Kate Bush was born in South East London to a Father who played piano and a mother who was an Irish dancer. She took up music early on, playing piano and learning violin and she quickly began writing and recording her own compositions at home. By the age of sixteen she had around 50 songs committed to tape, the demo had done the rounds and had been rejected by every record label she’d submitted to. (Note: Writing this series and looking into the various artists careers, the almost universal theme is that they were ALL rejected by every label in the first instance. So, if you are a musician, don’t be put off – you’re probably doing something right if nobody wants to know.)
These demos eventually ended up in the hands of Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour, who liked what he heard and arranged for them to be rerecorded to a more professional standard. On the strength of these new recordings she was put on a retainer by EMI for two years, aged sixteen, while she completed her studies at school. She got a fat advance which she spent on learning avant garde dance and mime, amongst other things. She also recorded another 200 or so demos in this time, some of which appear on The Phoenix Bootlegs, and she spent time honing her stage craft with small gigs in South London boozers. Finally, by the age of nineteen she was ready to release something and her debut album The Kick Inside came out. She decided that she wanted her first single to be Wuthering Heights, against the wishes of the top dogs at EMI. It reached number one in the Uk and a star was born, a star who did things her own way and, in many ways, showed the same attitude as Prince – she wanted almost total creative control or she wasn’t interested.
She started getting into electronic production in 1980, on third album Never for Ever – which featured drum machines and the legendary Fairlight CMI synthesizer (which she was introduced to by Peter Gabriel) amongst the more traditional instrumentation she’d used up until that point. As well as writing her own material, she was now producing it too – co producing with Jon Kelly initially, before she took the reigns entirely for fourth album ‘The Dreaming’, on which all songs were composed on the Fairlight rather than the piano and had a much more electronic bent to them. At this point, she realised that too much money was going into rented studio time, so she built her own studio near where she lived, allowing her more time and space to experiment with her new found love of electronics. This all came to a head for her 1985 album (her fifth), the seminal masterpiece Hounds Of Love – the moment she realised her full potential and guaranteed her place in musical history. The album got to the number one spot in the Uk charts, knocking off Madonna’s like a virgin, no less.
Running Up That Hill was the first single off the album, and the first 12” single Kate Bush had ever released. The track was originally called ‘A Deal With God’, but the title was changed because it was feared that the track wouldn’t receive airplay in ‘religious’ countries – Italy, Ireland, Australia and France were all thought to be very un-keen on anything with God in the title. Nutcases.
Anyway, Running Up That Hill is an absolute belter, utilizing the Fairlight once again, with that rumbling arpy bassline that comes in like thunder and is complemented by more natural percussion, digitally distorted vocals, sped up and slowed down guitar parts and Kate’s superb lead vocal. It’s one of those tracks that has such a strong mood of it’s own that it has the ability to instantly change the atmosphere when dropped by a DJ. It’s production pretty much stands up to today’s LOUD music, but unlike so much of what gets put out today, it is drenched in soul.
Kate Bush was such a singular, visionary pioneer that I personally see her as the British Prince. Artists from all over the electronic music spectrum cite her as a major influence, Actress, for example. has said she is his favourite artist of all time. Running up that Hill has been covered on numerous occasions, by everyone from Placebo to Chromatics and has been edited and remixed by such luminaries as Ashley Beedle among many others. You hear references to her songwriting, production and vocal style all over the place. Ms Bush still writes and produces in her own studio, and still puts out odd, imaginative music that could have been written by no one else.