This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.
KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #456: Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush.
In the Fall of 1982, as I was settling into my new life at Ryerson University in Toronto (since renamed as Toronto Metropolitan University), I found myself wandering through the big downtown mall known as The Eaton Center. Anchoring the mall on the north end was a six-floor Eaton’s department store. At the south end, just across the street was a six-floor Simpsons department store. It was in the electronics department of Simpsons that I saw Kate Bush for the first time. On their wall of tvs, they were airing a new show from fledging local station, City-TV, called New Music Magazine. On this show, they were profiling this young female singer from England and were showing her video for “Wuthering Heights”. In this video, Kate Bush sang in a voice I had never heard before, about a classic literary book by Emily Bronte, all the while wearing a red dress and dancing as the professionally-trained dancer that she was. The effect of this wall of sight and sound was mesmerizing to me at the time. Admittedly, I have been mesmerized by her ever since.
Kate Bush’s career began at age 18 with “Wuthering Heights”. The initial demo of the song was given to David Gilmour of Pink Floyd fame. He put up the seed money to have the song recorded and Kate Bush became a musical phenom overnight! But Kate Bush was no one-hit wonder. She has had a long and successful career characterized by songs that are literate, intelligent, artistic and that speak to the human condition. While Bush was a huge star in England in the early stages of her career, it took the US a while longer to warm up to her singing style. The song that helped break the ice in America was “Running Up That Hill” from an album called The Hounds of Love.
“Running Up That Hill” was the only US Top Ten hit for Kate Bush. It is a song about the sexes and how little we truly understand one another. The song contains lines such as,
“If I only could, I’d make a deal with God and get Him to swap our places.”
A little later on in the song,
“Is there so much hate for the ones we love?
Tell me, we both matter, don’t we?
You, you and me.…
It’s you and me and we won’t be unhappy“.
In the “official” video for this song, Kate Bush and a male dance partner perform a contemporary dance routine that helps explain the emotion behind the yearning for understanding between a man and a woman in a relationship. MTV refused to air this video because they felt, at the time, that the concept of contemporary dance would be confusing to US audiences. Instead, they aired a video of Kate Bush singing the song live on stage with a backing band because “audiences like to sing along with people they can see singing“.
Kate Bush is my favourite female musical artist. For me, there is no one who is even a close second. “Wuthering Heights”, the song that created a fanboy out of me, will appear closer to the end of this list. For today, I will play the contemporary dance video version of “Running Up That Hill” that she wanted the world to see. As well, I will add a live version of the song that she performed with David Gilmour (pardon the 80s hair) with whom she has enjoyed a long friendship and musical/artistic partnership. Finally, I will show an excellent cover version performed by a new group that you should be aware of called First Aid Kit. If this is your first exposure to Kate Bush then get ready for a singer with a voice as unique and original as there is in all of music. If you are already familiar with her work then, I will say what I always say in these circumstances, enjoy.
***Note: As many of you may know by now, “Running Up That Hill” gained new life when it was used in a pivotal scene in the hit television show, Stranger Things. Since the airing of that episode, a whole new generation of music lovers have been introduced to the magic of Kate Bush and her music. After an absence of almost four decades, “Running Up That Hill” returned all the way to the #1 chart position. It was a great song when I first heard it way back when. It remains a great song today. It makes me very happy that Bush has been discovered by newer, younger fans.
The link to the live music video performance of “Running Up That Hill” with Kate Bush and David Gilmour can be found here.
The link to Kate Bush’s website can be found here.
Finally, the link to the wonderful cover version of “Running Up That Hill” by First Aid Kit can be found here.
***The link to the video for “Running Up That Hill” as it was used in the television show, Stranger Things can be found here.
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