Remembering Kate Bush’s TV debut of ‘Wuthering Heights’ back in 1978
We’re digging into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you a very special moment in the career of one of our favourite artists, Kate Bush.
In the rain-soaked months of February 1978, Kate Bush—at the time a fresh-faced 19-year-old with a hit single under her belt—made her first television appearance to perform the wondrous hit single ‘Wuthering Heights’ on German TV show Bios Bahnhof.
The performance was a mark of not only the artist’s incredible talent but the huge journey she’d been on, even at 19, to get to where she was. A consummate performer at such a young age she effortlessly delivers a spellbinding performance of one of the most brilliant alternative pop songs ever written.
Her appearance on the show coincided with the show’s first ever episode. Filmed in Cologne, Germany at an old train depot, the show was hosted by classical music and opera fan Alfred Biolek. It was he who when he found himself on the lookout for acts at the EMI offices caught the unmistakable sound of Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ playing through the speaker. He stopped in his tracks and enquired about the artist behind such a song. That artist was Kate Bush.
Bush had signed a four-year-deal with EMI back in 1976, after being scouted by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, and was only now starting to build up quite a buzz with her prolific songwriting and stage performance. Brian Southall, then EMI head of artist development, suggested it was a longer process than even that. “It was a bit like signing a football prodigy and nurturing them through to the first team, we’d heard demos in the office, we knew she was a prolific songwriter, but we hadn’t seen her perform. So we suggested she gain some live experience.”
They gave her that experience by hooking her up with long-time David Bowie collaborator, mime artist Lindsay Kemp. He changed her performance from a piece of music into an entire production, setting the high standards she would aim to match throughout her career.
As well as an act, Bush also needed a band. She recruited her brother and his friends to form the KT Bush band, playing their first gig in 1977 at the Rose of Lee pub in Lewisham (now The Dirty South). The rowdy gigs at pubs and clubs would prepare Kate for the trials and tribulations of a live (and sometimes hostile) crowd with many of the shows being performed at raucous spots for drunken sports fans with one particular gig at Tottenham Hotspur’s supporters’ club not being brilliant. “That was a bit strange,” says King of the band. “They thought Kate was the stripper, which didn’t go down very well.”
The shows provided Bush with the ability to handle any situation and the young artist was starting to cement her style, her performance and her personality in the face of a changing nation.
She set about recording her debut LP in August 1977 with a possible release date of the chosen single from the album ‘Wuthering Heights’ slated for November 4th 1977. But EMI got cold feet, fearing that it would be lost in the Christmas flurry and delayed the release until 20th January 1978.
As was the way in the seventies, by now the radio station like Capital Radio in London had the promo record and, against the will of EMI, they played it on air. They played it as much as they could, in fact. The people listening almost instantly fell in love with Kate Bush, besotted by her unique literary charm. Her single would go on to become the first record written and performed entirely by a woman to reach number 1 in the UK charts, an astounding feat for such a young artist.
So with radio play under her belt, interviews with the biggest magazines in the industry on the way, Kate Bush made her way to Germany to appear on Bio’s Bahnhof to perform a and b sides of her now well-established single. ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘Kite’ are performed to an incredibly gorgeous level with Bush displaying all of the credentials that would see her become one of music’s most essential artists.
While radio shows and the odd interview were great for Bush in a media sense they lacked the opportunity for her to make a visual impact as well as through her music. It was on television and in front of an audience that she could do her best work, and she knew it.
It meant when this opportunity arose for Bush’s first performance on television arose she jumped at the chance with a theatrically charged rendition of what would become her most legendary hit. As she cleverly performed her new hit single in the same red dress which would feature in her notorious video, it was clear; from here on out, Kate Bush was an icon.