Friday, June 22, 2018

With a kiss, I pass the key…

Kate Bush, despite the ethereal, at times cryptic nature of her lyrics, is often more candid and direct than most give her credit. We may not often know her characters, from George the Wipe ("Moments of Pleasure") to Wilhelm Reich ("Cloudbusting"), yet there are times of blatancy; case in point, Harry Houdini. Houdini believed strongly in the spirit world, but was anti-medium. He made a point of attending séances to learn the tricks of false psychics and expose them as con artists taking advantage of the grieving. Following Houdini's death, a group, including his wife, Bess, tried to make contact with Houdini in the afterlife. Houdini promised his betrothed that he would make contact with her and that she would know it was him by providing a code. The code word was "Rosabel." Legend has it that she indeed received the code during a séance with a genuine spiritualist. A voice repeating "Rosabel, believe" is heard in Kate's song in reference to the legend, itself a reference to the couple’s "song" from when they first shared the bill in Coney Island: "Rosabelle, sweet Rosabelle, I love you more than I can tell. Over me you cast a spell. I love you, my sweet Rosabelle." 

However, it was later discovered that Bess may have accidentally shared the code with this particular medium prior to the séance (ho-hum). She would eventually conclude that it was impossible to communicate with the dead. "Houdini" is one of KB’s most emotional songs and her vocal for the track certainly reflects this. 


Houdini

I wait at the table, and hold hands with weeping strangers. 
Wait for you to join the group. The tambourine jingle-jangles. 
The medium roams and rambles. 
Not taken in, I break the circle. I want this man to go away now. 
With a kiss I'd pass the key and feel your tongue teasing and receiving. 
With your spit still on my lip, you hit the water. 

Him and I in the room To prove you are with us too. 
 He's using code that only you and I know. 
This is no trick of his. This is your magic. 
I'd catch the cues, watching you, hoping you'd do something wrong. 
Everybody thinks you'll never make it, but every time, you escape: 
"Rosabel believe, Not even eternity can hold Houdini!" 
("Rosabel, believe!") 
Through the glass I'd watch you breathe. 
("Not even eternity . . .") 
Bound and drowned, And paler than you've ever been. 
(". . . can hold Houdini!") 
With your life the only thing in my mind – we pull you from the water! 
(Houdini!) 
You ("Hou-di-ni...") And I 
And Rosabel believe.