Kate Bush’s song Running Up That Hill has found a new generation of fans thanks to Stranger Things
In a BBC documentary to mark Bush’s return to live performances in 2014, comedian and actor Steve Coogan came the closest to identifying what sets Bush apart from nearly all popular musicians.
“Byron once said of Keats, Keats writes about what he imagines, I write about what I live,” Coogan noted.
“Most rock and roll people write about their lives in one way or another and Kate Bush is more like Keats in that she writes about what she imagines.”
That Coogan places Bush in the context of two of the world’s greatest poets should come as no surprise. Bush has been borrowing from literature since emerging at 19 with her take on Emily Brontë’s 175-year-old novel, The Wuthering Heights.
Run up that hill also fits this description perfectly. This is one of the reasons why the creators of stranger things wanted to use the song as a key part of the season arc.
In fact, many Bush songs fit into this kind of ethereal framework, including Breathing (about an unborn child facing nuclear winter), the entire second side of the love dogs album (where she sings as a woman struggling for survival in an ocean) at heads we dance (about a woman dancing with a man who turns out to be Adolf Hitler).
While many contemporary pop stars lean heavily on their real-life experiences and relationships (think Taylor Swift), Kate Bush sings about a woman whose son was killed in a battle (army dreamers) or as a man unable to help his partner through a dangerous birth (This woman’s work).
Bush is also not afraid of sex. And she sings about it in a way that defies any trend of the past five decades. On her debut album, she featured a song that included the line “that sticky feeling of love inside”. In her latest album of new material, on a 13-minute song, she documents a relationship involving a snowman.
But nothing surpasses mountain flower.
The song is Bush’s version of Molly Bloom’s Soliloquy by James Joyce Ulysses. He traces his racing spirit back to the point of his orgasm, ending with the words “yes, I said yes, I will yes, ooo yes”.
Bush had wanted to use Joyce’s original words but was refused by his estate. In the early 2010s, the estate changed its mind and Bush used the great Irishman’s own words of Molly Bloom.
There are plenty of songs about female sexuality that have stood out over the years – Cyndi Lauper’s all-knowing she bop and Chrissy Amphlett I touch Myself – but none have gone where Molly Bloom ends mountain flower.
Sean Twomey, who organizes katebushnews.com, used a short podcast last week to note Bush’s charge in popular culture.
He said the renewed interest in Bush confirmed something about the musician and the song.
“Nothing else is quite like Run up that hill. Nothing before and really nothing after,” he said.
His influence is pervasive in popular music today. At a concert over the weekend, Norwegian artist Aurora performed a show in New York’s Central Park, standing in front of a backlit circle – just like Bush had used during his live shows in the years 1970.
She wore a flowing dress that could have come from the Bush videos of the early 1980s as she charged across the stage as Bush did while singing as a bride whose groom is murdered on their wedding day (The wedding list).
And his pre-show mixtape featured the original The Wuthering Heights, which prompted new Kate Bush fans in the crowd to dance like they were a ghost on an English moor.
The life of a Kate Bush fan is not easy. After a gap of 12 years between the albums The Red Shoes and Airshe then picked up six more to release the next one.
Bush fans are a lot like those who believe the thylacine survives in the Tasmanian wilderness or there’s a monster swimming around Loch Ness.
Her only post on her website, until last week, was around Christmas 2021 when she noted that she had recently spotted a rare type of bird near her home.
But on Friday, she broke her silence by writing about the resurgence of Run up that hill.
“You may have heard that the first part of the fantastic and captivating new series from stranger things recently released on Netflix. It contains the song Run up that hill which is given a whole new life by young fans who love the show. I love him too.”
Perhaps we should consider ourselves lucky that young fans discovered Bush through Run up that hill. What if they found his song first get out of my house (inspired by Stephen King the brilliant) in which she brays like a donkey?