By Ira Kantor
Will stranger things ensure Kate Bush’s future incorporation into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?
Months ago this question did not exist. Then came the news that the hit Netflix drama would prominently feature Bush’s seminal 1985 track “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” in its fourth season.
Bush, a three-time RRHOF nominee, doesn’t necessarily need this commercial push given her collective artistic output spanning over 45 years. But it certainly doesn’t hurt – especially since the original track is nestling at the top of the UK Singles Chart and hit the top 5 in the States in June.
Spoiler alert, this isn’t the first time the same Kate Bush track has permeated popular television. fx pose took back this honor in 2018.
In an era dominated by TikTok, social influencers and Gen Z artistic wake-ups, we may soon see Bush’s fox face adorning t-shirts at Newbury Comics or Spencer’s Gifts across the country. But let me take this opportunity to say this: I don’t need a TV program to convince myself how great Kate Bush is. Heck, I dedicated the first chapter of my English thesis to her first big hit “Wuthering Heights” in 2006! Fact: Distilling the heart of Emily Bronte’s novel of the same name, this song was composed when Bush was just 18 years old.
A while back I asked Irish musician Gemma Hayes, who notably covered Bush’s 1985 track Cloudbusting in 2009, about her Kate Bush fan base. She replied: “I loved Kate Bush from the moment I heard ‘Wuthering Heights’ and saw her usual mesmerizing dance on video. I had never seen or heard of anyone like her. Such a unique and incredibly important artist. As a writer, she chose such off-the-beaten-track stories, an abstract perspective on love, and astute observations on the follies and frailties of being human—as well as its beauty and strength.”
And perhaps the most fitting line of all: “She is absolutely unique. Their music is still fresh and relevant today like never before.”
So it is my hope that this stranger things Situation is not a moving train, but a time-related, necessary movement.
Kate Bush isn’t a commercial superstar because she purposely courted the limelight with a predetermined precocity that no one could manipulate. In her entire career, she has only completed two tours, each with a set number of shows. No two of her albums are the same. If one had more of a commercial appeal, the next would offer standout tricks and traps to throw you off. She always made her fans want more.
Bush is also probably one of the most beautiful presences on music television. However, her Puck-like on-screen demeanor is equal parts alluring and lion-like; You get too close to her and wonder if she’s going to grab you with her jaws. But then there’s her motherly attitude in Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up” video…which persona best embodies who she is as an individual?
By the way, I’m not saying “Running Up That Hill” isn’t a great song. It is. When my wife Jen came into my office to first alert me to the song’s apparent second life, I immediately kicked off Bush’s performance of the track with Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour (her first major musical benefactor and supporter) at The Secret Policeman’s Third Ball from 1987 – all with a huge grin on his face. Had the Floyd “wall” of 1979-80 been anchored behind them, Bush would have brought her down on stage with her strength and assurance – a fiery Joan of Arc with dangling earrings and luscious curls.
Last year was “We don’t talk about Bruno”. This year has to be We Need to Talk About Kate Bush. And believe me, I have. work colleagues in the States and in the EU; my family; Chatter Groups ─ All that’s left is the companion pamphlets to distribute.
But while we delve into the global impact of Running Up That Hill, there’s now plenty of time to highlight some of the other groundbreaking footage from Bush’s illustrious career. These might not carry the same commercial weight, but they’re at least a must-have, especially considering some would work well with themes from stranger things from a lyrical and stylistic point of view. My hope is that these resume notches will prove to be the perfect complement for the RRHOF powers that be when they see fit to usher in Bush in 2023:
“The Man with the Child in His Eyes” (1978)
Where “Wuthering Heights” is more powerful in its execution is this follow-up to Bush’s debut album The kick inside is more balletic and sweet, swapping out drums for classical instrumentation and beautiful piano chords. Like his video, the track has an embryonic feel, culminating in Bush throwing himself out into the world.
Here, Bush isn’t afraid to test the limits of her voice as mandolins struggle to reach their highest registers. In less than four minutes, she embraces the femininity and playfulness of a child, making for a unique musical banter.
This track demonstrates the virtuosity of Bush’s storytelling. From the very first lyric alone: “She wanted to test her husband; she knew exactly what to do – a pseudonym to fool him”, you find yourself down a diabolical rabbit hole with unexpected consequences. Without major music video effects, Bush instead stuns with a veil, a double bass, a skin-tight leotard, and a costume that easily makes Wonder Woman blush.
Metaphysical in his poetry; ECM-worthy in its musicianship, this is a sign of the wonderful experimentation that will come with Bush’s forthcoming album
“Get Out of My House” (1982)
The final track from Bush’s fourth album the dreamingthis song is said to be inspired by Stephen King (and Stanley Kubricks). The glow. That should be the next track stranger things look closely. Featuring gated drums and the ponderous bass of Rainbow and Dio’s Jimmy Bain, this is one of Bush’s heavier tracks as she manipulates her voice to simultaneously embody warning, pleading, fear and pathetic terror.
“Running Up That Hill” is the stepping stone to what defines Bush’s 1985 album dogs of love spectacular. But it’s “cloudbusting,” based on the real-life experiences of psychiatrist and philosopher Wilhelm Reich and his son Peter, that makes the album last forever. Built around the dichotomy of militant drums (a sign of what is to come) and romantic string ostinatos, the song outlines what can be achieved when opponents and obstacles are equally present. As Bush reaches the jubilant and bittersweet lyrics of “We’re cloudbusting, Daddy!” Your smile and tears will rightly mix.
Gemma Hayes adds: “I remember the first time I heard ‘Cloudbusting’ as a kid. It moved me and I didn’t know why. The lyrics were unbelievable for me as a 9 year old girl, but I was moved by the emotion in her voice, the strings, the constant beat. It was so advanced musically and thematically for its time. These are the reasons I think “Cloudbusting” is such an important song. It’s so easy for me to totally immerse myself in the world of the song while singing it. Time and place cease to be as I sing this song. As an artist, I constantly strive for this in my own work. Losing yourself in the song.”
“This Woman’s Work” (1989)
Completes their first US gold album of 1989 The sensual world, Bush sublimely sums up the fragility of human relationships and where fate proves cruel on this haunting track. As her voice walks a tightrope of vulnerability and builds to a shattering crescendo, you realize this is the same as Dave Egger’s brilliant expression: a heartbreaking work of dazzling genius.
“Top of the City” (1993)
A mighty work of musical rise and fall, exemplified by Bush’s greatest opening lyric: “One more step to the top of the city. We are but a few doves living on the angel’s shoulders…”
After a 12-year absence between albums, Bush returned with the two-parter in 2005 antenna. The final track is intense, cathartic, and comes as close as possible to recording an overtly danceable song. Mainly driven by their repeated exclamations of “I want to be on the roof”, this is the kind of track that if you listen to it in the dark you’re bound to see stars moving on your ceiling.
“Snowed in on Wheeler Street” (2011)
A somber reflection of a relationship that dissolves and reforms at crucial moments, Bush shares her singing with none other than Elton John, who takes the task of singing alongside her very seriously. There is nothing campy or stereotypical about his performance; Instead, following Bush’s artistic lead, you’ll be swept away by this eight-minute story. In Bush showing off Elton’s greatness, we’re treated to his strongest vocal performance in years.