Revisit Kate Bush’s Peculiar Christmas Special, Featuring Peter Gabriel (1979)

It’s been hard out there for Kate Bush fans. Since the genius “Queen of British Pop” retired from touring in 1979, public appearances have been few and far-between. She found the machinery of pop-stardom a hindrance to her process, and she’s been busy with other things, she says. “Every time I finish an album, I go into visual projects…. So I started to veer away from the thing of being a live performing artist, to one of being a recording artist with attached visuals.”

Fans are not entitled to her presence, but Kate Bush was sorely missed in the 35 years between her first tour and her 2014 “Before the Dawn” residency at London’’s Hammersmith Apollo. Before returning to the stage, she kept herself in the public eye with elaborately costumed music videos, a format perfectly suited to her theatrical and cinematic ambitions. (Asked by an interviewer in 1980 what she wanted to do next, she answered, “Everything.”)

But then there’s the Kate Bush Christmas Special, “titled simply Kate on-screen,” writes Christine Pallon. The program, which “aired on the BBC on December 28th, 1979,” followed on the heels of the Tour of Life, the whirlwind debut concert series that promised, but did not deliver, so many more. “The Christmas special’s choreography borrows heavily from that tour. But where she sang live on the Tour of Life, she lip-syncs to pre-recorded tracks here and incorporates pre-recorded video segments. As a result, the Christmas special plays out more like a crazy, longform music video than a traditional stage show.”

Does Kate Bush sing Christmas songs? Does she sit on Santa’s lap? Does she mime, arms akimbo, before the yule log?

Does she lounge on a piano next to a Golden Age crooner?


Okay, she sings one Christmas song, “December Will Be Magic Again,” an original released as a UK single that year. The song pays earnest homage to traditional Christmas figures like Bing Crosby, Saint Nick, and Oscar Wilde before Kate turns into some kind of strange Santa-like being who drops down on “the white city” in a parachute to “cover the lovers.”

Otherwise, the Christmas Special draws on Bush’s first three albums. In addition to her entourage of dancers and backup lip-syncers, she also invites a special guest—Peter Gabriel, of course (who might just as well be called the male Kate Bush)—to sing his “Here Comes the Flood” and duet with her on the extremely downbeat “Another Day.”

Christmas spirit? Who needs it? This is Kate, answering the age-old question, Pallon writes, “what would happen if the BBC gave a Christmas special to an incredibly ambitious 21-year-old art rocker who also smokes a ton of weed?” See the full tracklist, with timestamps, just below. Enjoy, and Happy Kate Bush Christmas Special Day!

Kate Bush – Christmas Special Tracklist:

(Intro) 00:00
Violin 00:29
(Gymnopédie No.1 – composed by Erik Satie) 03:44
Symphony In Blue 04:44
Them Heavy People 08:20
(Intro for Peter Gabriel) 12:52
Here Comes The Flood (Peter Gabriel) 13:22
Ran Tan Waltz 17:02
December Will Be Magic Again 19:43
The Wedding List 23:35
Another Day (with Peter Gabriel) 28:05
Egypt 31:41
The Man With The Child In His Eyes 36:21
Don’t Push Your Foot On The Heartbreak 39:24

Related Content:  

Watch a Towering Orchestral Tribute to Kate Bush: A 40th Anniversary Celebration of Her First Single, “Wuthering Heights”

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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