Stan Deely on Never for Ever
The release of this album and its attendant singles covers the period from spring to autumn 1980. I can’t say I was following or even aware of Ms Bush’s career at the time.
It was quite a tumultuous period for me. I was 16 years old and like Billy Bragg, at the time of my O levels, I was heartbroken. That Easter my first girlfriend left me for my best friend. Torn loyalties or what? However I didn’t go so far as Philthy Phil of Motorhead who confronted with the same situation in flagrante threw his drums in his van and drove straight down to start a new life in London or a mate of mine who went to live in a tent on a Scottish island existing on a diet of dried vegan dog food.
My heartbreak was perfectly soundtracked by my fave band of the time, the Undertones, on their new album Hypnotised. With such insightful/universal lyrics such as “She’s a girl in a million who does what a million girls do” writer John O’Neill obviously had a direct window into my soul.
Post exams summer turned out to be a lot of fun, hanging out and drinking cider with mates in the park and took my mind off the heart break a bit and in September I started at the local college which was a mixed bag. After spending my compulsory education years in blue collar Catholic schools consisting of a cohort one third Irish, one third Italian, one third Polish with a handful of black, Asian and English kids, I was exposed to the English middle classes and their strange ways. Forty years on I’m still coming to terms with this strange breed and their world.
So I was only vaguely aware of the singles as they came out and don’t think I even knew that the album was out. Also the NME was on strike for a lot of this period and apart from the John Peel show this where I found out about new releases etc.
A drawing/painting of Kate wearing a cloud patterned dress with a menagerie of animals – cats, bats, whales, butterflies and some that look quite mythical emerging from her nether parts. Reminds me of the 70’s hippie designs in Oz magazine or the cartoon video to the Roger Glover ‘Butterfly Ball’ single that used to get shown on OGWT back in the day. Slightly unsettling in a Freudian way. The back cover, also quite sinister has Kate or some lookalikes dressed up as flies or bats at dusk in a dream/nightmare Wizard of Oz like scenario.
Writing this series I try to keep away from the internet and Wikipedia so as not to be too influenced by opinions etc but occasionally have a sneaky glance for recording and release dates, chart positions etc. Therefore I can tell you that this album was recorded over 10 months from September 1979 to May 1980 to May. Kate moves from assistant producer on Lionheart to co-producer with the engineer of the first two albums Jon Kelly.
On initial listens it sounds like the first two albums but more so. The sound is lusher and the hooks are hookier. Kate on steroids, turned up to 11. As co-producer there is a sense of her taking control.
Doomy piano chords, a bit of synth, the now TM’ed male backing vocals and here comes Kate with her re-write of the Rupert Holmes’s Pina Colada song. Once again in fairtytale territory. Coquettish verse. I can see her pouting and doing her thing in the video. Then it explodes into its super ear wormy catchy chorus.
The song builds and gets a bit Sgt Peppers orchestral in that English pastoral style. A very solid and accomplished track. Does its schtick in 3 minutes 20 seconds. Tune!. A proper pop hit, albeit a kooky one with slightly dark subject matter.
Sounds of breaking glass to finish. It sounds like the Fairlight, one of the very few in the country at the time, costing as much as a small house enabling minted musicians to sample glass smashing etc and play it up and down the keyboards, Not much used by Sham 69.
Straight into DELIUS (SONG OF SUMMER) which is a mood piece with minimal lyrics. Its a bit early in the album for one of these but it works. What sounds like a sitar glissando, male backing vocalists, Kate’s vocal buried quite low. More than throwaway. One gets the feel that she is doing just what she wants. Her vocals are more distinct on the second verse. More pastoral imagery conjuring up summertime nature. Might have worked better as the opener with the first two tracks reversed.
Written for the young lighting engineer who fell to his death from a skylight at the warm up gig for the Tour of Life tour. The piano playing and melody are very much in the style of the first two albums. Kate sings in a high register. Lyrics about near death experiences and those who died young. Into a sublime orchestral chorus that evokes a yearning languid feeling. The lush complex musical arrangement, pace and backing vocals remind me of The Hissing of Summer Lawns. One of my all time favourite albums and Kate matches it here. That level of musical sophistication just skewed a bit more here towards pop than Joni Mitchell’s slightly jazz leanings. Three aces in a row so far. A strong start to the album.
ALL WE EVER LOOK FOR
Piano led, Sounds a bit like a flute but not listed so its probably synthesizer. Fits in with the overall feeling of being more assured and sophisticated and produced than the first two albums. A Beatlesy, Camberwick Green English pastoral almost whistling tune. The verse is a bit formulaic for la Bush but the chorus rescues it. Lots of mad Fairlight nonsense at 2.44 and the strong chorus comes back. My feeling is that the song isn’t quite as good as the production.
Bit ordinary at first. Not as immediate as the previous tunes but it is growing on me as I realise just how many melodic twists and turns it contains. Turns into a bit of a mini rock opera especially with the subject matter – the old punk me may have sniggered at the lyrics straying into Spinal Tap Stonehenge style literal and prosaic lyrics but not this recent convert. Kate Bush – gateway drug to prog rock? Wikipedia tells me its progressive pop we’re dealing with here. The middle eight and outro get into stoner rock territory – the sort of repetitive vibes that bands that I rated in the late 80’s Loop, Spacemen Three were doing. (I was unaware at the time that Black Sabbath and Hawkwind had got their first) Ends on a bit of a Pink Floyd wig out
THE WEDDING LIST
Would this have been the opener on side two. Here Kate revisits the skipping herky jerky rhythm that she has used a few times on the first two albums. A breakdown before the chorus and then a theatrical chorus with a mid 70’s AOR rock guitar.
Theatrical Kate – which is under-represented on this album. Catchy light entertainment chorus. Curiously happy to have this here. Not my favourite Kate but glad to have her around. What strange magic the elfin estuary weirdo witchy pop princess is playing on me. Good coda with the band and Kate letting loose. Ends with a scream.
I recemtly watched Kate Bush at the BBC and there was an acted out performance of this performed on her Christmas 1979 BBC special. Charmingly amateur hokey, Kate posing with a machine gun. I can’t quite unsee it. The whole thing, not just the machine gun bit – what do you take me for?.
Straight into this new wave rocker. Kate does Lene Lovich or even Toyah. All high pitch squeals. Very of the moment. Like Saxaphone on the first album its featured instrument is a violin. It rocks and is strangely comforting. Rock geetar solo. Theatrical slow down to end. Packs a lot into its 3 minutes and 15 seconds. Quite a breathtaking breathless journey.
Certainly the last three have gone a bit off piste after the ‘Same but more so’ of the first four tracks.
THE INFANT KISS
A change of pace and mood. Piano and strings, no percussion. Quite sparse and a bit haunting. Lyrically it seems a tale of transgressive love. Once again Kate in sinister fairytale territory. A mother’s love for her child or something else. Like the Kick Inside on the first album an ambiguous song.
On the one hand Kate’s persona seems wholesome and well adjusted but already barely in her twenties there’s acknowledgement of the darker side of human nature. It seems to me a lot of her themes are inspired by films, etc and this could be the case here as well. Still coming into focus as a song for me.
NIGHT SCENTED STOCK
A one minute interlude, just Kate on vocals – Fairlighted it sounds like. Coda to the last song or prelude to the next. What does the title mean? Could have been titled ‘I’ve got a fairlight and I’m gonna use it.’
A waltz. More minimal than most of her songs. Stripped down and understated. I find it very affecting. If you read the lyrics it’s definitely an anti war song but I never really picked that up at the time. There’s a hint of Irish music – Paddy Bush on the mandolin. A brave choice for a single. The video gives her another chance to dance about with a machine gun. Take it away, Mr Freud.
Doomy first verse. Sung foetus in a womb during a nuclear attack. Continues the minimalist theme. Moves into a kind of breathing heartbeat beat and chorus. Dreamy yearning rock. Goes into a breakdown in the middle. Very Pink Floyd/Space Oddity. The bomb goes off etc. Bit of fretless bass. Bit stadium rock. Lighters ahoy. Last note fretless bass. Almost the same note as the first note of Joni’s In France They Kiss on Main Street – the opener on Hissing of Summer Lawns. .
A great finish to the album however a curious choice as the lead off single from the album. Got to about number 15 I believe. Could start a debate on should the first single be the best track off an album or should one save ones fire crackers for singles two or three when the album has been out and gained some traction. I think the 1980’s with its blockbuster albums was the start of this bash out 4 or 5 singles from the album which I think she got into on Hounds of Love.
It seems with this, her third album, she has consolidated what she has done in the past and a hint or nod towards new directions – more British pastoral, an Irish influence, some more rocky arrangements and playing and lastly Fairlight studio doodling and effects.
A very satisfying album and after a month of intense listening I am still finding new stuff in it. I’m quite reluctant to move onto the next one as I feel I’m not finished with this one yet.
Your opinions and insights, as ever, are valued. Over to you.