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Gunge, flan-flinging and... Kate Bush?

Kate Bush with Sally James on TISWAS
(Image credit: YouTube)

It suddenly a big year for Kate Bush, with all the attention she’s been getting for Running Up That Hill’s appearance in Stranger Things leading to her first-ever top 10 hit – 37 years after its original release.

Her first big year had been 1978, when her debut single Wuthering Heights launched her career at light speed. (Perhaps remarkably, it had made her the first female to reach No.1 in the UK with a self-written song.) She might have been a bit out-there, but she knew it and used it, and in a moment when the embers of the first punk wave were still glowing, she was a breath of fresh air.

At that time in Britain, the Saturday morning kids’ TV shows were a premium target for record labels with singles to sell, and none more so than the anarchic ITV network’s offering, TISWAS. Hosted by Chris Tarrant and Sally James, it was a million miles from the middle-class offerings families were used to from the establishment BBC.

Kids watched the Phantom Flan Flinger appearing to throw custard pies at audience and guests alike, while you could expect a bucket of water over your head or a tank of gunge descending from the ceiling at any minute, Lenny Henry ate condensed milk sandwiches, Spit the Dog spat at people and over-enthusiastic renditions of the Dying Fly dance sent viewers to hospital.

Here's a hint:

It sounds like a disaster in the making, especially since Bush, a shy and retiring type, limited her uninhibited extrovert behaviour to music videos and stage shows. But the contrast was powerful: appearing alongside James in 1979, sitting on the floor quietly, she presents an elegance and demurity – and, ever the professional, James matches that style.

The result is unique and strangely intimate. No flans, water or gunge (it’s to be wondered what kind of discussion went on before her appearance); instead, a genuine hint at who Bush really is, sensitively brought out by a simple but clever line of questioning, and some kind of mutual understanding.

Bear in mind, James is an established presenter, 29 years old at the time, while Bush has only recently turned 20. Stranger things indeed.

Martin Kielty

Not only is one-time online news editor Martin an established rock journalist and drummer, but he’s also penned several books on music history, including SAHB Story: The Tale of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band (opens in new tab), a band he once managed, and the best-selling Apollo Memories (opens in new tab) about the history of the legendary and infamous Glasgow Apollo. Martin has written for Classic Rock and Prog and at one time had written more articles for Louder than anyone else (we think he's second now). He’s appeared on TV and when not delving intro all things music, can be found travelling along the UK’s vast canal network.