A 20-year old Kate Bush refutes the idea she is a sex symbol while appearing on ‘Check It Out’ in 1979
Even looking back from 2020, it’s clear to see that when Kate Bush arrived on the music scene in the seventies that she was truly a unique artist. With her jaw-dropping debut single ‘Wuthering Heights’, Bush became the first female artist to write and perform a UK number one but that didn’t stop the usual gaggle of idiots championing Bush just for her appearance.
Bush was quickly labelled a sex-symbol following her breakthrough and, with her own songs finding new and expressive ways to talk about the still taboo subject, she was soon categorised under her physical attributes and her flirtatious performances. It was a notion that she wholeheartedly refutes in this rarely seen interview footage from 1979.
The footage comes from Check It Out one of the North East’s attempt at conquering the holy land of ‘Youth TV’. Sometimes affectionately known as Yoof TV, it was created in an attempt to try and tap into the new teenage market through music television. More often than not it was created by middle-aged men who had little to no clue about the youth subcultures which were rife in the mid-to-late seventies.
One such programme was the Tyne Tees, Check it Out. It had all the classic tropes of Youth TV, poorly dressed set, poorly dressed presenters and poorly skilled studio staff. Yet despite this, with the promise of a keen viewership, the show managed to hook a fair few rock and roll ducks in its time, including Kate Bush.
Chris Cowey is the presenter at this time for the show—before he would go on to host Top of the Pops—and he does a fine job of highlighting the casual misogyny of the times with his introduction. With all the grace of a bulldog dragging its balls along the floor, Cowey licks his lips and decade-defining moustache at just the mention of Bush’s name.
Handing over to the interviewer, who is thrilled to grab some time with Britain’s latest superstar, Bush is charming and confident. One thing that’s up for discussion is both Bush’s use of sex and vivid imagery in her songs and the notion that she has become a sex symbol. It’s something Bush moves to quickly shut down.
Bush confirms that while most songs that dominate the charts are about sex in one form or another, “Most of the pop songs are about sex whether they say it obviously or not,” she says, before adding: “It’s been like that for years. The subject is to write about ‘boy meets girl’ that’s the basics of it”. It highlights the singer’s already strong introduction to the music business, having already worked with some of the industry’s finest during her short career.
The interviewer then asks if she comes in for criticism for being a sex symbol, Bush expertly replies: “I do. But as long as people appreciate me as a musician and an artist then that’s great. If anything comes on top of that then it’s just a bonus, as far as I’m concerned.
“But I really want people to understand I am a serious artist—I’m not just flirting around with the business you know?” At this point, our interviewer cracks an awkward laugh. It’s a laugh which is quickly stifled by Bush’s powerful gaze as she tries to make her point. “I take it very seriously”.
Unfortunately, this message falls somewhat on deaf ears as the interviewer hints back to the sexual imagery of the songs and asks if they’re derived from personal experiences. Considering that most of Bush’s songs at the time took place in narrative worlds novelists would be proud of, it’s a silly question and is treated as such.
It’s a piece of footage which not only affirms our love for Kate Bush but suggest that even if you are a strong, intelligent, friendly, wildly talented and powerful woman, dealing with the nonsense of blundering idiots is an everyday occurrence.