Once upon a time, way back in the late seventies, Kate Bush seemed to be a regular feature on British television. Turn on some late night talk show and there was Kate singing two tracks from her debut album or chatting with zoologist Dr. Desmond Morris. Or tune-in to the breakfast news and there was Kate discussing her thoughts on music and dance or giving a list of the authors (Kurt Vonnegut, C.S. Lewis) who influenced her writing. Hard to imagine the reclusive star doing this today. Not that she even needs to do this of course. But there was something quite delightful, quite wonderful, in all of Kate’s TV appearances back then. She later said circa 1982 that all this media attention was down to the fact that when she first appeared:
...it was incredibly unusual for a young female to be writing her own songs and singing them…
Which shows how far we’ve come and how pioneering and exotic Kate Bush seemed to the media at the start of her career. Admittedly there was Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and even Lynsey de Paul but nothing quite like Kate Bush. There was something different, ethereal and downright odd about her. Nobody sang like her. Nobody looked quite like her. And nobody quite mixed music, dance, mime and performance the way Kate did.
She also seemed incredibly innocent and vulnerable—which was probably a lot of male projection as Kate was hardworking, ambitious and driven. She was sixteen when she signed to the world’s largest record company EMI. She was nineteen when she had her first number one and conquered a large swathe of the pop music world with “Wuthering Heights.” And just twenty when she had EMI bankroll her first (and until very recently her only) tour in 1979. There’s not many stars who ever managed that. Kate eventually gave up touring as there wasn’t then the technology to give her the full artistic control she desired. That’s either true perfectionism or control freakery. Or a decent enough excuse?
In December 1978, Eric Idle introduced Kate Bush to America on Saturday Night Live. This was Kate’s first appearance on a US broadcaster, where she performed “The Man With the Child in His Eyes” and “Them Heavy People” live. This was rather daring and risky as Kate had failed to chart with either her debut album The Kick Inside or her first two singles in the US. In part due to this appearance “The Man with the Child in His Eyes” made #85 in the Billboard chart and America sound discovered what the rest of the world loved about Kate Bush.
Kate had been performing live on TV since she made her debut in a disused train depot in West Germany for Bios Bahnhof on WDR-TV, February 9th 1978. She often appeared on UK and European TV, which made me dig up some of her other early TV performances from late night BBC TV to Euro-pop appearances.
Kate’s TV debut on ‘Bios Bahnhof’ in 1978.
Kate’s on BBC’s ‘Saturday Night at the Mill’ performing “Them Heavy People” and “Moving” in 1978.
Kate performing “Wow” on ‘Snowtime Special: ABBA in Switzerland’ 1979.
Kate Bush live in Sweden 1980.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Kate Bush in her first ever TV appearance, 1978