Despite her lack of material the past 25 years — only two albums of all-new work since 1993’s The Red Shoes — Kate Bush has been one of those singers that always seemed to be famous; her singular, operatic voice has zero comparisons but countless imitators. But a year before her 1978 debut album The Kick Inside, Bush was learning stage presence and establishing her career with the KT Bush Band, a rock and soul group that blended Bush’s original songs with covers like Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Woman,” Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” the Miracles’ “Tracks of My Tears” and the Beatles’ “Come Together.”
By the time she was 15 in 1973, Bush had written over 100 songs, including tracks like “The Man With a Child in His Eyes” that would appear on The Kick Inside. Ricky Hopper, a mutual friend of the family who worked in the music industry, eventually brought Bush’s talent to Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, who was blown away at the teenage chanteuse. Gilmour, himself recording Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, would eventually fund Bush’s demo and bring her to EMI Records, who signed her in 1976.
But the label felt Bush, more accustomed to sitting around a piano and writing than performing, needed some real-world stage experience. So in 1977, 18-year-old Catherine Bush joined a group of jobbing musicians she met through her brother Paddy as pianist and lead vocalist. “We went around to her brother’s house to meet her because we wanted to get a band together to do some pop [songs],” band member Del Palmer told the BBC in 2014. “And the idea was we’d get his sister to sing because we might be able to get a few more gigs if we had a girl singer.”
The group played around 20 shows in pubs in and around London in the spring and summer of 1977 before disbanding. “Kate didn’t frequent pubs, but she wanted to do it because she had to learn stage presence and projection,” member Vic King told the Telegraph in 2014. “She wasn’t doing it because she loved being onstage.” The band were paid less than $20 for their first show.
The gigs would double as demo sessions for songs that would eventually appear on The Kick Inside, including “James and the Cold Gun,” “Them Heavy People” and “Saxophone Song,” the latter demo produced by Gilmour. “[Someone] got a dry ice machine from somewhere,” KT Bush Band member Brian Bath said of “James and the Cold Gun” in the Bush bio Under the Ivy: The Life & Music of Kate Bush. “We used that onstage … and it looked great. We had a bit of a show going! Kate did a costume change; she’d put on a bloomin’ Western cowgirl dress for the second set! The theatrical thing was starting to get there.” The “gunslinger routine” featuring Bush mock-shooting the crowd that would highlight her Tour of Life shows two years later was born.
Bush would enlist members of the group to perform on The Kick Inside, though their contributions were ultimately scrapped. (Palmer would work extensively with Bush in subsequent years, while the group reformed, without Bush, in 2016 to mainly perform covers of her music.) Very little material exists from the group’s heyday, but this version of “Come Together” is a fascinating look at Bush’s angelic voice in its embryonic stage. (Exhibit B on Bush’s odd cover prowess: her 1996 take on Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing.”)
“There was no way this girl was not gonna make it,” said Palmer. “She’s gonna be a huge success. She was so driven for it and her enthusiasm for it was infectious.”