Kate Bush releases her new album 50 Words For Snow on 21 November. Although a ‘single’ Wild Man was released to promote this record it was digital-only and peaked at no.73 in the UK singles chart. This followed the single release of Deeper Understanding (from Director’s Cut) in April 2011 which didn’t even crack the UK top 75, stalling at no.87.
I think what we can conclude from this, is that Kate Bush has given up on the age old problem trying to ‘have a hit’ to promote her albums. The reality is that without a physical release, or at least something exclusive in a digital EP, a large percentage of her fan base are happy to wait for the album and not bother buying a single.
Even back in 2005, when downloading was in it’s infancy, Kate only released the one single from Aerial – with no exclusive Kate-penned material (only a cover of Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing).
So the single is dead, long live the album. I thought it might be an opportune moment to take a look back at some of Kate’s more interesting moments on 7″ vinyl, sidestepping some of the more obvious.
Hammer Horror (1978)
Kate had enjoyed two top ten hits in 1978 from her first album The Kick Inside (including the no.1 Wuthering Heights) but on the eve of the rush-released second album Lionheart, the decision was made to release Hammer Horror as the lead single. This would back-fire badly as it stalled at number 44 in the UK charts. For some reason, EMI waited an age to rectify this error, and the most commercial song on the record Wow was eventually released in March 1979, peaking at no.14 in the UK singles chart.
Army Dreamers (1980)
Army Dreamers was the third and final single from Kate’s third album, 1980’s Never For Ever. An excellent song about a mother’s guilt at sending her young son off to war, it creatively samples the cocking of a rifle which is woven in to the fabric of the music. A memorable video was made (see below) and the single version differs slightly from the album mix, by not fading out. The b-side is also notable by featuring Passing Through Air, an unreleased song recorded in 1973 at David Gilmour’s studio when Kate was 15!
December Will Be Magic Again (1980)
Released a few months after Army Dreamers in late 1980, Kate’s attempt at a Christmas single was actually recorded some 12 months earlier, which explains why it sounds much more like Lionheart era than Never For Ever. It was released rather early in the middle of November and had already peaked at no.29 when John Lennon’s murder on 8 December left everyone feeling rather un-festive. Surprisingly, this standalone single didn’t even make it on to Bush’s only greatest hits to date, The Whole Story, but has cropped up on the b-side of a few subsequent singles. A substantially different version, with alternate instrumentation (heavy on the bongos) and a different vocal performance, has cropped up on a few Christmas compilations over the years including That’s Christmas from EMI in 1994.
Sat In Your Lap (1981)
This song features on Kate’s fourth album The Dreaming but was released in June 1981 a full 15 months before the album came out. The public were hearing a very different sounding Kate Bush at this stage, with dense production, processed vocals and heavy use of the Fairlight CMI sampler. The fact that the previous single (December Will Be Magic Again) was quite an old recording from 1979, must have only served to underline the weirdness of the sound of this record. The video is also bonkers (see below). Remarkably, it managed to reach no.11 in the UK chart, unlike the subsequent singles from The Dreaming both of which failed to breach the top 40.
There Goes A Tenner (1982)
The third and final single from The Dreaming (commonly referred to as the “She’s gone mad” album, although actually a career highlight). One of the more straightforward tracks from that record, this tale of a bank robbery gone wrong still has Kate putting on a cockney accent and no chorus to speak off. It failed to chart. She did, however, perform this track on a UK TV kids show called “Razzmatazz” which just makes you wish it was 1982 again. Singalong! “Okay, remember….”
Hounds of Love (1985)
The title track from the album that is generally regarded as Kate’s commercial and critical peak. It reached no.18 in the UK singles chart. An interesting version of this track called Alternative Hounds of Love appeared on the 12″ single. It was effectively the same music, with Kate singing a slightly different lyric with a new melody. This variant also has an extended string intro, omitting the “It’s in the trees… it’s coming” sample. Kate fused the extended intro to the single version of the track, creating a unique version when she performed it at the BPI awards in 1986 (see below).
Experiment IV (1986)
After four top 40 hits in the UK with the Hounds of Love album EMI put out a greatest hits in 1986 called The Whole Story (still Kate’s only compilation album). Experiment IV was a new track, released as a single to promote it. A song about the military ‘experimenting’ with using sound as a weapon, it peaked at no.23 despite having a rather splendid Kate-directed video featuring many popular alternative comedians of the day, including Hugh “House” Laurie and Dawn French. Below is the performance on a UK TV show, Wogan.
This Woman’s Work (1989)
The second single from Kate’s sixth studio album (1989’s The Sensual World), This Woman’s Work was originally written for the John Hughes film She’s Having A Baby, which came out in 1988. This track is Kate in classic songwriter mode, and the song has proved one of her most enduring, having been used many times over the years in TV and film, even peaking at no.3 in the UK download chart back in 2005 when it was used on a popular TV drama. This Woman’s Work was also one of the tracks revisited on Director’s Cut earlier this year, when she successfully reworked it into six and a half minutes of low-key, twinkly ambience. Below is her performance of the track on Wogan in 1989.
Rubberband Girl (1993)
The first single from The Red Shoes, the 1993 album that would be Kate’s last for 12 years. A perky, slightly repetitive number, Rubberband Girl peaked at no.12 in the UK charts. Again, this track was radically reworked for Director’s Cut and turned the rather brash sounding original into mumbly lo-fi rocker.
King of the Mountain (2005)
Kate Bush’s last physical single was released in 2005, ahead of her eighth studio album Aerial. King of the Mountain was not particularly representative of the sound on the album, but sold well enough to hit no.4 in the UK charts, making it her biggest hit since Running Up That Hill reached no.3 in 1985.