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Music

John Lydon explains how Kate Bush is the Quran of music

@TomTaylorFO

When punk came around, it was a peculiar force that sent craniums rattling; sometimes even in a literal sense. It heralded a new revolution, but it was sprung so quickly that it caught many by surprise. Then just as people were settling into it, Kate Bush offered up another pandora’s box out of nowhere. 

When Bush burst on the scene in 1978, she stood out like the sort of sore thumb usually confined to cartoons. To some critics, this glowing oddity was viewed more like a fly in the ointment than a benevolent gift to the music scene. 

The young starlet was bashed from pillar to post by every hack in town, with The Guardian saying she had an “odd combo of artiness and artlessness,” and dismissed her as a “middlebrow soft option.”

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And the NME followed up the barrage with the following: “[Kate Bush] all the unpleasant aspects of David Bowie in the Mainman era…. [Bowie manager] Tony DeFries would’ve loved you seven years ago, Kate, and seven years ago maybe I would’ve too. But these days I’m past the stage of admiring people desperate to dazzle and bemuse, and I wish you were past the stage of trying those tricks yourself.”

However, the chief punk, John Lydon, who the critics were busy praising was able to put snarling platitudes aside to relish in her singular oeuvre. After all, punk was all about individualism in the first place. When speaking to the BBC, he even offered her this glowing appraisal: “Kate Bush and her grand piano, that is like John Wayne in his saddle. Thank you.”

Nevertheless, much like the punks before her, Bush’s individualism was still very shocking in its own way. Thus, it seems fitting that one of Lydon’s earliest recollections of her was met with mirth. “I remember my mum – God rest her soul – when she first heard Kate Bush. I brought it home for her, didn’t I, and [she said], ‘Oh jolly, it sounds like a bag of cats.'” 

Lydon, at first, was also willing to accept that she seemed a little bit too far out to grasp but, if anything, that is merely more proof that avant-garde art just takes a little time. After all, the Ramones only sold 5,000 copies of their debut in its first year of release, but soon the Sex Pistols were serving up something similar and much like Bush, the influence still echoes.  

“At first, it seemed absurd, all that aaaaah and weeee, it was way up there.” Lydon commented. “But it wasn’t that at all. It fits. Those shrieks and wabbles are beauty beyond belief to me.” 

With regards to the songwriting itself, Lydon also praised its obfuscated nature: “She surprised me with all the clues, and it’s up to me to put the answer together. Well, that is the Quran of music and that is surely what we are all looking for: no easy answers to anything.”

This notion was similarly upheld by Big Boi of Outkast, another of the many unlikely fans who Bush attracts. “The message is in the music. I didn’t understand a lot of it until I started listening to the words. Like ‘Breathing’ is about a pregnant mother smoking; ‘Running Up That Hill’ was about your faith,” he said.

And while the former bandmates he is currently legally battling with might scoff at this, Lydon also claims to have the same artistic approach in another sense. “It’s not about rolling in the money, it’s about the joy of knowing what you have done has touched people’s hearts. You just can’t beat that.”

And once more, Big Boi would be in agreement with Lydon there. “Music is supposed to evoke emotion and make people feel a certain way whether it’s happy or sad or make you think. So, I love Kate Bush.” She might be a bit wild for some, but those on the edges clearly gravitate to her like Pooh Bear to a pot of honey. 

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