Home Music Discography Discography: Kate Bush: Never for Ever

Discography: Kate Bush: Never for Ever

Following her second album, Kate Bush was a frustrated artist. Being produced by others meant she couldn’t navigate the creative process however she saw fit. Clearly that was going to be a problem. EMI was not particularly happy about the possibility but offered an alternative. If she successfully produced her upcoming live tour disc they would relent and allow her to produce herself with the aid of engineer Joe Kelly. Never happy being produced by other people, she jumped at the chance. With the success of the tour disc, she was given the opportunity she had longed for with Never for Ever. Finally, she was going to have her own voice and vision coming to the fore. Not bad for someone who was still only 21, but the two albums she had under her belt convinced her that the only person who could successfully make sure she got exactly what she wanted was herself.

Starting with its cover art, things were clearly going to be quite different. Rather than a record company-dictated photograph, she offered an illustration of her standing barefoot, with magical beings emerging from underneath her dress. Amidst the array we can see a swan, a bat, a toad, a cat and a goblin. Magic and mystery intertwined, establishing that Never for Ever would be unlike anything we had heard before. And that it was.

This new birth went beyond just gaining creative control. She was controlling the messages as well. Starting with “Babooshka” her songs took on a new air. Telling the tale of a paranoid wife who takes on the guise of a younger woman to discover how much of a roving eye her husband has, rather than finding hope, she ends up destroying her marriage. Sounding like a Russian folk tale set to music, Bush calls on her brother Paddy to play the balalaika to give it a Balkan feel, while eerie synths add a futuristic dimension.

And, of course, there were those moments where Bush, suddenly free, ran wild in Abbey Road. One of the toys she had at her disposal was a Fairlight CMI digital sampler. Discovering what it could do, the band took to smashing all the studio crockery to record samples used to play the arpeggio of breaking shards on “Babooshka.” While it sounded amazing, the kitchen staff was not amused. Groveling with Belgian chocolates helped solve that problem. The Fairlight also gets quite the workout on “All We Ever Look For.” Sampled whistling plays a major role in a song about family relationships that end up leaving everyone unsettled.

Segueing from “Babooshka” into “Delius (Song of Summer)” highlights another part of the equation for Bush. This wasn’t simple a collection of songs–there were connections to be made. Or at least there were in her mind. The drum pattern established at the end of “Babooshka” lead into a song quite different, a more peaceful piano driven piece, yet the deep rumbling vocals of Ian Bairnson and Paddy Bush suggest that nothing is ever exactly as it seems; there is always a sense of rumbling that doesn’t exactly fit. Adding an additional layer, Frederick Delius ended up blind and paralyzed from the effects of syphilis and Eric Fenby helped to finish some of his pieces, resulting in the line, “In B. Fenby.

Perhaps the gentlest piece on Never for Ever is “Blow Away (for Bill).” Bush’s lighting director, Bill Duffield, was killed in accident at the Poole Arts Center during her 1979 tour. The song immortalizes an idea by another crew member who suggested that souls of individuals, especially those who had died in the service of rock ‘n’ roll, went to a great showroom where folks like Keith Moon and Marc Bolan would perform. While that might seem like a slight track, for someone like Bush, it is surprisingly effective.

Never For Ever is a testament to Bush and the world she encounters. Unfortunately, the sights aren’t always pretty. For all the beauty on display in “Breathing,“ what is there is actually more of a condemnation, as we are breathing in and out any number of things that are not the least bit life giving. “Army Dreamers” takes aim at memories of a boy who could have been almost anything but ending up being nothing more than a dead soldier. Then consider “The Wedding List,” a song based on François Truffaut’s film The Bride Wore Black, where the groom is accidently shot dead on his wedding day and the bride hunts down and kills each of the people involved.

The Kate Bush we see on Never for Ever is by no ways a finished product. She is a singular artist just beginning to spread her wings (as she does on the back cover). There are better albums ahead, yet for that moment in time Bush managed to create something that is uniquely her own. And while it offers some suggestions about what will come next, I’m not sure anyone was completely prepared for the majesty of The Dreaming.

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