Some of Aimsel Ponti’s Kate Bush collection. Photo by Aimsel Ponti

I’ve still been listening to plenty of local music and streaming live performances by Maine acts in this time of isolation, but I’m also enjoying taking deeper dives into some of my lifelong favorite musicians by watching documentaries about them. It’s been a fun adventure, using a Roku box as a metal detector in search of content gold that’s come in the form of specials about artists like David Bowie, U2 and The Smiths.

I hit the jackpot recently with YouTube. I wasn’t searching for it, but while watching something else, a documentary about British artist Kate Bush was recommended to me. I realize these suggestions are based on search history and algorithms, but just the same, my eyes lit up like a box of sparklers, and for the next hour, I was transfixed by archival footage I had never seen before, not to mention interviews with some of my idols, like Tori Amos and St. Vincent, talking about Bush’s music.

Bush is on my top 10 list of all-time favorite artists, right up there with David Bowie. What has always drawn me to her music, which I discovered late in high school, is how striking, vibrant, mesmerizing, adventurous, emotional, fearless and lyrically lush it is.

“The Kate Bush Story” was made by the BBC and released in 2014. Whether you’re a hardcore fan or a casual one, I guarantee you’ll learn a ton and will have a much better understanding of why she is so revered and why her music has impacted and influenced so many people, including a local musician, which I’ll get to in a bit.

Her debut album, “The Kick Inside,” was released in 1978 when she was 19 years old. The song “Wuthering Heights,” based on Emily Brontë’s novel, went all the way to No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart and stayed there for four weeks.

In the documentary, writer Neil Gaiman said he “had never heard anything like it before. It was like banshee music, this absolute other-worldly voice singing about a book.” No one sounds quite like Bush whose soprano voice comes from another planet and can go places few others can.

St. Vincent also weighed in on the song: “There aren’t that many amazing pop songs that have two or three key changes in them. It’s so brilliant, it’s so memorable.”

All told, Bush has released 10 studio albums, a triple live album and a couple of compilations. Her only live performance in the United States was in December of 1978 when she performed two songs on “Saturday Night Live.” In 1979, Bush toured around Europe for six weeks, and that was her only tour until a 22-night run of shows at London’s Hammersmith Apollo in 2014. I still regret not trying harder to get tickets to one of these shows, but then again, they sold out in 15 minutes.

In 2016, a triple live album called “Before the Dawn” was released, and it’s all from those 2014 shows. It’s also, hands down, the most moving live album I’ve ever heard.

Elton John was also featured in “The Kate Bush Story.” He described her songs as not being normal. “She’s just who she is, she’s a mystery, she’s the most beautiful mystery.” Bush was a guest at John’s 2005 civil partnership, and he described how there were 600 guests in attendance, and they all wanted to meet her.

Tori Amos is also on top 10 list of favorite artists, and she, too, was part of “The Kate Bush Story.” Amos spoke about the first time she heard the song “Running Up That Hill” on the radio. It’s a single from 1985’s “Hounds of Love” album, and one of Bush’s most popular songs. “I had to pull over and listen to it because I had never heard anything like it.”

Local musician Sara Hallie Richardson, who I’ve long thought is cut from some of the same experimental and imaginative cloth as Bush, covered “Running Up that Hill” during her 2012 “Restless” album release show at One Longfellow Square. I couldn’t make it to the show but am thankful that the clip is on YouTube, and I’ve watched it dozens of times over the years.

I reached out to Richardson and asked her about her decision to play the song. She told me that, back in 2012, she went through a particularly challenging and dark stretch, and the song became her anthem. “I was unemployed for three months, during which I learned this song, and my band and I performed it at my release party.” They nailed it; just watch the clip. Richardson also said that, like many of her musical role models, Bush is forward-thinking, and her sound is all her own, never looking to imitate or blend into any genre. “She’s a storyteller, a melodic acrobat and a woman who goes at her own pace – that’s exactly the artist that I strive to be.”

There’s one other Maine connection I can make about the music of Kate Bush. Her 1982 album “The Dreaming” includes the song “Get Out of My House.” This wasn’t in the documentary, but I found multiple references online saying that the song was inspired by Stephen King’s novel “The Shining.” Also, the lyrics make it pretty clear.

So I run into the hall
(lock it)
Into the corridor
(lock it)
There’s a door in the house
(slamming)
I hear the lift descending
(slamming)
I hear it hit the landing
(slamming)

The Kate Bush Story
2014 BBC Documentary. Stream it on YouTube.

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