Kate Bush seems to reveal so much of herself in her songs despite being more of a storyteller than a self-dissecting singer songwriter. So much of her own intense connections to family, sex, love, and nature bleed through her tales of soldiers, ship-wreck survivors, ghosts, monsters, talking houses, and amorous computers. In reality, Kate Bush is an extremely private person, but the personal air of her music breeds a great deal of curiosity, empathy, and speculation in critics and fans alike.
Biographer Graeme Thomson is clearly a fan, though his work also requires him to be a critic. That work puts him in the tricky position of balancing his gasping admiration with professional distance, to respect the artist for whom he has so much respect while also telling her story with honesty and thoroughness. He did an exceptional job of traversing that tightrope with Under the Ivy: The Life & Music of Kate Bush, which examines her life, music, working methods, and frustrating relationship with the media. Thomson waves away the rumors incessantly fluttering about her like moths. Ill-informed and disgruntled journos love to paint Bush as a pretentious thrush, a pampered rich girl, an airhead speaking in constant “Wows” and “Amazings!”, a recluse, or all false impressions bundled together. The author calls out the less spectacular moments of her career (such as The Red Shoes) with all due frankness and as much tact as he can muster. He also gets deep into fascinating little side roads of Bush’s career, such as her collaboration with Donald Sutherland on the “Cloudbusting” video.
Thomson originally published Under the Ivy in 2010 when Kate Bush’s career may have seemed like it had wound down. She hadn’t released an album in five years at that point. A year after the book’s publication, Bush revisited some old material on Director’s Cut and released an album of new material, 50 Words for Snow. Since then she has done the unimaginable by staging concerts for the first time in 35 years with her triumphant “Before the Dawn” series at the Hammersmith Apollo. Thomson rightfully sensed this would be a good time to revisit and revise his landmark biography, and the updated edition subjects Bush’s post-2010 work to the same scrutiny, praise, and criticism that her first four decades received in the first edition—his intense look at “Before the Dawn” gave me a serious yen for a DVD release of the show.
Get the updated edition of Under the Ivy: The Life & Music of Kate Bush on Amazon.com here: