Monday, June 18, 2018

Kate Bush - An Early History

East Wickham Farm was as magical a place as one could find outside of Hobbiton. Picture it 150 years ago sitting off by itself, a seeming Bridadoon, but by Catherine Bush's childhood, it was a part of the sub-urban landscape with just one side of the property looking out on an England that's hardly there anymore. East Wickham Farm was the stuff that the Dreaming was made of. There was a duck pond, a dovecote, a circular rose garden and a ramshackle barn (that later would become Kate's recording studio). Think for a moment of that feeling as a kid on Peter Pan's Flight at Disneyland. It was that kind of fanciful imagery that created what Kate Bush would become. 

By 1971, embryonic versions of "The Man With the Child in His Eyes" and "Saxophone Song" began to emerge as Kate developed her poetry; her piano playing an outlet for her girlhood frustrations. But the music and its intensity was real, fanciful though in-your-face, and Kate's family knew. Ricky Hopper, a friend with music business connections, tried to shop demo tapes of Kate's songs all the major companies; none were interested. Kate's songs were "morbid" or "boring" and "uncommercial." Kate considered the alternatives: psychiatry or social work.

Unable to help further, Hopper contacted David Gilmour, who he knew at Cambridge University. Gilmour, spotting for talent, was persuaded to listen to the demos and then to hear Kate perform. He was immediately impressed and agreed to help. In 1973 Kate recorded at Gilmour's home studio, with Gilmour on guitar, and Peter Perrier and Pat Martin of Unicorn on drums and bass. The songs included "Passing Through Air" (later to surface on the B-side of the 1980 single "Army Dreamers") and a song now known as "Maybe." Still, no one but Gilmour was impressed.

A year later, Gilmour decided that the only way to interest the record companies in Kate's talent was to make a short three-song demo to full professional standards. Kate went into Air Studios in London's West End with Gilmour as producer, Andrew Powell as arranger, Geoff Emerick as engineer, three masters of their trade (nice way to start). The three songs recorded were"Saxophone Song," "The Man With the Child in His Eyes," and the aforementioned "Maybe." 

In July 1975 while Pink Floyd were at Abbey Road recording Wish You Were Here, Gilmour played the three-track demo to Bob Mercer, General Manager of EMI. Kate simultaneously got a small inheritance, and left school to concentrate on music. A publishing contract was settled and then a recording deal. Kate received a £3,000 advance and £500 for publication rights and EMI was content for Kate to have time to "grow up." During the first year of the contract Kate makes two more demo tapes while resisting EMI's attempts to "commercialize" her songs. In March, 1977 "Wuthering Heights" was written at the full moon. A month later Kate's brother, Paddy, formed a band with his friends Del Palmer, Brian Bath and Charlie Morgan. Kate was asked to be the vocalist. First at the Rose of Lee Public House in Lewisham, and then in pubs and clubs in and around London, The KT Bush Band performed rock-and-roll standards ("Honky Tonk Woman," "Heard It Through the Grapevine," "Come Together")), although Kate included "Saxophone Song" and "James and the Cold Gun" from her own repertoire.

In August 1977 Kate was finally called in to record material for an album. Though the songs recorded were Kate's, her role was confined to vocals, piano and a few simple piano arrangements. It was decided to use eleven songs from this session and two from the 1975 Gilmour demo on the album. In September, EMI wanted to release "James and the Cold Gun" as the first single. Kate instead wants "Wuthering Heights," and got her way, but Christmas was approaching and EMI was unwilling to launch the new artist into the pre-Christmas maelstrom. Many promos of the single, nonetheless, had been sent out to radio. Eddie Puma, producer of Capital Radio's Late Show, and Tony Myatt, the host, decided to play it, and continued to play it throughout November and December. Other radio stations follow. "Wuthering Heights" was an airplay hit two months before  its release.

On January 20, 1978, "Wuthering Heights" was finally released. February 14th, the single moved up to number 27; having cracked the top forty, the floodgates opened wide. Kate, though, appeared on Top of the Pops in a performance that could have marked the end. "It was like watching myself die...a bloody awful performance." On February 17th, The Kick Inside was released, and by March, "Wuthering Heights" reached the No. 1 position on the British singles chart. In April the LP peaked at No. 3, and a month later "Wuthering Heights" went gold. EMI allow Kate to have her way over the choice of the follow-up single, "The Man With the Child in His Eyes," which even made a dent stateside. At just 19 years of age, a star wasn't born, a whole galaxy was.