Though it may have been just the start of Kate Bush’s impressive career as one of Britain’s most unique and highly-valued artists, ‘Wuthering Heights’ will remain one of the singer’s landmark moments. Not only was it the first song to top the charts both written and performed by a female artist, nor was it just an indictment of Bush’s supreme skill as a songwriter, it showcased that Kate Bush was unlike anything the world had ever seen or, indeed, heard before.
Bush’s vocal dexterity has often been heralded as one of her defining facets. With a remarkable range, she was able to perform tongue and chord gymnastics that would make the Olympics blush. There are countless moments throughout her impressive canon where Bush has shown off just how flexible her instrument is, but perhaps no performance made a greater impact than ‘Wuthering Heights’. Below, we examine her isolated vocal track for the song and marvel at her talent.
Inspired largely by the BBC adaptation of Wuthering Heights instead of the Emily Bronte novel, the track that launched Kate Bush was written in the leafy South London suburb in the summer of 1977. As London was swollen with the vicious angst of punk, Kate Bush was creating a masterful pop record: “There was a full moon, the curtains were open, and it came quite easily,” Bush told her fan club in 1979.
Despite the TV adaptation providing the nugget of inspiration, the singer did lift lines straight from Brontë’s work as she uses Earnshaw’s plea “let me in! I’m so cold” among other quotations from the novel. It’s clear that Bush truly connected with the song, and in fact, the novel too. She told Record Mirror in 1978: “Great subject matter for a song. I loved writing it. It was a real challenge to precis the whole mood of a book into such a short piece of prose.”
Bush continued, “Also when I was a child I was always called Cathy not Kate and I just found myself able to relate to her as a character. It’s so important to put yourself in the role of the person in a song. There’s no half measures. When I sing that song I am Cathy. (Her face collapses back into smiles.) Gosh, I sound so intense. ‘Wuthering Heights’ is so important to me. It had to be the single. To me, it was the only one.”
Bush’s iconography only grew from this moment. Her employment of dance, mime, theatricality began to herald in a new era for pop music. Still, nobody could have predicted, least of all the teenage Bush herself, how successful ‘Wuthering Heights’ would become. That people like you and I would be still so enchanted by its whimsical nature, high octave notes and the sheer fantasy it inspires over 40 years after release.
Below, you can hear Kate Bush and her magnetic isolated vocals for her seminal song ‘Wuthering Heights’ as she not only tells the complex tale of separated lovers but also lays a blueprint for her future success.