When writers circle the adjective pool looking for appropriate words to describe the wonderfully talented Kate Bush, they usually end up labelling her something along the lines of eccentric, unique and dynamic. All of those words are wholly applicable to an artist who has kept the entire public waiting for the next drop of music, rarely to have never toured, and still managed to remain free from a commercial burden on her creativity. But the only word that really suits Bush to a tee is gifted.
Gifted like Picasso, Mozart and Godard are gifted. The kind of talent and prowess that emanates from her every move and has likely shone brightly since birth. Of course, there can be no doubt that Kate Bush worked hard for her success, but there’s a looming sense that no matter the discipline, the singer would have found a way to become the dynamic, unique and eccentric character she is. If you’re looking for proof, we have it in the shape of one of her first songs.
‘The Man With the Child in His Eyes’ was written by Bush when she was only 13-years-old. The singer had been leaning towards making music her life’s passion for some time, but this was the song that not only inwardly sealed her fate but would end up becoming one of the main reasons Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour would back Bush to emerge as a global superstar. However, as with everything she does, the song came straight from Bush’s soul.
“The inspiration for ‘The Man With the Child in His Eyes’ was really just a particular thing that happened when I went to the piano. The piano just started speaking to me,” Bush told an interviewer in 1978. “It was a theory that I had had for a while that I just observed in most of the men that I know: the fact that they just are little boys inside and how wonderful it is that they manage to retain this magic. I, myself, am attracted to older men, I guess, but I think that’s the same with every female. I think it’s a very natural, basic instinct that you look continually for your father for the rest of your life, as do men continually look for their mother in the women that they meet. I don’t think we’re all aware of it, but I think it is basically true. You look for that security that the opposite sex in your parenthood gave you as a child.”
In truth, the song was actually penned for Steve Blacknell, Bush’s older boyfriend at the time. “She had her heart set on becoming a global star, and I was going to be a flash DJ,” Blacknell explained. “One day, I would introduce her on Top Of The Pops. In the summer of 1975, I finally got my break and landed a job as a marketing assistant with Decca Records. It was then that I finally thought I was equipped to hear her music, and it was a day I’ll never forget. I went round to her house, and she led me to the room where the piano was. I thought, ‘Oh my God’. What I heard made my soul stand on end. I realised there and then that I was in love with a genius.”
He added: “As things hotted up for her, so our relationship cooled, and we drifted apart. But I’ve been told by those around her that I was indeed ‘The Man With The Child In His Eyes’, and I know that those words were given to me by someone very special.” It may have meant something to Blacknell, however, the song means a lot more to Bush. It would be the track that gave David Gilmour the impetus to ensure Bush would find herself a proper audience.
Kate Bush was only 16 when her demo was passed on to Gilmour. While there would undoubtedly have been some trepidation from any teen had they known Gilmour, who, at this time, was one of the most well-regarded musicians on earth, was listening to their demo tape. However, it turns out that Bush was relatively unaware of who Gilmour was actually was, outside of a family friend, that is. “I was not really aware of much contemporary rock music at that age,” recalled Bush in 1985. “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.”
So, when Bush was readying her tape for the family friend who was looking to produce a new young talent, she had no idea it would be a man with such gravitas. After all, it all came together in a rather civilised fashion. “I was intrigued by this strange voice,” Gilmour said in a new interview for the BBC. Like any producer of the time, the Pink Floyd man was captivated and had to learn more. After receiving the tape from Ricky Hopper, he travelled to see the young singer: “I went to her house, met her parents down in Kent. And she played me, gosh, it must have been 40 or 50 songs on tape. And I thought: ‘I should try and do something.’”
It was clear that her songwriting was far beyond her years, and so Gilmour was keen to get things moving right away. He organised three demos to be recorded in full and even recruited Andrew Powell and Beatles collaborator Geoff Emerick to help out on the sessions.
“I think we had the [EMI] record-company people down at Abbey Road in No. 3,” Gilmour adds. “And I said to them, ‘Do you want to hear something I’ve got?’ They said sure, so we found another room, and I played them ‘The Man with a Child in his Eyes.’ And they said, ‘Yep, thank you — we’ll have it.’ [Laughs.]” About the song, Gilmour noted, “It’s absolutely beautiful, isn’t it? That’s her singing at the age of 16, and having written those extraordinary lyrics.”
It’s a track that will go down in history as one of the best written in the 1970s, a song that achieved Kate Bush the record contract she had dreamed of, and a classic track in her canon. Aside from those accolades, it also confirms that Kate Bush was always destined to be the gifted singer, writer, and performer she is.