I have written the cover story for the current issue of Uncut about Welling’s greatest daughter, Kate Bush.
The piece looks at Bush’s formative years from her first musical compositions to the release of her debut single, “Wuthering Heights”, which must be one of the most surprising and memorable debut songs ever released.
Much of this story takes place around south-east London, where Kate Bush was raised. She grew up in a rambling old farmhouse in Welling that many interviewees think influenced her idiosyncratic outlook.
“The house when it was built would have been in the countryside,” Joe Boyd told me. “By the time Kate was growing up it was suburbia, but right on the edge with fields out the back. There are barns and stables and horses. It does feel as if her upbringing gave her one foot in both new and old, and I know she really valued that place and what it gave her. It’s one of those old London houses that have somehow never been demolished, where you can squint and imagine the past.” Boyd likened it to an old Georgian mansion that survives in Notting Hill, somehow having avoided redevelopment and now a portal to another history. I told him it sounded like Brixton Windmill, and Boyd told me of a spell he spent in Brixton prison in the 1960s, on remand for possession. The windmill, he said, became his beacon of hope.
When Bush left home, she continued to stay close to her family living in the top floor of a Victorian house in Brockley – her two older brothers occupied the two flats below. It was in SE London that she first rehearsed and performed with the (still performing) KT Bush Band, touring the London pub scene. Here she is performing “Come Together”, one of the few recordings that survive from this period.
Anyway, here are some of the key locations from this part of Bush’s life. For more, you’ll have to buy the magazine.
KATE BUSH GUIDE TO SOUTH-EAST LONDON
East Wickham Farm, Wickham Road, Welling
The Bush family homestead, parts of which are more than 400 years old. The farmhouse remains in family ownership today.
St Joseph’s Convent Grammar School, Woolwich Road, Abbey Wood
Bush’s school, which she attended until 1976 getting 10 O Levels. She wrote poems for the school magazine, including “The Crucifixion”, “Blind Joe Death” and “Epitaph For A Rodent”.
44 Wickham Road, Brockley
The Bush family bought this house and installed the three Bush siblings in flats on each floor. It was where Bush would perfect the songs that appeared on The Kick Inside.
Greenwich Swimming Baths, Trafalgar Road
In a room next to the boiler room, the KT Bush Band held their first rehearsal ahead of their short life touring London pubs, clubs and hotels.
Rose Of Lee, 162 Lee High Road, Lewisham
Scene of the debut KT Bush Band show in March 1977 in front of an audience of around 30. Crowds would grow over the next few weeks as the band returned.
South East London Entertainment, Rushey Green
Musical equipment shop where the KT Bush Band bought PA equipment with money provided by EMI. They also bought mics from Fender Soundhouse in Soho.