June 17, 2022
Television and film have long helped unearth and breathe new life into forgotten music. Though it may seem ubiquitous today, Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” was never a radio hit. It wasn’t until Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous in 2000 that it became a road trip staple. Mike Myers’s Wayne’s World, similarly, reintroduced “Bohemian Rhapsody” to the ‘90s.
More recently, amid the social media era, a viral TikTok video in 2020 featuring a skateboarder cruising down the sidewalk to the tune of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” shot the 1977 single atop streaming charts. It is in this same vein that Netflix’s Stranger Things has spawned a renaissance of Kate Bush’s music after featuring her 1985 single, “Running Up That Hill,” in a new episode.
But unlike Fleetwood Mac or Elton John, Kate Bush never sought commercial stardom. She never embarked on a world tour; she is afraid of flying. Reclused in her studio, Bush sometimes took years between record releases, crafting a rich canon, rife with meticulously arranged albums. In fact, “Running Up That Hill” only scratches the surface of Bush’s sprawling discography.
Born in 1958 to a doctor and a nurse, Kate Bush began writing songs at 11. As the story goes, Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour got ahold of Bush’s first demo tape, produced by her family when she was 16. Enamored by her creative dexterity, Gilmour immediately decided to mentor her, guiding her through the punitive and unforgiving music industry.
It was in 1978, at the age of 19, that Kate Bush went to No. 1 in the United Kingdom with her first single, “Wuthering Heights.” Bush had just seen a TV adaption of the Emily Bronte classic and channeled her inspiration into the eccentric ballad, dethroning ABBA’s far more conventional pop-disco hit, “Take a Chance on Me.”
Though her inimitable voice was what first garnered her attention, Kate Bush had so much more to offer. Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan each had unconventional voices too, but despite their accolades, they both fit neatly into known genres. Bush’s music, on the other hand, sounded ethereal. From her bespoke self-choreographed music videos to her production style, there was nothing else like her.
One reason that Kate Bush’s music has flourished in its late resurgence is that it transcends the era that birthed it. In fact, much of it exists in an entirely different dimension. The songs she wrote in the late 1970s for Never for Ever, such as “Babooshka” or “Infant Kiss” — inspired by The Innocents, a Gothic horror film based on Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw — sound more like ancient English folklore than any single composed at about the same time.
Many artists start their careers making the music they love. But upon attaining a sliver of commercial success, they hunger for more, often yielding to their record labels’ demands and tuning subsequent records to assuage their fans.
Following Kate Bush’s discography, it feels entirely plausible she would have been happy never making a dime, so long as she could continue making her music her way. She wrote “The Man with the Child in His Eyes,” the song she’d later release as her fourth single, when she was just 13 years old.
Blithely indifferent to whatever expectations were thrust upon her, Bush aspired to follow her artistic penchants unencumbered by the impositions of engineers or producers. There’s no better display of Bush’s creative indulgence than her 1982 album The Dreaming. On “Leave it Open,” she sings, “We let the weirdness in,” as she duets with herself in various voicings, from a haunting vibrato to a high-pitched howl. While taking cues from the ’80s aesthetic, it sounds like nothing else recorded in the era.
We often inquire about the next big thing in music and art. But we forget that we all have our blind spots. There’s a plethora of overlooked records and deep cuts from decades ago, just waiting to go viral. Sometimes, as in the case of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill,” it’s an old forgotten thing that becomes the next big thing.
Originally published at The Washington Examiner