Movies and television have a long history of rejuvenating interests in songs as well as the bands and artists who performed them. One of the most famous examples of this is the resurgence in popularity that Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” received after being used in the final scene of “The Sopranos.” A similar situation is happening with Kate Bush and her 1985 single “Running Up That Hill (Deal With God)” thanks to its appearance in the 4th season of Netflix’s “Stranger Things.”
We will not be going into details about how and where this song was used within the context of the show in order to be respectful for spoilers. We do however want to take a moment or two to give you some information on why Kate Bush is one of the most under-appreciated women in music (especially in the United States). As well as more songs you should check out to gain even more appreciation for her.
Kate scored a number one hit in her native UK with the song “Wuthering Heights” in 1978. She was 19 years old. The track, written entirely by Bush, was based on the Emily Brontë novel of the same name. It was the first time a female performer had reached the top of the charts with a self-written song in that country. She would later take over as the producer of her own albums as well, starting with 1980’s “Never for Ever” (co-produced with Jon Kelly), and entirely self-produced from 1982’s “The Dreaming” onwards.
Despite her success in the UK, Ireland, and various parts of Europe, Bush had nowhere near the presence on American radio stations. In fact, her only top 40 song here was the aforementioned “Running Up That Hill (Deal With God).” Part of this could be attributed to her lack of touring and live performances, making her harder to promote in the United States. According to Bush herself, touring didn’t really fit for her as she became more and more involved in musical production and the visual elements of her work.
After a string of successful singles across seven albums, Bush dropped out of the public eye in 1993. She stayed that way for the next 12 years. It would later come to light that a planned hiatus got drawn out further by the birth of her first son. She came roaring back in 2005 with double-album “Aerial” that met with both critical and commercial success. In 2014, she performed a series of live shows for the first time in literal decades for a 22-night residency at the Hammersmith Apollo in London.
Her songwriting and vocals though are what make her musical presence in popular culture so unique. Having nearly full creative control over her work, Bush was able to make the music she wanted to make, and have it sound the way she wanted it to sound. This led to some uniquely experimental compositions as can be heard most notably on her album, “The Dreaming.” But even the more commercial sounding “Hounds of Love” had its moments of art-rock; mostly because the second side of the LP is a suite broken up into seven songs.
So with all that being said, where do you go from there if you want to listen to Kate Bush has? Well, we’ve got you covered with a list of five more songs you should listen to, along with an honorable mention.
1 Honorable Mentions
2 Peter Gabriel, “Games Without Frontiers”
Peter Gabriel has a knack for finding talent for his records. This is the man who brought Stewart Copeland (legendary drummer for The Police) into the studio just to play hi-hat on one song. Recognizing the vocal power that Kate Bush has, she was used to great effect on his song “Games Without Frontiers,” singing the titular phrase in French, “Jeux sans frontières.”
3 Peter Gabriel, “Don’t Give Up” (ft. Kate Bush)
Bush would later join Gabriel for “Don’t Give Up,” a duet from Gabriel’s landmark album, “SO.” Both are examples of how she can elevate a song just from her vocal presence.
Solo Kate Bush
4 “Wuthering Heights”
It’s hard to start recommending Kate Bush tracks without discussing her big debut, “Wuthering Heights.” Admittedly, some may find her vocals to be a bit shrill at times. If that’s the case, there is a later re-recording where she pitches herself down quite a bit. Debates are continually waged about which version is better. Regardless, the song itself is lushly arranged and the vocal performance valiantly captures the emotional torment of the “Wuthering Heights” character, Catherine. Many fans will swear by this song as the best thing Kate ever did, but her songwriting would only grow stronger over time.
5 “Pull Out the Pin”
There are so many songs from “The Dreaming” that could make it onto a recommended listening list. “Pull Out the Pin” is noteworthy for its thought-provoking lyrics as well as its dynamic vocals. Kate writes about a battlefield situation and the paradoxical situation that war places people in. A soldier loves life so much that he’s willing to kill for it; or as the lyric puts it, “Just one thing in it, me or him. I love life, so I pull out the pin.” The way Kate screams “I love life” is arresting and is in great contrast to the surprisingly more soothing and tranquil verses. It also features friend and frequent collaborator Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour on backing vocals.
6 “King of the Mountain”
It took over a decade for Kate Bush to release new material following her 1993 record “The Red Shoes.” But she came back strongly with “King of the Mountain,” the first track from her 2005 double-album, “Aerial.” Though her voice had diminished a little, that’s to be expected for someone pushing 50-years old at the time. Still, she sounded great, and her knack for songwriting and production hadn’t suffered at all. “King of the Mountain” has a powerful drum track and lyrics that tear into the trappings of fame. She references Elvis by name and “Citizen Kane” through the term Rosebud. Basically, it shows that Kate was ready to continue right from where she left off, almost as if she never left.
7 “This Woman’s Work”
Originally written for the John Hughes film “She’s Having a Baby,” “This Woman’s Work” is a piano-driven ballad that revolves around a traumatic pregnancy. It simultaneously discusses the mother’s physical and emotional struggles with childbirth along with a father’s relatively helplessness as events unfold. The simpler arrangement of piano and keyboards add more gravity to Kate’s voice and lyrics, resulting in a song that is impactful, powerful, and memorable. One could easily argue it’s even more memorable than the film it came from.
What if “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” was a bit more twisted, and had a darker ending? Well that question is answered pretty easily in “Babooshka.” Bush tells the tale of a woman who wants to test the loyalty of her husband. She starts sending him love-letters, but in the guise of a secret admirer of sorts who goes only by the name Babooshka. Things don’t end well but the song marked a turning point in Kate’s career. The success of this single indicated that her more eclectic pop leanings could garner mainstream success. It also furthered Kate’s ability to write from the perspective of other characters, which would continue to be a part of her songwriting for years to come.