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Graeme Thomson ‘Under The Ivy: The Life & Music of Kate Bush’ (Book Review)

Revised and updated as part of Omnibus Press’ Remastered series, Graeme Thomson’s Under The Ivy: The Life & Music of Kate Bush takes into account the renewed interest generated from Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ being used prominently in Netflix phenomenon Stranger Things.

The fact that the song was originally to be called ‘A Deal With God’ before record label EMI claimed it could cause problems in the more fundamentalist parts of America is just the sort of nugget that runs through Under The Ivy. Few biographers are as thorough in terms of research as Thomson is (see also his books on John Martyn, George Harrison, Johnny Cash, amongst others – most recently Simple Minds), and the numerous interviewees include those who were there, or thereabouts.

What’s notable about Bush’s story, as opposed to many of the others he has covered, is that her upbringing was relatively untroubled, and arguably idyllic. The depiction of those early years is fascinating for that very reason, giving hints to, and reasons for, what was to follow.

A teenage prodigy (many of her early hits were written long before they would be released) a central strand to the book is the idea that while her artistic life is inspired and extraordinary, her private life remains carefully guarded, a challenge to any biographer. But by detailing how the music was made, and talking to those who helped bring those visions to fruition, Thomson sends you back to those extraordinary recordings over and over again, which is where the whole story is made complete.

Under The Ivy also holds a mirror up to a music industry where prejudices and preconceptions are to the fore, especially when it comes to a woman determined to make music on her own terms. If you’re a fan of Kate Bush then this is essential reading, but even if you’re not it’s a compelling insight into an individual who refuses to play the music industry game and is all the more fascinating for it.

Graeme Thomson has written a book which is in-depth, but always respectful, and if ever an artist deserves our respect it’s surely Kate Bush.

Under The Ivy: The Life & Music of Kate Bush is published by Omnibus Press. Available here.

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