Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Kate Bush: the darling's bad; for May

Kate Bush doesn't give a lot of interviews. After the last twenty-four hours, she might figure she'll do rather fewer in future.

As part of a wide-ranging discussion with Elio Iannacci for Macleans Magazine, the conversation turned to politics - and, in particular, Hillary Clinton's inability to seize the White House. It was here that Kate uttered the words which curdled many a morning yoghurt:

We have a female prime minister here in the UK. I actually really like her and think she’s wonderful. I think it’s the best thing that’s happened to us in a long time. She’s a very intelligent woman but I don’t see much to fear. I will say it is great to have a woman in charge of the country. She’s very sensible and I think that’s a good thing at this point in time.
Now, Kate Bush talking warmly about a Tory prime minister might be disappointing, but surely at a time when we've got actual fascists about to take office space in the White House, the small mercy that she wasn't bellowing "Brexit now" and bigging up the Farage must count for something.

More importantly, if you're going to quote the reply, you should probably look at the question, too:
A track called “Waking the Witch”—which was released in 1985—was performed for Before The Dawn. You once said that the song was about “the fear of women’s power.” With regards to Hillary Clinton’s recent defeat, do you think that this fear is stronger than ever?
So when Kate was talking about not having any reason to fear, she wasn't saying from May's policies, but fear of the idea of a woman leading a nation. Her comment was about temperament and gender, not policy and manifesto.

That's still disappointing - she seems to have confused May's caught in the headlights paralysis for a softly, softly caution - but reading Twitter over the last 24 hours you might have thought that Bush had been found negotiating the sale of NHS hospitals direct to Richard Branson.

And it's possible that Kate Bush does wholeheartedly embrace the Tory government, from the strange smell leaking out of Jeremy Hunt, through the slithering of Boris Johnson, to the chums of Liam Fox. And, let's face it, she's comfortably off and clearly had a lot of piano lessons as a small child, neither of which are signifiers of dyed-in-the-wool socialism.

But this interview doesn't really give much evidence one way or the other.

The really problematic bit of the interview was this exchange:
Q: Stephen Hawking recently said the Earth only has 1,000 years left. As someone who has written about environmental issues, does that alarm you?

A: Well, nobody really knows, do they? They told Stephen Hawking he only had a year left to live and how many years ago was that? You can’t know it all. If ever there’s been somebody to hold as an icon of sheer determination and willpower, it’s that guy, let alone any of the things he’s done scientifically. I’m sure that’s his driving force, but he’s a miracle and an aspiration.
For "someone who has written about environmental issues", giving an answer which ignores the environment and instead focuses on how Stephen Hawking didn't accept a diagnosis is heartbreaking. It seems to be implying that all we need to do abotu climate change is pop over to the burning fires of Siberia, stick up a couple of motivational posters, tell the planet to believe in itself and everything will be fine.

In all the coverage of Bush's interview yesterday, BBC News came up with the oddest angle:
Bush previously wrote a song for a sketch on a 1990 episode of TV series The Comic Strip, about the former Labour Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone.

The lyrics included: "Look to the left and to the right. We need help and there's nobody in sight. Where is the man that we all need? Well tell him he's to come and rescue me. Ken is the man that we all need. Ken is the leader of the GLC."
The track also describes Livingstone as "a sex machine".
This isn't wrong, but it doesn't really make much sense in the context of something she actually said about a politician - the Ken song was a soundtrack to an imaginary Hollywood movie about the GLC and part of that framing. If you really wanted to make something relevant out of it, you might have mentioned how both the movie and the satire gleefully cast Thatcher as the villain of the piece, and the gender politics around the last female Prime Minister. But I suppose 'has she written a song about a politician' was the only box they were looking to tick.


Robin Carmody said...

Just thought I'd mention:

I had piano lessons as a child and my parents are strongly socialist.

The Left didn't begin when the '68 generation took up the liberating potential of pop and made it a central facet of their "side", and it exists beyond its most heavily pop-cultural heartlands in north-west England - admittedly I'm a southerner, but there are many Old Labour heartlands in Yorkshire, north-east England, Wales and Scotland where a grounding in classical music, learning "non-pop" instruments etc. isn't thought to be as strange and paradoxical and unfitting as it perhaps is in Liverpool & Manchester.

A third of a century since Paul Morley identified the Rock Right in his derisory review of Bowie at Milton Keynes, it is strange that some people still identify a grounding in earlier music as the ultimate sign of right-wing politics. Today, I would say that liking white Anglosphere rock is a stronger and clearer sign - the classical establishment were, on the whole, happier with the post-war social democratic consensus than Jagger & Richards or Townshend & Daltrey ever were.

I've never thought Kate Bush was particularly politically-minded or radical in that sense, but please don't make equations which were outdated even 50 years ago and are tragically outdated now. The more you stereotypically imagine a place to be classical-orientated and to have more people who took piano lessons as children, the stronger the Remain vote was, in region after region (including both the one I grew up in and the one I live in now).

Robin Carmody said...

(I know that Liverpool & Manchester were for Remain and most of Yorkshire and the north-east were for Leave, yes, but think of Harrogate, Winchester, Cheltenham and Tunbridge Wells being for Remain while, say, Southampton & Dartford (in which latter I grew up) were for Leave, Monmouthshire being for Remain while post-industrial South Wales was for Leave, Weymouth & Portland, where I live and which is very Sky/X Factor-dominated, being strongly for Leave while neighbouring West Dorset, where everyone here knows that many more people had piano lessons etc., was only very narrowly for Leave, with the Remain vote being 10% higher than here ... there are plenty of examples.)

Robin Carmody said...

(Liverpool & Manchester voted Remain for other reasons - their non-English if not anti-English identities heavily influenced by their Irish presence. But that, or the cosmopolitanism of London, clearly wasn't the only reason a place could have a majority for Remain, and some people on the Left have almost implied that it was.)

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