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Music

The head of Coachella once turned down the chance to book Kate Bush

Kate Bush is one of the most unique artists ever to have graced our ears. Her music is a vivid patchwork of ideas, themes and styles, and in addition to her trademark otherworldly voice, she has inspired countless gamechangers. Without her, there would be no Florence, Grimes, Björk or Charli XCX, to name just a few iconic female artists who owe a lot to the Bexleyheath native.

Her artistry is placed somewhere between riveting pop music and heady expressionism. In a 2003 op-ed, Bristol rap legend Tricky perfectly captured the essence of Bush’s work, stating: “Her music has always sounded like dreamland to me… I don’t believe in God, but if I did, her music would be my bible.”

It’s not outrageous to wager that any of our favourite musicians, who make anything remotely interesting, will cite Kate Bush as an influence on their work. Embodying the grace of Tennyson’s mythical Lady of Shallot, Bush has dazzled fans from every corner of the globe and from every walk of life with her distinct and intoxicating artistry.

In addition to her iconic tracks such as ‘Wuthering Heights’, ‘Running Up That Hill’ and ‘Babooshka’, one of the key reasons why Bush has gained eminence is for her independence as a female artist in a male-dominated industry. Reflecting this, it was 1978 when she released her debut single ‘Wuthering Heights’, and the snotty, male-dominated first wave of punk was in the supremacy. She succeeded through her individualism, showed the men how to do it, and laid down a blueprint for everyone else who followed her into the future. 

Given that she is so lauded, it may come as something of a shock to hear that the head of one of the world’s most respected festivals of the arts, Coachella, once turned down the suggestion of booking Kate Bush. The CEO claimed that people just wouldn’t “understand” her.

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It’s a viewpoint that’s made even more astounding when you note just how iconic the performers who appear at Coachella are, and when you heed that Bush quit performing in 1979, before returning to the stage in 2014. Coachella could have had a publicity meal ticket, but they passed it up. 

In a 2017 feature by The New Yorker, that took a deep-dive into the inner workings of the festival, it was alleged that Coachella head, Paul Tollett, rejected the idea that they try to coax Bush onto the stage once more, after her successful return in 2014.

Marc Geiger, a top booking agent for WME, said: “‘I’ll say, ‘Kate Bush!’ And [Coachella CEO Paul Tollett will] go, ‘No!,’ and we’ll talk through it. I’ll say, ‘She’s never played here, and she just did 30 shows in the UK for the first time since the late seventies. You gotta do it! Have to!’ ‘No! No one is going to understand it.’”’

It really is puzzling that the head of Coachella thinks that about Kate Bush. Coachella is the home of pop experimentation, and the festival revellers would love her. In many ways, apart from Glastonbury, it’s the perfect festival for her. Hopefully though, one day Paul Tollett will have a change of heart, and if he does, his wallet will be thanking him.

Listen to ‘Running Up That Hill’ below.