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In search of Kate Bush March 18, 2009

Posted by sjroby in Music.
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Kate Bush: untitled three-LP bootleg

Kate Bush: untitled three-LP bootleg

Bootlegs, that is.

Over the last 30+ years, Kate Bush has been many things — groundbreaking (she was one of the first people to use sampling), musically adventurous (how many people have worked with Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, Trio Bulgarka, and Prince?), influential (you can hear her influence in Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan, among others, but ex-Sex Pistol John “Johnny Rotten” Lydon and  Outkast rapper Big Boi have sung her praises, and metal, punk, techno, and folk musicians have covered her songs), and perhaps a bit eccentric. One thing she isn’t, though, is prolific.

Since 1978, Kate Bush has released only eight proper albums: The Kick Inside (1978), Lionheart (1978), Never For Ever (1980), The Dreaming (1982), Hounds of Love (1982), The Sensual World (1989), The Red Shoes (1993), and Aerial (2005.) There’s also been a live album, a compilation, and two albums’ worth of singles, b-sides, and rarities only available as part of the 1990 box set This Woman’s Work, which collected the albums up to that point. Plus a handful of singles and tracks on compilation albums. That’s not a lot of music in more than thirty years. And when you consider that she’s the kind of singular artist who attracts a devoted cult audience, that’s really not a lot of music.

Ordinarily, a fan of someone who’s been around in the music business a long time would be able to expand on the artist’s discography by hunting down bootlegs: live concert recordings, collections of demo versions, unreleased material that somehow made its way to bootleggers, or — the most obviously illegal variety — collections of otherwise uncollected singles and compilation tracks. For the most part, collecting this kind of bootleg is a victimless crime, especially in an era when millions of music fans feel no need to pay for any of the music they like. (Well, sometimes there’s a victim — some bootlegs aren’t worth paying for. At least bootleg trading sites on the Internet can remove some of that risk.)

But there isn’t much to find, bootlegwise, for Kate Bush. There are really only a couple of things worth tracking down. And the bootleg pictured above isn’t one of them now, though it was a great find twenty years ago. One of the LPs is the concert released on video as Live at the Hammersmith Odeon, and released years later on CD. Another is from another concert, but the sound quality isn’t as good and the performances aren’t significantly different. (Since she’s only ever had one concert tour, the pool of sources is small.) The third LP is a really poorly recorded version of the 1979 Kate Bush Christmas TV special, a mix of live and studio recordings with one unreleased song, a duet version by Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel of Roy Harper’s “Another Day” (also recorded by This Mortal Coil, with the Cocteau Twins’ Liz Fraser singing).

Kate Bush: Cathy's Home Demos

Kate Bush: Cathy’s Home Demos

Really, there are two things worth tracking down, and you may not get the best version at first.

Before signing her recording contract and working on her first album, Kate recorded a number of songs on a tape recorder at home, just herself singing and playing piano. A few of the songs later ended up, properly recorded, on her early albums, but there’s an album’s worth of songs that exist nowhere else. somehow a copy of the tape ended up being played on a radio station, with some listeners taping the broadcast; different bootleg collections reportedly come from either reproductions of the original tape, or from reproductions of tapes of the radio broadcast. Either way, the sound quality leaves something to be desired. Some people have tidied up the songs using noise reduction, and some have also adjusted the speed or pitch of the recordings, which sound a bit too low to many ears.

There are a lot of different versions of these songs floating around. I first heard them by buying a bootleg CD called Cathy’s Home Demos. Other versions include Alone at the Piano, The Phoenix Demos, and Shrubberies. Of the versions I’ve found as torrents, the best sounding is The Phoenix Demos. I found them somewhere as 320kbps mp3s, but if you’re not that concerned about mp3 quality, the easiest way to get them is Bryan Dongray’s website, which has them as 128kbps mp3s — not quite CD quality, but considering the source, more than listenable.

So that’s the first must-have rarity for Kate Bush fans. The second is the high quality version of the 1979 Christmas special. Back in 2006 someone, apparently someone with access to the BBC, made available a top quality version of the special. Another person then tidied up the soundtrack a little, and the whole thing was set up as a PAL DVD file and distributed through certain torrent sites. The picture and sound quality are superb. Though you can find low quality videos on youtube, and though the DVD at 3.29GB may take a long time to download, it’s worth it. You can watch the whole thing or rip the audio track and burn it to CD. If you’re a fan, you’ll find yourself wondering why this has never been released. It’d be a lot easier just to buy it, but you can’t. Try DIME EZTorrent — they don’t allow anything that’s been commercially released, so no one’s being ripped off.

Other than these two items, what’s left is bits and pieces — a couple live songs, a Gershwin cover, a soundtrack tune, an instrumental b-side, that sort of thing — most of them legally released at one point but some of them now hard to find. But the demos and TV special are the big ones. In this mildly obsessed fanboy’s opinion, at least…

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Comments»

1. col - April 23, 2010

Today I bought an 12″ LP called The Cathy Album for 8 quid! Its mint condition though have not played it yet. I do have the tracks on it from a website, but cant wait to hear what they sound like on this!

2. redone - September 24, 2010

Hello, I’m attempting to get an estimate of the value of Kate Bush album I have. I bought it in Halifax, Nova Scotia in the early 80’s. It is 12 inch double album (both see through fuschia pink) in a plain white cardboard sleeve. It did not have any picture on it but is stamped in blue ink COLOURED VINYL COLLECTORS EDITON LIMITED PRESSING OF 500 #187. It also came with a baby pink piece of paper with lettering and picture is all in black which says
WOW LIVE KATE BUSH
FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY
May 1979 Hammersmith Odeon
Dec 28, 1979 TV Special with guests Peter Gabriel & Steve Harley
“Another Day” written by H. Ash and Roy Harper
Rock Solid Records (the label for rock solid records is a pig face with the name around it in lower case)
There is also a picture of Kate in the centre and it is edged with what looks like pics of yoga poses (mostly camel pose) or jumping dancing.
That’s what is on the flyer.

Inside the albums are in A&A records and tapes sleeves.
The first album, labels Side A and Side B each also with the rock solid pig face logo on it has a teal centre. The small print running around the edge of the centre circle says “ALL RIGHTS OF THE MANUFACTURER AND OF THE OWNER OF THE THE RECORDED WORK RESERVED UNAUTHORIZED PUBLIC PERFORMANCE BROADCASTING AND COPYING OF THIS RECORD PROHIBITED”
The C and D side record is the same fuschia pink vinyl with same warning and a yellow/orange centre.

I guess they’re probably bootlegs but I treasured it and it was the only place I ever found “December will be Magic Again” which is one of my favourite Christmas songs.
I believe it to be in excellent shape. The albums themselves are perfect. The white cardboard sleeve is not pure white (but never was) – there is a visible darker edge of a part of a circle on the outside of the sleeve tracing the edge of the albums inside.

Would you know what this might be worth if I were to decide to sell it? Or could you point me in the direction of somewhere I might be able to find out.
I would appreciate any help you could give.

3. sjroby - September 24, 2010

Hi. No idea how much it’s worth, sorry, the Kate Bush collector’s guide I have doesn’t include prices. Sounds pretty cool, though — sounds like two of the same LPs as in my three-LP set, but mine aren’t coloured vinyl.

I’m jealous, though… I was in Halifax, Nova Scotia in the early ’80s and never saw anything like that. Where’d you get it? Got my triple-LP version in Ottawa in the late ’80s.

4. redone - September 24, 2010

There used to be an independent record store called Track Records. I think it was on Blowers St. can’t quite remember, but it was the best/almost only place to get anything alternative. I remember I bought t-shirts there for bands I’d never even heard just because I thought they were cool. Pathetic but the trial and error experimenting was fun too. Being underage there was no place I was brave enough to go to hear alternative stuff (not that there were many) and most of my friends hated Kate and anything not on standard radio. What is on the 3rd album in your set? Were they put out by the same company?
I was going to give my albums to my cousin, but I started going through them today and I got so nostalgic I don’t think I can do it.

sjroby - September 24, 2010

Hey, I used to go to Track Records all the time. Well, until I graduated and left Halifax, anyway. Got some great stuff there…

5. chris savluk - March 29, 2011

i am a collector of such items… i estimate its value around $600.00 dollars. that is what i would pay anyways.


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