Credit: Phillip Chappel/Klaus Hitschler

How Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour discovered a teenage Kate Bush

There are few bands as unique as the prog-rock legends Pink Floyd but, when the band’s guitarist came across the strange and beguiling voice of a teenager by the name of Kate Bush, he dropped what he was doing and made it his missions to sign her. It just so happens, what he was doing was creating one of Floyd’s undying albums in 1975’s Wish You Were Here. With his guidance, Kate Bush was able to become an icon of British music and challenge Pink Floyd for their unique crown.

Kate Bush was only 16 when her demo was passed on to Gilmour. While there would certainly have been some trepidation from any teen had they known Gilmour—at this time (and quite possibly still) one of the most well-regarded musicians on earth— was listening to their demo tape but it turns out that Bush was relatively unaware of who Gilmour was exactly, outside of a family friend.

“I was not really aware of much contemporary rock music at that age,” recalled Bush in 1985. “I had heard of them, but hadn’t actually heard their music. It wasn’t until later that I got to hear stuff like Dark Side of the Moon. And I just thought that was superb–I mean they really did do some pretty profound stuff.” So, when Bush was readying her tape for the family friend who was looking to produce a new young talent, she had no idea it would be a man with such gravitas. After all, it all came together in a rather civilised fashion.

“I was intrigued by this strange voice,” Gilmour said in a new interview for the BBC. Like any producer of the time was captivated and had to learn more. After receiving the tape from Ricky Hopper, he travelled to see the young singer: “I went to her house, met her parents down in Kent. And she played me, gosh, it must have been 40 or 50 songs on tape. And I thought: ‘I should try and do something.’”

“He was really responsible for me getting my recording contract with EMI in the first place,” said Bush. With so many songs already in her canon, at such a young age, Bush was a hot prospect. It was clear that her songwriting was far beyond her years and so Gilmour was keen to get things moving right away. He organised for three of the demos to be recorded in full and even recruited Andrew Powell and Beatles collaborator Geoff Emerick to help out on the sessions.

“I think we had the [EMI] record-company people down at Abbey Road in No. 3,” Gilmour adds. “And I said to them, ‘Do you want to hear something I’ve got?’ They said sure, so we found another room and I played them ‘The Man with a Child in his Eyes.’ And they said, ‘Yep, thank you — we’ll have it.’ [Laughs.]

“It’s absolutely beautiful, isn’t it? That’s her singing at the age of 16, and having written those extraordinary lyrics.”

The contract provided to Kate would be a fruitful one for all involved. It provided five full-length records including Bush’s debut The Kick Inside, on which Gilmour is a producer, and Lionheart from 1978, Never For Ever in 1980, The Dreaming two years later, and, of course, Hounds of Love from 1985. Gilmour’s involvement on her debut album wouldn’t be the end of their collaboration either.

Gilmour performs backing vocals on ‘Pull Out the Pin’ and plays the guitar on ‘Love and Anger’ and ‘Rocket’s Tail’. Gilmour is such an influence and guiding light in Bush’s career that he also managed to coax her out to perform live in 1987, singing ‘Running Up That Hill’ at the Secret Policeman’s Ball and in 2002 when she joined him to sing ‘Comfortably Numb’ at the Royal Festival Hall.

Theirs is a friendship that will likely last forever. Pink Floyd may well be one of the most unique and iconic bands in British history but Kate Bush is capable of providing the same calibre of music all on her own—with a little help from Gilmour along the way.

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