A Beginner’s Guide to Kate Bush for Stranger Things Fans
The Netflix show's fourth season has introduced the art-pop legend to a new generationPhoto by Dave Hogan/Getty Music Features Kate Bush
An ominous opening synth note fades in, followed by an insistent layer of both live drums and a Linn drum machine that sounds like a call to arms, before a brighter, harsher Fairlight synth melody cuts through. Then, a voice once known for its floaty, elastic soprano range reintroduces itself, demanding rather than requesting: “It doesn’t hurt me / Do you wanna feel how it feels?” In August 1985, those opening 30 seconds of “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” noted the exact moment that Mark II of British singer Kate Bush’s career began. Though it was the first song written and recorded for Bush’s fifth studio album, Hounds of Love, and had obvious commercial potential while maintaining the haunting quality of her prior output, she had to convince her label, EMI, that it should be the lead single. Looking back, it was do-or-die time for the 27-year-old artist, whose prior three full-length albums had received critical attention, but failed to achieve major chart success. The song fulfilled Bush’s hopes of reviving interest in her work outside of her home country and devoted cult following elsewhere, peaking at #30 on the Billboard Charts and earning her her first American hit in seven years. In her first appearance to promote the single on U.K. talk show Wogan, Bush chose to forgo her usual elaborate choreography and costumes to lip-synch to the track standing at a podium, donning a militaristic brown suit with a bow and arrow on her back and raising her arms as if delivering the state of the art-pop union. Her mission statement came in the form of a plea for empathy, a desire for gender swap via divine intervention and less of a love song than a call for respect she was due, both from her partner and an industry at large.
Born in Bexleyheath, Kent, and raised in a farmhouse in a London suburb with two musician brothers, Bush’s family nurtured her preternatural musical talent as she began writing songs at age 11 and recorded her first demos at 13. Those recordings eventually fell into the lap of Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, who offered to help a then-16-year-old Bush record more professional demos, which were mixed by Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick. Looking to take a chance on experimental artists after the decline of prog rock, EMI put Bush on a two-year retainer (a managing director at the label suggested this out of concern for the long-term psychological effect fame might have on a teenager) before officially signing her as she began to record her debut album in August 1977. In an event that would be repeated with her other biggest hit seven years later, Bush had to fight to release “Wuthering Heights” as her debut single, proving her vision to be correct from the start as it made her the first female artist to have a U.K. number-one hit with a self-written song.
The career that followed proved to innovate as much as it baffled, go maximal when most alternative acts went back to basics, and favor inventive concept albums over hooky singles, all of which destined Bush for cult status from the beginning. Simply, there was no formula for an artist like her in the mainstream, as no one like her had existed before; Elton John, Roxy Music and (by Bush’s own super-fan admission) David Bowie were clear influences, but gender, age and the sheer scale of her ambition made her fight to be taken seriously an uphill battle at all times—not that she ever let it visibly slow her down. She arrived as a consummate artist, taking the writing, production and visuals into her own hands, unafraid to challenge collaborators in her quest to achieve her singular artistic vision. It was a far cry from the female singers who had graced the television and radio when Bush was growing up, when the artistic path for talented women had pretty much been “shut up when you’re not singing and look pretty.”
As with most underappreciated artists who don’t always get their due while they’re still creating (at least on this side of the Atlantic, in Bush’s case), she’s proven to be one of the most influential artists of all time, inventing new sub-genres of pop music with nearly every album she’s made. Though she hasn’t released new material since 2011 and mostly stays out of the public eye (she sends us a Christmas message every year just to let us know she’s alive), her legacy lives on through Björk, Florence Welch, Caroline Polachek, Perfume Genius, FKA twigs, Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Outkast (Big Boi, if you’re reading this, we’re still waiting on the collab), St. Vincent, Adele, Solange, Bat for Lashes, Sky Ferreira, Lily Allen, Grimes, Lorde, ANOHNI and dozens of other artists who have either knowingly or unknowingly taken a page from Kate Bush’s playbook. Her presence at the core of contemporary popular music’s DNA is so vast, more people are familiar with her sound than her name. Sometimes, it takes a mainstream reminder to call attention back to those who took the musical risks when no one else dared to, while also introducing their brilliance to a new audience. Enter Stranger Things, and the reason I’m here explaining who Kate Bush is.
Full disclosure: I have never seen a full episode of Stranger Things; it’s one of those big phenomena I missed the boat on, and just never got around to starting. In fact, I found out about “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” and the major role it plays in the show’s fourth and final season through the fervent Kate Bush fan accounts I follow on social media, and then through friends who explored several polite ways of saying, “Isn’t this the lady who dressed up like a bat and screamed a lot that you post about constantly?”
Unless you’re as inept as I am when it comes to keeping up with TV, you’ve probably been hearing “Running Up That Hill” non-stop, or even for the first time, as it’s climbed back to the top of the global Spotify charts and has become a sensation on TikTok. It’s true that one of my missions in life, as an obsessive fan of weird pop music, is to spread the Kate Bush gospel, and things like this just give me an excuse to do exactly that. So if you love this song as much as I do, but are worried about diving into Bush’s daunting back catalog, I’m here to guide your listening with cultivated knowledge that proved pretty much useless until right now. Thank you, Stranger Things. Maybe I’ll watch you someday (I’m a terrible Winona Ryder stan, I know). Now, onto the ultimate beginner’s guide to Kate Bush, era by era.
Where to Start: Hounds Of Love (1985)
Key Tracks to Start With: “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God),” “Cloudbusting,” “Hounds Of Love,” The Ninth Wave in its entirety
As stated in the brief history above, Hounds of Love marked a creative rebirth for Bush, striking the most successful balance between experimentation and accessibility in her entire discography. That goes both figuratively and literally, as Bush packed one side with career-defining art-pop hits and the other with a conceptual suite following a drowning woman, chronicling her inner turmoil while she decides whether she wants to fight for her life or just let herself sink. Since that second half might have made you think twice about reading the rest of this (conversely, if it just completely sold you, you’re my kind of person), let’s start with Side A: “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” is followed by the title track, “The Big Sky,” “Mother Stands for Comfort,” and “Cloudbusting,” the album’s other most enduring hit, inspired by philosopher Wilhelm Reich’s relationship with his son Peter and bolstered by a stirring string march that builds to a sing-along crescendo for the ages.
In contrast to “Running Up That Hill”’s last-ditch effort to make a relationship work, “Cloudbusting” remains a transcendent anthem of optimism in even the most hopeless situations, sounding like the beginning of a new world after this one inevitably ends and Bush (singing as the younger Reich, facing his father’s imprisonment) insists that she “just know[s] that something good is gonna happen / I don’t know when / But just saying it could even make it happen.” Four of the five tracks received elaborate videos, incorporating Bush’s love of dance and visual storytelling that she had honed over the course of her career and sharing the spoils with fans both new and old. It sounds like a product of its time, yet never comes off as dated. Combining masterful arrangements, booming percussion, quirky instrumental choices and career-best vocal performances (all on a self-produced album), Hounds of Love’s first side reintroduced Bush to pop listeners and proved she was a creative force to be reckoned with, something fans and most critics knew all along.
Now that she has your attention, why not turn the record over?
Pulling from styles across European music history, including samples of Gregorian chants and traditional Irish music, The Ninth Wave takes up the entirety of the album’s second side. It marked the first (but not last) time Bush attempted to create a cohesive musical story, its own purely auditory theatrical production with a guide to the action written out on the album’s original inner sleeve, made up of diverse songs that could also stand on their own. In her own words, Bush envisioned The Ninth Wave as “a film, that’s how I thought of it … the idea is that they’ve been on a ship and they’ve been washed over the side so they’re alone in this water. And I find that horrific imagery.” Once Bush’s narrator is knocked over the edge and left to freeze (“And Dream of Sheep,” “Under Ice”), she’s forced to reckon with her past mistakes, watch her loved ones in the present worry about her disappearance and argue with her future self, who demands she give herself a chance to live (“Waking the Witch,” “Watching You Without Me” and “Jig Of Life,” respectively), which she eventually does, vowing to be a better person going forward (“Hello Earth,” “The Morning Fog”). It’s a perfect culmination of the bold musical styles Bush had embraced up to that point, marrying her artsy oddball tendencies to a talent for moving storytelling. Can you imagine any of her contemporaries pulling off something similar? Kate is king. All hail. Now that we’ve covered the essential release, let’s branch out.
(As a bonus, don’t skip the late-1986 stand-alone single “Experiment IV,” released to promote Kate’s first best-of collection, The Whole Story. She also released a duet with Peter Gabriel, “Don’t Give Up,” around this time. That one charted higher, but this is my beginner’s guide, and I just like this one more. Genesis is none of my business. Send me hate on Twitter, I don’t care. Now, let’s actually move on.)
If You Loved the Singles on Hounds of Love’s First Side: The Sensual World (1989) & The Red Shoes (1993)
Key Tracks to Start With: “This Woman’s Work,” “The Sensual World,” “Never Be Mine,” “Why Should I Love You?”
Again, if The Ninth Wave was more your speed, I would very much like to be your friend, but first, keep scrolling and come back to this later. Though I appreciate you, you’re a rare case; I’ve found most people I try to introduce to Bush aren’t quite ready to dive into the weeds of her more experimental output right away. Instead, we’ll opt for her next album chronologically. Eclectic instrumentation and theatrical vocals stay put, but people who usually find Bush to be a bit much tend to gravitate towards The Sensual World. Initially inspired by the soliloquies of James Joyce’s Ulysses and a further interest in world music, the album incorporated Irish instruments and Bulgarian vocal ensemble Trio Bulgarka into Bush’s original arrangements. The main difference comes in a songwriting shift, dealing almost exclusively with relationships and sexuality, as the title track would tell you, and resulting in some of Bush’s most unambiguously vulnerable lyrics to date.
The album’s biggest hit, the tender “This Woman’s Work,” has long outlived the movie for which it was originally written, 1988’s She’s Having a Baby, and reached an even wider audience after Maxwell recorded a cover for his MTV Unplugged session in 1997 (Several people I’ve spoken to didn’t even know it wasn’t his song: a mark of a great cover, which his is). It finds Bush at her most emotionally bare, letting her piano ground the lyrics and preventing them from being swallowed up by the sparingly-used backing choir, synths and string lines. Other album highlights include the gorgeous orchestral drama and equally evocative lyrics of “The Fog” (“This love of yours is big enough to be frightened of / It’s deep and dark, like the water was / The day I learned to swim”) and the sober defeat of “Never Be Mine,” which uses Trio Bulgarka to devastating effect as the song winds to a close.
The Sensual World’s follow-up, The Red Shoes, injected a certain amount of playfulness back into an era of fairly straightforward songwriting, possibly due to the dark circumstances the songs came out of: Bush’s mother and one of her regular session guitarists, Alan Murphy, both passed away shortly after the release of the The Sensual World, and her long-term relationship with bassist Del Palmer, which lasted over a decade, had ended by 1991. Pulling its name from the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale about a woman driven to insanity by her all-consuming obsession over her art, the album arrived with an accompanying short film/extended music video, The Line, The Cross and The Curve, featuring performances of seven tracks off the album. The tracklist includes some of Bush’s most unabashed, straight-up pop bangers, such as exuberant lead single “Rubberband Girl,” the drum-heavy, stadium-ready “Constellation of the Heart,” and glimmering Prince cameo “Why Should I Love You?” which the two, after discovering they were fans of each other, created by passing the tapes back and forth over the ocean between their respective home studios. Though it’s often overlooked after her stellar ‘80s run, The Red Shoes stands out as one of the most consistent, and accessible, entries in Bush’s discography.
The Singer / Songwriter Beginnings: The Kick Inside & Lionheart (both 1978)
Key Tracks to Start With: “Wuthering Heights,” “The Man with the Child in His Eyes,” “Moving,” “Wow”
Though “Running Up That Hill” seems to provide most modern listeners’ first exposure to Bush, listeners in 1978 first met her with the sound of a whimsical piano figure played on the highest keys and a flourish of the chimes, followed by a vocal stretch mirroring the intro piano melody in pitch. In that inimitable voice, with youth still fraying the edges, Bush relayed the basic premise of Emily Brontë’s 1847 novel Wuthering Heights, whose title the song shared. The American public’s first glance of how Bush looked was equally as strange, as a dreamily blurred vision of the 19-year-old deliberately stepping through interpretive choreography (Bush used her advance from EMI to enroll in dance classes with Bowie’s mime teacher, Lindsey Kemp, whom she continued to work with well into her career) in an empty field in a striking red dress with matching tights. I’m sure plenty of people changed the channel from whatever pre-MTV clip show the video made the rounds on, but those who looked on in awe were hooked for good (It’s part of our hazing ritual as Kate Bush fans that you learn the “Wuthering Heights” choreography in full. I don’t want to give away whether there’s going to be a dance test at the end of this but … maybe go watch the video 50 times, just to be sure).
Part of me will always be baffled and delighted in equal measure that something as weird as “Wuthering Heights” managed to be a hit. Structurally inventive (there’s no overstating my love for that bridge) and instrumentally lush (both anarchistic characteristics at the peak of disco and punk), it marks a fascinating moment in chart history, perhaps a time in British music where bored audiences subconsciously searched for something that violated every element of the pop formula. Her debut album as a whole does much of the same, delivering lightly orchestrated, slightly off-kilter songs mostly built around piano and showcasing impressive songwriting skills that seem even more impressive when you consider some tracks were written when Bush was 13. So many ideas are packed into each song that it should overwhelm, but Bush and primary producer Andrew Powell leave enough room in the arrangements that it only further highlights Bush’s strengths, which here, certainly lie in her quirkier tendencies.
Few artists escape the feared sophomore slump, and though Bush’s second album Lionheart is a rewarding listen, it gets a bad rep for not having the clear standouts of either the album before or after it, and having the very few clunkers they don’t. Still, many hardcore fans have made it their mission to campaign for the album as an overlooked gem. If you’re a fan of The Kick Inside’s left-of-center piano theatrics, you’ll find plenty more to love in the wicked showbiz takedown of “Wow,” existential opener “Symphony in Blue” and closer “Hammer Horror,” which hints at the idiosyncratic choices we’ll hear on the following two albums.
Bush’s first two albums will always be linked by the fact that they were promoted during her first and only concert tour, which started in April 1979 and lasted for 24 performances over the course of a month. The shows came together over a lengthy period of intensive dance and band rehearsals, which Bush constantly traveled between, and incorporated then-new technology in both its use of visual projections and cordless headset microphones (according to writer Rob Jovanovic’s 2005 biography of Bush, she was most likely the first major performing artist to use the headset mic, mainly relying on a crude prototype made out of a wire hanger). Despite glowing reviews and rapturous audience reactions across the U.K., with nearly every date selling out, Bush was physically exhausted by her own ambitious vision by the time the tour had ended (I’m out of breath just watching her do it all in the TV special about her preparation for the tour below). Though she often hinted that she would tour at various times over the years, she didn’t perform in her own live solo show again until 2014. More on that later.
If You Loved the Experimental Songs of Hounds of Love’s Second Side, Part One: Never For Ever (1980)
Key Tracks to Start With: “Babooshka,” “Army Dreamers,” “Breathing,” “The Wedding List”
Under the watchful eye of veteran engineer and co-producer Jon Kelly, Never For Ever sees Bush try her hand at production for the first time, and the shift is clear. Suiting the short-story format of her new songs, which shifted towards imaginative vignettes inspired by books, movies and folktales, she quickly established her desire to learn unconventional production tricks to match her unconventional material. The result felt like Bush’s own set of Grimm’s Fairy Tales (with an album cover to match), where the fantastic elements float around our heads and the body count is high; even on the fairly straightforward “Blow Away,” she finds herself dancing in the pop star graveyard, refusing to be buried so she can finish writing the storybook while floating a few inches above the ground. From the gun-cocking beat of loping anti-military waltz “Army Dreamers” to the sound effect-filled “hallway” segment of “All We Ever Look For” (a trick that Björk later borrowed for “There’s More to Life Than This” on Debut), Bush funnels her natural eccentricities into both tiny details and huge musical moments that will start and stop entire songs. Something similar happens with her vocal on the operatic rock stomp of “The Wedding List,” where her delivery unravels to match the wild mindset of her unrepentant, murderous bride, letting herself get grotesque in order to serve the muse. For me, it’s where everything about Bush clicks into place.
As you’ve probably gathered by now, Bush has a knack for openers and closers, and she delivers her best of each to date here. Along with “Running Up That Hill” and “Wuthering Heights,” “Babooshka” completes the trifecta of her songs that have remained firmly in the public consciousness (it had r2Cmk4cYUo”>its own moment on TikTok recently); the tale of a woman testing her husband’s fidelity that goes catastrophically awry is told like a tragicomic cabaret number, and by the time the sound of breaking glass comes in rounds over that final cry of “Babooshkayaaaah-yaaaaaaah!,” you’re likely to be yelling along with her. Apocalyptic closer “Breathing,” which Bush referred to as her “little symphony,” stops the fantasy in its tracks and grounds itself in stark reality, presenting the perspective of a child about to be born during a nuclear war scare (“We’re the first and last / After the blast / Chips of plutonium / Are twinkling in every lung”). Slowly growing from a straightforward piano ballad to a towering guitar-driven panic at its conclusion (featuring vocals from folk legend Roy Harper), it’s all strung together by a spoken-word passage describing the nuclear blast before its final refrain of “What are we going to do?” is silenced by what sounds like a catastrophic explosion. Bush had created her own kind of epic love song on her most adventurous album yet, and threw herself into it like it was the last one she would ever make.
My bonus clip for this album is Bush’s 1979 Christmas special, which aired on the BBC and included performances of several songs that would make their way onto Never For Ever the following year. There’s only one performance even remotely related to Christmas, and Peter Gabriel is there again (at this point, “Genesis is none of my business” will be on my gravestone and that’s fine), but the special really shines with Bush’s renditions of her new material. The opening performance of “Violin,” featuring her batwing-sleeved dance costume and backup dancers inside giant violins (I am not joking, this is something that aired on viewer-funded television, probably between It’s a Wonderful Life and A Charlie Brown Christmas) and an elaborate theatrical staging of “The Wedding List” are both standout moments. The latter ends with Bush’s character’s dead husband coming back as a zombie (?) to lift her up as she dances. I am so glad it exists.
If You Loved the Experimental Songs of Hounds of Love’s Second Side, An Even More Extreme Part Two: The Dreaming (1982)
Key Tracks to Start With: “Suspended in Gaffa,” “Sat In Your Lap,” “Night of the Swallow,” “Get Out Of My House”
I’ve been frank with you so far, and I’m going to get even more frank with you now: I’ve listened to The Dreaming countless times, and I still struggle to believe it’s a real thing that someone made and released, and that people continue to listen to it. I have no idea why or how it exists, because it probably shouldn’t, and it’s my favorite Kate Bush album by a mile. Most days, I’d probably even feel comfortable making the statement that it’s a personal top 10 album of all time. Bush chose to produce the album herself (her first time doing so), giving her the freedom to experiment with no restraint. It took several engineers and an extended recording process to get what she wanted: something maximal, violent and wild. Bush herself later referred to it as her she’s-gone-mad album, noting, in retrospect, that she underwent a period of “nervous fatigue” while making it. She also suffered from writer’s block, which caused her to push herself hard when inspiration finally struck. Where Never For Ever operated as Bush’s dark fairytale with specks of light dazzling across its runtime, The Dreaming takes both the euphoria and the darkest depths to extremes, using each vignette to capture an artist at a crossroads, wondering whether she can actually “have it all” or if she’s been lying to herself this whole time.
Most of the tracks find Bush wearing a mask, exploring the history of oppressed groups, tragic historical figures and film character archetypes in a hunt to take on as many guises as she can. “There Goes a Tenner” sees her as an incompetent bank robber, “Pull Out The Pin” embroils her in the fight for survival as a North Vietnamese soldier (that final repeated chorus of “I love life” sends chills down the spine) and the title track finds her traveling through the Australian Outback, condemning the destruction of indigenous people’s land by white Australians. She even writes from the perspective of Harry Houdini’s wife communing with the spirit world on the gorgeous “Houdini,” hoping their bond can transcend the magician’s death and communicating with him through a medium.
In contrast, the moments where the masks come off explore Bush’s sudden bout of imposter syndrome. “I must admit, just when I think I’m king / Just when I think everything’s going great / I get the break,” she sings on the polyrhythmic, sample-heavy opener “Sat in Your Lap,” vying for artistic autonomy without knowing whether such a thing is fully possible. “Suspended in Gaffa” (which I recently learned was my most streamed song of all time on Spotify, so let that tell you what it will) finds her doubt nearly eating her alive, searching for any divine figure who wants to show themself and tell her what her purpose is. “Mother, where are the angels? / I’m scared of the changes,” she sings as the harsh waltz takes a dreamy, string-laden breather in its pre-chorus. The layered bagpipe and fiddle lines criss-crossing their way over “Night of the Swallow” accompany yet another character (possibly a Bush stand-in) in their dream of flying away from their problems under the dark cloak of night, all conveyed through her howling voice over the refrain. Her final, barely audible sigh of, “But you’re not a swallow,” makes for one of the most devastating moments in her entire discography.
Bush wrote the grand finale of “Get Out of My House” after seeing The Shining in theaters, and fittingly, it obliterates everything that’s come before in terrifying fashion. There’s a passage beginning right around the three-minute mark where she screams the title over and over again, seemingly more in distress with each breath, before she lets out a blood-curdling shriek that echoes back into the mix. Her voice doesn’t even appear on the last minute and a half of the track, as Lloyd Cole producer Paul Hardiman (credited as “Eyeore”) brays like a donkey (If you’ve made it this far, I’m going to assume you can roll with this) and recites a cult-like chant that lasts into the fade. I’ve taken to picturing Bush standing apart from it all, taking stock of the beautiful monster she’s created, embracing the ugly parts of herself, but knowing that something has to change (cue her move back to the countryside, where she built her home studio to make Hounds of Love in quiet solitude). No other album captures womanhood in all its rage-filled, grotesque glory like The Dreaming does. A witches’ brew of sweat, plenty of blood and the desire to grow into an all-consuming being that can swallow any obstacle whole (something women had been told for centuries they weren’t supposed to be), it stands as an unfiltered testament to the wrath of Bush’s vision, as well as one of her crowning creative achievements.
The Later Career: Aerial (2005) & 50 Words for Snow (2011)
Key Tracks to Start With: “King Of The Mountain,” “How To Be Invisible,” “Lake Tahoe”
Well, we’ve made it this far, so let’s finish this sucker off, newly minted Kate Bush fans (remember, that dance test is coming up, and I want to see toes pointed).
Twelve years after the release of The Red Shoes, and after having her son in the late ‘90s, it seemed like Bush might have quietly retired from music for good. Of course, this was not to be. In typical fashion, she returned in 2005 with Aerial, her first double album, and yet another connected suite of songs with the album’s second half, titled A Sky of Honey. Folk music tradition, flamenco and even reggae served as major influences, coloring the immense collection of songs with musical textures new to Bush almost 30 years into her career. Highlights include “A Coral Room,” a minimal piano tribute to Bush’s mother; the Elvis conspiracy theory-supporting “King of the Mountain”; and the spacious, spooky “How To Be Invisible,” the title of which Bush used for her book of collected lyrics published in 2018. The second half’s celebration of the natural world, especially with the panoramic splendor of “Nocturn” and the title track finishing the whole thing off, almost makes it seem like the polar opposite of The Ninth Wave’s icy moral reckoning. Where the music froze and hesitantly thawed in the gentle glow of “The Morning Fog” in 1985, Aerial burns with how much warmth bleeds from its edges. “Look at the light!” a handful of voices yell as the penultimate track ends, rushing forward to greet the next day as a part of the most openly life-affirming Bush album yet.
Six years later, in 2011 (and after releasing a reworked album of songs from The Sensual World and The Red Shoes earlier in the year), Bush released her most recent studio album to date, 50 Words for Snow, completely pivoting from the diverse sonic palette of Aerial, and embracing reflective lyrics and simpler instrumentation. The seven songs “set against a background of falling snow,” as a press release described them, range from six to almost 14 minutes in length, and were all built around Bush’s jazz-inflected piano. Featuring several male voices to serve as a contrast to her own, Bush’s son Albert, Elton John and actor Stephen Fry appear on opener “Snowflake,” the dramatically bombastic “Snowed in at Wheeler Street” and the title track, respectively. Though certainly not the Bush album to start with if you’re delving into her discography for the first time, it’s a stunning, cohesive piece of work that demands the listener’s concentration, and builds a sense of tension and (of course) theatricality with the barest of elements. Most people favor lead single “Wild Man” as their key track of choice, but my personal favorite is “Lake Tahoe,” a choral ode to a Victorian ghost who calls to her dog despite her wish to hide from the living. It feels like Bush’s extended lullaby to us, promising she’ll call out again as we wait for whatever she comes up with next, whenever it comes.
Postscript – The Live Album: Before the Dawn (2016)
With technology having finally caught up to her concept for the ultimate live experience, and due to the rabid encouragement of fans who longed to witness what would surely be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, Bush played her first residency of shows in 35 years at the Hammersmith Apollo in London, totaling 22 dates. The multimedia show, titled Before the Dawn, packed an extensive career into three acts, written and sequenced by Bush herself using material from Hounds of Love onward. The second act comprised The Ninth Wave in its entirety, and the third act did the same with A Sky of Honey (all of which was followed by an encore of 50 Words for Snow’s “Among Angels” and finally, “Cloudbusting”). Bush finally realized her cinematic vision for her musical suites, performing them with a large group of dancers and elaborate set pieces for audiences who could yell every word back at her with the entire force of their bodies. Though it’s just a nice note to end on, this series of performances also brings us somewhat full circle with the song that—even with the audience mixed down on the final live album—you can hear people lose their minds for, more than any other on the setlist. Near the end of the first act, that ominous wind-tunnel synth note gives way to racing drums and, finally, to Bush’s older, but still emotive voice making that opening demand of “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God).” May it serve as people’s entry to an astounding body of work long after we’re all gone, leaving jaws dropped and applause echoing wherever it plays, with no problems.
Elise Soutar is a writer, musician, friend of witches, wannabe punk and annoying New Yorker. You can watch her share the same pictures of David Bowie over and over again on Twitter @moonagedemon.