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10 unheralded masterpieces from the early career of Kate Bush

Kate Bush sits on a hotel room bed in Tokyo in 1978
Kate Bush in Tokyo, 1978 (Image credit: Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music)

Kate Bush is one of the most enigmatic musicians The UK has ever produced. More than four decades years after the extraordinary Wuthering Heights launched her, apparently fully-formed, into a world that clearly wasn't quite ready, Kate Bush occupies a unique position in music. 

It's a position one that allows her to do what she wants, when she wants, whether that’s the 12-year gap between 1993's The Red Shoes and 2005's Aerial albums, or the 35-year break between 1979's Tour Of Life and the unexpected return to the stage with the miraculous Before The Dawn shows a mere 35 years later.

For those arriving late at the party, drawn into the magical world of Kate Bush via the inclusion of Running Up That Hill in Netflix's Stranger Things, here are 10 lesser-known songs that laid the foundation of her legend. 

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Moving

The haunting first track on kate Bush’s debut album The Kick Inside paid tribute to her mime mentor, the celebrated Lindsay Kemp. The line ‘You crush the lily in my soul’ referred to Bush’s newfound inhibitions-trampling liberation.


The Kick Inside

Bush relished exploring taboo subjects along with her swelling teenage emotions, invoking incest and suicide on this enigmatic ballad based on the traditional Lucy Wan. Fathoms deeper than the Carole King school of singer-songwriter.


Them Heavy People

Here Bush declared her thirst for enlightenment and forging into the new, thanking teachers such as Russian philosopher George Gurdjieff and Jesus for ‘rolling the ball’ of knowledge, declaring that ‘every one of us has a heaven inside’.


Oh England, My Lionheart

An early mini-masterpiece, using a fallen war pilot as a runway for a proper English national anthem. Sensitively layered vocals add to the sepia poignancy.


Symphony In Blue

Proof that Bush had turned the sensual ballad into an art form, this displays a maturity beyond singers years her senior. Lines like ‘The more I think about sex, the better it gets…’ seduced fans of either gender.


Breathing

In 1980, Bush called this epic post-holocaust “little symphony” the best thing she’d ever written or produced, insisting it be a single, setting her on the fearless course she would steer for the rest of her life.


Kashka From Baghdad

With spiritual roots stretching back to her early composition The Gay Farewell, Bush highlights more taboos on this story of two gay lovers meeting in life-threatening Baghdad. Oddly atmospheric.


The Infant Kiss

Swooningly-embroidered ballad from 1980’s Never For Ever, with Bush as a woman ‘freaking out’ because she’s experiencing feelings for a young boy.


Army Dreamers

The subtly woven chorale on the brief a cappella Night Scented Stock was further evidence of Bush’s new studio empowerment, setting the scene for deceptively jaunty anti-war comment Army Dreamers. “When it’s something so heavy, you disguise it in a light tune.”


Egypt

Further evidence of Bush’s rapidly maturing studio mastery evolving into cinematic sound painting, dealing with the reality of Egypt being more “shit and sewers” than sand and sphinxes (her words).


Kris Needs is a British journalist and author, known for writings on music from the 1970s onwards. Previously secretary of the Mott The Hoople fan club, he became editor of ZigZag in 1977 and has written biographies of stars including Primal Scream, Joe Strummer and Keith Richards. He's also written for MOJO, Record Collector, Classic Rock, Prog, Electronic Sound, Vive Le Rock and Shindig!

With contributions from