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Wuthering Heights: The Ghostly Atmosphere of Kate Bush Biggest Hit


On 5 January 1978, Kate Bush released her debut single, a phenomenal song that become her biggest hit: "Wuthering Heights". The song appears on her debut album, The Kick Inside.

It became a number-one hit on the UK Singles Chart, stayed at the position for four weeks. It made her the first female artist to have a self-penned number one hit in the UK.

"Wuthering Heights" also hit number one in Ireland and Italy. Reached the top ten in Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. "Wuthering Heights" proved to be successful in New Zealand, where it spent five weeks at number one, and Australia, where it stayed at the top of the charts for three consecutive weeks.

"Wuthering Heights"was certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry, denoting sales of over half a million.

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The teenage Kate Bush had written over 100 songs when she was discovered by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, who recommended her to EMI. "Wuthering Heights" was written when Bush was just 18. The song is based on the novel of the same name.


Bush got the idea for "Wuthering Heights" when she caught the last 10 minutes of a BBC adaptation on television. The mini-series inspired her to read the book in order to get the atmosphere right. Bush then discovered that she share the same birthday with Wuthering Heights' author, Emily Brontë.

"Wuthering Heights" was likely written in one sitting at the piano in March 1977, there was a full moon that night.

Lyrically, it uses several quotations from Catherine Earnshaw, most notably in the chorus - "Let me in! I'm so cold!" as well as in the verses, with Catherine's confession to her servant of "bad dreams in the night". It is sung from Catherine's point of view, as she pleads at Heathcliff's window to be allowed in.

This romantic scene takes a melancholic turn if one has read Chapter 3 of the original book, as Catherine is in fact a ghost, calling lovingly to Heathcliff from beyond the grave. 

Catherine's "icy" ghost grabs the hand of the narrator, Mr Lockwood, through the bedroom window, asking him to let her in, so she can be forgiven by her lover Heathcliff, and freed from her own personal purgatory. 

A beautifully tender yet haunting musical setting of Emily Bronte's classic love story, "Wuthering Heights" wrapped swelling keyboards, strings and guitars around a lead vocal delivered in a sustained, almost child-like soprano by Bush.
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Two music videos were created to accompany "Wuthering Heights". The music videos are also phenomenal. It feature the dance moves of what Bush calls her witch impression. Those famous moves helped launch Bush to superstardom. She have dance lessons with Lindsay Kemp, who also famously mentored David Bowie in mime.

In one version, Bush dances in an outdoor environment while wearing a red dress. It was done for the American release.

In the other, Bush can be seen performing the song in a dark room filled with white mist while wearing a white dress. It was done for the UK release.

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Kate Bush's smash hit debut single was also the first major project engineer Jon Kelly had recorded. It proved to be a dream start for both artist and engineer, and a perfect illustration of the benefits of working with talented session musicians.

Producer Andrew Powell said the vocal performance was done in one take, “a complete performance” with no overdubs. The guitar solo that fades away with the track in the outro was recorded by Edinburgh musician Ian Bairnson.

The live rhythm section that Kelly recorded for '"Wuthering Heights'" consisted of Bush playing a Bösendorfer grand piano, Stuart Elliott on drums, Andrew Powell on bass and Bairnson on a six-string acoustic.

The guitar solo is placed rather unobtrusively in the mix, and later Kelly would regret not making the solo a little louder in the mix. "Wuthering Heights" was significantly re-mixed and given a new lead vocal in 1986 for Bush's greatest-hits album The Whole Story. This version also appeared as the B-side to her 1986 hit "Experiment IV".

"Kate always recorded live vocals, and they were fantastic, but then she'd want to redo them later. In the case of 'Wuthering Heights', she was imitating this witch, the mad lady from the Yorkshire Moors, and she was very theatrical about it. She was such a mesmerising performer — she threw her heart and soul into everything she did — that it was difficult to ever fault her or say 'You could do better.'" Said Jon Kelly.