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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

50 Words For Kate: #35 - Magic

When Kate Bush released her last album in 2011, 50 Words For Snow, she was at pains to point out that, despite the songs being linked by the theme of snow, it should not be considered a "Christmas album". It was understandable that she would want to make this distinction, as records made specifically for the Christmas market have a somewhat checkered reputation. It was also clear upon listening that 50 Words For Snow was far from a fuzzy concoction created to warm a winter's night.

It would be wrong though to suggest that Kate is dismissive of Christmas songs. In fact she has written two songs that are specifically linked to that most festive time of the year. While I understand that Christmas is the last thing many of us want to contemplate in July, let us, just for a second, close our eyes and feel the snowflakes land on our face...

One of the new songs Kate previewed on her 1979 BBC TV special was a seasonal number called December Will Be Magic Again. Kate sang the song at her piano with only a few jingle bells for accompaniment. As you might expect by now, the song is far from a straightforward celebration of all things Yule-ish. Kate does indeed promise us magic again, but with a wry eye on the realities of life.

As the snow falls, Kate is parachuting down from the sky. Well, why not? She romantically pictures the snow falling, laying on lovers, sparkling up the dark and... covering the muck up. Not the most uplifting sentiment, but we know what she means, don't we? Kate manages to capture the essence of Christmas: the traditions, the hope, the magic and the truth that we sweep everything else under the carpet until the New Year.

Kate's original studio recording of the song in 1979 didn't get commercially released until it surfaced on a Christmas compilation a couple of decades later. Affectionately known as the "bongos" version, Kate performed it on ABBA's Christmas special that year in a gorgeous routine in a big red chair.

A more sophisticated version, with a gorgeous arrangement was released for Christmas 1980. It performed reasonably, reaching the top 30, but that festive season was marred by the murder of John Lennon. Perhaps Kate burst of realism was too real for people that year. The single did bear another wonderful illustration by Nick Price and is one of my favourite Kate record covers.

So what was Kate's other Christmas song you ask? Stick around, you'll find out in due course.

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