Behind The Song: Kate Bush, “Running Up That Hill”

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Kate Bush has been recognized by the music community as a unique talent for over four decades, particularly in Great Britain, where she has worked with such talents as David Gilmour and Peter Gabriel, in addition to maintaining a successful solo career without touring much. She wasn’t nearly as well-known in America as she was overseas before her 1985 hit “Running Up That Hill,” from her album Hounds of Love, hit the American airwaves.

“Running Up That Hill” is a song about how a man and a woman might view their relationship roles differently if God gave them the ability to trade places. In a 1992 interview with BBC Radio 1’s Richard Skinner, Bush explained what the lyric was about, and how she initially had trouble getting the song accepted by radio pretty much all over the world.

“I was trying to say that, really, a man and a woman, can’t understand each other because we are a man and a woman. And if we could actually swap each other’s roles, if we could actually be in each other’s place for a while, I think we’d both be very surprised! [Laughs] And I think it would be led to a greater understanding. And really the only way I could think it could be done was either … you know, I thought a deal with the devil, you know. And I thought, ‘Well, no, why not a deal with God!’ You know, because in a way it’s so much more powerful, the whole idea of asking God to make a deal with you. You see, for me it is still called ‘Deal With God,’ that was its title. But we were told that if we kept this title that it wouldn’t be played in any of the religious countries, Italy wouldn’t play it, France wouldn’t play it, and Australia wouldn’t play it! Ireland wouldn’t play it, and that generally [meant] we might get it blacked purely because it had ‘God’ in the title. Now, I couldn’t believe this, this seemed completely ridiculous to me and the title was such a part of the song’s entity. I just couldn’t understand it. But none the less, although I was very unhappy about it, I felt unless I compromised that I was going to be cutting my own throat, you know, I’d just spent two, three years making an album and we weren’t gonna get this record played on the radio, if I was stubborn. So I felt I had to be grown up about this, so we changed it to ‘Running Up That Hill.’ But it’s always something I’ve regretted doing, I must say. And normally I always regret any compromises that I make.”

“Running Up That Hill” has since appeared on numerous greatest hits and compilation albums, and in 2012 Bush released a remixed version of the song for the album A Symphony of British Music: Music for the Closing Ceremony of London 2012, putting new vocals on the track from the extended-play 1985 12-inch single. The song has been covered by numerous other artists, including Placebo, Meg Myers, and even the still-active onetime teen queen Tiffany. 

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