The one that started it all. Kate’s breathtaking debut single, Wuthering Heights, was released 45 years ago today on January 20th 1978! Music writer Sam Liddicott has put together a new podcast episode to celebrate. You can hear Seán talking about Wuthering Heights [Seán is at 1:02:15 but this special also includes DJ Mark Radcliffe, performer Sarah-Louise Young and the music writer Tom Doyle] Thanks, Sam!
Here is what Kate herself had to say about the song in a 1979 Kate Bush Fan Club newsletter:
Well, I wrote it in my flat, sitting at the upright piano one night in March at about midnight. There was a full moon and the curtains were open, and every time I looked up for ideas, I looked at the moon. Actually, it came quite easily. I couldn’t seem to get out of the chorus – it had a really circular feel to it, which is why it repeats. I had originally written something more complicated, but I couldn’t link it up, so I kept the first bit and repeated it. I was really pleased, because it was the first song I had written for a while, as I’d been busy rehearsing with the KT Band.
I felt a particular want to write it, and had wanted to write it for quite a while. I remember my brother John talking about the story, but I couldn’t relate to it enough. So I borrowed the book and read a few pages, picking out a few lines. So I actually wrote the song before I had read the book right through. The name Cathy helped, and made it easier to project my own feelings of want for someone so much that you hate them. I could understand how Cathy felt.
It’s funny, but I heard a radio programme about a woman who was writing a book in Old English, and she found she was using words she didn’t know, but when she looked them up she found they were correct. A similar thing happened with ‘Wuthering Heights’: I put lines in the song that I found in the book when I read it later.
I’ve never been to Wuthering Heights, the place, though I would like to, and someone sent me a photo of where it’s supposed to be.
One thing that really pleases me is the amount of positive feedback I’ve had from the song, though I’ve heard that the Bronte Society think it’s a disgrace. A lot of people have read the book because of the song and liked it, which I think is the best thing about it for me. I didn’t know the book would be on the GCE syllabus in the year I had the hit, but lots of people have written to say how the song helped them. I’m really happy about that.
Kate bush 1979
There are a couple of synchronicities involved with the song. When Emily Bronte wrote the book she was in the terminal stages of consumption, and I had a bad cold when I wrote the song. Also, when I was in Canada I found out that Lindsay Kemp, my dance teacher, was in town, only ten minutes away by car, so I went to see him. When I came back I had this urge to switch on the TV – it was about one in the morning – because I knew the film of Wuthering Heights would be on. I tuned in to a thirties gangster film, then flicked through the channels, playing channel roulette, until I found it. I came in at the moment Cathy was dying, so that’s all I saw of the film. It was an amazing coincidence.
Wonderful song and great to see it performed by so many around the world on Kate’s birthday.