Iterations: Kate Bush – “Wuthering Heights”

Iterations: Kate Bush – “Wuthering Heights”

My wife told me of a conversation she had at work recently wherein it came out that one of her co-workers had never read Wuthering Heights, the book, and only knew “Wuthering Heights”, the song, while my wife had read the book but never heard the song. This puzzled me as I had read the book as part of my high school English curriculum and knew the song well because, well, it’s a goddamn classic. So I played her the song, and then went into this little rabbit hole.

The 1978 single was Kate Bush’s introduction to the world, and would hit number one on the UK charts for a month ahead of the release of her debut album The Kick Inside. And I won’t get more into the minutiae of the song because, well, this 2014 NME article exists:

But if you’re interested in more than just trivia or listicles, I can point you at this piece from the June 2004 issue of Sound On Sound that picks engineer Jon Kelly’s brain about the recording of the song, and by extension the rest of Kick Inside.

CLASSIC TRACKS: Kate Bush ‘Wuthering Heights’ @ Sound On Sound

Multiple videos were released for the song; one for the UK and European outlets, and one for the US.

“Wuthering Heights”, UK version
“Wuthering Heights”, US version

A second version of the song also exists; when Bush’s 1986 best-of The Whole Story was released, it included a version of “Wuthering Heights” with new vocals recorded overtop the original instrumental tracks. Why? Why not?

As befit a multi-week chart-topping single, Bush was invited to perform on Top Of The Pops many times and apparently performed the song five times in March of 1978; I’ve found four of them, and tried to assign the correct dates but I dunno. But can you imagine trying to put together a new performance every week? Madness.

“Wuthering Heights”, Top Of The Pops – March 2, 1978
“Wuthering Heights”, Top Of The Pops – March 9, 1978
“Wuthering Heights”, Top Of The Pops – March 23, 1978
“Wuthering Heights”, Top Of The Pops – March 25, 1978

I won’t attempt to collect every cover out there because some are awful (hello Wolfmother) and while I’ve been curious about the people who’ve had the hubris to perform it on The Voice, I’ve resisted watching any (yet) so also won’t share those. But here’s a few:

Pat Benatar covered it on her second album, 1980’s Crimes Of Passion, the fact of which is almost as bewildering as how okay it sounds. Still not something I’d have ever expected.

Norwegian electronic duo Röyksopp covered it live in their 2010/2011 tours, with Anneli Drecker handling vocals. Here’s their performance at the Wiltern in Los Angeles in March 2011:

My favourite cover is by The Decemberists, but thankfully Colin Meloy doesn’t take a swing at it. Instead, it was recorded live when Petra Haden was a member of the band, circa Picaresque around 2005.

And finally, this adorable version by Sophie Ellis-Bextor from last Hallowe’en recorded in her kitchen, assisted by her children. Delightful.

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