‘Rocket’s Tail’ is a song written by Kate Bush. It was originally released on her sixth studio album The Sensual World in 1989. The track features vocals by the Trio Bulgarka and a guitar solo by David Gilmour.

Cover versions

‘Rocket’s Tail’ was covered by TM Collective.

Kate about ‘Rocket’s Tail’

I wrote this for the trio, really, musically, in that I wanted a song that could really show them off. The other two songs that they appear on were already structured and in a way they had to very much fit around the song’s structure to become a part of it, but this song they were there en masse, really, the whole song was based around them. And I wrote it on a synthesizer with a choir sound and just sang along. We put John’s on and I had no idea if their voices were going to work on it at all, really, so the whole thing hung on the fact of whether when we went out to Bulgaria, whether it worked or not. And the arranger we worked with out there was such a brilliant man. In some ways, I think that the fact that we didn’t speak the same language made our communication much easier because he seemed to know exactly what I wanted, and, really, just after a few hours he was coming up with the most incredible tunes, and I just had to say “Oh yes, I like that one”, “Er, no, not too keen on that one,” “Umm, that’s lovely!” and just go away and write it out. It was incredible, I’ve never worked like that before, so quickly with someone I’ve never met before. It was really exciting to find that kind of chemistry. (…)
Rocket is one of my cats, and he was the inspiration for the subject matter for the song, because he’s dead cute [laughs]. And it’s very strange subject matter because the song isn’t exactly about Rocket, it’s kind of inspired by him and for him, but the song, it’s about anything. I guess it’s saying there’s nothing wrong with being right here at this moment, and just enjoying this moment to its absolute fullest, and if that’s it, that’s ok, you know. And it’s kind of using the idea of a rocket that’s so exciting for maybe 3 seconds and then it’s gone, you know that’s it, but so what, it had 3 seconds of absolutely wonderful… [laughs] 

Roger Scott, BBC Radio 1 (UK), 14 October 1989

For a couple of friends this song was very phallic. I was so concerned I tried to change the “it was the biggest rocket I could find” line but “the most expensive rocket I’ve ever seen” wasn’t quite the same. It’s just the idea a rocket is only there for three seconds but those three seconds are lived fully and totally.

‘Love, Trust and Hitler’. Tracks, November 1989

It was a vehicle to get their voices on a track in as dominant a way as possible. So I put this down with a DX7 choir sound so it had this kind of vocal feel. Then we got a drummer in and got this big Rock ‘n’ Roll thing going. Then I got some friends in to hear what it would sound like with big block vocals singing behind my voice, and although they were English people that sing completely differently, it still gave me a sense of vocal intensity. So these two friends must have spent all day trying to sing like Bulgarians. But it was so useful, because there were so many things I immediately understood we couldn’t do, and lots of things it felt like we could do.
So we took it to Bulgaria and started working with this arranger. I told him what I wanted, and he just went off and said “what about this?” and they were great. He kept giving me all these things to choose from, and we worked so well together. It was so good that we decided to hold the drum kit – it was originally starting much earlier in the song. Then we let Dave Gilmour rip on it, so we’d have this really extreme change from just vocals to this hopefully big Rock ‘n’ Roll kit, with bass, and guitar solos.

Tony Horkins, ‘What Katie Did Next’. International Musician, December 1989


That November night, looking up into the sky,
You said,

“Hey, wish that was me up there–
It’s the biggest rocket I could find,
And it’s holding the night in its arms
If only for a moment.
I can’t see the look in its eyes,
But I’m sure it must be laughing.”

But it seemed to me the saddest thing I’d ever seen,
And I thought you were crazy, wishing such a thing.

I saw only a stick on fire,
Alone on its journey
Home to the quickening ground,
With no one there to catch it.

I put on my pointed hat
And my black and silver suit,
And I check my gunpowder pack
And I strap the stick on my back.
And, dressed as a rocket on Waterloo Bridge–
Nobody seems to see me.
Then, with the fuse in my hand,
And now shooting into the night
And still as a rocket,
I land in the river.

Was it me said you were crazy?
I put on my cloudiest suit,
Size 5 lightning boots, too.

‘Cause I am a rocket
On fire.
Look at me go, with my tail on fire,
With my tail on fire,
On fire.
Hey, look at me go, look at me..


Drums: Stuart Elliott
Bass: John Giblin
Guitar: Dave Gilmour
Vocals: Trio Bulgarka (Soloist: Yanka Rupkhina)