Thoughts on Kate Bush reaching number one with “Running Up That Hill”

Common consensus nowadays – or rather, that of social media algorithms – would have you believe the view that the world is a totally bad place; that all is corrupt, there is no hope for us and that we’re all destined for impending doom by some darker means.

But then, you see those glimmers of hope, that shine brightly like a diamond, multifaceted and colourful with possibilities. In short, there are an equal amount of reminders and thus proof the world is actually a good place.

Such a moment came a few weeks ago for us on a Friday when, whilst sweltering in the recent heatwave and tired after a very long day at work, I read that something phenomenal had happened.

The popular Netflix sci-fi series Stranger Things recently returned for its fourth run. It was one of the episodes in this in which, in a way of art imitating life, one of its main characters, Max Mayfield, was saved from being possessed by external demons by listening to her favourite music. Said music was that of British singer songwriter and pop icon Kate Bush, with her 1985 classic “Running Up That Hill”.

As a result, the track, now of 37 years vintage, did something that, because of the way the singles chart work now in the streaming era, where catalogue songs have their stream-to-sales ratio heavily reduced over that of newer songs and artists, was almost unheard of.

It slowly and steadily began climbing the charts, and as a song written, produced and performed entirely by Kate herself, was achieving something in the region of over £1m in royalties a week from being streamed on the big music channels such as Spotify.

And now, as of time of writing this evening, it is spending a third consecutive week at the top of the UK charts, in the process giving Kate her second UK number one hit – 1978’s seminal “Wuthering Heights” being the first of course.

Kate Bush’s music was around us growing up; as a child with parents with their musical hearts and minds in the 1970s, I was exposed to a lot of her work. I found, and still do, so much of her music and who she is as a performer, a singer and songwriter so awe inspiring, so special and so unique that it is impossible to date stamp her.

Put simply, it is timeless yet challenging, whether that’s the moving lament of “This Woman’s Work”, the haunting innocence of “The Man With The Child In His Eyes”, the visceral cry of “Hounds of Love”, or the utterly bonkers “Babooshka”. It perhaps goes some way to explaining why “Running Up That Hill” has taken off in the way it has and found appeal with an audience who weren’t even born when it was first released.

So often one of the frustrating things about being a lover of pop music (especially if you’ve loved it as long as I have, which is 25 years plus) is that it is both youth centric and not an industry known for long standing devotion and support to all artists. What’s tomorrow’s Wembley headliner quickly becomes every second CD along in a charity shop.

There’s a manic obsession with the new, what is ranking highly on Hot Hits UK, what is virally popular on social media. Tastes and fashions have always been cyclical and always moved on, but particularly in the TikTok era, this is happening at a breakneck speed that is too alarming to contemplate, and the average chart hit seems to be getting smaller in line with attention spans.

But when you look at Kate’s career to date, one thing that it has always been defined by is her desire to do things entirely on her own terms and with her own vision, which is why she notably takes long gaps of sometimes over a decade between albums.

It’s something that’s incredibly empowering to witness, and as Cher neatly observed in a dedication to Kate on her Twitter (Cher had, until “Running Up That Hill” topped the chart, been the oldest woman in UK chart history to hit number one when she did so with “Believe” in 1998 at 52), “We had to fight our way through the testosterone curtain, and we did it so the girls who came after us could sing as long as they want to.”

Hopefully this recent achievement of Kate’s has given encouragement therefore, to all generations that it’s possible to make an impact creatively in people’s lives, whatever your age, background or life experiences. As the lady herself said on her recent Radio 4 interview for Woman’s Hour after hitting the top: “Music is very special. It’s different from all other art forms… It has a way of touching people.” Now that’s a deal with God we’d happily take up on.

Are you a fan of Kate Bush? Are you happy to see her sat at number one and being discovered by a new audience? Let us know your thoughts below in the comments or message us on our Twitter or Instagram.

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