Monday, September 3, 2007


When she has given interviews, Kate Bush has often talked about her interest in the way music connects with visual media. She has been heavily involved in the production of her own videos, and directed The Line, The Cross & The Curve, something between a long form video and a short film based on tracks from The Red Shoes. She has also demonstrated a real affinity for soundtrack work on a few occasions. One of her best loved songs, 'This woman's work', was written for the soundtrack of She's Having A Baby, which uses the song in its entirety during the moving climax. Kate's own video for the song rivals the film for emotional impact.

Less known is another song she originally wrote for another film, Castaway. (No, not Cast Away, the Tom Hanks film.) 'Be kind to my mistakes' in its original form can only be found on that extremely rare soundtrack album. Later, Kate edited 'Be kind to my mistakes' into a shorter version, included first on Aspects Of The Sensual World, and then as a bonus track on the remastered Hounds Of Love. I can save you the trouble of hunting down the Castaway soundtrack; the shorter version is better, and all that's been removed from the original are instrumental measures which weigh it down.

So many of Kate's musical trademarks are present in this song: uncomplicated but distinctive drumming, guitar work that shows the influence of David Gilmour (who mentored her and makes regular appearances on her albums), keyboard parts of a quality that seems to come particularly from Kate's Fairlight, and choirs of her other selves singing backing vocals.

One doesn't have to spend much time with Kate Bush to notice that she is the Virginia Woolf of pop music, capable of pinpointing small images that convey incredibly nuanced characters and relationships. (The only others who have ever bothered to challenge her for this distinction are Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt, but I'd say the prize is Kate's.) 'Be kind to my mistakes' is not the prime example of Kate at her lyrical powers; for that I'd refer you back to 'This woman's work', or 'Never be mine'. But it is remarkable nonetheless for expressing so richly the ambivalence of a new romance, when one is simultaneously thrilled and terrified, optimistic and fragile.

The mantra of the song is 'It is this that brings us together', 'this' being the mystery, the unknown and the attendant thrill from those risks. They fuel a relationship more than the precious little a new couple does know about each other. The pop phrases Kate includes ('It's alright darling', 'Are you mine?') slide by to reveal more penetrating truths: 'I don't know what you are looking for in me / And I don't know what I want / but my heart is needing'.

Kate is willing to stare into the darkness that never completely leaves even the strongest relationship: 'In your life / In my life / there are secrets too dark / to let out / to let go of / to get over'. The beautiful, loving people sitting across from us will never know us completely, as much as we would like them to. That's not pessimistic; rather it's a realism that shows strength, even if it's a little stark.

But it comes with reassurance, here, too, as Kate returns to 'That's alright by me / It's alright now' - this combination of vulnerability and faith serves as an elegant, intense frame for the song's climax, the only time she sings the title: 'Just let me say / Please be kind to my mistakes / Be kind to me'. A simple request really, but one that carries so much more weight after the depths the song has already exposed.

'Be kind to my mistakes' always goes by more quickly than its three minutes, and I think it's because of the delicate spiral it takes, touching us down more lightly than we might have expected, but transforming us all the same.

Kate Bush official website