There is little doubt that Kate Bush has been the comeback artist of 2022. Thanks to the use of her 1985 single “Running Up That Hill,” from the album “Hounds of Love,” in the massively popular Netflix program “Stranger Things,” Kate Bush has been introduced to a whole new generation of music fans, catapulting her into the mainstream for the first time. Kate Bush wasn’t even this popular when she released the song 35 years ago.
Now I missed out on “Hounds of Love” when it first came out. You can’t blme me really. I was in the fifth grade, and my favorite bands at the time were Duran Duran and The Monkees. British alternative rock wasn’t the kind of music kids my age were being exposed to. But a few years later, I was going into the ninth grade and I discovered “The Sensual World” and it changed everything. It was a musical awakening, and also awakened something within me so much more.
Kate’s ninth studio album, “The Sensual World? came out in 1989, which was a great year for music. Major releases by Madonna, The Bangles, Tom Petty, Paula Abdul, Roxette and U2 littered the top 40, The Cure, Bob Dylan and Prince were filling in the holes for “serious” music listeners, The B-52’s, Aloce Cooper, Elvis Costello and Roy Orbison were having comebacks and Millie Vanilli was making hits, but not singing them. My friends were really into heavy metal and hard rock and idolizing Motley Crue, Guns n’ Roses, Skid Row and Bon Jovi. I was still into The Monkees, and I was keeping the fact that I liked Tommy Page a secret, but that’s another story.
So, by the summer of 1990 we were in a new musical renaissance fueled by MTV. No longer in its infancy, MTV had finally matured and grown into itself, and the videos and promotions of bands were getting far more sophisticated than in its fabled early days. The music industry was thriving as a result. It was an exciting time to be a teenager who loved music.
Now in Canada we had Much Music, and it was pretty great and most Canadians my age have fond memories of watcching it. , But if you knew someone whose parents had one of those massive satellite dishes that would litter up the entire back yard, you could get MTV which was far cooler, and a real treat when you could watch it. Well,. I happened to have cousins who lived out in the country, and I’d go to thier place during the summer, or some occasional weekends, and we’d stay up all night until the sun came up watching Julie Brown and Martha Quinn introduce video after video. I was fifteen in the summer of 1990, which incidentally is the same age that Max Mayfield is on “Stranger Things,” when I first saw Kate Bush on one of thes marathon MTV nights, It was one of those monumental music moments that sticks in my minds eye to the point that I can bring myself back to that room, that night, that moment in time.
Kate’s new single was “The Sensual World,” based on the final soliloquy from James Joyce’s “Ulysses.” Kate was dressed from head to toe in a red velvet dress, and wore this medieval type pink headdress. She had sleepy eyes, ivory skin, long dark hair and that voice that was like a whisper. She moved erotically through a burning wood as she sighed “Mmmm….yessss.” Well, it wasn’t like anything I had ever heard before, and more so, it was probably one of the most erotic things I had ever seen in my life. Oh, I’d seen pornography before, and the “tits and ass” photos the guys stole from their father’s closest and had hidden in cobbled together forests in nearby wood lots were garish and ugly to me. Meanwhile, the biggest sex symbol of the era, Madonna, who was a favorite of my cousin and mine, was pushing sexual boundaries in a huge way, but I found something much more sexy in Kate Bush. I men, she was barely showing an inch of skin in that velvet dress. You couldn’t even see her ankles. But something in the magic, the elegance and the mystery of her really truend me on, while I found her music to be mythic and intoxicating.. This was something totally different. This appealed to me much more than anything I’d ever seen before. Despite its lack of blatant eroticism, this video, and the song, was far more sensuous, It was both a musical and sexual awakening that hinted that as a fifteen year old I might have more sophisticated tastes,
The next day my Aunt drove us to town to go to the mall, and in a crappy record store I found “The Sensual World” on cassette and bought it and discovered that every song on the album was a winner. The rest of the songs were similar – haunting melodies filled with pipes and choral backing by a Bulgarian group called The Bulgarka Trio. This album went far beyond just music. It was art.
Some of the songs, like “A Woman’s Work” was beautiful, while others, like “Rocket’s Tail,” “Straight Down the Middle” and “The Fog” were kind of frightening, and “Love and Anger” was as much as a bop as Kate Bush could ever produce. “The Sensual World” exuded so many emotions – sex, death, love, rage, sorrow, fear, ecstasy, and fantasy.
Coming home after my week in the country, I couldn’t wait to share Kate Bush with my friends, and I remember going to my pal Eric Windoever’s place with the cassette in hand and excitedly exclaimed “You’ve never heard anything like this. It’s going to blow your mind.” I can rememer sitting in his bedroom in an unfinished basement and putting the cassette in the tape player. We listened to two songs before he turned it off and said “Lets listen to Bon Jovi instead.” He didn’t get it! He didn’t care!
We’ve all experienced this disappointment as music fans, but this was the first time I experienced someone just not getting my music. As my musical tastes became more ecclectric I’d evventually get used to it.
I stayed a Kate Bush fan, collecting all her albums and listening to her faithfully through the years, but she was always a bit of a niche artist. But now, finally, the kids are starting to get it and Kate Bush is bigger than ever. I love all of Kate’s music from all of her albums, but “The Sensual World” is still my favorite. It holds a place in my heart as one of those important albums that helped shape me as a serious music listener and it still sounds as great as the first time I heard it.
Ironically, prior to Season 4 of “”Stranger Things” dropping on Netflix and starting Kate Bush’s second coming, she was nominated to the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, but was rejected. Months later she’d be one the most streamed artists in the world. I like to think that Kate Bush is sitting on the farm in the South of England, where she reportedly retired to, pointing a middle finger towards Cleveland