What does that song mean?

Kate Bush's Hill Got Taller

Posted Jun 23rd 2022, 14:46 by Penguin Pete

The music blogosphere this week is dominated by one story: Kate Bush having a resurgence to the charts with the song "Running Up That Hill." The song was featured the soundtrack to a season four episode of Stranger Things, the Netflix series that can at least be described as having a cult following. Every time Stranger Things regurgitates some shadow of 80s pop culture, everybody goes bananas about it. One time this even happened with the video game series Dragon's Lair. I swear that I blogged that once for BeMyApp, but that has since disappeared from the web.

Anyway, it goes like this: Artist releases song in the 80s. Time passes. A TV series comes along and reuses the song for their soundtrack. This suddenly revives the song and sometimes it even climbs the charts again. As I will explain later, this is not the first time that has happened.

But first, let's explain Kate Bush to Americans. British fans can skip to the next section.

Kate Bush is HUGE in the UK!

While musical tastes between the USA and the United Kingdom tend to be entangled quite often, leading to waves of UK music crossing the Atlantic to form one of the "British invasions" (the '60s one or the more recent British Heavy Metal wave), there are still many artists who manage to only chart on one side of the pond or the other, but not both. Kate Bush has charted almost continuously on the UK Singles chart from 1978 up to the present day, while she's barely scratched the US Billboard charts.

Kate Bush can best be described as an "art pop" artist. A musical prodigy, her first hit was at age 19 when she recorded "Wuthering Heights" in 1978, charting #1 in the UK and several other countries but only #108 on the US Billboard. This, after being signed to EMI on the recommendation of none other than Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, who was impressed with her talent.

Since then, Bush has carved out her own niche career, continuing her success in the UK and enjoying popularity around the world. "Running Up That Hill" was originally released in 1985 - and that video pegs it squarely in the mid-80s alright. Entering the UK charts at #3, it did top-10 on charts around the world (Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands), but only #30 in the US. Jack Graham with Eruditorium Press has called "Running Up That Hill" "the greatest pop song ever created."

Kate Bush is also a knighted dignitary in the UK with the title "CBE" after her name, and has seen nominations for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018, 2021, and 2022.

Anyway, if you're American and you've heard of Kate Bush but you're not that familiar with her songs, that's probably the fault of EMI, which is notoriously stubborn about not releasing music in the US if their market focus group testing deems it less than cost-effective. No wonder the Sex Pistols hated them.

Kate Bush is pleased with the chart revival

Now caught up to the present day, "Running Up That Hill," at last report, charts as a worldwide top ten, including scoring #4 on the US Billboard - making it (wait for it) her highest performance in the US!

On her very own site, on her personal blog, Kate Bush says that she loves Stranger Things and it's "really exciting" to see the song discovered by a new generation. This is ironic, because Kate Bush is known to rarely grant soundtrack usage for her songs. Nevertheless, Netflix executives were determined that the song was the only suitable one to use for that particular point in the story.

Pop Sugar UK even takes a stab at interpreting the song's meaning (hey that's our gig!) relative to the show's context, if you guys want to argue it out in the forums. The Ringer groggily wonders what the world is coming to. If you're looking for a more inflammatory take, The Irish Times uses this event to beat up "US rock gatekeepers." Hey, it was EMI, we didn't do it!

TikTok is currently saturated with Kate Bush and fans' reactions. I just have to wonder how many of these people even watch Stranger Things. I don't. I don't because I sat through the '80s firsthand, and don't need somebody following me around pointing out how great things were 35 years ago, especially as the Spielberg homage factor of Stranger Things just reminds me all over again how much I hate the sappy, syrupy, sugary, teeth-rotting, Wonder-Breading, loathsome E.T.

"Chart Necromancy"

"What I call "chart necromancy" is when a song from decades ago suddenly shoots back to the top of the charts after being featured in some other work, enjoying a revival. This happens all the time and might be worth a whole post category someday, but here's a few prominent examples:

Quentin Tarantino comes immediately to mind! Since he's such a nostalgia buff and most of his work is one big homage to various vintage decades anyway, his soundtrack choices are often songs from years past. Stealers Wheel got a bump from Reservoir Dogs use of the song "Stuck in the Middle With You," and Dick Dale's cover of "Miserlou" saw a return to popularity as the theme to Pulp Fiction.

Add to that…

  • Tears For Fears "Mad World" recharted from the Donnie Darko soundtrack

  • The Righteous Brothers' "Unchained Melody" got a comeback thanks to that pottery wheel scene in Ghost

  • The Pixies' "Where Is My Mind?" got a revival as the closing song of Fight Club

  • Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" got a rechart due to Wayne's World

  • Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" was revived to #9 on the Billboard thanks to the movie of the same title - based on a Stephen King novelette, speaking of Stranger Things' chief influences

  • Frank Sinatra's "Love and Marriage" got a bump from being used as the theme for the TV series Married With Children

And then there's Blue Swede's "Hooked on a Feeling" which had not one, not two, but three revivals courtesy of the TV series Ally McBeal (yes the dancing baby, the Internet's first meme), Tarantino again with Reservoir Dogs, and Guardians of the Galaxy. It has since gone on to become a movie trailer and commercial staple.

That's just a few prominent examples off the top. We will have to revisit this topic again, if we haven't blogged it in bits and pieces enough already. In the meantime, keep "Running Up That Hill" with Kate Bush! Will this happen again in her career? Well… stranger things have happened.



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