What’s the story behind the Kate Bush song ‘Running Up that Hill’?

David Redfern / Getty Images

Kate Bush is back in a big way. If you’re not familiar, the British singer has a smash hit song called “Running Up that Hill” thanks to it being prominently featured in season four of the monster hit show Stranger Things.

The song, which was originally released a whopping 37 years ago from the album Hounds of Love, is breaking chart records all over the world and recently hit the number one spot in the U.K., something the song could not do when it was released in 1985.

“Running Up that Hill” has made oodles of money for Bush and re-sparked an interest in the now 63-year-old’s career. Bush is notoriously private, but she has publicly said that the whole ordeal is “really exciting.”

Now that a whole new generation is discovering the song, Bush said she really wants people to take what they want from it, but that she did have a story and theme in mind when she wrote it.

“Running Up that Hill,” also known as “Running Up that Hill (A Deal with God)”, was the lead single from Bush’s 1985 album Hounds of Love. Bush both wrote and produced the song herself. Originally, the song was simply titled “A Deal with God,” but her record label EMI wasn’t neccesarily excited about releasing a song with the work “God” in the title.

The argument from the label was that releasing a song that referenced God could potentially upset certain countries and markets, and possibly persuade those entities to not play the song at all. Eventually, Bush changed the name of the song and kept the offending title in parenthesis on the album.

“Running Up that Hill” was not the original choice of first single from Hounds of Love, with the record company preferring “Cloudbusting”. Bush fought for the release of “Running Up that Hill,” arguing that it was the first song she wrote for the album and that it was a better representation of it as a whole.

What’s the story behind “Running Up that Hill?”

Back in 1985, Bush explained the meaning of the song as about making a deal with God to switch lives with another person so they can understand each other better.

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 creates insecurities. 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.

She also said the song’s often been misinterpreted.

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!

Interestingly, Bush said she initially thought to maybe make a song about making a deal with the Devil, but she ultimately choose to go with God because it was “more powerful.”

And I think it would lead to a greater understanding. And 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.

She also touched on the idea that she had to change the title to not offend anyone.

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.