Song written by Kate Bush. The song was reportedly written in one evening in the summer of 1983. It was the first song recorded for the subsequent fifth studio album Hounds Of Love. The electronic drums, programmed by Del Palmer, and the Fairlight part were present from the first recording of the song. The lyrics speak of Bush's impossible wish to become her lover, and he her, so that they could know what the other felt. Kate played the first versions of the songs to Paul Hardiman on 6 October 1983. He commented later: "The first time I heard 'Running Up That Hill' it wasn't a demo, it was a working start. We carried on working on Kate and Del's original. Del had programmed the Linn drum part, the basis of which we kept. I know we spent time working on the Fairlight melody/hook but the idea was there plus guide vocals."
The track was worked on between 4 November and 6 December, with Stuart Elliott adding drums, but closely following the programmed pattern. Alan Murphy added guitar parts whereas Paddy Bush, always providing the most ingenious instruments, played the rather better known balalaika on this track.
The working title of 'Running Up That Hill' was 'A Deal With God'. Representatives at EMI were hesitant to release the single as 'A Deal With God' due its use of the word 'God', which might lead to a negative reception. Bush relented and changed the title for the single. On the album and subsequent releases the title was 'Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)'.
'Running Up That Hill' was released as a 7" single and a 12" single. In the UK, the 7" single was first released in a gatefold sleeve; later issues had a 'standard' sleeve. The B-side of the 7" single was Under The Ivy. On the 12" single, there were three tracks: An extended and instrumental version of Running Up That Hill plus Under The Ivy.
Four different versions of Running Up That Hill exist: the album version (which also appears on the single), an extended version, an instrumental version and an edited version clocking in at 3:24), released on an American promotional 7" single.
There was also a remix of 'Running Up That Hill' by Dutch remixer Ben Liebrand, which was broadcast on Dutch radio in 1985, but never officially released. 27 years later, Kate Bush released a new version of the song as Running Up That Hill 2012.
A live version appears on the album Before The Dawn.
'Running Up That Hill' was intended as a fond farewell to dance, at least as far as Kate's video appearances were concerned. The music video, directed by David Garfath, featured Bush and dancer Michael Hervieu (who won an audition after Stewart Avon Arnold was not available due to other commitments) in a performance choreographed by Diane Grey. The pair are wearing grey Japanese hakamas. The choreography draws upon contemporary dance with a repeated gesture suggestive of drawing a bow and arrow (the gesture was made literal on the image for the single in which Bush poses with a real bow and arrow), intercut with surreal sequences of Bush and Hervieu searching through crowds of masked strangers. At the climax of the song, Bush's partner withdraws from her and the two are then swept away from each other and down a long hall in opposite directions by an endless stream of anonymous figures wearing masks made from pictures of Bush and Hervieu's faces. MTV chose not to show this video (at the time of its original release) and instead used a live performance of the song recorded at a promotional appearance on the BBC TV show Wogan. According to Paddy Bush, 'MTV weren't particularly interested in broadcasting videos that didn't have synchronized lip movements in them. They liked the idea of people singing songs'.
The first performance of 'Running Up That Hill' took place on 5 August 1985, in the TV programme Wogan, in which she lipsynched the song. On 22 August 1985 she appeared in the chart show Top Of The Pops, also for a lipsynched performance. In September, Kate performed the song in the German programmes Extratour and Show Vor Acht and the French programmes Rockline, Jeu de la verité and Demain c'est dimanche (21 September). On 30 November 1985, Kate appeared in Peter's Pop Show in Germany to lipsynch 'Running Up That Hill' and The Big Sky before a large live audience.
In 1987, Kate performed 'Running Up That Hill' at Amnesty International's Secret Policeman's Third Ball with Dave Gilmour on guitar. This version was also released on an album.
In 2014, Kate performed 'Running Up That Hill' live during all the shows of Before The Dawn.
'Running Up That Hill' was greeted with almost universal acclaim. Sounds: "I found myself seduced by the sheer strangeness". NME: "The voice gets deeper as the lyrics get shallower." No. 1: "One of her atmospheric epics, full of tension and controlled emotion". Kerrang!: "Comfortably reaffirms her position as our very finest female singer, songwriter and performer. I don't expect to hear many better singles this year."
'Running Up That Hill' has been covered by Amalgamates, Tori Amos, The Baltimores, Bambara, Theo Bleckmann, Blue Pearl, Cartouche, Casey Chishom, Chromatics, Club for Five, Kiki Dee & Carmelo Luggeri, Distance, E-Clypse feat. Emma Price, Elastic Band, Faith and the Muse, Four Day Hombre, Danielle French, Future Trance, Ham Sandwich, Icon and the Black Roses, Isadar, Kiki & Herb, Nolwenn Leroy, Levy 9, Little Boots, Lochinvar, Lund Clements Churchill Trio, MPHO, Placebo, Purple Crush, Re-Touch, Serena, Sweep feat. Linda Carriere, Thee Heavenly Music Association, Thomas Mery the Desert Fox, Tilt, Track And Field, Ultrawave, William Blakes Spleen Utd, Within Temptation, Patrick Wolf and Wye Oak.
Kate about 'Running Up That Hill'
This song is very much about two people who are in love, and how the power of love is almost too big for them. It leaves them very insecure and in fear of losing each other. It's also perhaps talking about some fundamental differences between men and women. (Kate Bush Club newsletter, 1985)
It is very much about the power of love, and the strength that is created between two people when they're very much in love, but the strength can also be threatening, violent, dangerous as well as gentle, soothing, loving. And it's saying that if these two people could swap places - if the man could become the woman and the woman the man, that perhaps they could understand the feelings of that other person in a truer way, understanding them from that gender's point of view, and that perhaps there are very subtle differences between the sexes that can cause problems in a relationship, especially when people really do care about each other. (The Tony Myatt Interview, November 1985)
'Running Up That Hill' was one of the first songs that I wrote for the album. It was very nice for me that it was the first single released, I'd always hoped that would be the way. It's very much about a relationship between a man and a woman who are deeply in love and they're so concerned that things could go wrong - they have great insecurity, great fear of the relationship itself. It's really saying if there's a possibility of being able to swap places with each other that they'd understand how the other one felt, that when they were saying things that weren't meant to hurt, that they weren't meant sincerely, that they were just misunderstood. In some ways, I suppose the basic difference between men and women, where if we could swap places in a relationship, we'd understand each other better, but this, of course, is all theoretical anyway. (Open Interview, 1985)
It seems that the more you get to know a person, the greater the scope there is for misunderstanding. Sometimes you can hurt somebody purely accidentally or be afraid to tell them something because you think they might be hurt when really they'll understand. So what that song is about is making a deal with God to let two people swap place so they'll be able to see things from one another's perspective. (Mike Nicholls, 'The Girl Who Reached Wuthering Heights'. The London Times, 27 August 1985)
I was trying to say that, really, a man and a woman, can't understand each other because we are a man and a woman. And if we could actually swap each others roles, if we could actually be in each others place for a while, I think we'd both be very surprised! [Laughs] And I think it would be lead to a greater understanding. And really the only way I could think it could be done was either... you know, I thought a deal with the devil, you know. And I thought, "well, no, why not a deal with God!" You know, because in a way it's so much more powerful the whole idea of asking God to make a deal with you. You see, for me it is still called "A Deal With God", that was its title. But we were told that if we kept this title that it wouldn't be played in any of the religious countries, Italy wouldn't play it, France wouldn't play it, and Australia wouldn't play it! Ireland wouldn't play it, and that generally we might get it blacked purely because it had "God" in the title. Now, I couldn't believe this, this seemed completely ridiculous to me and the title was such a part of the song's entity. I just couldn't understand it. But none the less, although I was very unhappy about it, I felt unless I compromised that I was going to be cutting my own throat, you know, I'd just spent two, three years making an album and we weren't gonna get this record played on the radio, if I was stubborn. So I felt I had to be grown up about this, so we changed it to 'Running Up That Hill'. But it's always something I've regretted doing, I must say. And normally I always regret any compromises that I make. (Richard Skinner, 'Classic Albums interview: Hounds Of Love. Radio 1 (UK), aired 26 January 1992)
Highest chart positions
New Zealand: 26
Drums: Stuart Elliott
Bass: Del Palmer
Guitar: Alan Murphy
Balalaika: Paddy Bush
- Running Up That Hill. Wikipedia, retrieved 28 October 2014
- Graeme Thompson, Under The Ivy: The Life & Music Of Kate Bush, cop. 2012. ISBN 9781780381466
- Krystyna Fitzgerald-Morris (ed.), Peter Fitzgerald-Morris (ed.) & Dave Cross (ed.), Homeground: The Kate Bush Magazine Anthology One, 2014. ISBN 978-1861714794