Kate Bush's primary ambition was to make an album, something she achieved at the age of 19 with The Kick Inside. However, she soon realised that composing and performing music is only half the creative act. An album's producer has enormous power in defining the final shape and sound of a record. The reason Kate found working on her third album so exciting was that for the first time, she would be the only one calling the shots: she had persuaded EMI it was time that she produced her own music.
A rack of my brains and my record collection has found only one other woman who had that amount of control over her music at that time: Joni Mitchell. Even today, producers are predominantly male. So what, you may ask? To answer why this is so critical, you only have to compare Kate's work before Never For Ever, with everything she has done since. Finally we were not just hearing Kate's compositions, we were hearing inside her head.
An immediate and obvious difference is a shift away from a traditional band sound, to more complex, layered arrangements. For example, Kate beautifully creates the sense of a sunny day by the river on her gorgeous ode, Delius (Song Of Summer). Here is Kate in a special performance of the song from, of all things, a Dr Hook BBC special.
Kate's move into the production chair also coincided with her introduction to synthesisers, notably the Fairlight CMI, which she discovered through her work with Peter Gabriel. Now Kate was able to experiment with sound not just from traditional musical instruments, but from pretty much any source she could imagine. Her first tentative steps into such creation are found here. The explosion of ideas coming from Kate is playfully interpreted on the album sleeve, illustrated by Nick Price, which shows all manner of creatures bursting out from under Kate's skirt (you need to see it...).
The one thing that didn't change was the broad palette of themes and stories Kate would share with us. This time we visit Egypt, witness a bride brutally widowed, get more than a little excited by a violinist, and experience questionable feelings towards a child. If you're looking for "boy meets girl", you'd better look elsewhere...
My favourite track from the album is Blow Away (For Bill), a song that muses on the meaning of life and death. and imagines an incredible heavenly jam session featuring some of rock's departed legends.
So Kate had done it, proven that she was the best person to produce her music. If EMI had any qualms, they were stifled by the album becoming Kate's first number one. In fact it was the first UK number one album ever by a British woman, and the first to enter the charts in pole position. Surely there would be no stopping her now...
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