To mark LGBT History Month, 2013, Polari asked its contributors to recall a song that had an impact on their own stories.
‘Kashka From Baghdad’ – Kate Bush
by Michael Langan
I’ve been in a long-distance relationship (or, as I like to think of it, an International Romance) for a couple of years or so now. When my boyfriend and I first got together we’d spend afternoons in his tiny Lisbon flat lying in bed – sometimes with a bottle of red wine – listening to music. It was our way of finding out about each other, talking about ourselves through the music we chose to share. I’d been playing some Kate Bush for Henrique and telling him how important she is to me when he told me a story of his own about first hearing the song, ‘Kashka from Baghdad,’ from Kate’s 1978 album, Lionheart.
This is an album I wasn’t very familiar with, being immersed in The Kick Inside, Hounds of Love, and particularly The Sensual World (still my favourite), so I had the lovely experience of discovering something new from her, and a whole new story opening up from him. Henrique told me how he’d heard the first lines, “Kashka from Baghdad lives in sin, they say, with another man,” when he was a teenager and they’d awakened something in him that seemed hopeful and hidden, exotic and strange. As we listened to it together the song’s story unfolded, as told by a curious observer, of a reclusive gay couple; “Old friends never call there. Some wonder if life’s inside at all … But we know the lady who rents the room. She catches them calling a la lune.” But they’re not tragic figures these gay men, instead they engender love and hope; “At night, they’re seen laughing, loving. They know the way to be happy.” The narrator’s interest intensifies into longing, perhaps for a life different from the mundane, that Kashka and his lover personify. “I watch their shadows, tall and slim, in the window opposite. I long to be with them. ‘Cause when all the alley cats come out, you can hear music from Kashka’s house.”
There’s some brilliant footage of Kate singing this song live on Ask Aspel. (Click here to watch the clip.) Those of us of a certain age will remember that, before iplayer, before video recorders even, kids would write in to Michael Aspel at the BBC and ask him to show clips from TV programmes that we’d missed or were desperate to see again. It amazes me to think that a song about a gay relationship was performed live on children’s television in those days. It’s possible that I even saw it and didn’t twig, but that somehow it seeped into me by osmosis.
I’m glad I didn’t know this song before, because it meant Henrique could give it to me, as a gift. It’s true to say that this was the moment I thought our burgeoning relationship might be something worth making the effort for, and confirmed for me how preciously rare it is to find someone to share these moments with – how rare it is to possibly, maybe, fall in love.