"Dear Billy, I don’t even know if you can hear this. Ever since you left, everything’s been a total disaster. For a while, we tried to be happy, normal. I know that’s impossible"
37 years after her first number one in the UK with Wuthering Heights Kate Bush took the number one spot again in June 2022. A surge in popularity of her 1985 Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) following its appearance in season 4 of Stranger Things (more of that later) and becoming a huge Tik Tok favourite with Generation Z.
(A Deal With God) is from the album Hounds Of Love, Bush’s magnum opus. The album came on the back of the commercial disappointment of Dreaming, an album that was deeply personal and a push back of music from her first two albums. It was an experiment that the public didn't really take to.
Bush moved back to the countryside where she grew up and wrote her first songs as a 13-year-old, the peace and inspirational new surroundings clearly worked. “The stimulus of the countryside is fantastic. I sit at my piano and watch skies moving and trees blowing and that’s far more exciting than buildings and roads and millions of people.”
Ditching Abbey Road and going about producing the album herself in her own studio and becoming the master of the Fairlight synth produced an album of 2 halves, a compromise of her artistic integrity and commercial success.
The album starts with the aforementioned Running Up That Hill, a song about making a deal with God to allow a couple who have relationship issues to swap places so they might be able to see each other's view and gain empathy. The first half continues the theme of relationships of people, the title track Hounds Of Love (about running from intimacy), Mother Stands For Comfort and Cloudbusting which is the tale of a father and son based on the book ‘A Book Of Dreams’ by Peter Reich ( the video has Donald Sutherland playing his father Wilhelm Reich).
The second half and the other side of the LP becomes a concept album with ‘The Ninth Suite’. It is made up of 7 songs acting as one telling the story of a woman drifting alone in the sea wearing a life jacket, seeing her life and past lives flash before her eyes.
The album was a huge success which brings us to Stranger Things after Running Up That Hill was featured on the show it became the most-streamed song on Spotify in the United States, the United Kingdom and globally.
**Below contains spoilers of the episode Dear Billy in Season 4 of Stranger Things**
‘Dear Billy’ is the episode of Stranger Things where Running Up That Hill really packs the emotional punch. This series is darker and more horror orientated compared with the previous seasons. There's obvious inspiration from Nightmare on Elm Street, Robert Englund (who plays Freddy Kruger in the Elm Street movies) makes an appearance in this episode. A series of grizzly killings have taken place and Max (Sadie Sink) is next on the supernatural murderer's list. Victim's enter a trance-like state and cannot be woken up before they are killed in both the dream and real-world in an exorcist-style fashion.
It is soon revealed music can break through this trance and can help you escape the demon like Vecna, just in time too as Max enters a trance and is moments away from a gruesome ending.
Her friends scramble through the tapes and finally find Kate Bush, the real hero of this episode.
In the Upside Down, a doorway opens and Max glimpses herself at the grave with Steve, Dustin and Lucas around her. As the music plays she sees visions of her friends. Laughing and flirting with Lucas, joking around with Mike and getting ice cream with Eleven. All these fun memories counter the shame and guilt she feels over the death of Billy.
A reminder that she is worthy of love and has something to live for, all to the soundtrack of Running up That Hill.
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featured images: Kate Bush/netflix/emi/noble&brite/newline cinema