Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! 60 unbelievable facts about Kate Bush

From boo-bams to Big Boi, here are 60 facts about the musician’s life to mark her 60th birthday

1. John Lydon once wrote a song for Bush called Bird in Hand, which concerned the illegal exportation of South American parrots.

2. Bush was inspired to write Wuthering Heights without having fully finished reading Emily Brontë’s novel.

3. The 1993 song Lily was inspired by Bush’s friend and personal “healer”, the late Lily Cornford, who believed “in the powers of angels and taught me to see them in a different light”.

4. Wuthering Heights was the first time a woman had reached No 1 in the UK with a self-written song.

5. In 2001, Bush made a rare public appearance to collect a Q Award for Classic Songwriter. She accepted it with the words: “I’ve just come!”

6. In 1980, Bush explained her vegetarianism thus: “I don’t think plants mind being eaten, actually. I think they’d be really sad if no one paid that much attention to them.”

7. The same year, she appeared on television with Delia Smith, further expounding on her love of vegetables: “You can even cook them in Marmite,” she offered brightly. “I really do think there’s a lot in vegetables.”

8. In 1981, Bush submitted to an excruciating interview with Richard Stilgoe for BBC1’s Looking Good, Feeling Fit, on which she discussed her skincare regime while vaguely exuding the air of someone who would happily strangle him with her bare hands.

9. Bush’s childhood musical hero was Elton John.

60 Facts about the Kate Bush's life

Exotic instrumentation used on Bush’s albums: the lirone, tupan, boobams, kabosy, singing bowls, strumento de porco.

11. After David Bowie’s death, Bush recalled that she’d been at his 1973 “farewell” show and had burst into tears when he announced his retirement. She also penned a tribute, writing: “He was intelligent, imaginative, brave, charismatic, cool, sexy and truly inspirational both visually and musically.”

12. She similarly paid tribute to Prince after his death, writing: “He was the most inventive and extraordinary live act I’ve seen.”

13. In 1977, pub-goers in the south-east could have enjoyed a series of live performances by the KT Bush Band. Their set included Bush singing Nutbush City Limits.

14. The story about an EMI executive visiting Bush’s house during the 12-year gap between The Red Shoes and Ariel, being told she was going to show him what she’d been working on, then presenting him with some recently baked cakes, is false.

15. Most improbable Kate Bush guest appearance: on Spirit of the Forest, a 1989 Live Aid-style flop of a charity single also featuring Iggy Pop, Kim Wilde, Fish from Marillion, the Jungle Brothers and the Ramones.

16. Cloudbusting was inspired by Austrian-American psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, who became convinced he had invented a machine that could form clouds and create rain. Bush sought his son’s blessing to release Cloudbusting.

17. Bush’s retreat from the spotlight between 1993 and 2005 was the subject of documentary film, Come Back Kate, which follows die-hard fans and a woman who had never heard of Kate Bush becoming a Kate Bush tribute act.

18. In 2013, 300 Kate Bush impersonators, both male and female, re-enacted the video to Wuthering Heights in Brighton’s Stanmer Park.

19. The news that Bush had become a mother was only made public two years after her son’s birth, by Peter Gabriel, during an interview.

60 Facts about Kate Bush's life

Outkast’s Big Boi is Bush’s most famous hip-hop fan: he once spent a month in England “just to find her”. They eventually met during the Before the Dawn shows. “I talked to her and drank some wine and it was just fucking incredible,” he said. Tupac Shakur was also reportedly a fan.

21. Kate Bush once duetted with Rowan Atkinson, playing a lounge bar crooner character, on a song called Do Bears … for Comic Relief. “He’s an utter creep and he drives me around the bend,” sang Bush. “To alleviate the boredom I sleep with his friends.”

22. Bush described The Line, the Cross & the Curve, the 1993 film she directed and starred in, as “a load of bollocks”.

23. Bush turned down an offer to support Fleetwood Mac on their huge 1978 US Rumours tour.

24. In Bush’s absence, Pat “Love Is a Battlefield” Benatar’s AOR cover of Wuthering Heights became the best-known version of the song in the United States.

25. In 1991, it was claimed that Bush reacted to a London paparazzo by kicking him up the arse. “I didn’t think that anyone so small could kick so hard,” he noted.

26. Bush did not enjoy school. “It laid some very heavy inhibitions on me,” she complained.

27. Bush asked the Queen for her autograph at a 2005 Buckingham Palace reception. “I made a complete arsehole of myself,” she later recalled.

28. Kate Bush was regularly sampled by 90s rave producers. Most demented example? The Good, 2 Bad and Hugly’s hardcore version of Wuthering Heights.

29. Kate Bush officially opened Rupert Murdoch’s Sky TV channel in 1984, pulling off a ribbon wrapped round a TV in a ceremony in Swindon.

60 Facts about Kate Bush's life

Bush advertised Seiko watches in Japan in 1978 and provided some impossibly gorgeous music for nine commercials for soft drink Fruitopia in 1994.

31. For an artist famed for her reclusiveness she had a particular penchant for appearing on children’s television in the first part of her career, including performing her paean to a cloistered gay couple Kashka from Baghdad on Ask Aspel in 1978.

32. The opening of Hounds of Love – “It’s in the trees! It’s coming!” – is a sample of a line from the 1957 British horror film Night of the Demon.

33. Other films that inspired Kate Bush songs: 1961 gothic horror The Innocents (The Infant Kiss), The Shining (Get Out of My House), Truffaut’s The Bride Wore Black (The Wedding List), The Red Shoes (obviously).

34. After meeting backstage at Prince’s 1990 Wembley gigs, she sent him the track Why Should I Love You. Rather than add backing vocals, Prince completely dismantled and restructured the song before sending it back for inclusion on The Red Shoes.

35. Professional animal impersonator Percy Edwards was among the guests on 1982’s The Dreaming and was required, for the title track, to impersonate sheep, dingoes, Australian magpies and the sound of a kangaroo being run over. According to an interview with Bush, the latter made him “a little upset”.

36. Bush was a prodigious writer in her teens: between 1973 and the release of her debut album in 1978, she apparently wrote 120 songs, most never officially released.

37. Her mimed performance of Running Up That Hill on Terry Wogan’s chatshow replaced the official video in the US, which MTV thought was too esoteric.

38. Her first live performance was at the London School of Furniture in 1976, as part of her brother Paddy’s final-year show. One observer reported that Bush danced to classical music “wearing some woollen-type suit with a big trumpet thing coming out of her head”.

39. Bush’s most-covered song is Running Up That Hill: at least 24 versions exist, by everyone from Will Young to Placebo to drag duo Kiki and Herb.

60 Facts about Kate Bush's life

Bush got 10 O-levels at school.

41. The Sensual World’s title track has Paddy Bush playing two fishing rods. He says, “The swishing sound … should conjure the atmosphere of fly-fishing, tweed hats and long wellingtons.”

42. A self-penned 1980 magazine profile revealed Bush enjoyed books about “religious things or theories of the universe”, the Beano and smoked 20 a day.

43. In 2004, writer John Mendelssohn published a novel, Waiting for Kate Bush, about Kate Bush fans awaiting a follow-up to The Red Shoes. A Guardian review described it as “bizarre”.

44. It’s possibly not as bizarre as Fred Vermorel’s 1983 book The Secret History of Kate Bush, during which the author “adopted the persona of a mad professor so obsessed that he traces Kate Bush’s genealogy back to the Vikings”.

45. According to musicians who worked on her 2011 album of reworkings Director’s Cut, they were not only sworn to secrecy about the project, but encouraged not to listen to the original versions of the songs on it.

46. Bush has recorded seven cover versions in total, not counting her takes on traditional folk songs: Elton John’s Rocket Man and Candle in the Wind, Lord of the Reedy River by Donovan, Ary Barroso’s Brazil, Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing, Roy Harper’s Another Day, Gershwin’s The Man I Love. She also performed a version of the Beatles’ Let It Be live.

47. Bush was a regular contributor to her fan club magazine. She is said to have once interviewed herself in the guise of an American journalist called Zwort Finkle.

48. In the wake of Before the Dawn, Bush became the first female artist to have eight albums simultaneously in the UK charts.

49. Elton John claimed Bush’s duet with Peter Gabriel, Don’t Give Up, had saved his life in the depths of his cocaine addiction.

60 Facts about Kate Bush's life

Rufus Wainwright once suggested that Bush’s large gay following was because “she is so removed from the real world. She is one of the only artists who makes it appear better to be on the outside than on the inside.”

51. Most improbable place a Kate Bush song has appeared: the soundtrack of reality series Kerry Katona: The Next Chapter.

52. Bush once wrote a song for a tribute to Ken Livingstone – the Comic Strip’s 1990 show GLC: The Carnage Continues: “Who is the man that we all need? KEN! Who is the funky sex machine? KEN!”

53. The original video for 1978 single Wow was censored by the BBC, allegedly horrified by the sight of Kate Bush patting her bum while singing “he’s too busy hitting the Vaseline”.

54. Wuthering Heights is Bush’s most popular song on Spotify with 34m streams, with Running Up That Hill and Babooshka 2nd and 3rd, respectively.

55. Director Nicolas Roeg attempted to cast Bush as the female lead in 1986’s Castaway.

56 The cover of Aerial features a waveform of blackbird song. Asked by Radio 2 in 1996 who her favourite singer was, Bush said it was the blackbird, and her second favourite was the thrush.

57. Last year, an offhand remark by Coachella festival in the New Yorker led to a story that Bush had offered to play the event but been “snubbed”. Both Bush and Coachella denied the claims.

58. Asked to name her favourite places in London on the TV show Rough Guide, Bush responded: “I’m not going to tell you because I wanna be there with as few people as possible.”

59. Adele cited Bush’s Before the Dawn shows as the reason why she started work on her last album, 25.

60 Facts about Kate Bush's life

Kate Bush’s solitary professional activity this year is a piece of writing which has been inscribed on a stone near Emily Brontë’s birthplace.

All composites by Guardian Design Team


Alexis Petridis

The GuardianTramp

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