Wuthering Heights (song)
|Single by Kate Bush|
|from the album The Kick Inside|
|Released||5 January 1978|
|Recorded||Summer 1977, AIR Studios, London|
|Kate Bush singles chronology|
"Wuthering Heights" is a song by Kate Bush, released as her debut single in January 1978. It became a #1 hit on the UK Singles Chart, and stayed at the position for four weeks. The song is Bush's biggest hit to date, and 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 No. 16 on Rate Your Music's "Top Singles of All Time" and No. 5 on Pitchfork's "Top 200 Tracks of the 1970s".
The guitar solo is played by Ian Bairnson, best known for his work with Alan Parsons. 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. 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".
Written by Bush when she was 18, the song is based on the novel of the same name. Bush was inspired to write the song by the last ten minutes of a 1967 BBC mini-series based on Wuthering Heights. 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 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. Critic Simon Reynolds described it as "Gothic romance".
Record company EMI had originally chosen another track, "James and the Cold Gun", as the lead single, but Bush was determined that "Wuthering Heights" should be the first release from the album. She won out eventually in an unusual 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. 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.
"Wuthering Heights" was finally released on 20 January 1978, being immediately playlisted by Capital Radio and entering their chart at #39 on 27 January 1978. It crept into the national Top 50 in the week ending 11 February 1978 at #42. The following week it rose to #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. In 1986, her first compilation album erroneously stated the release date for this single as 4 November 1977.
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, and quickly rose to number one three weeks later dethroning ABBA's "Take a Chance on Me" from the top spot. Bush became the first female artist to have a self-penned number one hit in the UK. The single release unwittingly pitted Bush against another female vocalist also charting with her first UK 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. "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". 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.
Success was not limited to the United Kingdom, as "Wuthering Heights" also hit number one in Ireland and Italy. It reached the top ten in Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland, as well as the top twenty in Austria and West Germany. "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. Following the live performance of the song by Laura Bunting on The Voice, "Wuthering Heights" re-entered the top forty thirty five years after its original release in 1978.
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"Take a Chance on Me" by ABBA
|UK number one single
5 March 1978 – 1 April 1978
"Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs" by Brian and Michael