This is a love-gone-wrong tale as told in an olde worlde style – a fairy tale or parable about a woman who tests her husband by writing him letters, pretending she is a mysterious young would-be lover, and ultimately loses her relationship because of her groundless suspicions of him. There is something classically literate about this song, making me wonder where someone so young could have come up with it. Of course her first hit was based upon Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, so she was clearly interested in a literary approach from the get-go.
In terms of the way the song sounds, there is nothing like this tune as reflected in any other artist I’ve ever heard; it’s unique, as is its author. The odd arrangement of male backing vocalists, use of sound effects, and of course Bush’s own delivery which is singular by anyone’s standards, should make this track sound more avante garde than pop. Yet, pop it is, along with a singalong chorus.
Such an approach to songwriting and presentation would of course never be permissible today for a 22 year old woman. It’s interesting in the video that Bush is using sexuality in the same sorts of ways as many a pop starlet might. Yet, you also get the impression that this is more of a byproduct of what she’s trying to do, rather than a simple play to illicit a response to her physical presence.
The very subject matter of the song works in the opposite direction, railing against the forces against a woman who feels she is of less worth because she is no longer physically attractive to her husband, the truth of which is never fully revealed. This type of complexity and irony would make it possible for other likeminded artists – Sarah McLachlan, Jane Siberry, Tori Amos, et al – to explore the same kinds of thematic landscapes, full of sexuality, yet not objectifying the authors.
Bush would continue to have success, particularly on her Hounds of Love album, which is looked upon by many as her masterpiece. The title track off of that was memorably covered by UK guitar band The Futureheads. After a spate of records by the end of the 80s, Bush’s career took second place to her role as a mum. She recently put out a double-album Aerial in 2005, recorded in her home studio in Kent.
For more information, take a gander at the official Kate Bush website.
And for more music, check out the Kate Bush MySpace page.