Wuthering Heights (song)

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"Wuthering Heights"
Single by Kate Bush
from the album The Kick Inside
B-side "Kite"
Released 20 January 1978 (1978-01-20)
Format 7" vinyl
Recorded Summer 1977, AIR Studios, London
Genre Art rock
Length 4:28
Label EMI
Writer(s) Kate Bush
Producer(s) Andrew Powell
Kate Bush singles chronology
"Wuthering Heights"
(1978)
"The Man with the Child in His Eyes"
(1978)
Music sample

"Wuthering Heights" is a song by Kate Bush released as her debut single in January 1978. It became a No.1 hit in the UK singles chart and remains her biggest-selling single. The song appears on her 1978 debut album, The Kick Inside. The B-side of the single was another song by Bush named "Kite" - hence the kite imagery on the record sleeve. "Wuthering Heights" came 32nd in Q magazine's Top 100 Singles of All Time, as voted by readers. It is also #19 on Rate Your Music's Top Singles of All Time.[1]

The guitar solo is played by Ian Bairnson, best known for his work with Alan Parsons. It is often mistakenly said that David Gilmour played the solo, possibly due to his professional associations with Kate Bush. It is placed rather unobtrusively in the mix, and later engineer Jon Kelly would regret not making the solo a little louder in the mix.[2] The song 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".

Lyrics[edit]

Written by Bush when she was 18, the song is based on the novel of the same name. Kate Bush was inspired to write the song by the last ten minutes of the 1970 film version of Wuthering Heights.[3] She then read the book and discovered that she shared her birthday (30 July) with Emily Brontë. Bush reportedly wrote the song, for her album The Kick Inside, within the space of just a few hours late at night.

Lyrically, "Wuthering Heights" 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 sinister 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.

Release[edit]

Record company, EMI had originally chosen another track, "James and the Cold Gun" as the lead single, but Bush was determined that "Wuthering Heights" would be the first release from the album.[4] She won out eventually in a surprising show of determination for a young musician against a major record company, and this would not be the only time she took a stand against them to control her career.

Two music videos were created to accompany "Wuthering Heights." In one version, Bush can be seen performing the song in a dark room filled with white mist while wearing a white dress (which was the UK release); in the other, the singer dances in an outdoor environment while wearing a red dress (which was done for the American release).

The release date for the single was initially scheduled to be 4 November 1977. However, Bush was unhappy with the picture being used for the single's cover and insisted it be replaced. Some copies of the single had already been sent out to radio stations, but EMI relented and put back the single's launch until the New Year.[5] This proved to be a wise choice ultimately, as the earlier release would have had to compete with Wings' latest release, "Mull of Kintyre", which became the biggest-selling single in UK history up to this point in December 1977.[6]

"Wuthering Heights" was finally released on 20 January 1978, was immediately playlisted by Capital Radio and entered their chart at no. 39 on 27 January. It crept into the national Top 50 in week ending 11 February at No.42.[7] The following week it rose to No.27 and Bush made her first appearance on Top of the Pops ("It was like watching myself die", recalls Bush), The song was finally added to Radio One's playlist the following week and became one of the most played records on radio.[8] In 1986, her first compilation album erroneously stated the release date for this single as 4 November 1977.[9]

Commercial performance[edit]

"It was suddenly non-stop working. I put up with sixteen months of that and then I said: look, I've just got to stop or I'm not going to be able to write any songs any more."

—Bush reflecting on "Wuthering Heights" instant success.[10]

After being delayed for two months, "Wuthering Heights" was officially released in early 1978 and entered the top forty in the official singles chart in the United Kingdom at number twenty-seven on 18 February,[11] and quickly rose to number one three weeks later dethroning ABBA's "Take a Chance on Me" from the top spot.[12] Bush became the first female artist to have a self-penned number one hit.[13] The single release unwittingly pitted Bush against another female vocalist also charting with her first hit: Debbie Harry with her band Blondie and their single "Denis." Amid much public discussion about the two singers' merits, Bush came out on top, while Blondie stalled at number two.[14][15] "Wuthering Heights" remained at number one for an entire month until it was replaced at the top by Brian and Michael's celebration of the then-recently deceased artist L. S. Lowry, "Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs."[16] Bush's début single finished the year as the tenth highest-selling and was certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry, denoting sales of over half a million.[17][18]

Success was not limited to the United Kingdom, "Wuthering Heights" also hit number one in neighbouring Ireland and Italy.[19][20] It reached the top ten in Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, as well as the top twenty in Austria and Germany.[21] "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.[22] Following the live performance of the song by Laura Bunting on The Voice, "Wuthering Heights" re-entered the top forty twenty five years after its original release in 1978.[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Top Singles of All-time". http://rateyourmusic.com/. 
  2. ^ Richard Buskin. "CLASSIC TRACKS: 'Wuthering Heights'". Soundonsound.com. Retrieved 2011-12-06. 
  3. ^ "Cloudbusting / Music / Wuthering Heights". Gaffa.org. 30 July 1958. Retrieved 2011-12-06. 
  4. ^ Richard Buskin. "Scaling the Heights". Soundonsound.com. Retrieved 2011-12-06. 
  5. ^ "Kate Bush biography". BBC.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-12-06. 
  6. ^ ""Mull of Kintyre" sales information". Every hit.com. Retrieved 2011-12-06. 
  7. ^ "Chart Stats - Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights". Retrieved 1 February 2009. 
  8. ^ "Gaffaweb - Early TV and Radio promotion for "Wuthering Heights"". Gaffa.org. Retrieved 2011-12-06. 
  9. ^ The Whole Story sleeve notes
  10. ^ "Sold on song". BBC Radio 2. 1979. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  11. ^ "UK singles chart". Official Charts Company. 18 February 1978. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  12. ^ "UK singles chart". Official Charts Company. 11 March 1978. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  13. ^ "Pop on trial". BBC. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  14. ^ "UK singles chart". Official Charts Company. 18 March 1978. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  15. ^ "UK singles chart". Official Charts Company. 1 April 1978. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  16. ^ "UK singles chart". Official Charts Company. 8 April 1978. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  17. ^ a b "1970s singles chart archive". Official Charts Company. Every Hit. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  18. ^ "UK Certification". British Phonographic Industry. 1 March 1978. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  19. ^ a b "Irish charts". Irish Recorded Music Association. 19 March 1978. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  20. ^ a b "Kate Bush: Wuthering Heights" (in Italian). Federation of the Italian Music Industry. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  21. ^ "International charts". Ultratop. 1978. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  22. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (doc). Australian Chart Book, St Ives, N.S.W. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  23. ^ Thomas Gilmore (23 April 2012). "Chart wrap-up: Aussie girls debut at #2 on ARIA charts". Ultratop. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  24. ^ a b c Billboard magazine. July 1978. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  25. ^ "Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights – Austriancharts.at" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  26. ^ "Ultratop.be – Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  27. ^ "Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights". Charts.de. Media Control.
  28. ^ "Archive Chart" UK Singles Chart.
  29. ^ "Charts.org.nz – Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights". Top 40 Singles.
  30. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 14, 1978" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40
  31. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights" (in Dutch). Mega Single Top 100.
  32. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights". VG-lista.
  33. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights". Singles Top 60.
  34. ^ "Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights – swisscharts.com". Swiss Singles Chart.
  35. ^ "Jaaroverzicht 1978" (in Dutch). MegaCharts. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  36. ^ "British single certifications – Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 7 January 2014.  Enter Wuthering Heights in the field Search. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Click Go
Preceded by
"Take a Chance on Me" by ABBA
UK number one single
11 March 1978 – 7 April 1978
Succeeded by
"Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs" by Brian and Michael