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Monday, August 4, 2014

50 Words For Kate: #23 - Cathy

Kate Bush has often spoken with great warmth about her childhood, as the adored kid sister of two older, artistic brothers and with a ma and pa who loved and encouraged her. Thanks to two releases in the mid-1980s, one official, one not, fans were able to catch a wondrous glimpse at Kate when she was just Cathy.

In 1986, Kate's big brother John Carder Bush, who has taken many of Kate's official photographs over the years, released a photography book called Cathy. It contained a selection of photos John had taken of his sister in her childhood years, some candid, others carefully posed. It is immediately clear that Kate's ability to charm a camera began at a very early age.

The book had a very limited print run of 500 copies. I am so thankful I scraped together the pennies to buy one at the time, as they now fetch astronomical amounts when they appear for sale, which is rarely. It is a thing of beauty and a treasure for fans.

The story of how Kate came to be signed with EMI is well-established. David Gilmour had heard a tape of Kate's early demos, provided by a mutual friend, and been so impressed he paid for Kate to record some songs professionally. This helped her get her record deal. Given the necessity to freely share demo tapes early in a career, it is perhaps surprising it took around a decade before some of Kate's first recordings began to surface.

Kate said she had written around 200 songs as a teenager, and to date around 30 of these have found their way into the public domain. Needless to say, as an artist Kate is less than happy that such raw and juvenile material has been exposed, but I think it is forgivable that fans can't help but want to hear them. Although initially they were sold on various bootlegs, the Internet has allowed fans to distribute them to each other for free, so at least nobody is making a buck from them any more.

Some of the tracks are rough, early versions of songs that would later appear on Kate's early albums, but there are many others that only exist in this demo form. Most are simple recordings Kate made sat at the piano with a tape recorder next to her. You can even hear the click of the record and stop buttons.

For me, these are the equivalent of discovering Da Vinci's scrapbooks or Shakespeare's rough drafts. They are both a delight and a dilemma. I know I was never meant to hear them, but they have only enforced my respect and admiration of Kate's talent. I can see them for exactly what they are: a genius at its birth.

Here is my favourite of those early lost songs.

Given how Kate values her privacy, fans know that having access to these photos and songs is a privilege, one which we treat with the respect it deserves. John Carder Bush showed this too in the dedication to his sister in the book Cathy.

To that part of my sister Kate
who is still Cathy
I dedicate this little book.
I couldn't thank you then,
Neither of us would have understood,
but I thank you now
for those poses that have become these photographs.
And a way of seeing
the seeds in the past.

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