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Monday, July 14, 2014

50 Words For Kate: #44 - Roaring

"Looking back, I don't really think that Lionheart actually expressed the true phase I was in at the time, whereas all the others have."

Kate Bush learnt a harsh lesson about the commercial demands of the music industry very early in her career. After being cossetted by her record company, EMI, and allowed a couple of years to craft a debut album, its huge success meant they gave her slightly less time to produce a follow-up: a few short months in fact. Luckily Kate still had a large number of songs she'd not used on The Kick Inside, and EMI gave her a whole four weeks to write some new material. How generous.

The recording sessions were less than happy. Andrew Powell, the producer EMI had chosen to guide The Kick Inside, was back, but this time Kate was less happy to hand over full creative control. She grew frustrated when the tracks didn't sound like she heard them in her head. It didn't help that Powell replaced her band with his own session musicians. This would be the last time Kate did not produce her own music.

The resulting album, Lionheart, could be unfairly seen as a mix of cast-offs from the first album and some hastily written tracks. Despite Kate's chagrin, for many fans the album is a treasure. It was the first Kate album I owned and it is why I am so deeply devoted to her.

I had never heard anything quite so magical, nor had music taken me on such a journey of discovery. The characters, landscapes, emotions, stories and melodies were like nothing I'd ever experienced. Kate sang about having great sex, becoming an astronaut and finding Peter Pan, thighs as soft as marshmallow, a serial poisoner and Hammer Horror stars. My 14 year-old mind was well and truly blown.

The one aspect Kate had complete control over was her voice. Her vocals on Lionheart are just extraordinary. She finds a greater range and depth than on The Kick Inside, she is playful, sexy, mournful, terrified, mad, wistful... I could go on and on. Kate is as much an actress as she is a singer, and Lionheart is a theatrical triumph.

The one song that means the most to me from this album is Oh England My Lionheart. Being English and patriotic is never straightforward in these postmodern, post-Empire days, but Kate managed to write a fitting paean to our homeland, as much about loss and regret as it is about love and pride.

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1 comment:

  1. Loving your Kate posts, keep up the good work!

    It seems that it was with Lionheart that Kate realized that if she didn't stand up for herself, the record company was going to suck the life out of her. I'm sure they meant well, but flying her around the world for promotions and then giving her a few months to make an album was just too much, so she began her plan to gain more control over her career.

    Although after breaking away from Powell, she mostly praised his work, she later made this amusing dig at his style of production:
    "I did feel, especially on Lionheart, that there were instruments being lost because so many things were happening on some tracks. That should never happen, if an instrument doesn't have its place it shouldn't really be there. You should be able to feel it even if you can't hear it." She goes on to express that Lionheart was not "what I would have wanted as a finished product." (Musician, 1980)

    I'm not sure I can hear the problem with Lionheart, as I think it sounds wonderful, but I think that quote illustrates Kate's frustration with her lack of creative control. Thankfully that situation steadily improved. Even on Lionheart, she "assisted" Powell as producer, though when asked about that credit later, he said it should have read "obstructed by" (Classic Pop, 2014). I think they were probably both glad to be free of each other as of Never For Ever.

    - CW