Wuthering Heights (song)
"Wuthering Heights" is a song by Kate Bush released as her debut single in January 1978. It appears on her 1978 debut album The Kick Inside. It stayed at number one on the UK Singles Chart for four weeks, and remains Bush's most successful single. The song received widespread critical acclaim, with Pitchfork naming it the fifth greatest song of the 1970s.
|Single by Kate Bush|
|from the album The Kick Inside|
|Released||20 January 1978|
|Studio||AIR Studios, London|
|Kate Bush singles chronology|
"Wuthering Heights" (1978)
Bush wrote the song aged 18, within a few hours late at night on 5 March 1977. She was inspired after seeing the 1967 BBC adaptation of the 1847 novel Wuthering Heights. She then read the book and discovered that she shared her birthday with author Emily Brontë.
"Wuthering Heights" is sung from the perspective of the Wuthering Heights character Catherine Earnshaw, pleading at Heathcliff's window to be allowed in. It quotes Catherine's dialogue, including the chorus lyric "Let me in! I'm so cold!" and "bad dreams in the night". Critic Simon Reynolds described it as "Gothic romance distilled into four-and-a-half minutes of gaseous rhapsody".
Bush recorded her vocal in a single take. The guitar solo is played by Ian Bairnson. Engineer Jon Kelly said he regretted not placing the solo louder in the mix. The production team, with Bush, began mixing at midnight and stayed until "five or six in the morning".
Bush's record company, EMI, originally chose another track, "James and the Cold Gun", as the lead single, but Bush was determined to use "Wuthering Heights". The single was initially scheduled for 4 November 1977. However, Bush was unhappy with the cover and insisted it be replaced. Some copies of the single had already been sent out to radio stations, but EMI relented and put back the single's launch until the New Year. This proved to be a fortunate choice, as the earlier release would have had to compete with Wings' latest release, "Mull of Kintyre", which became the biggest-selling single in UK history up to this point in December 1977.
"Wuthering Heights" was finally released on 20 January 1978, being immediately playlisted by Capital Radio and entering their chart at No. 39 on 27 January 1978. It crept into the national Top 50 in the week ending 11 February 1978 at No. 42. The following week it rose to No. 27, and Bush made her first appearance on Top of the Pops. The song was finally added to Radio One's playlist the following week and became one of the most played records on radio. In 1986, the first pressings of her first compilation album erroneously stated the release date for this single as 4 November 1977.
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Two music videos with similar choreography[clarification needed] were created to accompany "Wuthering Heights". In one version, Bush can be seen performing the song in a dark room filled with white mist while wearing a white dress ; in the other, the singer dances in an outdoor environment while wearing a red dress .
—Bush reflecting on "Wuthering Heights" instant success.
After being delayed for two months, "Wuthering Heights" was officially released in early 1978 and entered the top forty in the official singles chart in the United Kingdom at number twenty-seven on 18 February, and quickly rose to number one three weeks later dethroning ABBA's "Take a Chance on Me" from the top spot. Bush became the first female artist to have an entirely self-penned number one hit in the UK. The single release unwittingly pitted Bush against another female vocalist also charting with her first UK hit: Debbie Harry with her band Blondie and their single "Denis". Amid much public discussion about the two singers' merits, Bush came out on top, while Blondie stalled at number two. "Wuthering Heights" remained at number one for an entire month until it was replaced at the top by Brian and Michael's celebration of the then-recently deceased artist L. S. Lowry, "Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs". Bush's début single finished the year as the tenth highest-selling and was certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry, denoting sales of over half a million.
Success was not limited to the United Kingdom, as "Wuthering Heights" also hit number one in Ireland and Italy. It reached the top ten in Belgium, the Netherlands, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland, as well as the top twenty in Austria and West Germany. "Wuthering Heights" proved to be successful in New Zealand, where it spent five weeks at number one and achieved a platinum status, and Australia, where it stayed at the top of the charts for three consecutive weeks and achieved a gold status. It proved to be one of the biggest hits of 1978 in Denmark.
In 2018, as part of the Bradford Literature Festival, it was announced that Bush had been invited to write an epitaph to Emily Brontë, which would be inscribed on one of four stones erected near the Brontë's home in Yorkshire. Commenting on the unveiling of her poem, entitled Emily, Bush said "to be asked to write a piece for Emily’s stone is an honour and, in a way, a chance to say thank you to her".
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