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.
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."