“People weren’t even aware that I wrote my own songs. The media just promoted me as a female body. It’s like I’ve had to prove that I’m an artist.“ – Kate Bush
Female artists in the music industry have always been viewed as sex symbols. They’ve been publicised more for their sexuality rather than their artistic skills. Their ability as musicians in the industry has always been questioned, and often, their popularity has been attributed to their sex appeal. In a male-dominated space where women struggle to make their voices heard, Kate Bush has been one of the few who has proved, in her own right, that just because she’s a woman, doesn’t mean she can’t be a successful artist. Perhaps, that is just the point. She had to prove herself, for the society even to begin to acknowledge her abilities.
From a very young age, Bush started composing her own lyrics. She came from a very humble and artistic background – her father an amateur pianist, her mother an amateur traditional Irish dancer, and her brothers John, a poet and photographer and Paddy, a musical instrument maker, who also went on to play instruments for her band and become her music producer. In spite of being a popular music personality, Bush was a very family-oriented woman, a factor which, again, is seen more as a blotch on a woman’s nature when she becomes a celebrity.
A self-sufficient woman, Kate Bush became her own boss when she started out on her music career. Her debut album, The Kick Inside, was released in 1978 when Bush was only 19-years-old. Some of the songs that were featured on the album were written by her when she was as young as 13. It was Bush’s own decision to set ‘Wuthering Heights’ as her debut single, going against EMI’s decision of making the more rock-oriented track ‘James and the Cold Gun’. ‘Wuthering Heights’ went on to become one of Bush’s most popular songs and a fan-favourite, further establishing her superior musical knowledge.
In 1979, Bush went on the road for six weeks for her ‘The Tour of Life’ run of dates. She made sure to be involved in every single aspect of the production – from hiring performers to playing an active role in making decisions for the set design, the costume design as well as the choreography. Kate Bush’s works were especially enriching because her songs incorporated complex lyrics and thoughts with eccentric stage presence and produced an extraordinary performance.
Bush was a versatile performer. Her songs from slow ballads to shrill rock music and everything in between. She was able to present the head-banging to loud drum beats and mesmerising soul vocals with equal grace. From making haphazard movements on stage to compliment the rock songs to engaging with background dancers and taking calculated leaps across the stage and using the instruments to act as props for her to move around, Bush’s dance performances that accompanied her music were just as engaging. She was the first person to use the headset microphone, which enabled her to sing and dance simultaneously on stage.
‘The Tour of Life’, originally known as the ‘Lionheart Tour’, consisted of 24 performances from Bush’s studio albums. This was the one and the only tour Bush went on, and it was unique in the sense that it incorporated mime, magic and readings during the costume changes. A 45-minute documentary of the tour was broadcasted for the German audience called, Kate Bush: In Concert. The performances in the film were shot in Hamburg on 28th April 1979, and Mannheim (Germany) on 8th May 1979.
Songs by Kate Bush such as ‘Room for The Life’, ‘Strange Phenomena’, ‘Violin’, ‘In the Warm Room’, ‘Hammer Horror’, ‘Kite’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’ all featured in the documentary. Apart from the songs, the film also contained clippings of her interviews and also featured a rare appearance of both her parents in conversation with an interviewer with Bush and her brothers by their side.
The documentary was televised on 17th May 1980 by SWF3, a German broadcaster. A version of the same was shown on television with Dutch subtitles on 8th March 1981 by Dutch broadcaster VARA.
Watch the full documentary, below.