survive

And I can hear my mother saying,
"Every old sock meets an old shoe."
Isn't that a great saying?
"Every old sock meets an old shoe."
Here come the Hills of Time . . .


Plimsoll Asylum

A Review of Kate Bush's album The Red Shoes
by Terry Staunton

New Musical Express
November 6, 1993

"We think you'd better wake up, captain," suggests the crew of Kate's ship on "Constellation of the Heart." "There's something happenin' up ahead."

"What am I supposed to do about it?" she asks.

"We don't know, but you can't run away from it. Maybe you'd better face it."

"I can't do that."

"C'mon, face it!"

"What am I gonna do? Is it gonna hurt me bad?"

Can you imagine spending nearly half your life signed to the biggest record company in Britain, while at the same time being cocooned from the rest of the world? How many of us could stand the self-imposed exile that has been the adult life of Kate Bush?

She's elevated privacy to an art form. Not that she's particularly mistrusting of people, it's just that early on in her career she chose to stick close to a small circle of family and friends. Kate Bush records have been the formidable product of the most homely of cottage industries.

But things change. Life changes. Halfway through the making of The Red Shoes Kate's mother Hannah died, and this album is dedicated to her memory. Also, Kate's 11-year relationship with her bass player Del Palmer ended. The small circle is getting smaller, and perhaps it's time to take a walk outside. But is she ready for it?

She was thrust into the spotlight with her very first single, "Wuthering Heights," a song which saw Kate become the only person ever to take a mock 'A' Level paper into the pop charts. After turning to Emily Brontë for inspiration, Kate continued to draw from the worlds of fiction and fantasy for her songs. When she was a teenager it made sense. Kate had experienced little of real life, she had no stories of her own to tell. Now a thirtysomething, Kate is writing about herself for the first time.

Her two most recent albums, Hounds of Love and The Sensual World, were both semi-thematic collections, and while The Red Shoes is a more mixed bag, there is still a strand that links the majority of the songs; it's a sense of loss, in particular the loss of love and loved ones. This is a very sad record, and on two separate songs Kate sings: "Just being alive, it can really hurt."

Kate's self-doubt emerges right from the beginning on "Rubberband Girl," the relentless one-chord single where she wishes she could learn to give, learn to bounce back on her feet. Her cries for help, for the courage to take risks crop up again on "Top of the City," "Constellation of the Heart," and the Prince-arranged "Why Should I Love You?" – surely a single, that one.

Her personal exorcisms reach new heights on "Moments of Pleasure," a deceptively simple ballad with a swooping chorus and a coda where she name-checks the people who've been important to her over the years. It's a song that may baffle the world at large, but it wasn't written for us; Kate's just decided to share it.

If her mother was the inspiration for "Moments of Pleasure," then it's her love life that is the driving force behind "And So Is Love" and the closing "You're the One." "Life is sad and so is love," she sings on the former but it's the brutal honesty of the latter that will strike a chord with anyone trying to cope with the devastation of the end of an affair. "It's alright, I'll come round when you're not in and I'll pick up all my things," she offers from the outset, pausing later to declare, "I know where I'm going but I don't want to leave. I have just have one problem, we're best friends, yeah?" Her grown-up resolve and common sense desert her as the song fades, and she makes one last desperate plea: "Sugar . . .? Honey . . .?"

The Red Shoes is a paradoxical thing. It's her most personal album to date, yet it's also her most accessible, in which the listener can identify directly with the pain she's trying to pull herself through. Also, it's often musically light-hearted. "Why Should I Love You?" is hearty and happy, with the curious combination of Prince, Lenny Henry and The Trio Bulgarka providing chorus vocals. "Eat the Music" is a shopping list of exotic fruit, as if Kate is pulling Carmen Miranda's hat apart looking for metaphors for love.

Even "You're the One" has a little in-joke, where Kate borrows a line from "A Whiter Shade of Pale" while Procul Harum's Gary Brooker, who wrote the original, plays Hammond organ in the background.

Teen angst can be very tiring in pop music, mainly because it is usually given to us by self-pitying little drama queens who haven't quite got the hang of adolescence. When Kate Bush started making records she spared us all that but now she has genuine fears, emotions, doubts, worries and problems, the kind of things that plague us all – life doesn't get easier as you get older, kiddies.

There's nothing any of us can do to help Kate Bush through this difficult time in her life but if by telling us about it on this exceptional album she is able to see light at the end of the tunnel herself, then we can at least listen and wish her well. We should commend her bravery and her honesty, and if her next record falls short of The Red Shoes, hopefully it will be because she's happy again. To repeat, a truly exceptional album.

– Terry Staunton
New Musical Express
November 6, 1993

For more of Kate Bush at The Wild Reed, see:
Just in Time for Winter
Scaling the Heights
Celebrating Bloomsday in St. Paul (& with Kate Bush)
"Rosabelle, Believe . . ."
Oh, Yeah!

Related Off-site Links:
Happy Birthday, Kate Bush!The Huffington Post UK (July 30, 2013).
Kate Bush Awarded CBE by the Queen at Windsor CastleBBC News (April 10, 2013).
Singer Kate Bush Dedicates Her CBE to Her Family and Musical Collaborators – Tony Jones (The Independent, April 10, 2013).
"I'm Not Some Weirdo Recluse" – Tom Doyle (The Guardian, October 27, 2005).
Kate Bush's Official Website

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