Among the pop, dance, and rap tunes of the past year, viewers of MTV may have noticed a slightly different beat in the download charts. “Running Up That Hill” was originally released in 1985 by Kate Bush. Newly popularized through its inclusion on Netflix’s Stranger Things, it reentered the charts and cast a retrospective look on an outstanding but seldom spoken about performer: Kate Bush.
Part of this may be due to the fact that despite her achievements, Bush has retracted from the limelight. A recluse for 35 years, she is notoriously secretive. She does not appear in interviews unless she has something to promote, which is rare. However, she has an untouchable legacy that spans not just music but technology and wider artistic mediums.
10 She Shared a Dance Teacher with David Bowie
David Bowie was a huge influence on Kate Bush’s work, and if you can’t hear it musically, then you can see it in her evocative dance routines and expression. While Bowie is not known as a dancer, his theatrical stylings were due to the tutelage of Lindsay Kemp, a dancer, mime artist, and choreographer.
Kemp grew up in the industrial north of England, spending time in Liverpool and South Shields. Before completing a dance scholarship, he first had to do military service before studying under the famous mime artist Marcel Marceau. Bowie saw him perform in Covent Garden when he was 19. They would go on to have a relationship and collaborate on many of his most famous characters, such as Ziggy Stardust.
When Bush took up dance lessons with Kemp, he believed her to be a timid mouse that came alive when performing. The track “Moving” from her first album was dedicated to him. Kemp returned home one night to find she had pushed a copy under his door upon its release.
9 Her Collaborations Have Been as Eccentric as Her Music
In today’s release schedule, it is hard to find a track that does not have a collaboration somewhere. The names of rappers and producers often trail after the main artist in most pieces. However, Kate Bush rarely did collaborations, but when she did, they were exceptionally well chosen.
Her most famous was with Peter Gabriel, former frontman of the progressive rock band Genesis and most well-known for his hit single “Sledgehammer.” She often did live tracks with him, and “The Man with the Child in His Eyes” is their most well-known duet.
However, Kate Bush was not opposed to a comedy routine either. One track had her singing the song “Do Bears…” with Rowan Atkinson, known to many as Mr. Bean. A verse included the line, “He’s an utter creep, and he drives me around the bend. To alleviate the boredom, I sleep with his friends.”
One of her most poignant and leftfield collaborations is with actor Stephen Fry. On her tenth studio album 50 Words for Snow, the final track holds the same title. In it, Fry and Bush recite the word snow in a myriad of different languages.
8 “Wuthering Heights” Was Written About the Film Adaptation, Not the Book
Kate Bush’s first single was the dramatic ballad “Wuthering Heights.” Written at the tender age of eighteen, it was composed in March 1977 and then released a year later in 1978. It made her the first woman in British chart history to reach number one with a self-penned track.
Many people assume Bush wrote the song after reading the book by Emily Bronte. This was not the case, as she took inspiration from the television adaptation. Created by the British Broadcasting Corporation, it was on screens in 1978. Only after watching this did Bush write the song, then finish off the novel.
7 Bush’s Impactful Use of the First Synthesizers
Sampling is so endemic in modern songwriting and production that it seems strange to think of a time when it was not used. The first commercial device that allowed people to play recorded sounds was the Fairlight CMI. Developed by Peter Vogel and Kim Ryrie, it was released in 1979 and was seized upon by the most forward-thinking artists of the time.
Kate Bush collaborator Peter Gabriel was the first person in the UK to get one. Hard Rockers Bad Company had the next, which was often rented out to Hans Zimmer for his cinematic scores. By Bush’s third studio album, Never For Ever, she had begun experimenting with recorded sounds on the Fairlight as a major compositional tool. You can hear it clearly on the single “Babooshka,” with the sound of breaking glass, which she and Gabriel recorded in a local parking lot.
6 Her Team Ushered in the Microphone Headset
Microphone headsets are an important piece of technology. Now we use them routinely for online communications and gaming. Before that, they were the domain of Madonna and Britney Spears, who looked cool in the late ’90s, dancing around with them attached to their heads.
The Tour of Life was Bush’s only live tour to date and the amount of time, effort, and production show why she never attempted another for 35 years. Blending dance, poetry, music, and even magic, it was a cavalcade of everything Kate Bush. So taxing was her performance that it was not uncommon for her to collapse in exhaustion afterward.
Featuring songs from her first two albums, Bush quickly realized the limitations of having to stand in front of or hold a microphone. The sound engineer, Martin Fisher, decided to fashion one that was attached to a coat hanger and wrapped around her head. Thus, the microphone headset was born.
5 She Was Banned by UK TV for Killing Actors…in a Video
There have been some strange themes in Kate Bush’s songs, but none are as odd as the track “Experiment IV.” Created to promote her 1986 greatest hits album The Whole Story, it was about a military plot to create a sound so destructive it could kill. The video features a host of stars from British television, including Hugh Laurie, Dawn French, and Peter Vaughn. In the video, all suffer violent deaths that saw it banned by the BBC’s Top of the Pops show.
Part of this gruesome video may have been down to her fascination with the horror genre itself. Kate was a huge fan of macabre cinema, even penning the song “Hammer Horror” in homage to her favorite movie studio. The video did earn her a nomination for best concept video at the 1988 Grammy Awards.
4 She Broke Japan by Appearing on Their Version of X Factor
Far before American Idol and X Factor were known for bringing fledgling pop stars into the public consciousness, Kate Bush tried to experiment with this herself. The Japanese market was huge at the time but known as notoriously difficult to get a foothold in. She debuted at a Tokyo song contest to promote her tour and managed to come in second.
Most of the footage of this is only known to exist from UK news segments, though the audio is still available. In it, the video shows her sightseeing in Tokyo. It is known that she did a lot of promotional tours before the gig itself, which came off the back of her arduous Tour of Life. Named the 7th Tokyo Music Festival International Contest, she was head-to-head with fifteen other competitors from around the globe. The festival has an illustrious history, with winners from other years such as Dionne Warwick, Al Green, and Lionel Richie.
3 She Wrote Music for a Coca-Cola Fruit Drink
Fruitopia was a fruit-flavored soft drink introduced in the mid-1990s by Coca-Cola. Aimed at young adults, its purpose was to build on the trend of flavored tea drinks. With a $30 million marketing budget, it had names like Pink Lemonade Euphoria, Citrus Consciousness, and other psychedelic titles.
Why Kate Bush was chosen to do the music for not one advert, but all nine is a mystery. At this point, she was putting out less work and had almost vanished from the spotlight. The late ’80s dance craze that the marketing scene was jumping on was nothing to do with Kate Bush, and her style of music even less so. However, with a host of world musicians and instruments from around the globe, the sonic paintings she produced actually worked.
2 She Turned Down a Bond Theme
Moonraker was the eleventh James Bond film and the fourth for actor Roger Moore. Released in 1979, it hit cinemas at a time when Bond films were huge, but the quality of their plots was waning. Unfortunately, this also carried onto their theme tunes, with Moonraker being one of the less memorable hits.
Originally, the song was intended for Frank Sinatra. Why he could not do it is unknown. Then, Kate Bush was approached. Her excuse was that she was about to head out on tour, though it could have also been that it was not a great song. This meant it went to another classic crooner, Johnny Mathis. Considering it a substandard song, he also left the project. Finally, Shirly Bassey recorded the song at the last minute, making it her third James Bond theme.
1 The Sex Pistols Frontman Once Wrote a Song for Her About Parrots
The Sex Pistols and Kate Bush existed in the same space at the same time, but on the surface, their music could not be further apart. Yet dig deeper, and there are some very similar themes: most importantly, about British identity and how it manifests. Despite his punk attitude, the frontman of the Sex Pistols John Lydon had always been a huge Kate Bush fan.
In a 2009 documentary on the Queens of Pop, Lydon explained how it was Kate Bush who had asked for the collaboration. He then went away and created a track for her about the illegal parrot trade in Brazil. However, Kate told the frontman, “Not what I had in mind, John!” and promptly turned him down.