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The Story Behind The Song: 'Running Up That Hill (Deal With God)' Kate Bush's ultimate bargain


It’s hard to ignore the widespread furore surrounding the rediscovery of Kate Bush’s seminal single ‘Running up That Hill (Deal With God)’. Since appearing on the wildly popular Netflix series Stranger Things, and the subsequent TikTok trends that now follow such a discovery, the song has shot to number one and toppled a whole host of records along the way. Perhaps its biggest triumph was bringing Bush out of her usually comfortable position in the shadows and garnering a brand new interview.

“The thought of all these really young people hearing the song for the first time and discovering it is, well, I think it’s very special,” the 63-year-old singer told Emma Barnett for an exclusive interview on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, the iconic show broadcast on weekdays from 10am. Speaking of the Netflix boom to her back catalogue plays, Bush commented: “Well it’s just extraordinary. I mean, you know, it’s such a great series, I thought that the track would get some attention. But I just never imagined that it would be anything like this. It’s so exciting. But it’s quite shocking really, isn’t it? I mean, the whole world’s gone mad.”

Clearly in an upbeat frame of mind, she continued: “The thought of all these really young people hearing the song for the first time and discovering it is, well, I think it’s very special.” It is very special indeed, but not quite as special as the song at hand. Arguably Bush’s finest song, the track is a stark reminder of her talent and a fearsome depiction of her tremendous acumen for penning songs that shake the soul and last forever.

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Arriving as the first notes of one of music’s seminal moments of theatrical and poetic pop perfection, Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ straddles the line between synth-laden operatic gold and a deeply personal and spiritual song about the quest for greater understanding. In our feature ‘The Story Behind The Song’, we’re taking this moment to look at the shining gem in the pop crown that is Bush’s album Hounds of Love and find out the track’s beginnings and it’s continued journey.

The first hit of ‘Running Up That Hill’ leaves you in no doubt, this is not just a pop masterpiece but an undulating and intriguing song like none that had ever been heard before. It married up the love letter sensibilities that all truly great pop music should at least allude to. But it also gathered up a new level of poetic thinking as Bush’s lyrics explore not only human connection but our relationship with God. As the singer told Barnett in a recent interview, “I really like people to hear a song and take from it what they want. But originally it was written as the idea of a man and a woman swapping with each other. Just to feel what it was like, from the other side.”

Bush explained a little more intently, however, back in a 1985 interview: “It’s about a relationship between a man and a woman. They love each other very much, and the power of the relationship is something that gets in the way.” It’s an intriguing prospect and one largely underpinned by the fragility of those relationships. “It creates insecurities,” Bush continues, “It’s saying if the man could be the woman and the woman the man, if they could make a deal with God, to change places, that they’d understand what it’s like to be the other person and perhaps it would clear up misunderstandings. You know, all the little problems; there would be no problem.”

Bush elaborated when speaking to the BBC in 1992: “I was trying to say that, really, a man and a woman can’t understand each other because we are a man and a woman. And if we could actually swap each other’s roles, if we could actually be in each other’s place for a while, I think we’d both be very surprised! [Laughs] And I think it would lead to a greater understanding.” A joyous idea and one which is wonderfully supported by the synth-drenched crescendos that add flourish to Bush’s sentiment and a taste of glistening pop to proceedings.

She continues to add layer upon layer to the lyrics as she explores heavenly sources of inspiration, “Really the only way I could think it could be done was either… you know, I thought a deal with the devil, you know. And I thought, ‘well, no, why not a deal with God!’ You know, because in a way it’s so much more powerful the whole idea of asking God to make a deal with you.” It’s part of the theatrical mind of Bush which has made her a British institution.

Bush also revealed that while the title is more widely known as ‘Running Up That Hill’ that’s not how she thinks of it. She said, “You see, for me it is still called ‘Deal With God’, that was its title. But we were told that if we kept this title that it would not be played in any of the religious countries, Italy wouldn’t play it, France wouldn’t play it, and Australia wouldn’t play it! Ireland wouldn’t play it, and that generally, we might get it blacked purely because it had God in the title.”

This was a point which had us a little confused here in the Far Out Offices. Wouldn’t a song which in more ways than one is encouraging a relationship with God to better help human connection be a note of pride for the Church? Apparently not. It didn’t affect the power of the song though as it is still widely regarded as one of the great leading tracks of any album.

The track was the lead single of one of Bush’s most incredible works, Hounds of Love remains a pop masterpiece and ‘Running Up That Hill (Deal With God)’ is a lead single worthy of such an album. Only released ahead of ‘Cloudbusting’ through Kate’s insistence, the track has become one of her most iconic to date. Now, with a whole new generation of music lovers attaching their own personal feelings to the track, it is almost guaranteed to provide a bump of interest and be the gateway to Bush’s work it always has been.

Listen below to Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill (Deal with God)’.