Kate Bush - The Kick Inside: Album Of The Week Club Review

A talent who existed apart from the norm, nobody else makes music quite like Kate Bush... even at the very beginning

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Kate Bush - The Kick Inside

1. Moving
2. Saxophone Song
3. Strange Phenomena
4. Kite
5. The Man With The Child In His Eyes
6. Wuthering Heights
7. James And The Cold Gun
8. Feel It
9. Oh To Be In Love
10. L'amour Looks Something Like You
11. Them Heavy People
12. Room For The Life
13. The Kick Inside

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Although underpinned by conventional song structures and of-its-time muso embroidery, Kate Bush's debut album The Kick Inside boasted enough of her personality and vision to set it apart. 

Inspired by a traditional ballad, the title track concerned an incestuous relationship between brother and sister, sung before the pregnant girl commits suicide. Them Heavy People name-checked Greek-Armenian Sufi mystic Gurdjieff, among other teachers. L’Amour Looks Something Like You revealed her astonishingly mature attitude to sex in a smoky haze. 

While rock often dealt with the subject at the most basic levels of fumbling macho trouser trumpeting, Bush was already exploring the sensual world with intoxicatingly descriptive powers – much of the album dealt with her own sexual awakening. This was new ground for female singer-songwriters, which wouldn’t really be appreciated until the fuss over her more obvious traits had died down.

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Background

By 1975 Kate Mush had recorded several cassettes’ worth of demos and song sketches on her dad’s Akai reel-to-reel tape machine. Impressed, her family enlisted Ricky Hopper, a record plugger friend, to hawk them around the labels in the hope of getting a publishing deal. After all the majors had turned them down as “uncommercial”, Hopper contacted his old Cambridge University buddy David Gilmour. The Pink Floyd guitarist was sufficiently impressed to invite Kate to record a demo at his Essex home studio, backed by him and the rhythm section from Unicorn, a band he was also nurturing. “I was convinced from the beginning that this girl had remarkable talent,” Gilmour later said.

After that didn’t work either, Gilmour decided the only way forward would be to record three properly arranged songs. Putting up the money himself, he booked time at London’s AIR Studios in June 1975, bringing in arranger friend Andrew Powell, who had worked with Cockney Rebel, Pilot and Alan Parsons. They recorded The Saxophone Song, The Man With The Child In His Eyes and Maybe, with members of the London Symphony Orchestra (the first two songs would appear on The Kick Inside.

Gilmour played the demo to Bob Mercer, then head of EMI’s pop division, who was impressed enough to sign her up. A deal was eventually sealed by July 1976. Having left school with 10 ‘O’ Levels, Bush set up a company to manage her affairs – a precocious glimpse of the total control that would come later in her career.

The Kick Inside was recorded at AIR studios over six weeks in July and August 1977 with producer Powell. Like Mick Jones of The Clash diligently soaking up Sandy Pearlman’s laborious realisation of his group’s second album so he could co-produce their masterpiece London Calling, Bush watched Powell work, absorbing the ropes to use when she struck out on her own a couple of years later.

Other albums released in February 1978

  • Jefferson Starship - Earth
  • Judas Priest - Stained Class
  • Van Halen - Van Halen
  • Sham 69 - Tell Us the Truth
  • Manfred Mann's Earth Band - Watch
  • Mott the Hoople - British Lions
  • Be-Bop Deluxe - Drastic Plastic
  • Mahogany Rush - Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush – Live
  • Budgie - Impeckable
  • Dan Hicks - It Happened One Bite
  • Blondie - Plastic Letters
  • Bachman –Turner Overdrive - Street Action
  • Lou Reed - Street Hassle
  • The Tubes - What Do You Want from Live

What they said

"Kate Bush's first album, The Kick Inside, released when the singer/songwriter was only 19 years old (but featuring some songs written at 15 and recorded at 16), is her most unabashedly romantic, the sound of an impressionable and highly precocious teenager spreading her wings for the first time. The centerpiece is Wuthering Heights, which was a hit everywhere except the United States (and propelled the Emily Brontë novel back onto the best-seller lists in England), but there is a lot else here to enjoy" (AllMusic)

"Ignoring the album's title itself, we have the full on expression of erotic joy in Feel It and L'Amour Looks Something Like You. Only in France had 19-year olds got away with this kind of stuff. A true child of the 60s vanguard in feminism, Strange Phenomena even concerns menstruation: Another first. Of course such density was decidedly English and middle class. Only the mushy, orchestral Man With The Child In His Eyes, was to make a mark in the US, but like all true artists, you always felt that Bush didn't really care about the commercial rewards. She was soon to abandon touring completely and steer her own fabulous course into rock history." (BBC)

"The album is a creature unto itself. Bush mixes pop-rock music with piano and orchestra arrangements, all of which underline her elastic and clear soprano voice which does the most in conveying mood and rhythm as it bounces around the words as if they aren’t even words anymore. To quote one of the songs, you “feel it” much more than you may think about it." (TheYoungFolks)

What you said

Steve Torrens: Brilliant stuff. The Man With The Child In His Eyes was one of the first singles I ever bought, and it’s still my favourite of hers. Hard to believe she wrote that song when she was 13!!

Alan Duggan: She turned music on its head just as much as any punk/new wave band did. It's a brilliant album and was a constant companion on my sea voyages back in the day.

Philip Qvist: This would have been a superb debut under any circumstances, but when you consider that Kate Bush was still in her teens when she recorded this album - and that she was the sole songwriter, with many tracks written when she 16 or younger - then this an extraordinary record - not to mention brilliant.

There isn't a single dud on The Kick Inside, and future albums proved that this was no flash in the pan; Kate Bush is the real deal.

Don Holmes: I was busy looking for a new motorbike back in February ‘78...

I was in a showroom and a voice said “There’s more upstairs mate”

So I started up the stairs and this song came on the radio... and when the vocals hit me it stopped me in my tracks...

Out on the winding windy moors... we’d roll and fall in green” I thought I heard her sing.

I had never heard anything like it and I stood and listened like an attentive little schoolboy and I fell in love.

It was Kate Bush and I had to buy the album... and what an album.

Jason Gravestock: Absolute stunner of an album. Still delivers a message today but out how you can be an individual and still garner strong support. So many great tracks to choose from.

John Paxman: Genius album, still have the vinyl I bought on the day of release, and every album since. A rare talent.

Graham Tarry: Got this when it came out, but too many solo piano driven songs, but James And The Cold Gun is the stand-out track, showing signs of what was to come.

Steve Ballinger: Kate Bush barely put a foot wrong, between this album and The Hounds Of Love, she produced two of the best albums of the 70s and 80s.

Pete Mineau: I heard Kate Bush for the first time in the late 70's. The song was Wow, and I liked it enough to pick up Lionheart, her second album. I was not blown away by it. Sure, she had a unique voice, but I found that I could only get into a couple of the tunes. 

Fast forward a few years and I find The Dreaming, her fourth studio album, in a used record store. I decide to pick it up to see if it changes my mind on her music. It doesn't. Again, a few songs that I like but as a whole, I never could listen to it straight through. 

A few more years pass and I see the video for Running Up That Hill on MTV. Again, it intrigues me enough to stop and listen, but not enough to pick up the album it comes from. I felt like I had been burned by her twice before.

The next year, Kate turns up on Peter Gabriel's album, So. I am not impressed with their duet, Don't Give Up. As a matter of fact, I feel the same way about the album as I do about the two Kate Bush albums that I had purchased. A couple of good songs (Red Rain and In Your Eyes) surrounded by a lot of filler.

I went into listening to The Kick Inside with as much of an open mind as I could. Maybe I had missed something by not going back to her debut album? After two excruciating listens, the answer was NO! Same old same old! A couple of "good" songs surrounded by a lot of "not so good" songs. Funny thing is, her voice, which I once found unique, I now found bordering on annoying. Kind of reminded me of what Yoko Ono would sound like on autotune.

Overall, I'd rate The Kick Inside a two out of five. I don't hate Kate Bush by any means, but I wouldn't go out of my way to listen to her either.

Ian Mears: This is a stunning album, personally not my favourite, that goes to The Dreaming (followed closely by Hounds of Love). But for a debut and her introduction to us there's very little to complain about and loads to enjoy! 

Hai Kixmiller: My brow furrowed as those initial screeches of whale song invaded my ears. Then her high pitched voice... (smh) I almost stopped listening. But I continued, and was glad I had. I soon realized that this was on purpose and her voice was doing more then just carrying words, her voice was part of the music, it is her whale song. 

I listened more intently, my interest very piqued by my love of the artsy New York Punk scene from around the same time period. Then I Googled her and gained even more insight into her prodigy like status. I am most struck by how her voice is such an integral part of this work. Her voice changes to become other characters in her storytelling. I'm very impressed with the artistry of her work on her debut album. A truly innovative and talented singer, songwriter and storyteller.

Matthew Graham: I was 12 yeas old, lived in a small country town in NZ when I first heard TKI, wow, blew my mind, she seemed otherworldly, singing spacey, witchy music that seemed to have no peer. Fantastically produced album, that is still a joy to hear today... class!

Nick Potter: You would have to say that this was a classic debut, with every track an individual performance. Beautifully written and produced. The album was so good, the messages within the tracks, still hold true today. There was nothing quite like this at the time, and listening to the album now, I appreciate it even more today.

Tony Woods: This is a great debut album. There may have been better to come but what a way to start. I still listen to this today and get the same enjoyment I got from it many years ago. As an aside I feel truly sorry for some people who post 'this isn't rock' comments on albums such as this and Brothers in Arms. Why sorry? You may ask. Well rock music has such a broad spectrum and palette on which these great artists can weave their magic that some people miss out on so much. An artist such as Kate Bush will always divide opinion, is she pop or rock or prog? She is a class artist who brings all this to the table and so much more. A stunning debut album.

Mike Knoop: An inspired choice that adds credence to the “broad church of rock ‘n’ roll.” Although I have to snicker when wondering what the folks who thought Geddy Lee’s voice was too shrill thought about this one. 

It has grown on me over repeated listens, but I generally start to lose interest after the stellar James and the Cold Gun. Ultimately, a striking debut by an undeniably influential artist.

What’s strikes me as funny is that the album cover for the US release was totally different from the UK release. It's the main reason I never sought this album out, even after I liked later albums like Hounds of Love and The Sensual World.

The UK got a brilliant red and yellow cover that had a stylized photo of Bush hang-gliding as the centerpiece. Absolutely stunning. 

The US, instead, got a standard 1970’s portrait of Kate Bush in a blouse and jeans with red crimson socks pulled up over them. And how’s this for a metaphor? She looks “boxed in.” It’s like the US music industry had no idea what to do with her so they tried to market her as another female singer-songwriter, instead of the brilliant nutter she was. 

It makes me wonder what other bands were huge in the UK, but never had similar success in the States. Slade and the Sweet come to mind, but also art rockers like Roxy Music and King Crimson. Any others?

Carl Black: The only thing I knew about this album was an early 90's British punk band called China Drum (who's big break was Mike Dent from Green Day wearing their t-shirt during the When I Come a Round video) did a cover of Wuthering Heights (and a fine cover it is to, worth a YouTube search) so I entered this with my knowledge limited to the later 80's hits. Not for me. Its on the edge of my taste so it needed something that never came, lots of wailing, plenty of the ol Joanne, and did I detect some reggae tinged songs? (more than once). On a side note, the most interesting thing that happened to me during listening to this album was I broke my wine glass. Luckily the glass just split and I was able to transfer the wine into another glass with no wastage. No alcohol was harmed during the listening of this album.

Mike Bruce: As the weeks go by we'll probably hear better albums than this one. Possibly more contentious ones too. But I doubt we'll hear music more shot through with a unique, ineffable magic, or a piece that invites us as seductively to step into someone else's world. Although journalistic shorthand often compares artists to Kate Bush, flattering by comparison, there really is no one like her and this is a great place to start.

Gary Claydon: I well remember hearing Wuthering Heights on the radio when it was first released and thinking "Hello, this sounds interesting". And then I saw her perform it on Top Of The Pops and I was smitten. Hook, Line and Sinker. The look, the way she moved, the song and that voice. I went out and bought The Kick Inside at the first opportunity and wasn't remotely disappointed.

This is an album about love and lust, about life and death, about men and, predominantly, women. It's about sex & sensuality, it explores the female psyche, female sexuality and the female body. It interprets Emily Bronte, namechecks Gurdjieff & Jesus and delves into subjects ranging from dance & movement to menstruation. And rounds it all off with a little tale about incest & suicide. This all points to a fertile & inquisitive mind behind the song writing, a supremely talented and confident artist.

Opening track Moving begins and ends with whale song, which was sampled from an album made by some scientist of the songs of the humpback whale. Saxophone Song was written from the point of view of Kate sitting alone in a smokey, intimate Berlin club listening to the saxophonist. James And the Cold Gun was apparently inspired by the Frederick Forsyth novel The Day Of The Jackel. It is the 'rockiest' track on the album and record label EMI were pushing for it to be released as the lead off single but La Bush dug her heels in and insisted on Wuthering Heights. I'll bet there were one or two EMI executives thankful that she did! I think it's fair to say that Wuthering Heights is the song that most divides opinion on Kate Bush. But the vocals conjure up an ethereal. other-wordly feeling to the song that perfectly fits Bronte's tale of ghostly apparition. There are plenty of nay sayers who at this point are happy to go down the "she can't sing, she just shrieks & wails" route. Anybody who thinks Kate Bush can't sing seriously needs to sit and listen to her work down the years. 

Such variety, so many brilliant vocal performances by such an emotive & evocative performer. And there is no better place to start than on the stand-out track from this album, The Man With Child In His Eyes, which remains probably my favourite of all her songs. Anybody who tries to tell me this is anything other than a beautiful song, beautifully sung must have cloth ears. And she was 13 years old when she wrote it, fer christ's sake! 13! What were you doing when you were 13? There was an excellent interview that Kate did with Phil Sutcliffe for Sounds in 1980 where she talks about her early work. It's well worth digging out for a read if possible.

I don't think The Kick Inside is her best album but it was a hell of a way to kick off such a wonderful career. It's rare in the music world to come across an artist (and she is An Artist) as truly original, unique even, as Kate Bush. She should be truly cherished

Roland Bearne: This was a joy actually. I remember the singles and being mesmerized by this ethereal diaphanous person with the siren voice but she never felt like "my music". As a teen she was a crush but no match for me musically to the Likes of Lizzy or Van Halen. Listening whilst "zen-ing"out cooking a risotto for dinner the other night( sorry for the detail but you remember odd moments!) this album was wonderful. The unfettered creativity and musicality are quite spellbinding. 

Kate is unique. Beautifully delightfully so. What a lovely album. Is it ever too late to "discover" an artist who passed you by? I hope not! As an aside I actually made her laugh once, serving champers at a posh party, me and a fellow unemployed actor were riffing on a sketch thinking we were skyving off unnoticed but she had been watching us, giggled deliciously and thanked us for a good laugh before wafting back into the frocks and tuxes. Lovely. Person and music.

Final Score: 7.72 ⁄10 (146 votes cast, with a total score of 1128)

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