1978: The year of remarkable songs
Forty years on, many still stand out as gems of rhythm and lyrics
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?