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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

50 Words For Kate: #50 - Wuthering

Where else to start than with Kate's inimitable debut single, Wuthering Heights. The song is so indelibly stamped on the psyche of the British public that it is still common currency as a pop culture reference, 36 years after its release. Here are three things you probably know about the song: 
  • It's based on Emily Brontë's novel of the same name, but Kate's inspiration was a scene from a BBC TV adaptation, rather than the book.
  • Kate's performances of the song usually included interpretive dance moves that became as synonymous with her public image as her high soprano voice.
  • It reached number one in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Australia and New Zealand, and was a substantial hit in many other territories (though not the USA).

Here are three things you probably didn't know:
  • Kate had to fight her record company, EMI, to release Wuthering Heights as her first single. They wanted the more contemporary rock sound of James And The Cold Gun.
  • Wuthering Heights is the first self-written UK number one single by a woman.
  • She was 19 years-old when the single was released.

For many fans, and indeed Kate herself, the success of Wuthering Heights is both a blessing and a curse. It is wonderful that one of Kate's songs has had such a deep impact on people, but also frustrating that it sometimes overshadows her other work. As a precocious seven-year-old boy I just simply loved it. I plagued my mother endlessly until she bought me a copy and then I would spend hour upon hour playing it and perfecting what I could remember of the spooky dance moves I'd seen Kate perform. Here is Kate on Top of the Pops in March 1978, which if memory serves, was the first time I'd laid eyes on her.

Later, as I discovered more of Kate's work the song slipped down my list of favourites, no doubt tainted by over-familiarity. Recently though, I have tried to hear the song again with those seven-year-old ears, and appreciate the wonder and excitement it generated back then.

For better or worse, Wuthering Heights will be for many people the ultimate Kate Bush song. Good job it's so utterly brilliant then!

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