Kate Bush reached the first peak of her professional career, aged 19 in 1978, with the release of her debut single ‘Wuthering Heights’. The groundbreaking single was an instant hit as it reached the top spot on the UK charts making Bush the first female artist to do so with a self-written song.
After the success of her critically acclaimed debut album, The Kick Inside, Bush released a further three albums over the late 1970s and early ’80s with dwindling levels of commercial success. In 1985, Bush made a triumphant return to the public eye following the underwhelming The Dreaming (1982) with the release of her indisputable masterpiece Hounds of Love.
The record was Bush’s most absorbing and well balanced listen to date with its fine crop of hit singles on the first side, including ‘Running Up That Hill’, ‘Cloudbusting’, ‘Hounds of Love’, and ‘The Big Sky’. On the record’s second side, subtitled The Ninth Wave, Bush showed the full depth of her artistry with a conceptual suite that follows the narrative of a woman drifting out to sea in the dead of night.
The Hounds of Love was buoyed in the charts mainly by the lead single, ‘Running Up That Hill’. The song reintroduced Bush to the US charts for the first time since 1978, and it became her second most successful charting single in the UK after ‘Wuthering Heights’.
Bush once explained that ‘Running Up That Hill’ “is very much about two people who are in love and the strength that is created between two people when they’re very much in love. But the strength can also be threatening, violent, dangerous as well as gentle, soothing, loving. The power of love is almost too big for them. It leaves them very insecure and in fear of losing each other.”
The powerful and emotive song has inspired countless musicians over the past four decades, and its relevance shows little sign of diminishing any time soon. The track was recently featured in the fourth season of the hit Netflix drama Stranger Things, leading to its return to the charts after more than a decade. The iconic hit has experienced an 8,700% increase in streams over the past few weeks, and it has reached number two on Spotify’s top 50 US chart.
Today, we’re looking back at five of the greatest reimaginings of Kate Bush’s timeless classic, ‘Running Up That Hill’.
Five incredible covers of Kate Bush’s ‘Running up That Hill’
Perhaps the most well known of the covers on this list is Placebo’s haunting rendition. The cover appears on the band’s 2003 Covers album, which pays tribute to a diverse selection of their biggest influences. Neighbouring ‘Running Up That Hill’ on the album are covers of The Smiths, Pixies, Robert Palmer and T. Rex, among others.
Placebo’s cover of Bush’s classic single is, without doubt, the darkest yet. Brian Molko’s unique and distinctive vocals give the lyrics a new, more sinister feel, while the stripped-back classical piano intermittently cuts in, adding a cold atmosphere of longing. The suppressed drum rhythm is slower than in Bush’s original, allowing the synthesised ambient textures to season the deep, brooding sound.
First Aid Kit
Swedish sister alt-country/folk duo First Aid Kit released a beautiful rendition of ‘Running Up That Hill’ in 2018 for a special Spotify exclusive studio session. At the time, the duo had been promoting their recently released album, Ruins, and so they also recorded an alternative version of their hit single ‘Fireworks’ during the session.
Discussing their choice to cover Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ in a 2018 press release, the band said: “As for our cover of ‘Running Up That Hill,’ we started listening to Kate Bush pretty recently and thought the song’s fantastic melody would suit our voices and signature folk-rock sound.”
Chromatics’ love of all things ’80s shines through in this soaring, synth-heavy reimagination of Bush’s 1985 hit. This more ominous and suspenseful version appeared on the band’s 2007 third album, Night Drive. Despite boasting some of Chromatics’ best work, their bold recreation of ‘Running Up That Hill’ was definitely the jewel in the album’s crown.
The trancey rhythm tumbles as vocalist Ruth Radelet sings the well-known lyrics in more of a distant and dreamy reimagining, making the cover more of a counterpart to Bush’s original than a tribute.
Car Seat Headrest
In June 2021, Car Seat Headrest released a covers EP titled MADLO: Influences. In the release, the Virginia indie group covered songs by Kate Bush (‘Running Up That Hill’), David Bowie (‘Golden Years’), Nine Inch Nails (‘March of the Pigs’), and the Who (‘Substitute’).
Of the covers, their rendition of ‘Running Up That Hill’ is the most intriguing with its sci-fi movie sounding keyboard intro and Will Toledo’s calm and reserved delivery that builds into something more defined and passionate as they move into the chorus. The raw and sparse guitar tracks make way for choppy disco-inspired strumming for the second half of the cover as the intensity builds into a danceable alternative to Bush’s classic hit.
In 2019, American singer-songwriter Meg Myers released a delicate and powerful cover of Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’. Her version pays respect to the original without changing the structure of the instrumentals too much. With the addition of distorting effects to Meyers’ vocals, her rendition still attains a unique and updated allure.
“Growing up, I was never really interested in covering other artist’s music.” Meg explained, “I always wanted to write my own songs because I knew I could only sing music and lyrics that were truly authentic, from my heart (and also would have to make sense with my deep voice). Well, then I discovered Kate Bush’s ‘Running up that Hill,’ which for years has resonated with my soul like nothing ever before. What if we could experience role reversal? What would it be like living in each other’s shoes? I think we would find a lot more compassion for one another and a passion for kindness and truth. This song, to me, represents an opening of our hearts and a possibility of acceptance for all. And to me, this is an important message for the world we are living in right now.”