The Man With The Child In His Eyes

Album: The Kick Inside (1978)
Charted: 6 85
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Songfacts®:

  • The song tells of a relationship between a young girl and an older man. She sees him as an all-consuming figure; he's wise yet retains a certain innocent quality. He's a very real character to the girl, but nobody else knows if he really exists. Kate wrote the song because of a quality she saw in most of the men that she knew, how they are all little boys inside and how wonderful it is that they managed to retain this magic.
  • Although the song was first released on her debut album, The Kick Inside, it was actually recorded in 1975 when Kate was only 16 years old (she was just 13 when she wrote it). It was recorded at David Gilmour's expense at London's Air Studios. He had, through a mutual friend, become involved in trying to get Kate's career off the ground. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Lee - Ottawa, Canada, for above 2
  • It was revealed in September 2010 that this song was written about Steve Blacknell, Bush's first boyfriend. Blacknell told The Daily Mail September 24, 2010: "By the spring of 1975 she had become my first true love. All I really knew about her was that she wrote songs, played the piano and lived in a lovely house with an equally lovely family."

    Blacknell was working at the time as a toilet cleaner in a local hospital, but was planning a career in the music industry. He said: "She had her heart set on becoming a global star and I was going to be a flash DJ. One day I would introduce her on Top Of The Pops. In the summer of 1975, I finally got my break and landed a job as a marketing assistant with Decca Records.

    It was then that I finally thought I was equipped to hear her music and it was a day I'll never forget. I went round to her house and she led me to the room where the piano was. I thought 'Oh my God'. What I heard made my soul stand on end. I realised there and then that I was in love with a genius."

    He added: "As things hotted up for her, so our relationship cooled and we drifted apart. But I've been told by those around her that I was indeed 'The Man With The Child In His Eyes' and I know that those words were given to me by someone very special."

    Blacknell himself went on to have a successful career in music and TV as a presenter on various satellite channels. In 2010, he offered Kate Bush's original handwritten lyrics for the song for sale through music memorabilia website 991.com.
  • This won the 1979 Ivor Novello award for Outstanding British Lyric.
  • Kate spoke further about the song's background in a 1978 promo interview: "The inspiration for 'The Man With the Child in His Eyes' was really just a particular thing that happened when I went to the piano. The piano just started speaking to me. It was a theory that I had had for a while that I just observed in most of the men that I know: the fact that they just are little boys inside and how wonderful it is that they manage to retain this magic. I, myself, am attracted to older men, I guess, but I think that's the same with every female. I think it's a very natural, basic instinct that you look continually for your father for the rest of your life, as do men continually look for their mother in the women that they meet. I don't think we're all aware of it, but I think it is basically true. You look for that security that the opposite sex in your parenthood gave you as a child."
  • The single version opens with Kate repeating, "He's here!," before launching into the song.
  • The simple music video, directed by Keef (who also helmed one of the clips for "Wuthering Heights"), features Kate sitting on the floor singing the tune while enveloped in a soft pink glow. She told the British music series Razmatazz: "It was a very intimate song, about a young girl almost voicing her inner thoughts, not really to anyone, but rather to herself. And it just started off, I just sat down on the floor cross-legged and ready to work out some ideas to the routine, with the music on. And my brother Jay came in and saw me sitting there and said, 'Why don't you just keep it like that?'"
  • Several artists have covered this, including Natalie Cole, Dusty Springfield, Charlotte Church, and Lara Fabian, among others.
  • Kate performed this during her first and only appearance on Saturday Night Live on December 9, 1978.
  • Peaking at #85, this was Kate's first entry on the Hot 100. It fared the best in Ireland, where it peaked at #3.
  • EMI was reluctant to release this as the second single because it was such a departure from her debut, "Wuthering Heights," but that's exactly why the song appealed to Kate who feared being typecast by her unusual hit. She told Melody Maker in 1978: "I so want 'The Man With the Child In His Eyes' to do well. I'd like people to listen to it as a songwriting song, as opposed to something weird, which was the reaction to 'Wuthering Heights.' That's why it's important. If the next song had been similar, straight away I would have been labeled, and that's something I really don't want. As soon as you've got a label, you can't do anything. I prefer to take a risk."

Comments: 9

  • Alice from AlabamaKate got her inspiration for the song because she saw the movie Wuthering Heights and then read the book. It has nothing to do with the Ghost and Mrs Muir
  • Melinda from AustraliaThis song always seemed to me to be about a guy who visits you late at night. You know, taps at your window after your parents have gone to bed. To spend some ‘private time’ with you.
    Kate Bush was from a middle class musical family. Who used to ‘jam’ together, with haunting Irish music in their big old house. (Her mother was Irish)
    I’ve noticed that musical families often produce talented children. And she’s a typical product of parents who actively encouraged creative expression. All the time.
    Whatever the meaning this song has, it’s very moving. She has a spellbinding voice.
    Kate Bush just wasn’t ahead of her time. She was her own ‘music movement’. Of that late 70’s early 80’s time. Honestly there was no one like her.
  • Adrian from VietnamAs I remember Kate was interviewed about this song about 40 years ago! If memory serves me correct she was only 14 when she wrote it as already pointed out.
    I remember her saying that a man with a child in his eyes was all about men that have a small part in them that never grows up. My thought was the fact that us men always like our toys like motorcycles, cars etc. I thought it was a very sweet comment from somebody I had a very early crush on. One of the UK's best most talented singer/songwriter from the 1970s.
  • Neil from Dublin, IrelandIs it a little of both? The song opens with obvious references to something similar to the Ghost and Mrs. Muir story, but then segues into something more personal to a young girl with a crush on an older man. Gilmore was definitely considered a hot rock guitarist at that stage, but maybe this association is just coincidental. The line...
    'And here I am again, my girl
    Wondering what on earth I'm doing here
    Maybe he doesn't love me
    I just took a trip on my love for him'
    ...really suggests a young woman shaking herself out of an infatuation, and not the first one she's had by the sounds of it.
  • Brett from Liverpool., United KingdomI doubt it has anything to do with The Ghost and Mrs Muir. More likely the wishes of a young girl for an idealised man. Reflected in an articulate and poetic way for someone so young.
    The reference to not knowing he who speaks of the sea, is only the maternalistic instincts justifying themselves; the creation of a scenario whereby the man is lost in some way. The end statement of "needing to know better, girl" is fake innocence - it's said ironically for me.
    An early lead up to Kate's track about a fictional yet well-known idealised man; Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, which though no more articulately lyrical than The Man With the Child in His Eyes is definitively more personal and grown-up.
  • Jason from Ibiza, SpainKate wrote this when she was 14. It has often been said to be about masturbation, until now, Kate has never commented on this, but, then again, has never oficially denied it..
  • Dennis from Chicagoland Burrows, IlI kind of assumed this was about Kate and Gilmour.
  • Ladystardust from Mexico, MexicoThe lyrics are so touching. and I thought the same as Debi, that it was about "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir": "...And suddenly I find myself
    listening to a man I've never known before, telling me about the sea", I find too many references to that story.
  • Debi from Kansas City, MoI always thought that this song was about The Ghost and Mrs. Muir - a story about a widow who moved into a house haunted by a salty sea captain. The two fell in love, despite their circumstances. She became his "ghostwriter", dictating stories of his life and publishing them. Because he wanted her to live her life, he disappeared until she died in the house and then escorted her away, arm in arm.
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