Relive Kate Bush’s startling performance of ‘The Man With The Child In His Eyes’ on SNL, 1978
We’re dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you a very rare thing—Kate Bush performing for a studio audience and wowing the American TV hosts. We’re reflecting on her US television debut on Saturday Night Live performing ‘The Man With The Child In His Eyes’.
The wondrous talent of Kate Bush has a worldwide fandom but it started very deeply in British culture. It meant that taking the leap across the pond was a risky and ultimately successful chance to take. Even recently one half of rap group Outkast, the rapper Big Boi, confirmed that his favourite ‘verse’ wasn’t from Jay-Z or Tupac Shakur but none other than Kate Bush.
It’s odd, then, that the only TV appearance Bush has made across the pond comes from 1978 when she appeared on the acclaimed TV show Saturday Night Live and delivered perhaps one of her most outstanding performances. SNL, as it is more affectionately known, has been a stalwart of late-night television ever since the show broadcast in 1975 and Bush turned it on when she arrived on stage.
Widely adored for its sketch comedy and its guest hosts each week, the show gained notoriety in the seventies for always being on the edge of danger. SNL was the most punk thing on television for a while. In fact, it was where much of the British talent from that era headed first when trying to complete that almighty task of cracking America, especially when it was clear that London’s streets were no longer paved with gold.
It would be a similar journey for Kate Bush, too. The difference was, however, that Kate Bush was already breaking records and capturing hearts and minds before she set foot on the famous NBC stage at Studio 8H. Before arriving at SNL, Bush had already accomplished one giant feat after her song, ‘Wuthering Heights’, shot to the top of the charts and made her the first female artist to achieve a UK number one with a self-written song.
It meant that Bush’s debut album, The Kick Inside, was already been flagrantly lauded as a game-changing pop record in Britain by the time she arrived in New York on December 1978. Eager to perform for the audience at home, Bush had gathered up an incredible reputation. Success in her homeland had emboldened the star but something about once again being a relative nobody in the context of America seemed to envigorate Bush.
The star has never been one for extensive touring, in fact, to complete only two tours in over four decades of music is a bit ridiculous, especially when one considers that Bush’s live show is widely touted as the finest of all time.
The episode with Bush was hosted by none other than Monty Python’s Eric Idle and as is customary, the comedian gave an intro for the singer’s first performance. While the vast majority of these intros are pleasant and warm, Idle added a little extra sparkle into his introduction and perhaps hinted that he, as much of the rest of Britain, was proud but protective of Kate. “This is her first time on American television, she’s very wonderful. Will you please welcome Kate Bush!”
He needn’t have worried as what transpired was a typically theatrical performance from Bush, who not only commanded the stage but also expressed her song and delivered a showstopping physical showing of her expression.
Somehow, Bush managed to soften the audience with every breath she took. As soon as the camera panned toward the singer delivering the second single from her debut LP, ‘The Man With The Child In His Eyes’, a proverbial crack developed across the United States. She performed the song atop an all-black piano in a sparkling gold jumpsuit, Bush was making a statement.
Further performances of ‘Them Heavy People’ accompanied by two dancers affirmed her position as one of the most engaging artists around right now. Sure, there was punk and there was disco to entertain the kids, but somewhere in the middle lay Kate Bush in her own unique space. It was something that connected deeply with those who watched it live.
It remains to this day the only US TV appearance Bush has ever made and ranks highly as one of her most influential. As we said, Kate Bush is a worldwide phenomenon, even if she never visits, and this performance goes a long way to understanding why.
Watch Kate Bush’s only US TV appearance singing ‘The Man With The Child In His Eyes’ on Saturday Night Live back in 1978.