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Music

How Pink Floyd inspired an outlandish Kate Bush track

@SamWKemp

Considering they were one of the most pioneering bands of the late 1960s and ’70s, it’s no wonder Pink Floyd inspired so many artists thereafter. Boasting virtuosity by the bucket load and a knack for crafting highly-cerebral sonic landscapes, the Floyd became the living embodiment of musical exploration at a time when everything, no matter how unusual, was up for grabs. Even when their status as musical innovators declined in the late ’70s, their music continued to echo through the work of other artists, as was the case with a young singer called Kate Bush.

At 15, Bush was already looking to make her name in the music world. She decided to get some of her songs published and was nudged in the direction of a friend of the family who was looking for young talent. After hearing Kate’s material, the producer offered Bush funding to craft her first demo tapes, the masters of which quickly caught the attention of industry insiders. And with that, everything fell into place.

It turns out that the family friend who produced Bush’s early demos was none other than Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour. “He was really responsible for me getting my recording contract with EMI in the first place,” Kate recalled, revealing that she’d not heard Pink Floyd’s music when she first met Gilmour. “I was not really aware of much contemporary rock music at that age,” she told Steve Newton. “I had heard of them, but hadn’t actually heard their music. It wasn’t until later that I got to hear stuff like Dark Side of the Moon. And I just thought that was superb–I mean they really did do some pretty profound stuff.”

Of all Pink Floyd’s masterful recordings, the one that had the biggest impact on Kate Bush was ‘Another Brick In The Wall’. Recalling the creation of her Hounds of Love track ‘Waking The Witch’ in an interview on BBC Radio 1 in 1992, Bush said: “I couldn’t get a helicopter anywhere and in the end I asked permission to use the helicopter from The Wall from The Floyd, it was the best helicopter I’d heard for years for years.”

Waking the Witch is undoubtedly one of the most experimental tracks on Hounds Of Love. A combination of ambient piano and miscellaneous audio samples, the song bears little resemblance to a traditional pop song, moving with a jittered fluidity more akin to the music of Aphex Twin. It’s a reminder of just how forward-thinking Bush’s music was. While she’s most famous for out-and-out pop hits like ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘Running Up That Hill’, Bush was also responsible for crafting some of the most non-conformist music of the 1980s. With its warped samples and glitchy rhythms, ‘Waking The Witch’ seems to foreshadow the fragmented world of post-internet music. Talking about the song’s morse-code fragmentation, Bush said: “That’s an effect that we managed to muck around with. It was a very experimental idea, a sort of trick really, that took us a long time to do. I wanted to give the impression of a very desperate attempt to communicate.”

You can revisit ‘Waking The Witch from Bush’s 1985 album Hounds of Love below.