1/1/14 – Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow – 2011

Album Of The Day

Kate Bush - 50 Words For Snow

Kate Bush took 12 years between The Red Shoes 1993 and Aerial 2005 and then another 7 years before releasing 2 records in one year – Director’s Cut and 50 Words For Snow. Director’s Cut was her righting wrongs with re recordings and changes to songs from the The Red Shoes and The Sensual World 1989. Although these re visitings were welcome, you got the feeling that another 100 years might pass before she actually released a new album – and then all of a sudden, there it was.

With a seductive cover of girl and snowman in ice grey mist, it was a pure delight to slowly lower the needle down on this beautiful record. The first 3 songs are 10, 11 and 13 and a half minutes long and she begins with Snowflake. A warm piano softly trills as she imagines herself falling from the sky as a snowflake floating down onto ” your long white neck”. Her voice is so comforting and her imagery heart warming “We’re over a forest, it’s midnight at Christmas”. She makes you want to snuggle up in front of the fire and close your eyes, she makes you feel safe, she makes you feel like you are living in a storybook.

Lake Tahoe begins with a traditional a cappella vocal ensemble introducing another beautiful evocative captivating and moving story. At 11 minutes, it’s too short.

I have included all the lyrics here, please read them:

Lake Tahoe, cold mountain water
Don’t ever swim there
Just stand on the edge and look in there

And you might see a woman down there
They say some days, up she comes
Up she rises as if out of nowhere

Wearing Victorian dress
She was calling her pet
“Snowflake, Snowflake”

Tumbling like a cloud
That has drowned in the lake
Just like a poor, porcelain doll

Her eyes are open
But no-one’s home

The clock has stopped
So long she’s gone
No-one’s home

Her old dog is sleeping
His legs are frail now
But when he dreams he runs

Along long beaches and sticky fields
Through the spooky wood looking for her

The beds are made, the table is laid
The door is open, someone is calling
It’s a woman

Here, boy, here, boy, you’ve come home
I’ve got an old bone and a biscuit
And so much love

Miss me? Did you miss me?
Here’s the kitchen, there’s your basket
Here’s the hall, that’s where you wait for me

And here’s the bedroom, you’re not allowed in there
Here’s my lap and that’s where you rest your head
Here, boy, oh, you’re a good boy

You’ve come home
You’ve come home
You’ve come home


Her music and lyrics, her arrangements and song structures are so mature and sophisticated. Her voice expresses these stories like characters in a play. You can see an interpretation in a shortened animated video that accompanies this song. The clip gets a longer title, Eider Falls At Lake Tahoe. See it here:


Misty sounds like PJ Harvey might in 30 years, or the Talk Talk albums we never got since Mark Hollis retired. She fantasises about building a snowman and then waiting for him as he comes into her bed and lies with her dissolving in her arms. It’s like a wondrous children’s story for adults. Her voice slightly husky and as often in her sensual music, there is an erotic tinge. She dreams him up, he comes to her and then as he melts you feel her pain at losing him. It’s quite brilliant.

Again the lyrics are so strong and visual:

Roll his body or give him eyes
Make him smile for me, give him life
My hand is bleeding, I run back inside

I turn off the light, switch on a starry night
My window flies open
My bedroom fills with falling snow
Should be a dream but I’m not sleepy
I see his snowy white face but I’m not afraid
He lies down beside me

So cold next to me
I can feel him melting in my hand
Melting in my hand
Melting in my hand

He won’t speak to me
His crooked mouth
Is full of dead leaves
Full of dead leaves

Bits of twisted branches
And frozen garden
Crushed and stolen grasses
From slumbering lawn

He is dissolving, dissolving before me
And dawn will come soon

What kind of spirit is this?
Our one and only tryst
His breath all misty

And when I kiss his ice-cream lips
His creamy skin and his snowy white arms
Surround me

So cold next to me
I can feel him melting in my hand
Melting, melting in my hand

Sunday morning
I can’t find him
The sheets are soaking
And on my pillow dead leaves

Bits of twisted branches
And frozen garden
Crushed and stolen grasses
From slumbering lawn

I can’t find him, Misty
Oh, please can you help me?
He must be somewhere

Open window closing
Oh but wait, it’s still snowing
If you’re out there
I’m coming out on the ledge
I’m going out on the ledge


At 13 minutes long, it’s like you’ve been out to see a brilliant play, got dressed up, driven there, had a drink, watched the performance, applauded and come home – got into bed with the plot and the characters alive in your head as you drift off to join her in this fantasy world and share the joy of her creation and the disappointment of her loss.

For Wild Man she takes us to the Himalayas and the story of a mysterious beast, (Yeti) with vocal assistance from Andy Fairweather Low. Latterly sideman for Roger Waters and Eric Clapton, but originally the singer with the unique voice for Welsh sixties hit makers, The Amen Corner. One of only two up-tempo tunes and as the only single from the album, this short visual piece was also released:

Snowed In At Wheeler Street is a duet with Elton John but that has no bearing on the piece because again they are like actors playing out parts. Lovers through the ages drifting in and out of history loving each other, being together, losing each other. Again, it’s a rather sophisticated scenario, a fascinating story line. You can see the two of them dressed in the different fashions through history. They purr with affection for each other, they scream at the thought of losing each other. A pulsating electronic backdrop adds an intense mood.

The wind ices up the speakers on the title track as Stephen Fry recites.

1 drifting
2 twisting
3 whiteout
4 blackbird braille
5 Wenceslasaire
6 avalanche
Come on man, you’ve got 44 to go,
come on man, you’ve got 44 to go.
Come on man, you’ve got 44 to go,
come on man, you’ve got 44 to go.
7 swans-a-melting
8 deamondi-pavlova
9 eiderfalls
10 Santanyeroofdikov
11 stellatundra
12 hunter’s dream
13 faloop’njoompoola
14 zebranivem
15 spangladasha
16 albadune
17 hironocrashka
18 hooded-wept
Come on Joe, you’ve got 32 to go,
come on Joe, you’ve got 32 to go.
Come on now, you’ve got 32 to go,
come on now, you’ve got 32 to go.
Don’t you know it’s not just the Eskimo.
Let me hear your 50 words for snow.
19 phlegm de neige
20 mountainsob
21 anklebreaker
22 erase-o-dust
23 shnamistoflopp’n
24 terrablizza
25 whirlissimo
26 vanilla swarm
27 icyskidski
28 robber’s veil
Come on Joe, just 22 to go,
come on Joe, just 22 to go.
Come on Joe, just you and the Eskimos,
Come on now, just 22 to go.
Come on now, just 22 to go,
Let me hear your 50 words for snow.
29 creaky-creaky
30 psychohail
31 whippoccino
32 shimmerglisten
33 Zhivagodamarbletash
34 sorbetdeluge
35 sleetspoot’n
36 melt-o-blast
37 slipperella
38 boomerangablanca
39 groundberry down
40 meringuerpeaks
41 crème-bouffant
42 peDtaH ‘ej chIS qo’
43 deep’nhidden
44 bad for trains
45 shovelcrusted
46 anechoic
47 blown from polar fur
48 vanishing world
49 mistraldespair
50 snow.


I suppose if you love Stephen Fry like I do, then this poetic indulgence on the album’s theme of snow is rather good. Lighthearted, humorous, easy, charming. This is the second of the up tempo tracks on the album and it’s almost like she crafted it just for him.

Among Angels leaves us where we started – cosy but her voice breaks magically and then returns a pure sweet vibrato as she sings perhaps of death’s journey in the hands of angels.

This is a special album and I really cannot wait to listen to it as the snowflakes fall from the sky here in Stockholm over the winter months. I will join her in this storybook fantasy and she can sing me into ecstasy.




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9 Responses to “1/1/14 – Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow – 2011”

  1. Tiare January 1, 2014 at 11:23 pm #

    I love this beautiful album, I do just want to hear it over and over again. I get completely entranced by her surreal imagery. Hearing her sing, ‘Here, boy, here, boy, you’ve come home’ and ‘Come on man, you’ve got 44 to go’ really enforces the fact that she could sing her way through the phone book and it would sound incredible!

    Also an interesting thing about the first track, Snowflake, it was apparently written for her son according to Wiki,
    “a song written specifically to use his still high choir-boy voice,[80] Bush’s son Albert (Bertie) sings the role of a falling snowflake in a song expressing the hope of a noisy world soon being hushed by snowfall.”


  2. captain mission January 2, 2014 at 3:05 am #

    brilliant writing marty, i agree it’s a fabulous piece of music, as was ariel which i adore as well.
    the song ‘wild man’ would have to be included in my top songs of all time. the more i listen to her the more i appreciate her.

  3. simone January 2, 2014 at 7:07 am #

    Happy New Year Marty. Your writing is as superbly sublime as the music is. Until I heard this album my long standing favourite of Kate’s was Hounds of Love, and in particular the track Dream of Sheep. The meeting of Bush and Fry on this album is pure genius. The cover is divine and makes me wish for snow here,and yes, my favourite word for snow is Zhivagodamarbletash!

  4. Boydie January 3, 2014 at 11:24 pm #

    A triumph – even by her incredbly high standards – as you say Marty a record to be listened to in front of the fire, in the dark, a mug of hot cocoa in hand…..a truly beautiful record.

  5. delay plus chorus March 21, 2014 at 1:39 pm #

    Don’t know if anyone’s noticed yet, but Kate has come out of hibernation to announce a long residency (15 dates) in London later this year — apparently her first run of live shows since 1979. This will be an unusual opportunity for the faithful, to say the least:


    • Marty Willson-Piper March 21, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

      Oh My God, Can one by 15 tickets for 15 shows ?

      • simone March 21, 2014 at 8:25 pm #

        Quick somebody pass the smelling salts! Yes it is true ! I read this morning on BBC News Entertainment and Arts an article on Kate’s coming tour and there is also a related article titled “Why did Kate only tour once?” If you go can you take me with you! Someone tell Kate to come to Sydney please.

  6. Marty Willson-Piper March 22, 2014 at 5:26 pm #

    I think I fainted when I heard about this!

  7. delay plus chorus March 27, 2014 at 8:46 am #

    It gets better — Kate has added another seven dates. ‘Massive’ demand for tickets, it seems:


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