To this day nothing sounds like it.
Chris Jones 2008
The tale's been oft-told, but bears repeating: Discovered by a mutual friend of the Bush family as well as Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, Bush was signed on Gilmour's advice to EMI at 16. Given a large advance and three years, The Kick Inside was her extraordinary debut. To this day (unless you count the less palatable warblings of Tori Amos) nothing sounds like it.
Using mainly session musicians, The Kick Inside was the result of a record company actually allowing a young talent to blossom. Some of these songs were written when she was 13! Helmed by Gilmour's friend, Andrew Powell, it's a lush blend of piano grandiosity, vaguely uncomfortable reggae and intricate, intelligent, wonderful songs. All delivered in a voice that had no precedents. Even so, EMI wanted the dullest, most conventional track, James And The Cold Gun as the lead single, but Kate was no push over. At 19 she knew that the startling whoops and Bronte-influenced narrative of Wuthering Heights would be her make or break moment. Luckily she was allowed her head.
Of course not only did Wuthering Heights give her the first self-written number one by a female artist in the UK, (a stereotype-busting fact of huge proportions, sadly undermined by EMI's subsequent decision to market Bush as lycra-clad cheesecake), but it represented a level of articulacy, or at least literacy, that was unknown to the charts up until then. In fact, the whole album reads like a the product of a young, liberally-educated mind, trying to cram as much esoterica in as possible. Them Heavy People, the album's second hit may be a bouncy, reggae-lite confection, but it still manages to mention new age philosopher and teacher G I Gurdjieff. In interviews she was already dropping names like Kafka and Joyce, while she peppered her act with dance moves taught by Linsdsay Kemp. Showaddywaddy, this was not.
And this isn't to mention the sexual content. 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.