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Friday, July 18, 2014

50 Words For Kate: #40 - Breathing

Oh, the days before 9/11. What an innocent world we lived in... Wait, what is that terrible sound? And what is that in the distance? It's like a huge cloud. A huge, mushroom cloud!

Yes, back in 1980 we didn't have to worry about global terrorism. What kept us awake at nights was the very real fear that the USA and the USSR (that's Russia now, you know, that nice Mr. Putin) would blow each other to kingdom come with their ridiculously huge arsenal of nuclear weapons. That is after laying waste to Europe, of course, where most of the American bombs were based. Ah, happy times.

I know, you're thinking "why didn't somebody try to stop this madness!" Well, dear reader, somebody stood up and warned the world to think twice about the Armageddon we faced. A brave woman, willing to rock back and forth in a a huge inflatable ball and wade waist deep in water to get her message across. Yes, that's right, Kate Bush was back, and this time there was not a sign of a leotard. She had something important to say.


Kate's new single was called Breathing, and it explored the the threat of nuclear war through the eyes of an unborn child in the womb, forced to breath in the fallout from a nuclear blast. So intent was Kate to ensure we stopped the madness, she appeared on the BBC current affairs programme, Nationwide, to explain why she felt the need to speak out.


This was the first time we had heard a Kate Bush track over which she had complete artistic freedom. She called the song her "mini-symphony" and it is indeed a complex piece. Breathing clocked in at a whopping 5 minutes and 30 seconds, Kate's longest composition to that point. The backing was layered and textured, with the use of voice overs and sound effects to create the right atmosphere. This was a game-changer.

The visual side of Kate's work also took a leap forward. No longer just an interpretation of the song through dance and movement, the video for Breathing had an elaborate set, location filming and video effects that wouldn't have looked out of place in Doctor Who.


For all of Kate's production wizardry, at the heart of Breathing is a stunning ballad. It is one of the few songs recorded post-1980 that Kate has performed live. Here she is reinterpreting it as a piano solo at a Comic Relief show in April 1986.


For such a complex song, it did well to reach number 16 on the UK chart. It marked a turning point in Kate's career; what would she hit us with next?


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