The Sensual World

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The Sensual World
Studio album by Kate Bush
Released 16 October 1989
Recorded 1987–1989
Genre Art rock, baroque pop, alternative rock
Length 42:10 (LP)
45:58 (CD)
Label EMI all territories except the US, Columbia (US)
Producer Kate Bush
Kate Bush chronology
The Whole Story
The Sensual World
This Woman's Work: Anthology 1978–1990
Singles from The Sensual World
  1. "The Sensual World" b/w "Walk Straight Down the Middle"
    Released: 18 September 1989 (1989-09-18)
  2. "This Woman's Work" b/w "Be Kind To My Mistakes"
    Released: 20 November 1989 (1989-11-20)
  3. "Love and Anger" b/w "Ken"
    Released: 26 February 1990 (1990-02-26)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
BBC (Favourable)[1]
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[2]
Chicago Tribune 3/4 stars [3]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[4]
Spin's Book of Alternative Albums (8/10)[4]
Los Angeles Times 4/4 stars [5]
Robert Christgau (B) [6]

The Sensual World is the sixth studio album by the English singer Kate Bush. It was released in October 1989 and peaked at no.2 in the UK album charts. It has been certified Platinum by the BPI for sales of 300,000 in the UK,[7] and Gold by the RIAA in the US.[8]


Bush drew inspiration for the title track from the novel Ulysses by James Joyce. Bush realised that Molly Bloom's soliloquy, the closing passage of the novel, fitted the music she had created. When the Joyce estate refused to release the text, Bush wrote original lyrics that echo the original passage, as Molly steps from the pages of the book and revels in the real world.[9] She also alluded to "Jerusalem" by William Blake in a reference to the song's gestation ("And my arrows of desire rewrite the speech"). The song includes Irish instrumentation (uilleann pipes, fiddle, whistle) under a breathy rendering of the orgasmic 'Yes' of the original text.

The songs "Deeper Understanding," "Never Be Mine," and "Rocket's Tail" all feature backing vocals by the Bulgarian vocal ensemble Trio Bulgarka. "Heads We're Dancing" includes a characteristic Mick Karn fretless bassline. The song "This Woman's Work" from the movie She's Having a Baby (1988) was re-edited for this album. On 27 November 2005 it was featured in the British TV drama Walk Away and I Stumble starring Tamzin Outhwaite. Due to that broadcast, the song reached #3 on the UK download chart in late 2005.[10] This song has also been used in a long-running UK television advert for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, broadcast in 2005–2008, and in the Extras Christmas Special in 2007. A version of the song was recorded by R&B artist Maxwell in 1997 for his MTV Unplugged album.

Released as CD players were becoming increasingly popular, the original LP ended with "This Woman's Work", whilst "Walk Straight Down the Middle" was included as a bonus track on the CD and cassette versions of the album. The gap between these two tracks is slightly longer to indicate the album was intended to finish with "This Woman's Work".

A video collection called The Sensual World: The Videos was also released. It contained videos for the title song, "Love and Anger", and "This Woman's Work" (all directed by Bush herself), as well as excerpts from an interview Bush gave to the music TV channel VH1.

The Sensual World received a nomination for a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album.[11]

In 2010, Audio Fidelity reissued The Sensual World on vinyl with new mastering by Steve Hoffman and Kevin Gray.[12]

In May 2011, Bush released a new album, Director's Cut which featured new versions of four songs from The Sensual World, including the title song now called "Flower of the Mountain". Finally having received permission from the Joyce estate, Bush recorded a new vocal using Molly Bloom's soliloquy as the lyric. Additionally, she re-recorded a sparse, piano-only version of "This Woman's Work". The new version of "Deeper Understanding" was released as a single, with an accompanying video.

The laugh[edit]

The laugh that can be heard between "Love and Anger" and "The Fog" has left a few fans intrigued about what it means, or which song it belongs to.[13]

For years, Bush has wanted to insert a laugh between tracks, and for years the record executives have denied the proposition. Originally, the laugh was set to be put between "Strange Phenomena" and "Kite" on her first album "The Kick Inside". When this plan was nixed, Bush decided to place the laugh after "In Search of Peter Pan" on her second album "Lionheart"; after that, on the following record "Never for Ever" at the very end of the album. Again, to no avail, but this time the executives met Bush half way and let her add a little extra bass at the end of "Breathing" instead. Despite the first three rejections, Bush endeavoured once more to include the laugh on the fourth album "The Dreaming" just after "Suspended in Gaffa". Once again, the executives dismissed this demand, as unreasonably antagonistic towards the general public who would have a hard enough time figuring out just what Gaffa was without the added intimidation of a mocking laugh.

So it was in the fifth album, "Hounds of Love", where Kate was first able to sneak in the laugh, cleverly mixed backwards into a secret message in "Watching You Without Me", the forward contents of which were later discovered by fans. Luckily, the record executives never discovered this laugh, although its effect is all but lost in the mix. But Bush was still unsatisfied, since she knew most people would probably never know the laugh was even there. The Sensual World was the next candidate for the laugh, but since it had never charted as a single, the executives refused. Bush even volunteered to redo the laugh as a "new vocal" cut, but alas, no go.

Finally, Bush had had enough. "Look," she said, "no more albums unless I get a full, uncut, forward, undistorted laugh on the next one." British executives gave in, but Bush had to change labels in America to have her demand met. But still, it wasn't easy... a full year of bickering about where the laugh should go on the new album ensued and caused unprecedented delays in release. And now we see the fruits of Bush's effort: the laugh, in full, is indeed a part of the album The Sensual World. But in attaching the laugh to different songs on the two pressings of the CD, and omitting it entirely from the single and the video, Bush has left the fans still questioning which song the laugh belongs to.

Some fans believe it is the perfect ending for "Love and Anger", while some others say it's the perfect beginning for "The Fog". It was later theorized that the laugh doesn't belong to any particular track, but to itself.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Kate Bush. 

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "The Sensual World"   3:57
2. "Love and Anger"   4:42
3. "The Fog"   5:04
4. "Reaching Out"   3:11
5. "Heads We're Dancing"   5:17
Side two
No. Title Length
6. "Deeper Understanding"   4:46
7. "Between a Man and a Woman"   3:29
8. "Never Be Mine"   3:43
9. "Rocket's Tail"   4:06
10. "This Woman's Work"   3:32
11. "Walk Straight Down the Middle" (CD bonus track) 3:48



"While Bush's famously fey voice would probably be enough to hold the disparate strands of The Sensual World together, the album takes its cue and colouring too from the hypnotically sinuous sway of the pipes on the title track," wrote Robert Sandall in Q. "There are some strapping power chords to be despatched here and there, most notably on Love And Anger, but the dominant mood is of Oriental reverie, similar in feel to that achieved latterly by Japan. And in fact the last track on side one, Heads We're Dancing, reproduces that mysteriously sproingy bass sound favoured by Mick Karn."[14] Slant Magazine listed the album at #55 on its list of the "Best Albums of the 1980s" saying "Blessed with one of music's most wildly expressive voices, Bush takes each song further than she has to, resulting in an album that forms its own unique world."[15]


The Sensual World - The Videos[edit]

The Sensual World - The Videos
Video by Kate Bush
Released 1990
Recorded 1989 - 1990
Genre Alternative rock
Art rock
Length 16 minutes
Label CMV Enterprises
Director Peter Richardson, Kate Bush
Kate Bush chronology
The Whole Story
The Sensual World - The Videos
The Line, the Cross & the Curve
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmovie 4/5 stars[36]
Track listing
  1. "Interview"
  2. "The Sensual World"
  3. "Love And Anger"
  4. "This Woman's Work"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Music - Review of Kate Bush - The Sensual World". BBC. Retrieved 6 January 2012. 
  2. ^ Wilson, MacKenzie. The Sensual World - Kate Bush | AllMusic at AllMusic. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  3. ^ Kot, Greg (26 October 1989). "Kate Bush The Sensual World". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 20 October 2011. 
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ Hochman, Steve (15 November 1989). "A Grown-Up Kate Bush Veers Closer to Earth : Kate Bush "The Sensual World."". Los Angeles Times. Record Rack. Retrieved 31 August 2011. 
  6. ^ Christgau, Robert (13 March 1990). "Consumer Guide: Kate Bush: The Sensual World". The Village Voice. Retrieved 7 January 2012.  Relevant portion also posted at "Kate Bush: The Sensual World > Consumer Guide Album". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 18 July 2011. 
  7. ^ "British album certifications – Kate Bush – Sensual World". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Sensual World in the field Search. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Click Go
  8. ^ a b "American album certifications – Kate Bush – The Sensual World". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH
  9. ^ Littlejohn, Maureen. "The Sensual Woman". Network magazine. Retrieved 3 April 2007. 
  10. ^ "Official UK Download Chart Book". Archived from the original on 6 January 2007. Retrieved 3 April 2007. 
  11. ^ Cromelin, Richard / Hunt Dennis (11 January 1991). "Grammys--Round 1 : Pop music: Phil Collins' 8 nominations lead the pack and Quincy Jones sets a record with his 74th nod. The winners will be revealed on Feb. 20.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  12. ^ "Kate Bush : The Sensual World". audiofidelity. Retrieved 6 January 2012. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ Q, November 1998
  15. ^
  16. ^ " Kate Bush - The Sensual World". Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  17. ^ "Top Albums/CDs - Volume 51, No. 8" (PHP). RPM. 23 December 1989. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  18. ^ " Kate Bush - The Sensual World". MegaCharts. Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  19. ^ "InfoDisc : Tous les Albums classés par Artiste > Choisir Un Artiste Dans la Liste : Kate Bush". Retrieved 1 August 2011. 
  20. ^ "Album Search: Kate Bush - The Sensual World" (ASP) (in German). Media Control. Retrieved 10 July 2013. 
  21. ^ a b "Hit Parade Italia - Gli album più venduti del 1989" (in Italian). Retrieved 3 October 2011. 
  22. ^ ケイト・ブッシュ-リリース-ORICON STYLE-ミュージック "Highest position and charting weeks of The Sensual World by Kate Bush". (in Japanese). Oricon Style. Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  23. ^ " - Kate Bush - The Sensual World". Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  24. ^ " Kate Bush - The Sensual World". Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  25. ^ " Kate Bush - The Sensual World". Sverigetopplistan. Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  26. ^ "Kate Bush - The Sensual World -". Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  27. ^ "Kate Bush > Artists > Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  28. ^ Allmusic - The Sensual World > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums
  29. ^ "RPM Top 100 Albums of 1989". RPM. 23 December 1989. Retrieved 3 May 2011. 
  30. ^ a b "Complete UK Year-End Album Charts". Retrieved 7 August 2011. 
  31. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Kate Bush – The Sensual World". Music Canada. 
  32. ^ "French album certifications – Kate Bush – The Sensual World" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. 
  33. ^ "Les Albums Or". SNEP. Retrieved 31 August 2011. 
  34. ^ Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970-2005. Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9. 
  35. ^ "British album certifications – Kate Bush – The Sensual World". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter The Sensual World in the field Search. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Click Go
  36. ^ "Kate Bush: The Sensual World (The Videos) - Cast, Reviews, Summary, and Awards - AllRovi". Retrieved 12 August 2011.