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Sunday, August 17, 2014

50 Words For Kate: #10 - Missing

From the fans' viewpoint, nothing seemed odd about Kate Bush disappearing again after completing the promotional rounds for The Red Shoes. We were pretty settled into a pattern of an album every three or four years and not much word inbetweeen. The first signs that this break might be a little longer than usual came in December 1995 when Kate told us, via the Kate Bush Club (KBC) newsletter, that she was had been "taking time off work this year".

Still, she had found time to record a song for a compilation of traditional Irish music, compiled by Donal Lunny, Common Ground. Kate sang Mná na hÉireann, which translates as "Woman of Ireland", in the original Gaelic and it is magical to hear.

Then more silence. During 1996 Kate recorded some backing vocals for a Prince track, My Computer, and created a 18" bronze sculpture, called Strange Fruit in honour of Billie Holiday, for the War Child charity auction.

Next word came in May 1997, again through the KBC. Kate's message said:

"Just thought I'd let you know I've had a lovely break away from work - I feel energized and I'm just starting to write again (early days yet so please don't hold your breath)... the artist formerly known as Kate Bush is still Kate Bush and is alive and kicking!"

Rumours began to circulate that same year that a new album was nearing completion, even track names like Round In My Mirror and Open Your Sight were mentioned by fans who had cornered Dave Gilmour in a music shop. By late 1998 nothing had appeared and Kate's people would only say there would be something, sometime, but not in the immediate future.

Autumn 1999 brought us the news Kate had completed a track for Disney's movie Dinosaur (see #22 for details of what happened there). The Homeground fanzine, always a cautious and reliable source of information definitively stated that Kate had begun writing and demoing songs for a new album. While this was thrilling news, that still sounded like very early days on a Kate project.

Kate's fans felt her absence more keenly with each passing year; it just felt like something important was missing from our lives. Then in July 2000, after some particularly unpleasant newspaper coverage, we finally heard from Kate again, this time with an explanation that made perfect sense:

"A number of inaccurate comments have been made about me in recent articles which I am taking further. I just want everyone to know I am very happy and proud to have such a beautiful son, Bertie - he is absolutely gorgeous. Far from being secretive, I am just trying to be a good protective mother and give him as normal a childhood as possible whilst preserving his privacy - surely everyone can understand that. I am having great fun being a Mother as well as working on a new album."

It was a surprise to find out Kate had a child, but what wonderful news. Her priorities were absolutely right, of course. An album can wait, you only get one shot at childhood. What was most important was that Kate was happy, now we no longer had to worry about that.

The following year Q magazine honoured Kate with a Classic Songwriter award at their annual event. She also gave her first interview for eight years, where she revealed how low she felt after the last album and, in her view, the failure of The Line, The Cross And The Curve. Thankfully that was all behind her now. At the awards ceremony Kate recevied an ecstatic standing ovation from the celebrity crowd. It was clear her absence had not dimmed her legacy. Her opening line in her acceptance speech is a classic Kate moment:

Kate was further honoured at the 2002 Ivor Novello awards, she was given the PRS Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music. Given Kate sees herself foremost as a songwriter, these awards must have felt very special. So we knew Kate was happy, we knew she was back working and we'd seen her out in public again looking radiant. The new album must be right around the corner then...

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