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The Sensual World (song)

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"The Sensual World"
Single by Kate Bush
from the album The Sensual World
  • "Walk Straight Down the Middle"
  • "The Sensual World" (instrumental)
Released18 September 1989 (1989-09-18)[1]
GenreArt rock
Songwriter(s)Kate Bush
Producer(s)Kate Bush
Kate Bush singles chronology
"Experiment IV"
"The Sensual World"
"This Woman's Work"
Music video
"The Sensual World" by Kate Bush on YouTube
"Flower of the Mountain"
Song by Kate Bush
from the album Director's Cut
Released16 May 2011 (2011-05-16)
GenreArt rock
  • Fish People
  • EMI
Producer(s)Kate Bush
"Flower of the Mounain" by Kate Bush on YouTube

"The Sensual World" is a song by English singer-songwriter Kate Bush. It was the title track and first single from her album of the same name, released in September 1989. The single entered and peaked at No. 12 on the UK Single Chart.

The B-side to the original single was "Walk Straight Down the Middle", a bonus track on the CD and cassette editions of The Sensual World album. The 12-inch vinyl release of the single had a double-grooved A-side so that either the song or an instrumental version of the song would be played depending on where the needle was placed.

Kate Bush later re-recorded the track using words taken from Molly Bloom's soliloquy from James Joyce's 1922 novel Ulysses. Using Joyce's text has been Bush's original intention whilst recording The Sensual World album. This version, re-titled "Flower of the Mountain", appears on the 2011 album Director's Cut.

Writing and inspiration[edit]

The song is inspired by Molly Bloom stepping out of the black and white, two-dimensional pages of James Joyce's Ulysses into the real world, and is immediately struck by the sensuality of it all. It was originally intended to be Molly Bloom's speech (from the end of Ulysses) set to music, but Bush could not secure the rights from the Joyce estate, so she altered it. In 2011, the Joyce estate granted licence to the material, and Bush rerecorded the song as "Flower of the Mountain", released on 2011's Director's Cut.[2]

Musically, one of the main hooks in the chorus of "The Sensual World" was inspired by a traditional Macedonian piece of music called "Antice, Džanam, Dušice".[3] As in the traditional version, the melody is played on bagpipes, in this case uilleann pipes played by Irish musician Davy Spillane.[4]

Critical reception[edit]

David Giles from Music Week wrote, "A dazzling return to form after a few slightly indifferent releases, finds Bush in lustful mood. Church bells herald a mellow, dreamy song with the accompaniment of an Arabic woodwind instrument. Easily the best song she's written since "Army Dreamers", even if it is slightly on the long side."[5]

Music video[edit]

The accompanying video for "The Sensual World", which features Bush dancing through an enchanted forest in a medieval dress, was co-directed by The Comic Strip co-creator Peter Richardson and Bush herself.

Use in film[edit]

The song, particularly the chorus section, features prominently several times in Atom Egoyan's film Felicia's Journey,[6] highlighting the main character's sense of isolation and loss as she leaves Ireland and her estranged father for England.

Track listings[edit]

All songs were written by Kate Bush.

7-inch, cassette, and Japanese mini-CD single[7][8][9]
1."The Sensual World"3:56
2."Walk Straight Down the Middle"3:48
12-inch, CD, and German mini maxi-CD single[10][11][12]
1."The Sensual World"3:56
2."The Sensual World" (instrumental version)3:56
3."Walk Straight Down the Middle"3:48


Personnel are lifted from The Sensual World album booklet.[13]


Chart (1989) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[14] 44
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[15] 31
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[16] 58
Europe (Eurochart Hot 100)[17] 35
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[18] 11
Ireland (IRMA)[19] 6
Italy (Musica e dischi)[20] 16
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[21] 17
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[22] 20
UK Singles (OCC)[23] 12
US Alternative Airplay (Billboard)[24] 6
West Germany (Official German Charts)[25] 29


  1. ^ "This Week - Releases". Record Mirror. 16 September 1989. p. 32.
  2. ^ Kellogg, Carolyn (6 April 2011). "After 22 years, Kate Bush gets to record James Joyce". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
  3. ^ "Antice, Džanam, Dušice". 5 April 2021. Retrieved 23 August 2022.
  4. ^ "Kate Bush at the BBC". 22 August 2014. BBC. BBC Four. Retrieved 22 August 2014. {{cite episode}}: Missing or empty |series= (help)
  5. ^ Giles, David (23 September 1989). "Singles" (PDF). Music Week. p. 27. Retrieved 13 March 2023.
  6. ^ "Internet Movie Database". IMDb. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
  7. ^ The Sensual World (UK 7-inch single vinyl disc). Kate Bush. EMI Records. 1989. EM 102, 2034947.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  8. ^ The Sensual World (UK cassette single sleeve). Kate Bush. EMI Records. 1989. TCEM 102.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  9. ^ The Sensual World (Japanese mini-CD single liner notes). Kate Bush. EMI Records. 1989. TODP-2110.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  10. ^ The Sensual World (UK 12-inch single vinyl disc). Kate Bush. EMI Records. 1989. 12EM 102, 2034946.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  11. ^ The Sensual World (UK CD single liner notes). Kate Bush. EMI Records. 1989. CDEM 102, 2034942.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  12. ^ The Sensual World (German mini maxi-CD single liner notes). Kate Bush. EMI Electrola. 1989. CDP 552 20 3494 3.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  13. ^ Kate Bush (1989). The Sensual World (US CD album booklet). Columbia Records. CK 44164.
  14. ^ "Kate Bush – The Sensual World". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  15. ^ "Kate Bush – The Sensual World" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  16. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 6623." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  17. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 6, no. 41. 14 October 1989. p. IV. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  18. ^ Nyman, Jake (2005). Suomi soi 4: Suuri suomalainen listakirja (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 951-31-2503-3.
  19. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Sensual World". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  20. ^ "Classifiche". Musica e dischi (in Italian). Retrieved 30 May 2022. Set "Tipo" on "Singoli". Then, in the "Artista" field, search "Kate Bush".
  21. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 42, 1989" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  22. ^ "Kate Bush – The Sensual World" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  23. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  24. ^ "Kate Bush Chart History (Alternative Airplay)". Billboard.
  25. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Kate Bush – The Sensual World" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved 17 September 2020.