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Kate Bush: Running Up That Hill lyrics and meaning in Stranger Things as song hits Number 1 in UK charts

The tune, originally released in the 80s, plays an important role in the newest season of Stranger Things

Kate Bush has broken the record for the longest time taken for a single to reach number one, after she landed in the top spot with Running Up That Hill 37 years after it was released thanks to its usage in the latest season of the hit Netflix series Stranger Things.

The 80s ballad is also currently sitting in the number one spot in Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland, and has achieved a new peak in the US charts at number four.

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The British singer-songwriter has also secured the title of the longest gap between number one singles, as her only other chart-topping moment was 44 years ago with her debut single, Wuthering Heights, in 1978.

To round off her trio of records, at 63 Bush has become the oldest female artist ever to score a UK number one.

She replaces Cher, who was 52 when her song Believe topped the charts in 1998.

When was Running Up That Hill first released?

Running Up That Hill was first released in 1985, as part of Bush’s fifth studio album Hounds of Love. Also on the album were songs like Cloudbusting, The Big Sky and Mother Stands for Comfort.

The song was originally titled A Deal with God, however it was renamed due to concerns that it would be negatively received in religious countries.

English singer-songwriter and musician Kate Bush, 21st February 1978. (Photo by Chris Moorhouse/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Bush said in a 1992 interview with Richard Skinner on Radio 1: “We were told that if we kept this title that it wouldn’t 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. Now, I couldn’t believe this, this seemed completely ridiculous to me and the title was such a part of the song’s entity.

“I just couldn’t understand it. But nonetheless, although I was very unhappy about it, I felt unless I compromised that I was going to be cutting my own throat, you know, I’d just spent two, three years making an album and we weren’t gonna get this record played on the radio, if I was stubborn.

“So I felt I had to be grown up about this, so we changed it to Running Up That Hill

English singer-songwriter and musician Kate Bush at her family's home in East Wickham, London, 26th September 1978. (Photo by Chris Moorhouse/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

“But it’s always something I’ve regretted doing, I must say. And normally I always regret any compromises that I make.”

Speaking to the BBC in 1992, Bush explained the meaning of the song, saying: “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!

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

What are the lyrics?

These are the lyrics to Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush:

If I only could, I'd be running up that hill.

If I only could, I'd be running up that hill."

It doesn't hurt me.

Do you want to feel how it feels?

Do you want to know that it doesn't hurt me?

Do you want to hear about the deal that I'm making?

You, it's you and me.

And if I only could,

I'd make a deal with God,

And I'd get him to swap our places,

Be running up that road,

Be running up that hill,

Be running up that building.

If I only could, oh...

You don't want to hurt me,

But see how deep the bullet lies.

Unaware I'm tearing you asunder.

Ooh, there is thunder in our hearts.

Is there so much hate for the ones we love?

Tell me, we both matter, don't we?

You, it's you and me.

It's you and me won't be unhappy.

And if I only could,

I'd make a deal with God,

And I'd get him to swap our places,

Be running up that road,

Be running up that hill,

Be running up that building,

Say, if I only could, oh...

You,

It's you and me,

It's you and me won't be unhappy.

"C'mon, baby, c'mon darling,

Let me steal this moment from you now.

C'mon, angel, c'mon, c'mon, darling,

Let's exchange the experience, oh..."

And if I only could,

I'd make a deal with God,

And I'd get him to swap our places,

Be running up that road,

Be running up that hill,

With no problems.

And if I only could,

I'd make a deal with God,

And I'd get him to swap our places,

Be running up that road,

Be running up that hill,

With no problems.

And if I only could,

I'd make a deal with God,

And I'd get him to swap our places,

Be running up that road,

Be running up that hill,

With no problems.

If I only could

Be running up that hill

With no problems...

"If I only could, I'd be running up that hill.

If I only could, I'd be running up that hill."

What has Kate Bush said about the song’s renewed popularity?

Bush said she has been “overwhelmed by the scale of affection and support” for the song as she thanked fans for making the track number one.

She also praised the creators of the popular horror drama for “bringing the song into so many people’s lives”.

Bush said: “I believe the Duffer Brothers have touched people’s hearts in a special way at a time that’s incredibly difficult for everyone, especially younger people.

English singer/songwriter, musician, dancer and record producer Kate Bush holding her two awards for ‘Best British Female Singer’ and ‘Best British Newcomer’ at the Capital Radio Music Awards ceremony held at the Grosvenor Hotel, London, UK, 6th March 1979. (Photo by Stuart Nicol/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

“By featuring Running Up That Hill in such a positive light, as a talisman for Max (one of the main female characters), the song has been brought into the emotional arena of her story.

“Fear, conflict and the power of love are all around her and her friends.

“I salute the Duffer Brothers for their courage – taking this new series into a much more adult and darker place. I want to thank them so much for bringing the song into so many people’s lives.

“I’m overwhelmed by the scale of affection and support the song is receiving, and it’s all happening really fast, as if it’s being driven along by a kind of elemental force.

“I have to admit I feel really moved by it all. Thank you so very much for making the song a No 1 in such an unexpected way.”

Kate Bush has become a three time Official Charts Record Breaker as Running Up That Hill lands at number 1 on the Official Singles Char (Photo: PA/Official Charts Company)

Speaking to Emma Barnett on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, Bush said: “It’s just extraordinary. I mean 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.”

She added: “What’s really wonderful, I think, is this is a whole new audience who, in a lot of cases, they’ve never heard of me and I love that.

“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.”

What’s the significance of the song in Stranger Things?

Spoilers for episode four of Stranger Things season four

Running Up That Hill plays an important role in the newest season of Stranger Things, providing the soundtrack to one of the most powerful scenes between Max (Sadie Sink) and Vecna, but also for the character of Max within the show as well.

Running Up That Hill holds significance for the character of Max, played by Sadie Sink (Photo: Netflix)

In the new season, Max is left mourning the death of her stepbrother Billy (Dacre Montgomery) after seeing him brutally killed by the Mind Flayer in season three.

Pulling away from her friends and becoming withdrawn and depressed, she becomes the perfect target for Vecna, the villain of season four - a serial killer from the Upside Down who tortures his victims with their worst fears and nightmares before killing them.

Vecna uses Billy’s death to target Max (Photo: Netflix)

Sitting at her brother’s gravesite, Vecna appears before Max as Billy, bloody and mutilated, and uses her survivor’s guilt to rub salt into her already painful emotional wound.

As Billy, Vecna tells Max: “Late at night, you have sometimes wished to follow me. Follow me into death. That is why I am here, Max, to end your suffering once and for all.”

As Max attempts to outrun Vecna, he materialises before her and she suddenly finds herself in the Upside Down. In the real world, her friends desperately try to save her from Vecna’s grasp - and they do that by blasting Running Up That Hill into Max’s headphones.

Max is ultimately saved by her friends after they play the song in her headphones (Photo: Netflix)

As Vecna prepares to kill Max, she closes her eyes and sees happy memories - good times with El, dressing up as a Ghostbuster and sharing a kiss with Lucas. She manages to break free from Vecna and escape through the portal, back to her friends in the real world.

How did the song end up in the show?

Speaking to Variety, Stranger Things’ music supervisor Nora Felder explained that she was the one in charge of brainstorming the songs used to portray the emotional experiences that Max was going through in the show.

She said: “Consequently, each of the prospective song placements in the initial scripts was tagged with the placeholder, ‘TBD Max song.’ From there, I made an effort to internally align myself with what the Duffers felt were the most important elements needed, and my own intuitive grasp of Max’s complex feelings.”

Felder said that she landed on Running Up That Hill pretty quickly, however was aware that Bush could be pretty selective about what she does and does not allow to use her music.

Nora Felder attends the 2018 Creative Arts Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 8, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

She said: “I sat with my clearance coordinator, and laid out all the scripted scenes for song uses that we knew of at that point.

“Knowing the challenges, we proceeded to create elaborate scene descriptions that provided as much context as possible so that Kate and her camp would have a full understanding of the uses. … When we finished, we were on edge, but excited and hopeful.”

On the other side of the conversation was Wende Crowley, Sony Music Publishing SVP of creative marketing, film and TV.

Crowley said: “Nora Felder came to us pre-pandemic to discuss the idea of using it as Max’s ‘song’ for this season.

“She wanted to make sure it was within the realm of possibility before she got the Duffer Brothers on board with the idea, since the song was going to be “such a focal point to Max’s storyline.

(L-R) Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer attend as Netflix Hosts “Stranger Things” Los Angeles FYSEE Event at Netflix FYSee Space on May 27, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

“Kate Bush is selective when it comes to licensing her music and because of that, we made sure to get script pages and footage for her to review so she could see exactly how the song would be used.”

Luckily for Felder, Bush turned out to be a pretty big fan of the show and, following conversations about the intent and vision that the team had in mind, Bush granted her permission for it to be used.

Bush has said that she was pleased that the song had been a “positive totem” for Max’s character, played by Sadie Sink.

She said: “When the first series came out, friends kept asking us if we’d seen Stranger Things, so we checked it out and really loved it.

Sadie Sink attends as Netflix Hosts “Stranger Things” Los Angeles FYSEE Event at Netflix FYSee Space on May 27, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

“We’ve watched every series since then, as a family. When they approached us to use Running Up That Hill, you could tell that a lot of care had gone into how it was used in the context of the story and I really liked the fact that the song was a positive totem for the character, Max.

“I’m really impressed by this latest series. It’s an epic piece of work – the shows are extremely well put together with great characters and fantastic SFX.

“It’s very touching that the song has been so warmly received, especially as it’s being driven by the young fans who love the shows.

“I’m really happy that the Duffer Brothers are getting such positive feedback for their latest creation. They deserve it.”