Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill
In history there are many examples of literary characters who have made a deal with the devil, in its various manifestations, perhaps to secure fame, success, power, for the impossible pursuit of pleasure (think of Goethe’s Faust) or perhaps for eternal youth like Dorian Gray – a topic also quoted up in a very profound way by Alphaville in Forever Young.
But if a pact with the devil already has a value that goes beyond the concept of time and life, let us imagine how even more powerful a deal made directly with God could be, and perhaps for a much nobler and less materialistic reason! And after all, it is precisely God through his creatures who saves Faust himself from the demands of the devil.
Of course, to develop a concept of this magnitude, a deal with God to increase understanding and knowledge of human beings, it absolutely takes a great interpreter, who crosses the 80s but always from an elevated point of view, with lyrical and dreamlike songs, with unforgettable texts and videos. In short, a true icon of the 80s, and beyond. But fortunately, in the 80s there was an artist who brought all this together: the great Kate Bush.
Singer, author, dancer, choreographer, and then later producer, Kate had found her first big success when she was just 19, with Wuthering Heights in 1978 (this song deserves an exception to the 80sneverend policies in order to be explained), and since then she had been a regular presence in the English charts. She had been one of the first authors to compose on a synthesizer to explore new sounds and sensations, and already in 1980 she had distinguished herself for the originality of her creations, as in the case of Babooshka.
In the following years Kate Bush almost completely gave up tours and concerts to be able to concentrate entirely on the originality of her music, and it would take her almost three years to make her fifth album, Hounds of Love, and to make the song that will anticipate its release, which is of course Running Up That Hill, which comes out on August 5, 1985.
The song had to have a different title, Deal With God: Kate hopes to make a deal with God to be able to exchange knowledge and sensitivity with her partner, but I would say in general between the male and female worlds, and to be able to know and fully understand each other, eliminating any insecurity, avoiding misunderstandings and disappointments or involuntary pain. In short, being able to be in the other person’s shoes to understand what it feels like.
The EMI record company, however, objects that mentioning God in a title could be a risky move in some countries with a strong Catholic tradition, such as Italy or Ireland, and convinces her to come up with a new title. Actually Kate doesn’t agree at all, but recognizes that it’s not worth risking the success of the song and album, perhaps for some boycott or censorship, just to keep a title, and therefore the song takes on the title we know. Indeed, in many editions it is referred to as Running Up That Hill (Deal With God).
Actually, EMI wanted to release another song as first single, Cloudbusting, but when Kate agreed to change the title, they too decided to accept her proposal for this song.
The song was a resounding success in England and also in the United States, a market Kate never paid much attention to, and soon became one of Kate’s signature songs. The video is absolutely an artistic masterpiece (like everything Kate produces), and shows us a very intimate dance between Kate and the French dancer Michael Hervieu, who only had one day to rehearse with Kate at the casting, and who also lost his job because of this video, and subsequently had ups and downs in many ways during his existence.
Choreographer Diane Gray dressed Michael and Kate in gray Japanese “hakama”, a kind of pant-skirt worn by men, and in their dance Michael and Kate seem to quarrel, make up, love each other, in a whirlwind, until they are separated by two crowds of characters (made anonymous by their masks with the faces of Michael and Kate themselves), which force them to go in different directions.
A very emotional, enveloping, intriguing, but also partly distressing and desperate video. In short, a true masterpiece. MTV actually decided not to broadcast it, because Kate couldn’t be seen singing, and MTV wanted songs that invited people to sing in front of the TV, so they actually replaced the video with one of Kate’s rare live performances.
As we know, since 2022 Running Up That Hill has a new life, because it is included in the fourth season of the series Stranger Things, not as a simple background, but with a particular role: it is the song that gives one of the protagonists, Max Mayfield, the strength to fight one of the negative entities of the story.
The production of Stranger Things was very cautious about contacting EMI, because Kate Bush does not easily grant the usage rights of her compositions. In this case, however, Kate found that the use of Running Up That Hill in the series was absolutely in line with the spirit of the song, and furthermore she revealed that she was absolutely a fan of Stranger Things, so she authorized the use of song. And, in a world dominated by instant social media, she commented it with a dedicated page on her website!
A new generation learned to know Running Up That Hill and Kate Bush, and this had interesting conequences on the world of charts and statistics: first, Kate became the artist with the longest gap between two number-one songs, because forty-four years had passed between Wuthering Heights and the success of 2022 (the previous record of forty-two years belonged to Tom Jones).
Then, Running Up That Hill reached the first place thirty-seven years after its release on the market, because in 1985 it had not reached the first place. In this case Kate took the record away from Last Christmas, which reached the first place only in 2020 – thirty-six years after its release.
Finally, Kate Bush in 2022 became the most senior artist ever, to reach the first position, having been born in 1958, and thus shattering Cher’s record who reached first place with Believe at “only” 52.
In short, I would say that Kate Bush has absolutely chosen the ideal partner to make this pact over time, and to create lots of original and fascinating music and videos!
Kate Bush on Wikipedia