While my first rock concert was to see the band called Boston, I’d been to at least one other concert before that – I saw Arlo Guthrie at the Hemmens Auditorium in Elgin. I went with my friend Dan and some of his friends. Until that night I don’t think I’d heard of Arlo Guthrie, but it may have been what started me on my love of folk music.
We had good seats – up front and center. I don’t remember any of the songs he played except for one song that had everyone laughing. I remember that I laughed too – partly because everyone else was, and I didn’t want to seem as if I had no sense of humor, but also partly because the song had such absurd lyrics. It told the story of politicians getting “stoned” by eating chunks of colorful bugs. The bugs were also attached to missiles.
After the show Dan asked me if I understood the song about the multi-colored rainbow roach. I said that I sort of understood it – but couldn’t figure out why people wanted to eat bugs, even if they were colorful. Dan then explained to me what a roach was in this case – and it was not an insect. I’m not sure his explanation made it any more funny to me – I was quite ignorant about drugs at that time.
The lyrics are nowhere I could see on the Internet and the 20-minute song can only be found on iTunes as far as I can tell. I splurged this morning and downloaded it from iTunes (which I hate) just to hear it again. I can see why people laughed at it, it’s a lot like his song commonly referred to as “Alice’s Restaurant”
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.