Monday, January 04, 2021

Song of the Day: 'Under the Ivy' by Kate Bush


For my first Song of the Day for 2021, I thought I should pick something dramatic -- it's a new year, , after all! -- so who better than Kate Bush? "Under the Ivy" was the B-side to Kate's epic "Running Up That Hill," the first single off 1985's "Hounds of Love," which was just ranked her best album by Far Out magazine:

1. "Hounds of Love" (1985) 

We needn’t really explain the mammoth tracklist on 1985’s "Hounds of Love." From the very first moments of "Running Up That Hill," the record’s opener is not just a pop masterpiece but an undulating and intriguing song like none you’ve ever heard before. The title track arrives with a simple power that renders it one of the best pop songs ever written. Drums thunder like they only do in folklore and Bush’s vocal manages to range from the utterly beautiful to the beautifully guttural. This power continues to permeate every song on the album, including tracks like "Cloudbusting" and "Waking the Witch" are equally as golden, equally dripping with metaphor and mystique, and equally as jaw-droppingly good. The three-year gap between albums allowed Bush to focus her laser-guided energy into her work with searing accuracy. It allowed her soul to move throughout the album and inhibit every note on it. The album manages to collate a myriad of themes and melodies and load them one by one into consciousness, unravelling with every note, into something that becomes yours entirely as the audience. She equally develops themes of love, heartbreak, life, and death with equal measure, equal light and dark, and, most notably, equal beauty.

Read the full list HERE.

Of this clip, Kate says: I performed a version of the song that was filmed at Abbey Road Studios for a TV show which was popular at the time, called "The Tube." It was hosted by Jools Holland and Paula Yates. I find Paula’s introduction to the song very touching. [Yates died in 2000 of an "accidental heroin overdose" less than three years after the suicide of her lover and baby daddy, Michael Hutchence.]

Tracey Thorn's cover, not unlike Pat Benatar's "Wuthering Heights," might top the original.

Tracey writes: 
For me, like many others, the musical highlight of the year was Kate Bush’s return to the live stage, with her show Before the Dawn. It was an incredible performance, and after I saw it I wrote a piece for the New Statesman about how much it moved me. 

When I was asked to be guest editor for the Radio 4 Today programme, I realised immediately that one thing I wanted to do was pay tribute in some way to Kate. I’ve never sung any of her songs before, and I’ve chosen a lesser known one called "Under the Ivy," recording it with Ben Watt on piano, and a string arrangement written by Nick Ingman. Her version of the song originally appeared as a B-side to "Running Up that Hill," back in the days when every record had a B-side, a place where often a great song could be semi-hidden. 

That feeling of concealment is particularly relevant to this lyric, which is all about privacy and intimacy, hiding “away from the party,” meeting someone in a safe and secret place. It could be about a lover of course, but I also think it partly describes Kate Bush as an artist. In contrast to many music stars, she’s lived a proper private life, devoting much of her time and her energies to her family. And even with these amazing Before the Dawn shows, I don’t really feel that she was entering back into the public arena of the music business, more that she briefly invited us into her world, giving us a glimpse of all the things she can do. For that, and for this beautiful song, I thank her and hope I’ve done it justice.

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