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Friday, July 11, 2014

50 Words For Kate: #47 - Stretching

Despite the immediate success, there was a danger lurking for Kate Bush at the start of her career. The British pop charts have a long history of "novelty" hits, weird and wacky nonsense that would capture the public's imagination and then vanish in a shudder of shame and regret. Despite its musical brilliance, Wuthering Heights had some hallmarks of a novelty hit: unconventional subject matter, and Kate's vocal and performance was unlike anything we'd seen before. The next single was crucial as it would either alter that potential perception or confirm the idea that Kate was a kook.

Given Kate had proven EMI spectacularly wrong in their choice of debut single, she was given the choice of which track from The Kick Inside to release next in the UK. Perhaps aware of the potential pitfalls, Kate went with a completely different song, that she thought showcased her abilities as a songwriter: The Man With The Child In His Eyes.

For such a young woman, Kate had an amazingly mature insight into human sexuality and relationships. The song looks at an affair between a teenage girl and an older man, with Kate exploring what she saw as a peculiarly male ability to maintain a childlike innocence. Fan folklore claims she was as young as 13 when she wrote the song, though Kate herself said she was 16. Whatever the truth, that is remarkably young to write with such prescience about love and the male/female dynamic.

The song was another big hit for Kate, but bizarrely EMI had their way in other territories and followed up with their choice of second single, Them Heavy People. Although that's a great song, it would undoubtedly have pinned Kate as a novelty artist in the minds of UK record buyers. Proof, if any more was needed by now, that Kate had better instincts about what was right for her career.

Kate didn't perform the song on UK television during its release, as she was busy promoting her work around the world. UK viewers had to contend with Legs & Co performing the song on Top Of The Pops.

This travesty need not have happened. Kate had made her own video for the song, in which she cannily predicted the yoga craze, but failed to start a trend in sparkly leotards.

This is still for me the ultimate Kate Bush song. Kate's material is rarely covered by other artists, but this song has tempted everyone from Dusty Springfield to Hue and Cry to have a go. A truly timeless classic.

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