I first heard Kate Bush when I was eleven. I saw her on Top of the Pops doing Wuthering Heights and two days later I was at Clifton Records in Bourne End, spending my birthday money on her album, The Kick Inside*. God, I loved that record – everything about it, even down to the scratch that developed halfway through Them Heavy People, the resulting jump-cut branding the album as mine. I’d stare at its cover, and at Kate Bush, bafflingly painted with gravy browning, lashed to a kite, floating in the white of a monstrous eye.
She was everything I wanted to be. She had glittering cheeks so I slathered my own in a pot of sparkle off the front of Blue Jeans magazine. I screwed my hair into tiny plaits in the hope that, once I’d removed them, my hair would rise up around my face like her astounding mane. I read Wuthering Heights. I practiced being her in the mirror (and if you’re laughing because you never did, I can only say: more fool you.) I wrote her a fan letter.
I think in some odd way, I learned from Kate Bush (a few years older than me, but – I now know – prodigiously young) what it might be to be a woman. She sang about periods and sex and motherhood. When she sang about love, she walked straight into the boudoir (God, but you’re beautiful, aren’t you? Feel your warm hand walking around…). I watched through a crack in the door.
But she also offered the tantalising possibility of not being determined by biology – even, of determining yourself. Just now, in my self-pitying fugue state after the tickets to her new tour sold out, I watched footage from her 1979 tour (performing in bare feet – look, girls: no heels!) and was reminded once again of the extraordinary range of voices she inhabited.
Kate Bush had licence to be anyone. I don’t think it ever occurred to her that she didn’t. She was a dervish, she was a kite, she stood in the belltower and showed us all the sights of Notre Dame. Think of her in Cloudbusting, the video for which has her as a crop-headed son to Donald Sutherland’s doomed father. Or watch her live performance of James and the Cold Gun from that last tour. She’s a gunslinger: leather-clad, packing heat. For a brief second in that song she’s Genie from the casino, hand caressing her head in a cheesecake pose – and then Genie’s gone.
I’m dispiritingly jealous of those who managed to wrestle Ticketmaster into submission this morning, because I bet those shows will be bloody marvellous. Just think of me at home, bending my hair into tiny little plaits, dabbing glitter onto my cheeks, singing along to The Kick Inside, the needle jumping reliably, halfway through track five, side two.
*I like to tell people this is the first album I’d bought, but in fact that had happened a few months before, when I’d been torn between Abba: The Album and the Muppets LP. As will be no surprise to anyone who knows me I chose the Muppets, thus effectively destroying any shred of credibility I might have had in future conversations about the topic.