The Sensual World (song)

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"The Sensual World"
Kate Bush - The Sensual World.png
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" on YouTube
Audio sample
"The Sensual World"
"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

"The Sensual World" is a song by the English singer 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. It was later re-recorded using only words taken from Molly Bloom's soliloquy from James Joyce's 1922 novel Ulysses, as Bush had originally intended whilst recording The Sensual World album. This version, re-titled "Flower of the Mountain", appears on the 2011 album Director's Cut.

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.

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 supposed 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 license 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 "Nevestinsko Oro", or "Bride's Dance". As in the traditional version, the melody is played on uilleann pipes, in this case by Irish musician Davy Spillane.[3]

Music video[edit]

The video, 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,[4] 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 single (UK)
1."The Sensual World"3:56
2."Walk Straight Down the Middle"3:48
12-inch vinyl and CD single (UK)
1."The Sensual World"3:56
2."The Sensual World" (Instrumental)3:57
3."Walk Straight Down the Middle"3:48



Chart (1989) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[5] 44
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[6] 31
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[7] 58
Europe (Eurochart Hot 100)[8] 35
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[9] 11
Ireland (IRMA)[10] 6
Italy (Musica e dischi)[11] 16
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[12] 17
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[13] 20
UK Singles (OCC)[14] 12
US Alternative Airplay (Billboard)[15] 6
West Germany (Official German Charts)[16] 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. ^ "Kate Bush at the BBC". 22 August 2014. BBC. BBC Four. Retrieved 22 August 2014. {{cite episode}}: Missing or empty |series= (help)
  4. ^ "Internet Movie Database". IMDb. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
  5. ^ "Kate Bush – The Sensual World". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  6. ^ "Kate Bush – The Sensual World" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  7. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 6623." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  8. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 6, no. 41. 14 October 1989. p. IV. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  9. ^ Nyman, Jake (2005). Suomi soi 4: Suuri suomalainen listakirja (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 951-31-2503-3.
  10. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Sensual World". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  11. ^ "Classifiche". Musica e dischi (in Italian). Retrieved 30 May 2022. Set "Tipo" on "Singoli". Then, in the "Artista" field, search "Kate Bush".
  12. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 42, 1989" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  13. ^ "Kate Bush – The Sensual World" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  14. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  15. ^ "Kate Bush Chart History (Alternative Airplay)". Billboard.
  16. ^ " – Kate Bush – The Sensual World". GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved 17 September 2020.