Babooshka (song)

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Kate Bush - Babooshka.png
Single by Kate Bush
from the album Never for Ever
B-side"Ran Tan Waltz"
Released27 June 1980
Format7" single
RecordedJanuary–June 1980[1]
GenreArt rock
Songwriter(s)Kate Bush
Producer(s)Kate Bush, Jon Kelly
Kate Bush singles chronology
"Army Dreamers"
Audio sample

"Babooshka" is a song by English singer Kate Bush, taken from her album Never for Ever. Released as a single in June 1980, it spent 10 weeks in the UK chart, peaking at number five.[2] It was an even bigger hit in Australia, where it peaked at number two and was the 20th best-selling single of the year.[3]


According to an interview Kate Bush gave to the Australian TV series Countdown in 1980, the song chronicles a wife's desire to test her husband's loyalty. To do so, she takes on the nom de plume of Babooshka and sends notes to her husband in the guise of a younger woman—something which she fears is the opposite of how her husband currently sees her[4] (hence the barbed lines Just like his wife before she "freezed" on him/Just like his wife when she was beautiful.)[5]

The trap is set when, in her bitterness and paranoia, Babooshka arranges to meet her husband, who is attracted to the character who reminds him of his wife in earlier times. She thereby ruins the relationship due to her paranoia.[4]

Bush cited the English folk song Sovay, in which a woman dresses as a highwayman and accosts her lover in order to test his devotion, as an inspiration for the story of Babooshka. [6] "I'm sure I heard about it on some TV series years ago, when I was a kid," Bush remarked of the song's story. "You know, these period things that the BBC do. I think it's an extraordinary thing for someone to do… That's why I found it fascinating."[7]

The music video depicts Bush beside a double bass (contrabass) which symbolises the husband, wearing a black bodysuit and a veil in her role as the embittered wife.[4] This changes into an extravagant, mythlike and rather sparse "Russian" costume as her alter-ego, Babooshka. An illustration by Chris Achilleos for the cover of the 1978 book Raven - Swordsmistress of Chaos was the basis for the costume.[8][9]

The track features John Giblin on bass and marks the significance of fretless bass sounds as instrumental "male" partners through Kate's music in the early eighties.

The song ends with a sample of glass breaking, one of the earliest examples of a sample created with the newly-available Fairlight CMI digital synthesizer.[10]

Kate Bush said that's "something I didn't realise at the time,"[4] when she learnt that ба́бушка (babushka) is the Russian word for "grandmother" (although the stress in Russian falls on the first syllable, not the second).

"Babooshka" became Bush's second top five hit in the UK and was certified silver for sales of over 250,000 by the BPI.[11] "Babooshka" reached number five in France and went on to sell 547,000 copies, thus becoming 465th best-selling single of all time there.[12]

The B-side contains her song "Ran Tan Waltz", her second non-album B-side. This song is performed as a tragicomedy, where Bush portrays a man bemoaning his bad luck in life being married to a wayward mother. This song uses the word "dick" in the first verse as cacophemism for a penis.[13] Bush has stated that she doesn't typically use such harsh language or write such sexually explicit material, but that she considered the song "good naughty fun."

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Babooshka" (Kate Bush) – 3:28
  2. "Ran Tan Waltz" (Bush) – 2:40


Chart (1980) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[14] 2
Dutch Single Top 100[15] 24
Dutch Top 40[16] 15
French SNEP Chart[17] 4
German Singles Chart[18] 14
Israeli Singles Chart[19] 5
Italian Singles Chart 5
Irish Singles Chart[20] 5
New Zealand Singles Chart 8
Norwegian Singles Chart 4
South Africa (Springbok SA Top 20)[21] 12
UK Singles Chart[2] 5


  1. ^ "Gaffaweb - Kate Bush - PHOENIX - The History of the Cathy Demos - compiled by Wieland Willker". Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Official Charts Company". Retrieved 2008-11-24.
  3. ^ "Australian Chart Book". Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-16.
  4. ^ a b c d "Kate Bush Interview 1980". YouTube. 11 August 2006. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  5. ^ "Kate Bush Discography - Song Index - Babooshka". Archived from the original on 22 November 2007.
  6. ^ Melody Maker, "Paranoia and Passion of the Kate Inside", Colin Irwin, Oct 4, 1980.
  7. ^ BBC Radio 1: 'Saturday Live', 25 February 1984
  8. ^ "Polska Strona Kate Bush". Retrieved 29 June 2011. Artistic concepts and choreography throughout by Kate Bush Babooshka costume based on an illustration by Chris Achilleos and released by Pamela Keats.
  9. ^ "The Connection Between Kate Bush And Sexy Sword And Sorcery Novels". The Reprobate. 3 August 2016. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  10. ^ "Fairlight: The Rolls Royce of synthesizers". Retrieved 22 July 2017.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 September 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 13 November 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ "The Lyrics - "Ran Tan Waltz (original title, The Ran Tan)"". Archived from the original on 18 October 2006.
  14. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 50. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ Billboard Magazine, Hits of the World, 1980. Billboard Magazine. 20 December 1980. Retrieved 20 September 2012.
  18. ^ Billboard Magazine, Hits of the World, December 1980. Billboard Magazine. 13 December 1980. Retrieved 20 September 2012.
  19. ^ Billboard Magazine, Hits of the World, 1980. Billboard Magazine. 6 September 1980. Retrieved 20 September 2012.
  20. ^ "The Irish Charts - All there is to know". Archived from the original on 2 June 2009. Retrieved 2016-10-16.
  21. ^ "Springbok SA Top 20". Retrieved 27 February 2018.

External links[edit]