David Bowie is perhaps the only icon in modern pop history that comes close to the ethereal artistry Kate bush has imbued her music with over the last five decades. A unique visionary, Bush became the first woman to both write and perform a UK Number one when her debut single ‘Wuthering Heights’ topped the charts upon its release in 1977.
At the time, London was positively burning with punk’s fiery intent. However, a teenage Kate Bush was spending her days amid seemingly perennial rainy days watching old TV movies and hoping for inspiration to strike.
Thankfully, such was the sponge-like mind of a young Kate Bush that such lightning did strike, and, more often than not, what was left behind was far from ash and soot but a rich, golden piece of unfathomable pop jewellery. The truth is, a lot of films and books have inspired rock stars down the years; there are reams and reams of iconic band leaders or singers who have sought and found influence from art’s ancestors. But, there can be no doubt that few artists are as finely-tuned at redirecting said influence as uniquely and effortlessly as Kate Bush.
Boks and music are all well and good. They provide a perfect amount of nutrient-rich bed soil for almost any artist to plant a few pop song seeds. However, there is something super-charged about the ability of film and cinema to infiltrate the minds of our favourite singers and help them reach their creative zenith.
Perhaps it is to do with the visual aspect of an expression providing relief of space for musicians to operate in; perhaps it is simply cinema’s growing influence on society as a whole which has trickled down to our favourite pop stars? The truth is likely somewhere in between.
No artist operates more succinctly in this mystery space of sonic, visual and literate mixology than Kate Bush. The ‘Hounds of Love’ singer has used cinema and television to form many of her most beloved songs. While there are nods to some of Hollywood’s greats throughout a cornucopia of her tracks, here, we’re looking back at the deep connection between some of her most beloved songs of all time and their on-screen partners.
Six films that inspired classic Kate bush songs:
Wuthering Heights (1939) – ‘Wuthering Heights’
What better place to start than Bush’s debut single? Starting life in the charts as a teenager, Bush quickly became heralded as one of Britain’s finest songwriters after she penned and performed the gigantic classic ‘Wuthering Heights’, a track which shot to number one and made Bush the first woman to both write and record a chart-topping single. 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 smile.) 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.” While the song had certainly started out as a homage to the book, it was a movie that sealed the deal.
The story goes that Bush didn’t read Emily Brontë’s book but caught the final ten minutes of the 1967 BBC mini-series based on the famous novel, writing the entire song in just under a few hours. “When I was in Canada, I found out that Lindsay Kemp, my dance teacher, was in town,” she confessed, “Only ten minutes away by car, so I went to see him. When I came back, I had this urge to switch on the TV – it was about one in the morning – because I knew the film of Wuthering Heights would be on. I tuned in to a thirties gangster film, then flicked through the channels, playing channel roulette, until I found it. I came in at the moment Cathy was dying, so that’s all I saw of the film. It was an amazing coincidence.”
The Godfather (1972) – ‘Between a Man and a Woman’
Bush’s seminal 1989 album, Sensual World, once again found a connection in cinema, this time in Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece The Godfather. Bush drew inspiration directly from Coppola’s work: “It’s about a relationship being a very finely balanced thing that can be easily thrown off by a third party,” she told NME.
“The whole thing really came from a line in The Godfather, during some family argument, when Marlon Brando says, ‘Don’t interfere, it’s between a man and a woman.’ It’s exploring the idea of trying to keep a relationship together, how outside forces can break into it.” Bush was a little incorrect in this description as it was actually Mama Corleone who said those famous lines.
The words are uttered during the famous family dinner scene, a pivotal moment to access Coppola’s aforementioned subtlety instilled in the film. Sonny responds angrily when he sees his sister being verbally abused by her husband but, quick as a whip, Mama Corleone puts Sonny in his place with that fateful line. It would spark a moment of intrigue for Bush and send her on her way to creating one of the best moments on her 1989 album.
The Innocents (1961) – ‘The Infant Kiss’
A lesser-known number from Bush’s extensive repertoire, there is a direct reference to the film The Innocents within Bush’s ‘The Infant Kiss’, which is featured on Never For Ever. It’s a perfect paradigm for Bush’s eccentric songwriting to explore itself. Bush explained the complexity of the prospect in her fans club letter back in 1980: “‘The Infant Kiss’ is about a governess. She is torn between the love of an adult man and child who are within the same body.”
The Innocents itself was inspired by the Henry James novel The Turn of the Screw but the song in question feels far more keenly attuned to the film, least of all because it has since been provided with a music video that uses scenes from the picture.
Night of the Demon (1957) – ‘Hounds of Love’
The title track from her 1985 record Hounds of Love, the first notes of this song set you up perfectly for what will be an incredible LP. The track arrives with a simple power that renders it one of the best pop songs ever written, its cinematic influence dripping from every note.
Drums thunder like they only do in Hollywood folklore, and Bush’s vocal ranges from the utterly beautiful to the beautifully guttural in a flash bang of potent pop pomp. Bush expressed herself through her instrument, unlike any artist we had ever heard.
The first moments of that song also provide another area often left untouched by precocious musical snobs. Kate Bush was a multimedia visionary. “It’s in the trees, it’s coming!” the first words of ‘Hounds of Love’ was initially taken from the 1957 British horror film Night of the Demon. It showed that Bush, along with the fast-paced musical world of the eighties, was not only willing to change but was adamant about her evolution.
She’s Having a Baby (1988) – ‘This Woman’s Work’
Okay, so this one is a bit of a cheat. Rather than be inspired by a film in some cosmic moment of fate, ‘This Woman’s Work‘ was directly influenced by the 1988 film She’s Having a Baby, owing to its position as part of the soundtrack. However, this song’s cinematic gild comes directly from Bush’s affection for Hollywood glamour and the sweet sentiment at the core of the production.
Director John Hughes expertly used the song during the film’s dramatic climax, when Jake (Kevin Bacon) learns that the lives of his wife, Kristy (Elizabeth McGovern), and their unborn child are in danger. It’s the same sentiment that Bush adopts for the lyrics.
‘This Woman’s Work’ played to a seizing montage of happier times, flashbacks and dramatic moments and was written by Bush specifically for the scene from Jake’s viewpoint, even matching the words to the visuals which had already been filmed by the time Bush composed it. It’s a mark of commendation to her impeccable songwriting skills and ability to find empathy in almost every situation.
The Shining (1977) – ‘Get Out of My House’
In Kate Bush’s back catalogue, a lesser-known track takes great inspiration from Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s 1977 novel, The Shining. Taken from her 1982 album, The Dreaming, ‘Get Out of My House’ places the song’s narrator in the same terrifying universe as the incredibly spooky Overlook Hotel from The Shining.
The song takes on the essence of an asylum, and the pounding rhythm of the drum gives it a suffocating, claustrophobic feel. This expertly emulates the film’s iconic feeling that the walls are always closing in. Bush’s lyrics also build on this sentiment: “This house is as old as I am / This house knows all I have done.”
Kubrick’s adaptation of the book was genius in the way that it brought all of the horrors of King’s words to life. Aided by his education as a photographer, visually, Kubrick established The Overlook Hotel as one of the most spine-tingling environments ever put to film.