Kate Bush

Someone pointed out that Kate Bush’s new album is almost done and in looking through the material I was reminded of something I wrote a long time ago about Kate Bush and Prince. The orginial piece seems to be lost to the net so I am posting it here.

On Mon, 2 Oct 1995 kln@crl.com wrote:

> > lolife@bitstream.net (LoLife) writes:
> > I’ve begged her to let me record or mix something for years (that’s what
> > I do for a living). My wish came true when I worked on Why Should I
> > Love You when I worked for Prince, but I hated what he did to that song
> > so much it killed me.
> >
> So, lolife, tell us about this experience. We’re curious little animals, the Love Hounds.
> Did you ever get to talk to Kate in person?

I did, but only for a short moment. I was at home and the phone rang. I
didn’t always answer the phone in those days, because I was severly
overworked. So my answering machine picked it up and I heard Julie, from
Paisley Park, saying “Mike, I got Kate Bush on the phone and she has some
questions about what format they should send things over on, and I
thought it would be best if she talked to you. I, being an admitted Kate
Bush fan, freaked, but picked up the phone and talked to Julie. She says,
Kate, I have Prince’s engineer Michael Koppelman on the phone and he can
answer your questions. Meanwhile, my answering machine is still recording
it all, and blaring loudly. I tell my then girlfriend to shut if off just
as Kate comes on and says Hello Michael? (so to this day, if I could find
it, i have a tape of Kate saying hello to me…). The conversation
consisted only of her asking me if they could send 24-track tapes and
what series SSL computer disks. I also asked her if she was going to come
to Minneapolis, and she said I don’t think I’m wanted out there right
now. Then we basically said good-bye and hung up.

It’s funny because Prince knew I was a huge KB fan. He was too, but not
like me. The first time I asked him if he liked Kate Bush he said, she’s
my favorite woman. I also made him a tape of all the KB b-sides, which
fucking rule. When The Sensual World came out he had someone go get it and
we listened to it in the studio. He didn’t dig it that much, but I knew
you can’t always tell right away with a Kate album. TSW grew on me, but it
is still not her best effort. This Woman’s Work is a masterpiece, though,
and makes the whole album worth it. But I digress. Prince is weird, and a
couple stories in this post prove it. I may be tooting my own horn here,
but Prince has a weird ego. I think *part* of his motivation to work with
Kate was the fact that I worshipped her, and he knew it would impress me
that he could call her on the phone and work on her music and shit.
ANYWAY, what led up to the phone conversation above: one day Prince’s
assistant, Therese, told me as we were talking on the phone that Kate Bush
had called. Therese also knew I was a big Kate fan. Then, in the studio
that day, Prince said, guess who I talked to today. Me, being stupid and
unable to keep my mouth shut, said, Kate Bush? Prince got a little miffed,
and said How did you know that? And I said Therese told me, and he said,
hmm, I should dock here for that. At that point I knew I fucked up and
tried to say, no, she just knew I’m a big fan. As a side note, I told
Therese that Prince was a little pissed that she had told me that, and she
apologized to him. Therese is a really cool person. So, Prince tells me
that he and Kate are going to work on a tune together. He also told me
that while they were talking he told her that his engineer would rather
work with her than him. (I thought, wow, Prince and Kate Bush talking
about me!) ANYWAY, Eventually the phone call above occured and the tapes
arrived and I put them up and got a rough mix up. I still have a cassette
of it. It fucking rules. It is 1 million times better than the lame diso
Prince put on it. There was, of course, no disco on it before Prince got
his hands on it. So Prince comes in and listens to it. And the brutality
began. First we sampled the drum thing and synced it up to my Powerbook so
we could do MIDI. At that point, we essentially created a new song on a
new piece of tape and then flew all of Kate’s tracks back on top of it. So
now we could run the sequencer and add all the keyboards that Prince put
on. So Prince stacked a bunch of keys, guitars, basses, etc, on it and then
went to sing background vocals. When Prince does vocals, he sits right at
the recording console with a microphone hanging over it and does his own
punching in and out. So he kicks everyone out of the room when he sings.
It took him a few hours and then he called me back in and played me the
thick, multi-tracked background vocals he had put on. Now, as we all know,
the song in question goes “Of all the people in the world why should i
love you”. When Prince called me back in and played me what he had done,
he had sung “All of the people in the world”, instead of Of All. I said,
isn’t it OF all the people in the world? Not ALL of? He said, no, we had a
little talk about that, in his cocky way, as if to say he had talked with
Kate about changing the words to “all of” instead of “of all”. The next
day, I was waiting at my hotel room for the call to go to the studio when
the assistant engineer, Sylvia Massy, called and said Prince was in the
studio doing vocals. I was surprised; i was always called well in advance
of Prince going into the studio. When I got there he was changing all the
vocals to “Of All”, and was sampling them in himself, which is something
he would normally never do himself. My interpetation? He made a mistake,
as humans do, and didn’t have the guts to admit it. That’s weird. So I
sorta poked my head in at one point and asked him if he needed any help,
and we went on with the day. Eventually he had me do a rough mix, and when
he had approved it, we sent it to Kate. I got a call from Therese a few
days (or weeks, I forget) later. She said, Kate Bush said to destroy all
copies of that mix. I said, huh? Did she not like it or something? (my
heart rejoiced, because I hated what Prince did to it) She said, I don’t
know, she just said to destroy them. Later on Prince told me, Kate Bush
liked what we did. She said it sounded very American. So at that point I
wasn’t sure if she was even going to use it. We sent the tapes back and
she sort of split the difference with what he sent and what’s on the
record. Kate, if you read this, stick the pre-Prince version of Why Should
I Love You out on something. And let me do a remix of Not This Time.

Michael Koppelman

DISCLAIMER: The above is my perception of what occured. I was there, and
that’s what I thought of it. I did not intend to invade anyone’s privacy,
nor have I signed a non-disclosure agreement with any of the parties
mentioned. I also want to add that I truly enjoyed my years working for
Prince, but the man treats people as if he thinks he is actually “better”
than them, like he’s royalty or something, and that makes it hard to look
back on working with him fondly.

Kate Bush

10 thoughts on “Kate Bush

  1. Per Christian Frankplads says:

    Hi Michael, and thanks for sharing your stories.

    Not sure if you will see this, but I was just curious if you can say something more about the sound/arrangements/elements of the finished Prince version that he sent to Kate Bush?

    And – do you think there’s a bootleg tape somewhere with that version? I just really love the song, and would love to hear the development, from Kate’s demo to Prince’s demo to the finished album track…



  2. that rough form is so IT for that time, but then he f****d it all up . . that original version of The Flow before it was dicked up with Tony M. on the Symbol album is a key example.

    Can you share if there were any unreleased tracks that you felt were better than what he put out?


  3. bloomsday, I think the problem was that he works on his records too long. We cut together Diamonds and Pearls, in a rough form, more than a year before it was released. The label didn’t want him to release too much stuff, so he worked and worked and worked on it. We had 48 tracks or more, multiple basses, many loops, tons and tons of tracks, rappers and all sorts of crap. I really longed for the stripped down stuff during that era, like the song SIgn o’ the Times, which is just phenomenally good.


  4. interesting find and thanks . . . Michael, i was wondering if you have any perspective on how Prince took great raw-sounding tracks for Diamonds and Pearls and made them into shit? I am talking about the outtakes that exist on bootlegs, liek Daddy Pop, Live 4 Love, The Flow, etc etc. I think also for Elephants and Flowers.


  5. djbethell says:

    Hey, Michael,
    I just came across the version you were sent of Why Should I Love You? and for once I can actually enjoy it like never before. It was great to read you chain of events. I always played the track on the album, because I knew it had great ideas lyrically but could tell something was missing of her; too much over-production and far too much Prince for it to be her song alone. It never sat well with me and I could never truly enjoy it. Now I have the original and I’m completely in love with the track, and can now see exactly how much Prince trashed it.
    I’m glad to hear her fulfil her wish to “sing like a blackbird in summer” and to finally accomplish it on the album Ariel.
    It is a great shame someone of your callibre and understanding of Kate and her songs never got the chance you should’ve had to. As for Prince, I have heard similar comments from others, notably Wendy and Lisa, about his particular brand of ego; it ain’t pretty and no-one likes a knob.
    Your comment to Jim was very succinct and it truly tickled me. I was a big Prince fan for years but when he slipped in the NPG, name-change period, he truly flipped-out in my opinion churned out far too many tremendously horrendous songs.
    I would love to hear what you’d do with Not This Time. That would be something, but out of all of her songs why does that one attract you so much?
    Take Care, Michael and I hope you are still achieving you dreams,
    David x


  6. Hi, Jim. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and be an asshole. I have no idea WTF you are talking about.

    I was a loyal, obedient and attentive engineer for Prince for 3 years. I don’t know any engineers that worked for Prince that made it for that long except Susan Rogers. At the end of the day we are people and, if you’ll recall, I got fired because I was deathly ill and Prince wanted me to cancel a trip home for Christmas!

    I watched a thriving, bustling organization full of talented and energetic people turn into a ghost town. I watched capable, loyal people fired for silly reasons. I watched a dysfunctional “leader” fail at building a record label and a recording studio. He also put out album after album of shit and a couple of ridiculously bad movies.

    You like Prince. Great. Wonderful. I do, too. But I actually saw what he was capable of doing. You only saw what he did.

    Prince joins a growing contingent of songsters who have settled in Vegas hotels as regularly featured acts, including Celine Dion, Elton John, Barry Manilow and Toni Braxton.


  7. I find it very sad that despite being afforded the opportunity to work so closely with the undisputed master of modern song craft you where unable to stand back from your own desires and ego as an artist to be more facilitating to the ego and desires of someone else – that is after-all the job of an engineer in any studio – from Abbey Road to community funded out-reach charities in under privileged inner cities.

    I’m confused as to how someone with an obvious disrespect for other people’s creativity you where never-the-less able to rise to such a prominent position within one of the most prolific organizations in the music business.

    You say Prince acts as if he is better than everyone else and I can see how, from a person to person, day to day working environment point of view this could be irritating, but so is flipping burgers to get through medical school – deal with it!

    Kate Bush is Kate Bush for the same reason Prince is Prince. They get the job done by listening to and taking advice from one person – themselves. That they choose not to listen to the doubtless myriad of self-centered hangers on around them is testament to their vision and a lesson you could do well to learn from.


  8. LordLee says:

    Kate’s new double album is great. Missed hitting no1 in the album charts here in the UK coz of ‘Westllife’!!!! No justice in the world. As for Prince… where the hell is he after the supposed ‘comeback’?


  9. chad says:

    That’s a funny and interesting story, probably more so because of the Prince revival of late. Did you ever see the Dave Chapelle Prince skit? You might enjoy it.

    Kate’s new CD is ocming out but, the big question is when’s your next CD coming out? 🙂


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