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Running Up That Chart

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Here’s a classic thought experiment that’s pretty common among music aficionados:

Bad news: Your ship sprang a leak, sank like a stone, and you now find yourself marooned on a island.

Good news: Fate has decreed that you shall be allotted exactly eight recordings on your spartan shores. These are the only records that you can listen to until (and if) you are rescued.

Whilst hanging out on Castaway island with whoever my version of this guy would be, I’d opt that my choices were individual songs instead of full albums. (This is just my own weird self-imposed rule. You do you.)

I have such a list. And in a strange turn of events, one of the entries has become a worldwide topic of discussion, in the very nicest of ways. Here’s the story.

About six months ago during a random musical conversation, I opined that a particular song from the mid-80s was an eternal favorite. I said that it was a certified, wash-ashore Desert Island Disc. I’ve loved everything the about the record since I first heard it jump out of the radio speaker. The person that I was speaking with was curious as to why I had such a strong take.

He was likely sorry that he’d asked, as I started to make my case:

  • The brilliant and understated use of a haunting aeolian mode.
  • The minimalistic synth, guitar and percussion work that perfectly meld together, and deftly create a soundscape that is greater than the sum of their individual parts.
  • The confident and evolved way in which the artist delivers the vocal performance: You had me in the first line. I was officially grabbed.
  • The contemplative lyrics that describe a primal craving: A desire to achieve a next-level empathy with a partner; a wish to understand how life is viewed from a beloved one’s perspective. It’s a high concept, yet explained in such a precise way that not a syllable is wasted. And I believe every word.
  • The originality: I’m a sucker for unexplored territory. It sounded like nothing else at time. And it holds up today.

He was… unconvinced. But that’s OK, because this particular record and me?

We’ve got a history.

Over a lifetime of listening to music, on a few occasions, I have done something that’s, well… a bit odd:

I’ll sometimes weirdly root for certain records to do really well, as if they were an underdog kid playing on a sports team, acting in a drama competition, or presenting in a school science fair. And I want them to do great. I want them to crush it, and show all the world their unique artistry and creativity, loud and proud. And for good measure, I want to be that exuberant guy on the sidelines/ in the audience/ at the judge’s table, cheering like maybe just a bit of a weirdo – but doing so in a way that everyone knows that it’s coming straight from my heart.

I did this exact fanboy thing in the fall of 1985. After hearing it only once, I began to tell anyone who would listen about a great new record and all its brilliance. That Tuesday afternoon when the local record store received its new weekly inventory, I grabbed a handful of 45 RPM copies of the record, complete with the beautiful picture sleeve, and bought them, just so that I could give them all away.

I became curious about the artist and wanted to know more. This was at a time when most Top 40 performers were still appreciably older than I was. When I learned that the performer was the same age as me, it somehow heightened the whole experience. The mission was on.

I fully expected the record to crack into the Hot 100 somewhere in the high thirties, and then, slowly and methodically, do just a skootch better each week. Because that kind of measured ascent would be respected. Slow and steady wins the race, after all. And, it also makes you look strong. Like a real winner.

“Hey, no need to worry. You just keep making great records. I’ve got this for you – I’ll tell everyone.”

I calculated the day that it would be in in the top 10. Probably in early December. Perfect. It would make a nice Christmas present.

Wait – Top 10? Why not all the way to Number One? Well, I was a realist and did not want to be greedy. I’d hope for Top 10, and then when it hit Number 4, well, then we’ll just smile and be a proper good sport, and congratulate that week’s top artist in a classy and genial manner.

It was a perfect plan.

But by now, you certainly know the rest of the story. As I have sometimes been known to do, I guess I got a little overexcited. The song topped out at a tepid Number 30. Clearly, I’d miscalculated. So much for the imaginary career as a program director.

As good as it was? Most folks took a pass. And that was that.

Until about a month ago. 37 years later, to be exact.

To be clear: I have spent the exact same amount of time watching Stranger Things as I have piloting the Space Shuttle. I have next to zero knowledge about the program. All I know is that some showrunners liked a old song well enough to use it creatively on their program. And just like that, it became a legitimate hit all over again. But here’s the kicker: it didn’t just make one of those slight ‘re-entry’ appearances on the charts.

It blew up. Internationally.

Can you imagine doing something – anything – 37 years ago, and then impossibly, seeing it revived? And you’re watching people applaud and appreciate your work even more than during your original effort? I can’t even come up with a proper metaphor. It’s too much.

I feel just a bit vindicated – I knew it was a great record. Hearing it often over the past few weeks and reading about it’s nascent Y2K success has been a treat. I have no idea why, but it makes me feel good.

And so as you might expect, I have been watching the charts like it was the NASDAQ, and my 401K was on the line.

Last Friday:

Kate Bush.

Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God).

In the The Billboard Hot 100. Top 10.

Peaking at Number 4, the week of June 18, 2022.

Hey, just as I had predicted. (Bless you all for conveniently ignoring the nearly four-decade delay.)

Congratulations, Kate. I couldn’t be happier for you. It’s nice to meet you. I’m mt58, a guy who back in 1985, weirdly gave away 18 copies of this:

I hope that it helped maybe just a little bit.

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mt58

Your grateful host. Good on you all.

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cstolliver
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cstolliver
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June 24, 2022 6:18 am

Love this! I may never have given copies away of a song, but otherwise I completely understand this. Substitute Billy Ocean’s “Love Really Hurts Without You” for “Running Up That Hill,” and we’ve got practically the same tale. I was convinced LRHWY would be a No. 1 (and in my world of personal charting, it is indeed the top song of 1976).

I felt a little heartened (but in a bittersweet way) when “Caribbean Queen” did the trick in ’84 — when Casey would talk about how LRHWY came and went but then Billy’s comeback occurred, I always thought, yeah, folks missed out on that one.

So then, three years ago, learning that the 21st century generation found this song as a result of Netflix’s Sex Education (a show I’ve yet to watch but folks tell me is worth seeing), I feel vindicated. (What is it about Netflix and our no-longer-hidden favorites?)

I think you’d love Stranger Things, BTW, as long as you like thriller stuff. I’m more of a Sixth Sense kind of guy than an Aliens sort, but the show stays mostly on the former side until each season it unleashes the latter side and by then I’m ready for it.

Last edited 1 year ago by Chuck Small
cappiethedog
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June 24, 2022 7:55 am
Reply to  cstolliver

Did you see M. Night Shyamalan’s Old? Or maybe Ralph Macchio in The Karate Kid 3. That’s how I feel about season four. It’s obviously not their fault that the show went on hiatus but it took me a couple of episodes to adjust to their dramatic maturation. That’s why my favorite character is Robin, played by Maya Hawke.

Pauly Steyreen
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June 24, 2022 10:31 am
Reply to  cstolliver

I’d like to point out that the song title “Love Really Hurts Without You” doesn’t have 8 words. Not even close. It had no chance of success following the Billy Ocean rule.

jmf74
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June 25, 2022 10:43 am
Reply to  Pauly Steyreen

Yes! The 8 word Billy Ocean rule is one of my favorite chart oddities.

Pauly Steyreen
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June 25, 2022 12:43 pm
Reply to  mt58

Also notice that “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going” has 9 words and was a near miss. It peaked at #2. Billy tried to sneak one by, and Fate said, “Not so fast…”

JJ Live At Leeds
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June 24, 2022 8:05 am

And in the UK it made it all the way to top last week – having peaked at #3 in 1985 and reappeared at #6 in 2012 after it was used in the closing ceremony of the London Olympics.

I couldn’t stand Kate when I was young, unlike mt when I heard this in 1985 it just added to the alienation I felt from her. I think it was the voice that did it, to my 9 year old ears it was shrill and piercing. Couldn’t understand how anyone could enjoy it. It took a while but I’ve grown to love her, she’s a complete one off, completely in control of her career and a true individual in character and her music.

Its been lovely to see her comments about the songs success. She doesn’t often talk to the press or emerge from her seclusion so to hear her enthusiasm and gratitude for its success shows its made a mark on her too. That she’s a fan of Stranger Things too makes it all the better.

In the 80s in particular it seemed the UK charts were full of re-released singles often from ad campaigns making their way to the top reaches of the charts. Feels like that doesn’t happen so much anymore but Kate has shown its still possible.

thegue
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June 24, 2022 11:16 am
Reply to  mt58

I shared a FUN FACT on social media recently:

Since she wrote and produced “Running Up That Hill” herself, she earned most of the $400,000 revenue it’s generated WEEKLY since it started climbing the charts again.

Good on her, and good on you – this song was a bit too avant garde for 17 year old thegue, but fell in love with it in the 90s as I reevaluated much of the New Wave music of the previous decade. You were definitely cutting edge, mt!

jilly boal
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June 24, 2022 12:12 pm
Reply to  thegue

it’s earned 400K in the last few weeks?! Or most of the 400K in the last few weeks? (I’m betting the latter?)

Phylum of Alexandria
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June 24, 2022 8:16 am

I got into Kate around ’99 (starting with, yes, Running Up That Hill–and what an impression it made on me), so I wasn’t expecting her to ever return to the spotlight, but I was always looking for my own Kate to wow the pop world with something new and daring like that. I never quite got it, to be honest.

Tori Amos was probably the closest someone came to a quirky inimitable female star of KB-caliber on pop rock radio, but I actually got into Tori on her way out of the spotlight (right around the same time I got into Hounds of Love, in fact). There was also Bjork, but beyond her early singles she was getting too challenging for any real pop appeal (still love her though!).

Later on, I thought Patrick Wolf could be that pop star, but his chances at larger fame fizzled with the advent of stars like Lady Gaga (who I like, but it’s just a completely different vibe and approach). A bit later FKA Twigs and Grimes took Romantic cloister pop to bold and exciting new places–but by that point the pop music world had fractured so much that it was clear that such quirkiness would never find any real measure of popularity. Not unlike with films in theaters, the push was for the expensive popcorn munchers, not the innovative art films.

Leave it to streaming then, so offset the balance a little bit. Just as streamed TV series’ now offer the equivalent of those mid-budget art films, music streaming trends can sometimes offer a way for quirky pop tunes to climb the charts. And old ones at that!

As for Desert Island Discs, it’s an almost impossible task for me to pick such songs. The idea of hearing the same 8 songs over and over again is like a certain kind of hell for me. I would have to literally suffer alone on an island to even begin to contemplate those picks…and by then it would be too late!

Phylum of Alexandria
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June 24, 2022 9:18 am
Reply to  mt58

I wouldn’t say it’s representative of his music in general, since he can sometimes be a moody brooder (that song itself implies that he had been in the minor key until recently). But it’s the central song to his album The Magic Position, which is perhaps his most Kate Bushiest of albums. I also recommend Lupercalia, which came later. It’s a bit more conventional pop, but still lovely.

Last edited 1 year ago by Phylum of Alexandria
cappiethedog
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June 24, 2022 7:33 pm

+1 for “Romantic cloister pop”. Pat Benatar tried.

minor major 7th
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June 24, 2022 9:24 am

My wife is a teacher. Her kids are all into this tune right now.
Yesterday, she said that the kids keep commenting that they not only like the song but also like how it sounds.
My reply: I’m sure it sounds novel to them; it’s from the 80s.
She said: they have mentioned that, but they also send there is “more to it than that.”
This got me thinking. Maybe part of the success of this tune is that, yes, it’s from an era without Pro Tools, pitch correction, 4/4 on the grid, etc.

Anyway, great post, mt58. It was great to see an article from our most gracious host.

Now, this may be just the Mandela effect, but does anyone else have a memory of there being a dance re-mix of this song, sometime during the mid-90s?

jilly boal
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June 24, 2022 11:00 am

does anyone remember a dance re-mix of this, you say? Oh hell yeah…

https://youtu.be/m97WlpsuU74

I’ll admit it’s still on my running mix. U-U-U-UTAH SAINTS!

JJ Live At Leeds
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June 24, 2022 11:08 am
Reply to  jilly boal

Its a storming track but its not this one. The sample in Something Good is from Cloudbusting.

jilly boal
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June 24, 2022 12:09 pm

handing in my Kate Bush Fan Club badge right now.

Edith G
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June 24, 2022 2:12 pm

Great story Mt, it’s sad that back in the day your giveaway wasn’t appreciated, but sooner or later justice always comes, and it had already happened. You were a visionary.

I must say that my knowledge of Kate Bush comes from 1993, when for whatever reason, the “Rubberband Girl” video had heavy rotation on the early days of MTV Latino. I think that I heard before “Don’t Give Up” at some point, without knowing who sang that song. Later I heard “Wuthering Heights” and probably watched the “Running Up That Hill” in the show of Classics that MTV had, I don’t remember clearly.

Aaron3000
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June 24, 2022 9:43 pm

What’s awesome about this song’s revival is that it’s turned into a bona fide radio hit based off of those streams and sales that pushed it into the top ten on the Hot 100. I started current-chart watching again about a year and a half ago (something I’ll expand upon if I ever get around to posting under dutch’s article from yesterday), and its fun seeing the daily airplay updates on this one. It’s exploded at radio in just the past week (this morning’s update is below) and I’m hopeful that that combined with another stream/sales boost after the second half of the season hits Netflix will send Kate to the top of the Hot 100 so we can get an official TNO entry from Tom in a few years.

(LW position, TW position, artist, title, TW spins, LW spins, spin change, audience)

POP:
46 28 KATE BUSH Running Up That Hill (A Deal.. 2295 551 1744 6.707

+285 Spins
+145 Bullet
+0.858 Audience

HOT AC:
36 24 KATE BUSH Running Up That Hill (A Deal.. 1027 364 663 4.416

+115 Spins
+59 Bullet
+0.239 Audience

AC:
24 18 KATE BUSH Running Up That Hill (A Deal.. 105 55 50 0.422

+13 Spins
+14 Bullet
+0.070 Audience

ALTERNATIVE:
23 17 KATE BUSH Running Up That Hill (A Deal.. 976 661 315 3.268

+50 Spins
-20 Bullet
+0.061 Audience

AAA:
38 28 KATE BUSH Running Up That Hill (A Deal.. 177 130 47 0.437

+10 Spins
+1 Bullet
+0.030 Audience

cappiethedog
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June 26, 2022 12:14 am
Reply to  Aaron3000

The highlight of chart-watching in the nineties, for me, and I think it’s the last time I picked up Billboard(I was all about CMJ) on a weekly basis(Tower Records) was the complete awe of tracking Edwyn Collins’ “A Girl Like You” as it got to be a bigger and bigger hit. When my grandmother’s house was sold, I don’t know, what the heck, somebody pilfered all my vinyl. But they left behind the Xanadu soundtrack, “Do They Know It’s Christmas Time?” single, and Orange Juice’s In a Nutshell. It was a surreal(overused term, I know) experience hearing “A Girl Like You” for the first time on the radio. Hey, that sounds like Edwyn Collins, I thought. It peaked at #32.

R.S.Wonham
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June 25, 2022 4:54 pm

The success of Running Up That Hill is the equivalent of the Cubs winning the World Series for this Chicago boy. I first heard the song when I was working at a club that played new wave and was for the teens (i.e., no alcohol). I loved the song, as it was nothing like I had heard before, but was hesitant to buy the album because Kate Bush sounded like she would be way too out there. Thankfully, I gave in (and usually do to anything related to music; oh, the box sets!) and scored the album. I loved the first side with the hits (at least in the UK), but was absolutely mesmerized by Side 2, The Ninth Wave. That WAS and still IS like nothing I have ever heard before. It is my favorite album…EVAH! I did turn my college BFF onto Kate Bush and kept listening to Kate Bush in Grad School and found a few like minded souls. When I started work and would share my favorite artist with my fellow public accounting colleagues, they would ask if she was related to George Bush and then would go back to their Doors records. Sigh!
The resurgence of this record is surreal. It just spent a second week at #1 in the UK and I would guess that there will be activity later this coming week when the second-half of this season’s Stranger Things is released. There have been strong hints of a remix. This has been done for the UK Olympics, so I hope there is something more. It’s been over 10 years since a proper studio release.
In addition to the chart re-entries and Top 10 and #1 placings around the world, this has been a constant news story (at least in the music press, but stretching into People, NPR, and other outlets). Each time Kate Bush wrote on her website, there was a story. The song reached #1 in the UK; news story. Kate Bush is interviewed on the BBC; news story. Artists are reminding the public that they covered the song (Placebo, Will Young). I cannot think of any other music artist that was less well known that has received this much press. I am sure many artists are scratching their heads in disbelief and calculating how they can replicate this phenomenon. In one of her interviews, Kate Bush said “The world has gone mad”. It has in very bad ways, but not with this song. It’s mega-resurgence is vindication and I am elated a whole new audience is discovering Kate Bush.
mt58, so sweet of your young self to give away the song and to plan the song as Christmas gifts. My favorite posts are when people share personal details about themselves related to the artist, song, or album they profile. This is a lovely post and thank you for sharing.

Last edited 1 year ago by R.S.Wonham
dutchg8r
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June 27, 2022 12:01 am

I have to say, I am beyond thrilled for you Kate Bush fans. The fact that Running Up That Hill is having such a moment right now has got to be such sweet vindication, like a proud parent almost!

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