Credit: Maia Venezuela

Kate Bush recalls listening to David Bowie for the first time

It comes as no surprise that Kate Bush was a huge David Bowie fan. The eclectic and experimental ‘Wuthering Heights’ genius took a lot of her cues from Bowie. Evidently, both paved their own ways in music, not adhering to the mores of the time, thus gaining their swathes of diehard fans. David Bowie was one of the first to break down the walls of possibility in music and culture.

Born David Robert Jones in Brixton, London 1947, the icon we know as David Bowie went on to inspire generations. He defied almost every convention possible in the ’70s and onwards. Although he started his career in the late ’60s, after the release of the 1972 effort The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Bowie’s star as a pioneer began to rise meteorically. 

The 1960s and ’70s were undoubtedly a time of great social upheaval. The tectonic plates of culture started to shift in a momentous direction; the old values of the past were stopped dead in their tracks by the burgeoning concept of possibility. This affected everything. Music, fashion, film and culture, in general, felt the effects of this earthquake most.  

One only has to note the vast array of pioneers from across the spectrum that these periods produced. David Bowie was one of the brightest lights, and, in addition to his trailblazing and ephemeral aesthetic, sonically, he paved the way for generations of those going against the grain. His unconventional lyrics and themes helped to cement his status.

One of the most iconic artists Bowie spawned was Kate Bush. In 2018, as part of a bumper vinyl box set, ‘Humming’ was released. The track was a pre-fame song a 15-year-old Bush wrote about none other than Bowie. Before its release, the rare track had existed in the shadows of Bush’s career known as ‘Maybe’ and even ‘Davy’. The latter is an obvious reference to Bowie’s real name. Written when Bowie had sent Ziggy back into space and had taken up the guise of the sinister, all-knowing Aladdin Sane, the lyrics of ‘Humming‘ convey a sense of yearning for Stardust that the teenage Bush was evidently missing.

When Bush heard of Bowie’s sad passing in 2016, she wrote: “David Bowie had everything. He was intelligent, imaginative, brave, charismatic, cool, sexy and truly inspirational both visually and musically. He created such staggeringly brilliant work, yes, but so much of it and it was so good. There are great people who make great work but who else has left a mark like his? No one like him.”

Bush’s retrospective account of Bowie following his death was not the first time she’d publicly declared the inspiration he had on her. In an interview in 2007, she divulged in some detail the effect the flame-haired maniac had had on her artistic and personal development. She even recalled being one of the screaming diehard fans at that iconic final performance by Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars on 3rd July 1973. Bush makes clear, though, that hearing Bowie for the first time had a life-changing effect.

“I was sitting in my bath, submerged in bubbles, listening to Radio Luxembourg when I heard David Bowie for the first time,” she once said. “‘There’s a starman waiting in the sky’. I thought it was such an interesting song and that he had a really unusual voice. Soon I was to hear that track everywhere, and Bowie’s music became a part of my life.”

She continued: “Was it Bo-Wie, Bowie or B’wee? Everything about him was intriguing. When I saw him on Top Of The Pops he was almost insect-like, his clothing was theatrical and bizarre; was that a dress? No one was sure, but my conclusion was that he was quite beautiful. His picture found itself on my bedroom wall next to the scared space reserved solely for my greatest love — Elton John.

“A fantastic songwriter with a voice to match, Bowie had everything. He was just the right amount of weird, obviously intelligent and, of course, very sexy. Ziggy played guitar. And I was there to see his last show as Ziggy Stardust with The Spiders From Mars. The atmosphere was just so charged that at the end, when he cried, we all cried with him.”

Detailing further, Bush added: “Working at Abbey Road studios some years later, I popped in to see a friend on another session…I was stopped in my tracks. Standing elegantly poised behind the console was David Bowie. He was lit from above and smoking a cigarette. He said, ‘Hello Kate’. I froze on the spot and said, ‘Er…Hello’, and then left the room, caught my breath outside the door and didn’t dare to go back in again. We’ve met many times since then and I don’t have to leave the room any more….or do I?

“He’s made all the right moves, each album exploring a new sound, a new way of looking at things, experimental and brave,” she continued. “Starring in The Man Who Fell To Earth made him a successful actor as well. His introduction to The Snowman animation, although brief, made the film more poignant, as if the whole thing somehow belonged to him. I just loved his hilarious Extras cameo, and the quirky Tesla in The Prestige. He is the quintessential artist, always different and ever surprising, an inspiration for us all.”

Clearly, Bush was in awe of Bowie throughout her career. Right from the moment she first heard him, gracing the airwaves of the esteemed Radio Luxembourg. Not only does she reveal that she was a big glam-rock fan, noting her love for Elton John, she, however unwittingly, indicates that the teenage girl who fell in love with Bowie never died. This makes her one of the countless fans that the chameleonic Bowie made an indelible cerebral mark on.

Listen to ‘Humming’ below.