Army Dreamers

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Army Dreamers
Music video
German performance (“Mrs. Mopp”)
Dutch performance
Friday Night, Saturday Morning

Hi, all. Little announcement here. At this point, blogging is virtually my only income. Even short of COVID-19 and its disasters, I’m functionally disabled by severe trauma and ADHD, which prevents me from being able to work traditional jobs. I’m working towards being able to afford an apartment, but I need a little push to get there. Currently I have 37 patrons, which is great, and I’m hoping to get to a minimum of $300 per post, which would put me on track to bare minimum financial stability. At present, the Patreon is at $139 – not quite halfway there, but not so distant from $300 as to be hopeless. Any help is hugely appreciated.

Additionally, I am resuming my old tradition of cross-posting Dreams of Orgonon to Eruditorum Press, thanks to the support of my adoptive mother Elizabeth Sandifer. Her own work is sublime and among the best non-fiction writing available today, so you get two transfemme writers for the price of one. See you on the other side.

The senseless homicide, epistolary self-cuckoldry, and generational trauma in Never for Ever is a sort of horror writing from Bush. Her reverence for family and domesticity is clear throughout her work, and in how she lives — she stepped mostly out of public view for many years after the birth of her son. In Never for Ever, Bush explores what happens when families are torn apart by the infrastructure of modernity: weaponry, dissociation, social pressure, celebrity. Preliminary sketches of The Dreaming surface in the record’s soundscape of classical instruments and synthesizer innovations, underlined by trauma and madness. If Lionheart was Bush’s inward retreat in response to the world’s frightening instability, Never for Ever turns that lens outwards, exploring the impact of violence on families and survivors.

Bush has dabbled in folk music before, through engagements with parabolic theming, classical acoustic instrumentation, and straight-up rewrites of folk ballads. But “Army Dreamers” is a straight-up folk song, the apotheosis of Bush’s relationship with traditional British music. With a smattering of the distaff tragedy of a bereaved mother (“I’ve a bunch of purple flowers/to decorate to mammy’s hero”), whose enlisted son has perished while serving abroad (“four men in uniform/to carry home my little soldier”). Bush practically whispers the vocal, a hushed, mournful hiss with a mock Irish accent. The song’s hook, a “ck-ck” of Jay Bush loading guns sampled through a Fairlight CMI, gives the affair an understated yet harsh percussive flavor. The 3/4 rhythm of the guns is matched beat-for-beat by matched Paddy Bush’s mandolin, which begets a dirgeful, four-note figure (A, F… A, C…). Accompanying Paddy in the track’s roster of folk instruments is Stuart Elliott with a bodhrán, another beat grounding “Army Dreamers” in Irish folk music.

Bush’s Irish heritage surfaces tangentially throughout her career. The daughter of an Irish nurse, Bush has long dabbled in Great Britain’s folk music, with much quality time with her brothers spent listening to them playing folk songs (her family pastimes turned into a career: as an adult, Catherine still plays folk music with Paddy and Jay). Her debt to folk music has been repaid in full — The Kick Inside ends by rewriting a Child ballad, and “Violin” is goofy folk rock. The mandolin and bodhrán imbue “Army Dreamers” with an acoustic thickness, splinted together by a lugubrious waltz and sleepy B.V.’s (“he should have been a rock star” sound like it’s being sung by Eeyore). Its subject matter is no less dismal and rustic: a mother grieving her beloved soldier is a classical image of modern balladry, as is the proletarian culture and lack of opportunities faced by the mother and her son (“he should have been a rock star/but he never had the money for a guitar,” “he should have been a politician/but he never had a proper education”). There’s much to be said about Bush’s understanding of class through the lens of folk. Her treatment of the working class often yields mixed results — she’s a middle-class white woman who landed a record contract as a teenager. Bush’s understanding of poor people and the victims of colonialism is restrained in ways she seems unaware of. The matter of dabbling in Irish folk music and warfare in 1980 (when that thing called, hmm, what’s it called? Oh yeah, the Troubles) while hardly exploring the political conflicts of the matter comes across as ignorant.

Since we’re used to Bush being asleep to political infrastructure and class, we can at least turn to her complex politics of domesticity. While she doesn’t interrogate the structural causes of political violence, she’s still centering a song around the vulnerable people whose lives are destroyed by it. Never for Ever is populated by mothers and wives. Five of its eleven songs explicitly focus on maternal and uxorial figures, and that’s if we don’t count the broadly familial “All We Ever Look For.” Bush’s wives and mothers tend towards fatigue over their familial roles, experiencing emotions that contradict their outward actions or social operations. Bush’s mothers are an intrinsic good whose absence or loss is a tragedy, and whose losses are a social catastrophe. Key to the mother’s characterization in “Army Dreamers” is absence. She bemoans not merely her lost son, but his lost opportunities and the things she couldn’t provide for him. “What a waste of army dreamers,” muses Bush, in a ritual mourning of military casualties, which treats them as a cessation of dreams.

Most impressive is the way “Army Dreamers” treats the mother as an individual while also stressing her importance to her family. Stripped of her duties to her son, she is left with no more motherhood to perform. This suggests that while war is horrible, the people who are left behind have their own experiences of it. Men get sent off to die, and the women they leave behind are expected to grieve dutifully. Yet they’re prescribed a performative kind of grief — the actual effects of trauma are widely besmirched and ignored by the jingoistic reactionaries who send civilians off to die. Women are usually seen as broken when their soldiers fail to come home — this isn’t quite what Bush does. Is the mother broken? No, of course not. Has she had a vital part of her life snatched from her? Utterly.

There’s a touch of sentimentalism to this, if at least a grounded and humanitarian one. Violent deaths are often devastating because they cut short the lives of unsuspecting civilians who’ve been planning to go live their lives as usual the next day. Bush’s anti-militarism is hardly strident, but “Army Dreamers” has an edge to it even in its understatedness, blaming the services of “B.F.P.O” for overseas tragedies (although interestingly, her son’s death appears to be an accident — there’s little fanfare of death, no suggestion of the glory of battle). The horror of the death is largely its silence — all the things that couldn’t happen, no matter how much saying them would make them so.

The politics of the situation are left understated, as is typical for Bush, and yet with a light inimical rage, as if Bush is finally turning to the British establishment and shouting “look at what you’ve done!” While “Army Dreamers” is far from an indictment of the military-industrial complex (indeed, it has more to do with the British Army’s consumption of Irish civilians than anything else), its highlighting of war as futile is striking. “Give the kid the pick of pips/and give him all your stripes and ribbons/now he’s sitting in his hole/he might as well have buttons and bows” is a line of understated condemnation that spits on military emblems (pips are a British Army insignia) and consolidates trenches and graves. “B. F. P. O.,,” intone Bush’s backing vocalists again and again. In interviews, Bush backpedals from any perceived anti-militarist sentiments in her work (“I’m not slagging off the army…”), but her song tells a different story: nothing comes with B. F. P. O. except carnage.

In the song’s music video, Bush’s final collaboration with director Keef MacMillan (the two strong-willed auteurs could only collaborate together for so long), the visceral glimpses of departed loved ones that plague mourners gets captured in one devastatingly simple moment. Bush, a soldier stationed in a forest and surrounded by men in camo, turns to a tree to see her lost son. She runs to embrace him, and he’s gone before she reaches the tree. There’s a hard cut to Bush’s eyes flashing wide open. There it is: trauma and grief in a glance. Waking up, but still living the same dream.

Recorded in spring of 1980 at Abbey Road. Released with Never for Ever on 7 September 1980; issued as a single on 22 September 1980. Performed for television numerous times, including on programs in Germany and the Netherlands. Personnel: Kate Bush — vocals, production. Stuart Elliott — bodhrán. Brian Bath — acoustic guitar, backing vocals. Paddy Bush — mandolin, backing vocals. Alan Murphy — electric guitar, acoustic bass guitar, backing vocals. Duncan Mackay — Fairlight CMI. Jon Kelly — production, engineering. Photo: BTS picture from music video (cred. John Carder Bush).

Night-Scented Stock

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Night Scented Stock

This post was supported by 33 backers on Patreon, which is closer to providing me with half of a steady income than ever before.

Drifting towards a global denouement, “Never for Ever” unites its two halves with “Night Scented Stock.” Atavistic echoes of “Blow Away (For Bill)” echo through its not-even-minute-long lifespan; ephemeral reminders of the past foreboding the impact of the past’s deceased artists on the music of the presents. There’s no longer a rockist tribute to Moonie: Billie and Buddy have become spectres of Bush’s past in pop music. They’re no longer symptoms of the death of American popular music; now they’re signs of what’s to come. An eternalist proposition stated without a word.

Recorded at Abbey Road in the spring of 1980. Released on Never for Ever on 7 September 1980. Never performed live. Kate Bush — vocals, production. Jon Kelly — production, engineering. Picture: Billie Holiday at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1957 (cred. Bill Spilka).

The Infant Kiss

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The Infant Kiss
Chris Williams video
Un Baiser d’Enfant

Well, that was a long, unexpected hiatus. My sincerest apologies for letting this blog become dormant again. Life has been full of pitfalls, many of which you will no doubt have experienced yourself. But it’s good to be blogging again. As always, many thanks to my 33 generous backers on Patreon for supporting the blog. Writing would be much harder without you. And an additional thanks to the magnanimous Sam Maleski of Downtime for their insights on “Un Baiser d’Enfant.”

CW: pedophilia, child abuse.

As Never for Ever nears its ending, it coalesces into a sequence of diaphanous yet intense meditations on the vulnerability of people. The final quartet of songs on the album — “The Infant Kiss,” “Night-Scented Stock,” “Army Dreamers,” and “Breathing” — are some of the strangest compositions of Bush’s career. She’s laying the groundwork for her future work with the psychological tension and incendiary formalism these songs, which are direct progenitors of “Sat In Your Lap,” “Get Out of My House,” and “Running Up That Hill.” The weirder conceits of the largely pop-rock The Kick Inside and Lionheart slowly fall away throughout Never for Ever, and in its last few songs slip away permanently. When Bush creates pop songs again, they bear little audible resemblance to her earliest work. After the advent of “Babooshka” or “Breathing,” the “James and the Cold Gun” and “Wuthering Heights” of the future are going to be songs like “The Big Sky” and “Rocket’s Tail.”

The inaugural track of the album’s rear-guard, “The Infant Kiss,” is in some ways its most conventional, as it fits squarely into the “Wuthering Heights” and ”Hammer Horror” mold of baroque piano songs with intricate relationships to texts featuring psychologically unstable protagonists (once again, Bush’s source material is cinematic — the BBC’s 1967 Wuthering Heights serial is a greater influence on Bush’s song than Brontë’s novel). Yet “The Infant Kiss” drifts more than the rock inclinations of those two tracks would allow them to go, with its apprehensive minor-key piano machinations providing the song’s musical backbone (“The Infant Kiss” is only tenuously in D# minor — it starts with the III chord [F#] and often returns to the VII chord [C#], but inverts the key by playing the VI as B minor, and even forces in F# minor). pensively underlined by stalwart Alan Murphy’s electric guitar and the string accompaniment (viol and lirone) of brothers Adam and Jo Sceaping, sounding rather like a 1950s’ horror film’s soundtrack. Bush’s vocal is a triumph of her singing career, as she lifts her voice to a pointed F#5 (“noo-OO con-TROL,” a character description and virtually a self-assessment). Bush’s vocal shifts from eerie to spectral; as her songwriting slowly removes the lines between internal processing and external reality, Bush pushes her voice towards pitches of fear and nausea. Utilizing the higher end of her range, Bush’s vocal for “The Infant Kiss” is throaty, and she sounds like she’s choking her cries of “I cannot sit and let/something happen I’ll regret” and “I only want to touch.”

Not so much raiding the classic 60s horror film The Innocents as copy-pasting its plot, “The Infant Kiss” of the title refers to a passionate kiss a female caretaker (or in The Innocents, a governess) receives from the adolescent boy in her care. In the film, the governess Ms. Giddens (played with spectacular abandon by Deborah Kerr) becomes obsessed with the eerie maturity of the boy, Miles, and his sister Flora (but chiefly Miles), and becomes convinced the children are possessed by the ghosts of lascivious, unstable deceased employees of their father (who were major parts of their lives), or whether the ghosts are mere hallucinations. Adapting Henry James’ Gothic novella The Turn of the Screw with perhaps more ambiguity than James’ book (the idea that Giddens is purely mad was introduced to literary discourse by critic Edmund Wilson decades after the book’s publication, although James doesn’t commit to a conclusion either way), The Innocents never concludes whether Giddens is bonkers, the children are actually possessed, or both, rigidly centering itself on the ghostly uncertainty of its characters’ lives and the way Giddens’ fixation on Miles unravels, leading to his eventual death (either from stress or exorcism — the movie abstains from clarifying the exact nature of his sudden death). What’s visible is Giddens’ novitiate maturity and sexuality, the children’s traumatized and premature introduction to adulthood, and the disastrous collision of those failure modes. At the end of The Innocents, Giddens not only fails to exorcise Miles (or perhaps she does?), but witnesses his death. A paean to lost innocence recognizes that innocence was never real to begin with — a fantasy conjured up by adult pathologies and accordingly suffocated by them.

The disunity at play here is suited to Bush’s obsession with cognitive dissonance between internal perception and external reality. She zeroes in on Giddens’ sexual repression, expressed through her infatuation with Miles: “back home they’d call me dirty” and “words of caress on their lips that only speak of love” feel like lines out of The Innocents.  Giddens is the daughter of a vicar whose first interaction with high society is her assignment to these children (see Wuthering Heights for another iteration of bucolic isolation as bourgeois pathology). Her fixation on the children has as much to do with her own immaturity as repression. She projects onto a place far from home, offering maturity and sexual liberation in the only form she’s familiar with — adolescent and constrained by high society. In a move most commonly found in the political ideologies of bourgeois misers and right-wing pundits, Giddens overlooks real societal problems by projecting onto them.

This source material is enough to make “The Infant Kiss” one of Bush’s most difficult songs. It’s by no means an endorsement of pedophilia (nor specifically about it — Bush’s comments about wanting to strike the child or being terrified of the child suggest more pathologizing and narcissistic manipulation than sexual attraction), but it fundamentally centers an adult woman’s obsession with a prepubescent boy. “What is this?/an infant kiss/that sends my body tingling” has clear implications. Instead of a man with a child in his eyes, this boy has “a man behind those eyes.” The song doesn’t treat this as a positive point — it views it as a source of disorienting horror (albeit more for the voyeur than the child, whose perspective is absent). In interviews, Bush expounded on the way in which “the whole idea of looking at a little innocent boy and that distortion” was “absolutely terrifying.” Her fixation on the disunity between mind and external situation has gone beyond herself – it now applies to other people. The song lacks any element of sexual abuse (although not physical abuse, i.e. “I want to smack but I hold back”), but its narrative of an incipient narcissist’s fixation on adolescence and obsession with a child is as unsettling as Bush gets. Never for Ever contains sundry portraits of failed motherhood, of which “The Infant Kiss” is the most spectral. Of course the boy is a ghost. So is every child who gets raised by a narcissist.

The song likely haunted Bush herself, enough that in 1982 she recorded a French-language remake called “Un Baiser d’Enfant” as a B-side. The remake is idiosyncratically pleasing— generally having a strong grasp of French pronunciation and a poor understanding of French rhythm, Bush can’t stop singing like an Englishwoman, emphasizing phrases and beats in ways that would make a French singer blink incredulously (French leans on an even tonality throughout a sentence, punctuated by an inflexion at the end). It’s not as haunting as its progenitor, but few Bush songs are.

And there’s no shame in being less distressing than “The Infant Kiss.” Accounts of Bush’s life from her family, friends, collaborators, and biographers depict a well-adjusted, principled woman with healthy interpersonal relationships. Perhaps Bush’s understandings of psychological complexity originates within that. Even the healthiest relationships are complicated in many ways, and relationships’ healthier aspects often illuminate points of stress. Even wanting to help someone can be fundamentally harmful if one’s intentions are in the wrong place. Bush sees that with perfect clarity: a child possessed by a ghost is far less frightening than the mind of a person who perceives that.

“The Infant Kiss” recorded in spring of 1980 at Abbey Road. Released on Never for Ever on 7 September 1980; never performed live. Kate Bush — vocals, piano, production. Adam & Jo Sceaping — viol, lirone, string arrangement. Alan Murphy — electric guitar. Jon Kelly — engineering, production.

“Un Baiser d’Enfant” recorded on 16 October 1982; released as B-side of “Ne T’Enfuis Pas” in July 1983 in France and Canada only. Same personnel as “The Infant Kiss,” with additional engineering and mixing by Paul Hardiman and unspecified work by Del Palmer. Header image from The Innocents (1961, dir. Jack Clayton; DOP Freddie Francis).

Delius (Song of Summer)

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Delius (Song of Summer)
Dr. Hook
Russell Harty

This essay was supported by 32 backers on Patreon.

Segueing from “Babooshka” into its following track without a fade, Never for Ever continues its exegesis of British culture with “Delius (Song of Summer).” A sparse track whose runtime spans a mere 2 minutes and 51 seconds, “Delius” homages the English composer Frederick Delius with taciturn suggestions and discordant fragments of sound. Built around the conga-esque rhythm track of a Roland drum machine and animated by Paddy Bush’s shimmering sitar, “Delius” is a spectral track with snatches of a lyric, which largely consists of Kate Bush and backing vocalists Paddy Bush and Ian Bairnson singing Delius’ name. With its strident off-ness, embellished by such quirks as the outrageous rhyming of “syphilis” with “genius” and the peaceful harmony of a drum machine and sitar, “Delius” is an anomaly of Bush’s early career that sets a precedent for works like “Watching You Without Me” (to which its rhythm track bears similitude) or the entirety of A Sky of Honey.

Built on a verse that primarily shifts between the I and IV chords of B (B major 7th and E), “Delius” is melodically simple, working in rigid parameters to homage its subject. Providing an understated biographical statement of the composer without describing any of his life’s events, it conveys the cadences of Delius’ legacy with parsimony and depth.

To explain what Bush doesn’t, Frederick Theodore Albert Delius began his career as a full-time composer in Paris in 1886, channeling the influence of black music (which he discovered while failing to manage a Florida orange plantation) and European composers such as Wagner and Grieg into his own orchestral pieces (in a declaration of emotional hedonism, he described music as “an outburst of the soul” which is “addressed and should appeal instantly to the soul of the listener”). By the 1890s, he became popular in Imperial Germany thanks to the promotional efforts of German conductors. It took longer for Delius’ music to take off in his native Britain, but it eventually gained enough popular heft for Westminster to hold a six-day Delius festival in the late 1920s. By that point, Delius had contracted tertiary syphilis from extramarital affairs he’d conducted in Paris and was blind and paralyzed. In the final stage of his life, he was tended by his astonishingly dedicated wife Jelka Rosen, who gave up a genuinely successful art career to be his caretaker. Yet even with his devastating syphilis, he remained creative. From 1928 to 1934, Delius was assisted in his compositional efforts by a fellow Yorkshireman, Eric Fenby. For the duration of that time, Fenby served as Delius’ amanuensis, assisting him in the composition of some of his better-known pieces, such as the tone poem A Song of Summer, one of his more useful works for our purposes, as it provides the title of Ken Russell’s Delius biopic.

In terms of progenitors, Delius and Bush are operate in adjacent but separate traditions. Delius was heavily influenced by American music, particularly black music. He was fonder of popular music than some of his contemporaries (there’s a true-to-life scene in the film A Song of Summer where Delius jauntily enjoys listening to “Old Man River”) and was heavily influenced by his nostalgia for his plantation days. According to Delius, the black workers on the plantation “showed a truly wonderful sense of musicianship and harmonic resource in the instinctive way in which they treated a melody, and, hearing their singing in such romantic surroundings, it was then and there that I first felt the urge to express myself in music.” The implications of this statement are mixed in nature. On the one hand, channeling the innovations of black music into critically respected symphonies in the Jim Crow era was a step forward in terms of taking the musical abilities of black people seriously. Alternatively, there’s a distressing mystification of exploited black workers in Delius’ description. Their labor is something for him to enjoy personally, rather than a way for these doubtlessly persecuted people to alleviate the astounding difficulties of plantation work. As is the norm for popular music, Delius treats black people as inspirations for his own creations rather than innovators who paved the way for 20th century music.

Bush’s relationship to black music has more distance. I’ve expounded on how Bush is primarily a British songwriter influenced by English artists. Those English artists, such as Bowie and Ferry, were in turn publicly and unashamedly influenced by American black music. Bush’s own terribly white style has less to do with R&B. Lionheart is a quasi-jazz album, and Bush was a fan of Billie Holiday, but Holiday’s influence on her work isn’t nearly as obvious as the watermark of Ziggy Stardust or The Wall. It’s not that Bush doesn’t engage with the musical creations of racial minorities — she will later in her career, with results that range from well-intentioned misfires like “The Dreaming” and blatantly offensive works like “Eat the Music.” When we get to The Dreaming, we’ll have to talk about the rise of world music and Bush’s part in it, as The Dreaming pays more attention to ethnic minorities than the rest of her work (I’m going to spend a lot of the next few months arguing that The Dreaming is a flawed work of post-colonial horror). So while Delius is directly influenced by black music, Bush is only tangentially marked by it, in the same way that most artists who create popular music is going to touch on R&B or rock ‘n’ roll in some fashion. As things stand, both Delius and Bush have admiring but flawed views on black music, acknowledging its importance without fully understanding the struggles behind it.

“Delius (Song of Summer)” contains flashes of its subject’s life. “Oh, he’s a moody old man,” muses Bush, referring to Delius’ volatile behavior as reported by Fenby, then referencing Delius’ work by adding “song of summer in his hand.” The song plays out like a duet between Fenby and Delius — Fenby’s reserved nature and devout Catholicism often led to the young man becoming overwhelmed by his employer’s secularism and cantankerousness (Paddy Bush is heard gruffly saying “ta-ta-ta” and “in B, Fenby!”, quotes from Ken Russell’s film Song of Summer). The chorus, a sequence of Latin or Latin-ish phrases, sounds like a despairing yet awed prayer of elegy by Fenby: “Delius/Delius amat” (Bush continues to fail at foreign languages by attaching the third-person present “amat” to “Delius,” while also touching on Delius’ atheism), and the genuinely gut-busting rhyme of “syphilis/deus/genius,” the latter of which she pronounces in Latin. “Delius” is neither hagiographical nor harshly critical of its song — it simply evokes his ethos and how the people in his orbit perceived him.

Or at the very least, it perceives Delius according to filmmaker Ken Russell’s treatment of him. “Delius” is heavily indebted to Russell’s 1968 BBC adaptation of Eric Fenby’s memoir Delius as I Knew Him, called Song of Summer. The film is told through the perspective of Fenby (a young Christopher Gable, who Doctor Who fans might recognize), who initially approaches Delius as an admirer and quickly becomes a distant and subordinate collaborator to him. The Delius of the movie (Max Adrian, and yes Song of Summer doubles as a trivia game for Doctor Who fans) is not a legend nor a booming celebrity, but a foul-tempered geriatric has-been, confined by his illness and domineering personality. This could easily turn into a cynical story about how young creatives should never meet their heroes, but Song of Summer is smarter than that. While it doesn’t understate the fact that Delius was plainly an asshole, neither does it understate the human costs of his cruelty. There are some gorgeous scenes where Delius becomes fully animated by the power of music and creation, and Fenby, while alienated from his hero, is equally drawn in. Russell depicts two men whose struggles are both reconciled and exacerbated by the creative process. Russell’s script is imbued with psychological realness, which is granted to every character — Jelka Delius finally gets justice in an astonishing scene where she breaks down over her husband’s infidelity and cruelty. Typically for Ken Russell’s work, Song of Summer moves gracefully, with equal measures of ambivalence and clarity. Of the films Kate Bush has touched to date, this may be the best.

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And “Delius (Song of Summer)” faithfully adheres to Russell’s film. Imparting none of the movie’s plot while making it clearly exactly who Delius was is quite a feat. To an extent it’s a matter of Bush choosing the right words to evoke Delius’ life, but she weds her recent musical style to a keen understanding of Delius’ work. Delius’ music boasts his passion for Wagnerian grandioseness: it is huge, sentimental, and (pardon the word) “Epic,” often fixating on landscapes and seasons and elevating them into the stratosphere. While composing Song of Summer, Delius famously and instructed Fenby to imagine the composition in bombastic terms (later filmed faithfully by Ken Russell):

“I want you to imagine we are sitting on the cliffs of heather and looking out over the sea. The sustained chords in the high strings suggest the clear sky and stillness and calm of the scene… You must remember that figure that comes in the violins when the music becomes more animated. I’m introducing it there to suggest the gentle rise and fall of the waves. The flutes suggest a seagull gliding by.”

The words of a creator who knew exactly how he wanted his work to sound, to be sure. Bush’s “Delius” treads closely to it. Its Roland rhythm, piano, and sitar suggest an ethereal place where Delius and Fenby echo. Bush’s love for Delius’ a-cappella songs “To be sung of a summer night on the water” also informs the track, and not just through Bush’s title drop in the second verse. In a characteristically literal-minded move, her music video for the song becomes the default visual for the song. It depicts Bush surrounded by trees and water and clad in a swan dress (and, like, I’m not going to say that Bush is directly responsible for Björk’s swan dress because anybody who says that should be shot, but I’d be surprised if Björk was unaware of this video). There’s even a stand-in representation of Delius, a man in a wheelchair, his face obscured by a huge cutout of a sun (really). It’s a strange choice that balances the video out enough to make its more literal tendencies work. If certain images come to mind for this song, they’re going to be Swan Girl and Sun Man.

One wonders what Delius would have made of “Delius (Song of Summer).” Would he cantankerously scoff at it, or might he have viewed it as a fittingly sensuous and strange tribute to him? Bush and Delius are heavily connected by their sense of instinctive and a-typical harmony, so perhaps that connection would have awoken something in the latter. Certainly Eric Fenby thought so. When he met Bush and saw the “Delius” video, he proffered to Bush that as “a great individualist,” Delius “would have applauded you for at least doing your thing your own way.” Could Bush have received higher praise from the man who knew Delius best? I doubt it.

Recorded at Abbey Road Studio 2 during the sessions of January-June 1980. Released on Never for Ever on 7 September 1980. Music video shown during Dr. Hook and The Russell Harty Show on 7 April 1980 and 25 November 1980, respectively. Never performed live. Personnel: Kate Bush — vocals, piano, production. Roland — percussion (tongue-in-cheek credit on the album’s liner notes). Paddy Bush — Delius, sitar, bass voice. Alan Murphy — electric guitar. Ian Bairnson — bass voice. Preston Heyman — additional percussion. Jon Kelly — production, engineer. Pictures: Max Adrian & Christopher Gable in A Song of Summer (1968, dir. Ken Russell); Kate Bush in a swan dress.