Kate Bush’s journey to stardom began at a very young age and in the most peculiar fashion. She was discovered by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour when she was only 16-years-old and still finding herself as an artist and as a person. Gilmour was working on Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here when he stumbled upon a demo tape consisting of 50 songs composed by a young Kate Bush. The first-ever interview that Bush gave on television when she was 19, the young musician channelled her nervous energy with a confidence that suggested that beast of the industry didn’t phase her one iota.
Gilmour persuaded EMI to give her a record contract, and that was the start of an extraordinary career, one that’s still burning just as bright over 40-years later. Bush had a talent, which was like nothing that had come before and she laid down a blueprint that changed the image of female vocalists in the industry, which has allowed many greats to follow in her magnificent footsteps. Singing was all that Bush truly cared about back then; she never relied on controversy to get people talking and, instead, her incredible voice was the most powerful marketing machine in the world.
“I was intrigued by this strange voice,” Dave Gilmour recalled in an interview for the BBC. “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.
“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.”
After a couple of years spent perfecting her sound, Bush unleashed her fierce debut album, The Kick Inside, in 1978. Just a few weeks after the record stormed the charts; the teenager was invited to television studios to promote herself, and it makes for a truly remarkable piece of musical history to revisit.
The interview starts with a conversation concerning her captivating track ‘Wuthering Heights’ which had shocked the nation upon its release. Bush discussed how she was inspired by the television series, noting: “I saw the series on the television, it was on very late at night, and I caught literally the last five minutes, as she was at the window trying to get it. It just struck me, it was so strong, and for years it’s just been going around in my head.”
Bush then spoke about her inimitable voice which enthralled the interviewer who asked her how she achieves such a distinct sound. “I deliberately heighten it, just because it’s what the song calls for and it’s comfortable as well. I didn’t take lessons to do that, but I do have a teacher who I haven’t seen for months, he keeps an eye on my voice,” Bush responded.
The singer also gave her side of the famous story that led to her signature being snapped up so young by EMI: “When I was about 14, there was a friend of my brother’s called Ricky Hopper, he was in the business and he knew a lot of people. He acted as a friend to try and get the tapes across to people but after some trying, there was no response. He knew Dave Gilmour from the Pink Floyd and Dave came along to hear me.
“At that time, he was scouting for struggling artists. He’d already helped a band called Unicorn and he came along and heard me then put up the money for me to make a proper demo, with arrangements and we took it to the company.”
The teenager also discussed why it took her a couple of years to release an album after signing her papers with EMI. Although it is common today, in 1976 it was relatively rare for labels to sign artists who weren’t ready to release an album just yet. “I, myself felt like I was very young at that time and not capable of handling the business. I didn’t know anything about it. They were also worried that I was too young and looked at it as a long-term project, they wanted to give me time,” Bush stated.
The fact that EMI allowed Bush to have this delicate time to develop as a person and an artist undoubtedly helped her create such a glorious debut. More importantly, it meant that once she made her emphatic arrival that she would be unfazed by the industry. Bush, who appears at home on the television screen, exudes confidence during what was, in reality, a pivotal moment that could have defined her role within the music industry.