Monday, June 18, 2018

Kate Bush in '77

A year before "Wuthering Heights" made her an international phenom, and two years before the Tour of Life, a 17-year-old Kate Bush, as a part of the hastily named KT Bush Band, toured London and its environs in Morris Minor panel van. She performed classic songs like, of all things, "Honky Tonk Woman" and "Come Together," alongside early renditions of "James and the Cold Gun" and "Kite." It was there as well that she may have tried out obscure tunes like the haunting and unreleased "Something Like a Song," which was recorded as early as 1973, but more likely 1975.

Kate, with the help of David Gilmour signed to EMI in 1976, but the label execs felt she wasn't yet accomplished enough to record single, let alone an LP. Accustomed to performing only at the family home at Wickham Farm in Welling, she had never performed in front of an audience. Brian Southall, EMI's head of talent development said,  "We'd heard demos in the office, we knew she was a prolific songwriter, but we hadn't seen her perform. So we suggested she gain some live experience." Sounds like The Beatles sent off to Hamburg. On a Tuesday night in March 1977, Bush played her first ever gig at the Rose of Lee pub in Lewisham. She performed two 45-minute sets to roughly 20 in attendance. The band was paid £27.

"Her mum was there," Southall said. "She seemed to be doing the catering... The gig was slightly odd, a rock-and-roll set with songs you really didn't expect her to be doing, but I remember being very impressed by her. She already had an extraordinary voice and she really could perform."

I'm trying to picture the 17 year old Kate performing the dramatic "James and the Cold Gun" and the fledgling gunslinger routine (Kate shooting pubgoers with a cocked finger), which would become the highlight of the Tour of Life.

Strangely enough, upon first meeting David Gilmour in 1975, Kate had never even heard Pink Floyd. She stated, "I was not really aware of much contemporary rock music at that age. 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." Gilmour would become the executive producer of The Kick Inside and sing on "Pull Out the Pin" from The Dreaming and Pink Floyd would become a startling influence on her subsequent music. Indeed, she liked The Wall  so much that she borrowed the helicopter sequence to use on "Waking the Witch," and one can certainly hear the influence in the track's opening, kind of staccato Morse code, as Floydian as it gets. Of it Kate 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." It's a funny statement from someone who has so easily communicated these past 40 years.