This is a story about how Kate Bush helped change my life. I grew up out of my element. As a young lad spending my formative years just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, I wasn’t always comfortable in my surroundings. Perhaps that’s why music and movies played an integral part in my small world. For years, my teenage self found solace going from movie theatres to record stores seeking art that I could consume. One such place was Starbound Records – which sadly closed its doors on September 17, 2005. But way back when, I discovered a great love at that glorious place that was my home away from home.
Spending that much time going to Starbound, I came across many treasures digging through the massive collection of vinyl, CDs, and cassettes. It was a joy. One day, in particular, an employee named Craig (his last name escapes me), who shared my admiration for the strange and the beautiful, called and asked if I was coming in on that day. I hadn’t planned on it, but he insisted that I check out an artist from the UK that piqued his fascination for unique artists. When I arrived, I asked who this person I hopped on the bus to listen to was. “Who was it?” He presented the cassette version of Kate Bush’s seminal work “Hounds of Love.”
I bought it without listening to a single note. I listened to it often. And it’s been a staple in my music library ever since. I’ve not stopped taking in the raw and passionate beauty of the opening track and the creepy and visceral second half of the record to everything in between. The conceptual work entitled “The Ninth Wave” tells the sometimes terrifying story of a woman adrift at sea. It’s stunning. I was obsessed. The album itself not only sent me down the wild and wonderful collection of brilliant works that came before it, as well as after, but it became my all-time favorite record. And all the decades since, I still listen to Kate’s entire collection of complex and original sounds.
Beginning around the start of 2020, amid the heartbreaking reality of a pandemic that shook humanity to the core, social media apps and YouTube influencers like the irresistible energy of HBK Luke, Sight After Dark, Beth Roars, and Mace Around The World began to examine the decades’ old work from Kate. If you happened to peruse TikTok at the time, chances were good that you’d discover someone trying to recreate the dance from Bush’s first sublime hit “Wuthering Heights” to the sly and sexy “Babooshka.” It was a marvelous trend that I could never have imagined. Young influencers were falling for the prog rock-influenced pop artist who created a style that has influenced everyone from Lady Gaga, to Bjork, to Big Boi – yes, he’s a massive fan.
Yet the best was yet to come. As wonderful as it is to see Kate get recognized for her genius work on social media, her star was about to light up the sky like a “Rocket’s Tail” in the most shocking of ways. Unless you’ve been hiding from the outside world, you’ve probably heard a particular 37-year-old song suddenly hitting big with everyone. Remember when I mentioned the sublime opening track of “Hounds of Love?” That classic tune happens to be “Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God).” Maybe you’ve heard of it? This stunning and still-relevant classic – covered beautifully by Meg Myers (2019) and Placebo (2007) – was released in 1985 and is now topping the iTunes and Spotify charts. “Running Up That Hill” also earned an impressive spot in the top 10 on both the UK and the US hot singles. Even the album “Hounds of Love” has found a home on the Billboard charts.
Kate Bush herself appears to be ecstatic about the recent developments. And it’s all thanks to the impressive vision of the Duffer Brothers and their groundbreaking hit series, Stranger Things. In it, the character of Max (Sadie Sink) speaks to many old-school fans of Kate. The fourth season – with its record-breaking views – finds the young girl listening to her favorite song on her Walkman (perhaps this word will be foreign to some of you as most of us use our iPhones or Androids to listen to music on the go nowadays). The song not only appears in the first episode, but it becomes an integral part of Max and the literal demon that threatens her. It’s a powerful storyline that ingeniously uses this classic tune (seriously, the climax of episode four is a showstopper).
It’s truly remarkable to see an artist’s previous work sneak into the collective mind of a modern audience. Unless you happen to be, say, The Beatles or Elvis, that kind of success is rare. Having the impact that Stranger Things has brought is music to many of her older fans’ ears. Many of us who have been listening to her work for decades have connected to the show. The trauma of dealing with our teenage horrors with a favorite song in hopes of escaping our fears is universal.
Jeremy Conner from Clyde, Ohio, is another fan who was surprised by the song’s inclusion in the new season. It was a welcome one. “I discovered Kate Bush and Running Up That Hill around the summer of 1988. It was one of the first music videos I ever remember seeing. I was entranced by the song and the dancing in the video.” Jeremy notes.
He continues, “I suffered a death in the family at 16. My grandmother, who helped raise me, passed away. So I very much saw a lot of myself in Max this season. Loss hits so differently when you’re a young teen. But seeing Max listening to this song at school… that was me.”
That’s just one of many examples of how fans all across the globe can and will find solace and support in the very words and music that brought such a voice to the fantastic new season.
Alex Maidy, one of my many admirable cohorts over at JoBlo.com, was the first to let me know about the Kate Bush/Stranger Things connection. Knowing I was a big fan, he was quick to reach out. She states, “Every Stranger Things [season] has tended to bring pop culture back in the form of nostalgia, but it also reignited popularity for someone many had forgotten. Kate Bush has always had a dedicated following. But now, her platform has been presented to an all-new generation that gets the chance to rediscover her greatness.”
The success that is Stranger Things has brought happiness to every single soul that has relished the artiste’s music. It has also created a mass of new fans. I’m envious of those seeking out the talents of this legendary artist, one that many Americans had forgotten. More than that, I’m ecstatic to see such a massive explosion of popularity for Kate. The joy of discovering gems like “This Woman’s Work,” “Army Dreamers,” “Love and Anger,” and the exquisite and romantic B-sides “Under the Ivy” and “The Handsome Cabin Boy.” To hear each one for the first time would be a delight to my ears. Kate Bush is a prolific artist who transcended time with her stunning lyrics, incredible production, and unmistakably intoxicating voice.
Thank you, Matt and Ross Duffer. Thank you for giving Kate Bush fans of old something to rejoice in. And more importantly, thank you for bringing her legend to life in such a passionate and impactful way for new fans who had not yet discovered her. Even if they’re still finding their element, they’re stronger with her voice in their lives.