1978: The year of re­mark­able songs

Forty years on, many still stand out as gems of rhythm and lyrics

Financial Mail - - LIFE - Luke Al­fred Patti Smith Bruce Spring­steen

In Fe­bru­ary 1978, a shy north Lon­doner ap­peared on the BBC’S Top of the Pops for the first time. Her name was Kate Bush and she sang her own com­po­si­tion: a ma­jes­tic, vo­cally de­mand­ing song called Wuther­ing Heights.

Clutch­ing a thin mi­cro­phone and ac­com­pa­nied by the desul­tory rhythms of the BBC’S house band, she soared through the song with al­most no help. She’d been pre­vented from bring­ing in mu­si­cians of her choice, and the BBC’S back­ing mu­si­cians were limp and dull. “It was like watch­ing my­self die,” she said later.

Be­fore the year was out, Bush sang the song on

the Pops four more times.

Some­times she ac­com­pa­nied her­self on pi­ano. As

Wuther­ing Heights bounced up the charts, she learnt her Top of les­son: never ap­pear be­fore a band you can’t trust.

Sud­denly the song was at­tract­ing plau­dits. She es­tab­lished a group of fa­nat­i­cal fol­low­ers. With her pre­raphaelite locks and eyes en­larged by too much mas­cara, she re­minded them of mys­tery and hooded in­trigue. They were in love.

The main­stream press sneered. Bush was a flake, they said, a chanteuse in love with Gothic histri­on­ics.

Their dis­missal was empty-headed. The song be­came a clas­sic, a true orig­i­nal in a year that has be­come fa­mous for its flood of re­mark­able mu­sic.

A month af­ter Bush’s first ap­pear­ance on

Top of the Pops, Patti Smith re­leased

Be­cause the Night off her al­bum Easter.

She had been record­ing in the stu­dio ad­ja­cent to Bruce Spring­steen, who’d passed on a cas­sette.

He had a great cho­rus but lacked the words, he told her. Per­haps she could turn some lyrics for the tune?

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