Kate Bush’s First Ever Television Appearance, Performing “Kite” & “Wuthering Heights” on German TV (1978)

There are few things in life that I can enjoy uncritically—totally sur­ren­der to—and yet also appre­ci­ate as intel­lec­tu­al­ly com­plex, fine­ly-wrought works of art. The music of Kate Bush is one of those things. Her preter­nat­ur­al voice, sub­lime­ly ridicu­lous cos­tumes, dance, and ges­ture, and haunt­ing, lit­er­ary lyri­cism imme­di­ate­ly cap­ti­vate the ear and eye—and work their mag­ic on the mind not long after. It’s an unusual—I’d say extreme­ly rare—set of qual­i­ties that set her apart from every pop star in the era of her prime and in our own. At the risk of draw­ing a per­haps too-easy com­par­i­son, but I think an apt one: as a solo artist she rivals maybe only David Bowie in her abil­i­ty to own the spot­light and remain in total con­trol of her sound and image. (Both of them, in fact, trained with the same dance teacher, Lind­say Kemp.)

But while Bowie made it look easy, and found ways to stay near­ly-ever-present in every decade since the 70s, for Bush that con­trol was hard won, and meant with­drawals from the pub­lic, includ­ing a 12-year break that, writes The Guardian, remind­ed some of “the mytho­log­i­cal res­o­nance of Bob Dylan’s Base­ment Tapes hia­tus.” She has toured only twice: once at the very begin­ning of her career in 1979 and again, 35 years lat­er, in 2014. Crit­ics and die-hard fans have long spec­u­lat­ed about the rea­sons for Bush’s with­draw­al from per­for­mance and her gen­er­al pub­lic ret­i­cence, but state­ments from the artist her­self have made it clear that part of her strug­gle with star­dom had to do with feel­ing exploit­ed in the way so many women are by the music indus­try.

By the end of her lav­ish, 28-night 1979 extrav­a­gan­za, she recalled, “I felt a ter­rif­ic need to retreat as a per­son, because I felt that my sex­u­al­i­ty, which in a way I had­n’t real­ly had a chance to explore myself, was being giv­en to the world in a way which I found imper­son­al.” “Bush,” The Guardian writes, “did every­thing she could to pre­vent her­self being exposed in that way again.”

The move was both a loss and a gain for her fans. While her live shows might have become leg­endary in the way Bowie’s did over the years, her retreat into a pri­vate sphere all her own allowed her to con­tin­ue writ­ing and record­ing con­sis­tent­ly bril­liant, chal­leng­ing music that nev­er became com­pro­mised by indus­try hack­work, as she her­self nev­er became some­one else’s prod­uct.

Her abil­i­ty to assert her­self so ear­ly in her career is also a tes­ta­ment to her cre­ative con­fi­dence. Bush was only 19 years old when she released her first album, The Kick Inside, an age at which many emerg­ing pop stars allow them­selves to be com­man­deered by over­bear­ing man­age­ment. But she has remained rel­e­vant by remain­ing her—odd, enig­mat­ic, total­ly original—self. “Artists should­n’t be made famous,” she once remarked, “it is a forced impor­tance.”

Before launch­ing that first tour, and decid­ing it was­n’t for her, Bush made her first tele­vi­sion appear­ance on a Ger­man pro­gram in 1978—see it at the top of the post. Rather than open­ing with “Wuther­ing Heights,” the song that did make her famous, she instead starts with the B‑side, “Kite.” But then we hear that famil­iar, tin­kling piano intro, and she deliv­ers the big sin­gle, wear­ing the flow­ing red gown she donned in the oft-par­o­died Amer­i­can video for the song (above). The weird and won­der­ful dance moves are a lit­tle sub­dued, but like all of her performances—in very rare stage appear­ances, numer­ous videos, and ten amaz­ing albums—it’s glo­ri­ous.

In her first Amer­i­can TV appear­ance, on Sat­ur­day Night Live lat­er that same year, Bush sang “The Man With the Child in His Eyes” in the gold lamé body­suit she wore in the song’s offi­cial video (above). Just one of the many fash­ion choic­es that, along with those unin­hib­it­ed dance moves—“those weird, spas­tic, fan­tas­tic inter­pre­tive dance moves,” writes Matthew Zuras in an appreciation—later gave us unfor­get­table clas­sics like the “Baboosh­ka” video (below). We have this unique, uncom­pro­mis­ing body of work both because a more adven­tur­ous music indus­try decid­ed to invest in devel­op­ing Bush’s tal­ent in the ear­ly 70s, and because she refused, after all, to accede to that indus­try’s usu­al demands.

via Dan­ger­ous Minds

Relat­ed Con­tent:

300 Kate Bush Imper­son­ators Pay Trib­ute to Kate Bush’s Icon­ic “Wuther­ing Heights” Video

2009 Kate Bush Doc­u­men­tary Dubs Her “Queen of British Pop”

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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