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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