Happy birthday, Kate! To mark Kate Bush’s birthday this weekend – July 30 – we’re posting our piece on the making of her landmark single, “Wuthering Heights”. This first appeared in Uncut’s January 2015 issue [Take 212].
Prior to her triumphant run of London shows in 2014, the last song Kate Bush performed at one of her own concerts, on May 14, 1979, was the extraordinary single that launched an extraordinary career.
Her only No 1, “Wuthering Heights” was inspired by a BBC mini-series of Emily Bronte’s Gothic novel. Haunted by the image of Catherine Earnshaw’s ghostly hand outside the window – “Let me in! Let me in!” – Bush wrote the song at the age of 18, shortly before beginning work on her debut album, The Kick Inside. “I was in my flat, sitting at the upright piano at about midnight,” she told her fan club in 1979. “There was a full moon, the curtains were open, and it came quite easily.”
The fact that Bush shared her childhood name (Catherine) with Earnshaw, and a birthday (July 30) with Bronte, fostered a sense of cosmic kinship with the subject of “Wuthering Heights”, a bond acted out when she recorded the song with members of the Alan Parsons Project. “She seemed to adopt different personas when she was singing,” recalls guitarist Ian Bairnson. “Suddenly there was another person there.”
Aided by a wildly eccentric video and some choice publicity photos, “Wuthering Heights” was instantly impactful, and later spoofed by everyone from Pamela Stephenson to Alan Partridge. These days Bush may regard its unbridled romanticism with mixed feelings (it was nowhere to be heard in Before The Dawn), but it remains one of music’s boldest opening statements of artistic intent, and an unforgettable exploration of obsessive love, supernatural imagining and powerful femininity.