Monthly Archives: February 2007

5. Everything’s Coming up Woses

I’d forgotten this brief obsession until, while watching the Academy Awards the other night, saw Jack Wild’s name and face in the montage of the people who’d died during the year. That I’d not heard about it shouldn’t have been surprising, but it was. And sad. After all, since I’d not seen him in anything since Oliver! (and maybe H.R. Pufnstuff), I expected him to still be the cute freckle-faced adolescent I had a minor crush on after David Henesy from Dark Shadows and before I’d discovered real guys were more fun than imaginary ones.

I don’t remember where or when I bought his album, Everything’s Coming up Roses, but I remember playing it a lot. I’d sing along with Jack, to the point of saying “woses” instead of “roses”. I wasn’t making fun of his missing R as much as delighting in that small idiosyncrasy of his.

I’ve kept this album, although when I transferred many of my vinyl albums to cd & mp3 format, I purposely set this one aside. I didn’t think I’d want to waste computer space, a cd or my time digitizing it. Not until now, a day about halfway between the academy awards ceremony and the first anniversary of his death.

He didn’t seem to do much in the way of entertainment between H. R. Pufnstuff, his few albums and his death. He was a heavy smoker and a heavy drinker and it is fairly certain that combination caused his eventual tongue and throat cancer. He had his larynx and tongue removed in 2002. This all certainly makes me reconsider having a second glass of wine with dinner these days.

Sorry for bringing our music discussion down a notch or three. I never said I had good taste in music.

4. The Kick Inside

Flash forward to January 1979*. I’m student teaching and attending university in England and it seems like everyone in the college dorm is playing a record by a new female singer. At first I’m not so sure I like the music, but when I listen to the lyrics I find that I do. The musician tells a story with each of her songs, and her voice can do things I’d never heard. Plus, they tell me, she dances while she sings her incredible songs. I’m also told, by fellow American students, that she performed on Saturday Night Live the night after I left for England.

Of course I’m talking about Kate Bush. As soon as I return to the States I buy her album, The Kick Inside, and play it over and over again, listening to the words; hypnotized by the sounds. I force my friends and family to listen to her and we try to dissect the songs. What do they mean?

Of course we know what Wuthering Heights is about, but I was memorized by the title song, The Kick Inside. I suspected it was about sibling incest or suicide, but couldn’t imagine either, so looked for some other meaning in the lyrics.

The first verse was obviously about death. I remember looking up the word chintz and because it sounded so old fashioned, thought perhaps this was an old woman’s deathbed. She’d lived a long and happy life and was writing a note to a loved one (husband? child?) and saying she’d soon be with (a) God.

I’ve pulled down my lace and the chintz.
Oh, do you know you have the face of a genius?
I’ll send your love to Zeus.
Oh, by the time you read this,
I’ll be well in touch.

The second verse made it harder to fool myself. My first thought was that the kicking was an unborn baby, but that didn’t mesh with my old woman theory. Maybe the kicking was pains from death. Maybe she’s writing that note to her brother and not her husband or child. And the part about being under the quilt. Well, it was the olden days – they had to keep warm somehow.

I’m giving it all in a moment or two.
I’m giving it all in a moment, for you.
I’m giving it all, giving it, giving it.
This kicking here inside
Makes me leave you behind.
No more under the quilt
To keep you warm.
Your sister I was born.
You must lose me like an arrow,
Shot into the killer storm.

I’d deluded myself for years, loving this song, but not letting myself think what it could really be about. It wasn’t until I began researching for this post that I discovered that it was about sibling incest and suicide and an unborn baby. God bless the Internet.

I’ll write more about Kate Bush’s music and her influence on me in later posts. I go in and out of my obsession with her work. Currently I’m out, but once I listen to her stuff again, I’m sure to be back in.

*It’s possible I’d heard about Kate Bush earlier than January 1979 – in fact I’m almost sure of it, but my memories do not mesh with the dates. I thought I’d heard her in a 6th form break room at Benton Park Grammar School while visiting friends at that school, but the year she released The Kick Inside, I didn’t visit England until early December. Maybe I visited the school before their winter holiday break. Still a month earlier doesn’t make that much difference, I just like to get my memories straight.

3. The Boy with the Moon and Star on his Head

I wasn’t much into music until around my junior year of high school. Before that I mostly listened to show tunes. In tenth grade our English teacher asked us to share the name of our favorite popular musician and favorite song. As my turn to share neared, I fretted – not having a clue who to name, and not wanting to admit I didn’t listen to popular music enough to have a favorite. When the student ahead of me named her favorite musician, I decided I’d borrow my best friend, Cindy‘s, favorite musician – I even knew the name of the album and her favorite song on it, since she’d mentioned it a number of times and perhaps had even played it for me when I visited her house.

“I like Cat Stevens,” I blurted out, feeling my face turn red. “I like The Boy with the Moon and Star on his Head from Catch Bull at Four.” The teacher nodded and went on to the next student while I sat, embarrassed at my lie, knowing that the whole room of sophomores knew I’d been dishonest.

That moment stuck with me for about two decades until I eventually purchased a used copy of Catch Bull at Four at a record shop and listened to it. I could see why Cindy liked it, especially The Boy with the Moon and Star on his Head. By then had seen Harold and Maude and proclaimed it my Favorite Movie of All Time, so I was familiar with Cat Stevens’ raspy voice and consistently upbeat lyrics.

Also by then, Cat Stevens had converted to Islam and become Yusuf Islam. By then he’d reportedly said he’d support the assassination of Salman Rushdie. So my late re-introduction to this musician was tinged with controversy.

In retrospect, I’d actually heard other songs by Cat Stevens, after the English class discussion and before I saw Harold and Maude, but never bothered to find out who the singer was. I feel somehow that I missed an opportunity to like a musician before he was hated and distrusted by much of the country.