Kate Bush – Eat the Music
I’ve spent an awful lot of my life waiting for Kate Bush, and I’m quite sure most of her fans are familiar with the cycle of speculation, hope and disappointment that happens in every year of silence. With any other person you might be tempted to flounce off in a huff, but in pop terms this one really is the dysfunctional relationship to end all dysfunctional relationships. Kate feels like family to us, but if that were the actual case we’d all have been taken away by social services long ago – we adore her but we get almost nothing in return. For most of us, our slavish devotion was established the moment we first heard Wuthering Heights and it has endured for nearly four decades, weathering all the hardships that most marriages encounter – bad hair days (ours, not Kate’s), protracted periods of neglect and flirtations with infidelity (in this case, Tori Amos).
In the down time between releases, Kate Bush fans become Kate Bush defenders, keeping the legend alive and grooming unsuspecting Florence and the Machine enthusiasts with vinyl copies of The Kick Inside. Nothing riles us like the generalised public view of Kate as the Miss Havisham of pop, rattling around a cobwebbed mansion waving to the sky through holes in the roof. Kate, we maintain, is thoroughly down to earth, a busy mother and utterly normal. Her absence from the spotlight is evidence of just that, and the immense gaps between albums merely a sign of an artist who says something only when she has something to say. Even when that something happens to be about washing machines.
We had four years to wait between Hounds of Love and The Sensual World, and then another four before The Red Shoes turned up – interminable at the time, but nothing compared to the twelve year gap that was to follow. And the first thing I felt about The Red Shoes was – for the very first time – mild disappointment. I never quite got Rubberband Girl (“the poppiest thing she’s essayed in ten years”, according to my well thumbed copy of Q magazine) – to me it just seemed a little ordinary and a bit Prince’s Trust for my liking. I was far more enamoured with what, if my memory serves, was supposed to be the first single – the surprisingly different (well, not that surprising nor that different once her Fruitopia jingles appeared the following year but let’s not get into that) Eat the Music.
Eat the Music might well be the most divisive Kate Bush song ever, Mrs Bartolozzi (which, for the record, I adore) notwithstanding – for there are many people out there who think it is absolute bobbins and view it as a mindless calypso novelty better suited to a Fruit’n Fibre commercial than deserving a place on any of her albums. I can understand this point of view, but it really is so much more than that. The point that we’re all the same when you strip away the layers has been made before, but it’s never been made in such a messy, wet and sticky way, and it’s exuberant, life affirming and marvellously filthy (“split the banana, crush the sultana”). On record, Kate is rarely this much fun – in real life I suspect she frequently is. Now, I happen to think that fun is an over-rated commodity in pop, because if it was all about fun everything would sound like Walking on Sunshine and we’d all get tired rather quickly (I may have made this point before) – but as an occasional treat it’s a super thing. To hear her sounding this joyous and this excitable is, I think, rather wonderful. And I reckon this unexpected burst of fun was clearly the point of it being scheduled and promo’d as the first release from the album. I’d love to know why it was swapped out for Rubberband Girl. Was it a reversal of the Wuthering Heights/James and the Cold Gun situation from The Kick Inside? This time, did Kate cave in to EMI pressure to put out something more conventional? Obviously, we’ll never know. What I do know (well, I think) is that Eat the Music would most likely have delivered a top 10 hit, because it is every bit as strange and unusual for the time as Wuthering Heights was back in 1978. And by god, it would have enlivened 1993 a bit, wouldn’t it? But despite a further three singles being released from the album, for some reason none of them turned out to be Eat the Music – and so it never got its chance in the UK. I’d much rather have seen Kate perform this on Top of the Pops than And So Is Love (and that Michelle Gayle “she is WICKED!” introduction would have made a whole lot more sense). But for whatever reason, it was not to be.
It’s now the summer of 2016 and once again the grand wait is underway. It’s been nearly five years since 50 Words for Snow and two since those incredible Before the Dawn shows – barely any time at all really – but I’m not complaining. The truth is, we love the silence. We love being all but ignored by Kate, and we love clinging to the hope that Before the Dawn will come out on DVD even though it patently won’t. We love our unappointed, unofficial roles as Kate’s mouthpieces to the world, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Entered chart: was not released (though it was a single in America).
Who could sing this today and have a hit? Whoever still thinks Tropical House is a good thing could have a right laugh with this.