Updated: Jul 29, 2020
She's one of the most distinctive and creative songwriters of all time, influencing a host of artists from Bat for Lashes to Outkast's Big Boi. With only nine studio albums (not counting Director's Cut) in forty years, her songs have become precious moments to grasp hold of. We take a look at 10 KATE BUSH tracks that you have to put in your playlist.
CLOUDBUSTING There are many great songs on the Hounds of Love album, but Cloudbusting has an inbuilt sense of optimism. As with many of Kate's tracks, the orchestration is top notch, propelling the song forward, but never overdone. The lush string arrangements make the song expansive and epic in scale, and the chorus is one of her most magnificent.
KASHKA FROM BAGHDAD Filled with poetic romanticism and underlying darkness at the same time. This track from Lionheart talks about a 'happy homosexual couple' who are strangers to the outside world. The mystery and intrigue are heightened by the exotic piano and Kate's kittenish vocal.
BREATHING Released in 1980 during a time when the East and West were locked into another Cold War, the post-apocalyptic horrors of the track highlight age-old tensions. Kate's portrayal of a doomed fetus' birth into a toxic world is chilling and endlessly haunting. The desperate cries as she struggles for life, before the track ghosts out as the blast takes hold is terrifying. No other anti-war track has said so much about human endurance and the suffering that we inflict on ourselves.
MOMENTS OF PLEASURE Another beautifully understated track from Kate that's laced with some heavy emotion from the subtle string arrangement to the purity of the vocal. Moments of Pleasure is a touching tribute to those close to Kate whom she's loved and lost, including guitarist Alan Murphy, film director Michael Powell, dancer Gary Hurst and lighting engineer Bill Duffield. Nobody who hears this track can fail to be moved; When Toyah Willcox first listened to the song, she crashed her car (not too seriously we hope). However, it just goes to show the magnitude of the song and the talent of the writer.
NEVER BE MINE Another track that relies on a skilled and carefully placed arrangement. Never Be Mine is a gracious and sensual song about the realisation that fantasy won't become a reality. Pain oozes from every note. Trio Bulgarka's backing vocals heighten the longing, and Davy Spillane's uilleann pipe adds a further layer of regret. Heart-wrenching stuff.
JAMES AND THE COLD GUN No, it's nothing to do with 007, westerns inspire James and the Gold Gun with Kate riding into town and shooting up some bad guys. Performed by Kate and the KT Bush band before she cut The Kick Inside, this is Kate at her rockiest and raunchiest. The live version from The Tour of Life is a theatrical tour de force of crazed energy and pure stagecraft from Kate.
YOU'RE THE ONE Another track from the Red Shoes. There are musical and lyrical references to Procol Harum and Prince (who was a collaborator on the album). Kate's vocal is unashamedly raw, and the personal issues she had during the making of the album come through here with her emotional release at the end of the track. Jeff Beck's longing guitar work, Trio Bulgarka's delicate harmonies and lines like "the only trouble is he's not you..." make it the ultimate heartbreak song.
THE MAN WITH THE CHILD IN HIS EYES Written when Bush was only 13 the track encapsulates Kate's mastery over lyrics and melody. With a haunting orchestration and a glistening refrain, the track has a timeless quality to it – like much of Kate's work. The winsome quality of narrator mixed with the childlike verve of the male subject create a perfect and timeless song.
HOW TO BE INVISIBLE Taken from Ariel, an album which is seen by many as Kate's masterpiece. If you have yet to hear it, it is a transcendent listen. Often dealing with the ordinary and mundane gracefully, Kate adds sheen to the art of invisibility. It's possible this song is a commentary of her knack of seeming to disappear off the planet at will, but also about those who choose to be less high profile. It has a magical, almost hypnotic quality that makes it practically skip past on the album unnoticed – and that's part of its genius – it hides in plain sight.
PULL OUT THE PIN A track from The Dreaming which is regarded by some (including Kate) as the 'she's gone mad' album, but others (including Bjork) as one of their favourite KB albums. It's musically complex and divers, and certainly kooky in places with Kate making donkey noises and putting on an Australian accent. In Pull Out The Pin, Kate confronts the complexities of war again, this time with Vietnam. The whirring of the helicopters, discordant guitars, the staggered rhythms, the screams of 'I love life' set up a tense musical Russian roulette as you wait for someone to 'pull out the pin'.