Night Of The Swallow

'Night Of The Swallow' - Irish 7" single sleeve

'Night Of The Swallow' - Irish 7" single sleeve

Song written by Kate Bush. Originally released on her fourth album The Dreaming. The lyrics concern a smuggler planning his next clandestine journey, Bush takes on the role of his lover, who begs him not to go ('I won't let you do it. If you go, I'll let the law know'). The song ends with the smuggler speaking in defiance ('Would you break even my wings, like a swallow. Let me, let me go'). 


The song was ultimately released as a single in Ireland, most likely because of the Irish nature of the song, featuring instrumental accompaniment by members of the Irish bands Planxty and the Chieftains. The single was released on 21 November 1983, over a year after the release of the album The Dreaming. The B-side was Houdini.
When the single was released, around 1000 copies were made with a picture sleeve; the vinyl 7" was pressed in England (presumably) and the sleeve produced in Ireland. More vinyl was produced than sleeves; because the single did not sell well, by the time the next shipment of 7" singles was in transit the single had already flopped. The surplus discs hung around and from about 1990 copies with a lighterweight sleeve appeared. And so, the original copies had card sleeves whereas later versions had paper sleeves. 

Cover versions

'Night Of The Swallow' was covered by Big City Orchestre, Kat Devlin, Goodknight Productions and The Hounds Of Love.

Kate about 'Night Of The Swallow'

Unfortunately a lot of men do begin to feel very trapped in their relationships and I think, in some situations, it is because the female is so scared, perhaps of her insecurity, that she needs to hang onto him completely. In this song she wants to control him and because he wants to do something that she doesn't want him to she feels that he is going away. It's almost on a parallel with the mother and son relationship where there is the same female feeling of not wanting the young child to move away from the nest. Of course, from the guys point of view, because she doesn't want him to go, the urge to go is even stronger. For him, it's not so much a job as a challenge; a chance to do something risky and exciting. But although that woman's very much a stereotype I think she still exists today. (Paul Simper, 'Dreamtime Is Over'. Melody Maker (UK), 16 October 1982)

Ever since I heard my first Irish pipe music it has been under my skin, and every time I hear the pipes, it's like someone tossing a stone in my emotional well, sending ripples down my spine. I've wanted to work with Irish music for years, but my writing has never really given me the opportunity of doing so until now. As soon as the song was written, I felt that a ceilidh band would be perfect for the choruses. The verses are about a lady who's trying to keep her man from accepting what seems to be an illegal job. He is a pilot and has been hired to fly some people into another country. No questions are to be asked, and she gets a bad feeling from the situation. But for him, the challenge is almost more exciting than the job itself, and he wants to fly away. As the fiddles, pipes and whistles start up in the choruses, he is explaining how it will be all right. He'll hide the plane high up in the clouds on a night with no moon, and he'll swoop over the water like a swallow.
Bill Whelan is the keyboard player with Planxty, and ever since Jay played me an album of theirs I have been a fan. I rang Bill and he tuned into the idea of the arrangement straight away. We sent him a cassette, and a few days later he phoned the studio and said, "Would you like to hear the arrangement I've written?"
I said I'd love to, but how?
"Well, Liam is with me now, and we could play it over the phone."
I thought how wonderful he was, and I heard him put down the phone and walk away. The cassette player started up. As the chorus began, so did this beautiful music - through the wonder of telephones it was coming live from Ireland, and it was very moving. We arranged that I would travel to Ireland with Jay and the multi-track tape, and that we would record in Windmill Lane Studios, Dublin. As the choruses began to grow, the evening drew on and the glasses of Guiness, slowly dropping in level, became like sand glasses to tell the passing of time. We missed our plane and worked through the night. By eight o'clock the next morning we were driving to the airport to return to London. I had a very precious tape tucked under my arm, and just as we were stepping onto the plane, I looked up into the sky and there were three swallows diving and chasing the flies. (Kate Bush Club newsletter, October 1982)


Drums: Stuart Elliott
Fretless bass, 8 string bass: Del Palmer
Keyboards: Kate Bush
Uileann pipes, Penny whistles: Liam O'Flynn
Fiddles: Seán Keane
Bouzouki: Donal Lunny


Wings fill the window
And they beat and bleed