Thursday, June 18, 2009

For a Song: There Goes a Tenner

Kate Bush: There Goes a Tenner


Kate Bush burst onto the Brittish pop scene as a teenager, singing lush romantic ballads. She certainly had the voice for it. But, without knowing what it was, she wanted to do more musically. So. it wasn’t until Peter Gabriel asked her to sing the background vocals on Games Without Frontiers that her musical world opened up.

By the time Bush released The Dreaming, she was exploring the many different modes of expression she could get from her voice. On There Goes a Tenner, Bush’s vocals are subdued and nuanced; here she sings, where earlier in her career she might have belted. And the lyrics also reflect her expanding horizons. Not a love story by any means, There Goes a Tenner tells the tale of a bank job gone wrong. The small time robbers planning the job are full of themselves. The imagine themselves as stars of the old-time gangster movies, Humphrey Bogart and so on. But only Bush’s character is grounded enough to wonder whether something might go wrong. So, it’s an unusual subject for a song.

But what I love most about this song is the final image. Here is Bush’s character, having been knocked out, coming to lying in the street. And the first thing she notices are the small bills floating in the air. Later, she will have time to realize that she is being arrested, and is on her way to prison. But now, in that in-between state of neither unconsciousness and consciousness, those air born bills are just fascinating. And this is the moment Bush wanted to get to.