The world gets to know Kate Bush: the release of Wuthering Heights

Kate Bush 1978 (

Kate Bush 1978


Upon reading the 1999 book Avro’s TopPop I realized that February 25th, 1978, was a day to remember: Kate Bush’s debut on Dutch television. My personal introduction to Wuthering Heights, which entered the Dutch Top 40 on March 11, 1978 (3 days before my 12th birthday) at position 26. At the time, I bought the single and the song has never left me since.

This is the story of Wuthering Heights and the start of my lifelong admiration for and wonder of the phenomenon that is Kate Bush.

Kate Bush

Kate Bush 1972 (

Kate Bush 1972

Catherine Bush was born on July 30, 1958. Early on Bush showed her extraordinary talent(s). She mastered the piano by herself when she was just 11 years old, she started writing songs soon after. Around 1974/1975, Bush was 16 years old, a demo was made by the Bush family containing over 50 (!) Bush compositions. Label after label rejected the tape, until it landed in Pink Floyd guitar player David Gilmour’s lap. He was impressed and helped Bush record a professional demo. The demo contained 3 songs and was offered to EMI (the record company Pink Floyd was signed to); they reacted immediately.

However, EMI didn’t want to release the music just yet. Kate Bush was deemed too young for either disappointment or success. In the meantime Bush finished high school and studied with dancer and choreographer Lindsay Kemp and mime-artist Adam Darius, who were very influential to her presentation and theater sensibility. In the meantime she kept on working on her music, recording almost 200 (!) demos. From March to August 1977 she performed as the leader of the KT Bush Band. In August 1977 she started recording sessions for her debut album The Kick Inside.

The start of Kate Bush’s career has been previously addressed on this blog, see Kate Bush makes her comeback with the beautiful Aerial.

Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights - 1977 acetate (

Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights – 1977 acetate

Wuthering Heights

On March 5, 1977, late in the evening, Kate Bush started working on a new song. A couple of hours later she was done. She got inspired after seeing the last 10 minutes of a 1967 BBC miniseries. It was an adaptation of Emily Brontë’s book Wuthering Heights, which was published in 1847. After scanning/reading the book Bush discovered she shared her date of birth with Brontë.

The song is written form the perspective of Catherine Earnshaw (note the shared first name between Bush and the character), a ghost, who begs to be let in by the window of Heathcliff. The actual story in the book is that Catherine (the ghost) takes the hand of the narrator (Mr Lockwood) and asks him to be let in, in order to obtain her lover Heathcliff’s forgiveness, so she can be freed from her purgatory. It sounds slightly less romantic than the way Bush conveys the story in her song.

Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights (

Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights


The song was produced by Andrew Powell, who went on to produces Bush’s first two albums. Engineer Jon Kelly would work with Bush up to album number 3. They both talked about the recording sessions for Wuthering Heights. According to Powell Kate Bush recorded her vocals in one take, “a complete performance” without overdubs. Kelly: “There was no compiling. We started the mix at around midnight and Kate was there the whole time, encouraging us… we got on with the job and finished at about five or six that morning”.

Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights - First video (

Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights – First video

First single or not?

Record company EMI wanted to release James And The Cold Gun as the first single, but Bush had other plans: Wuthering Heights was the song to release first. The single’s release was originally planned for November 4, 1977, but Bush was unhappy with the cover and demanded it be replaced. The single was postponed to January 20, 1978. In hindsight, a wise decision, because in late 1977 Wings scored the biggest hit in the history of the English charts with Mull Of Kintyre.

Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights - Second video (

Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights – Second video (aka The Red Dress video)


Whenever Wuthering Heights is the subject, the videos cannot go unmentioned. They were important tools for the introduction of Bush the artist. The choreography and presentation were developed by Bush herself. Her movements and dance were supposed to portray the fact that the song’s main character was a ghost.

The first version of the video was recorded in a studio. Bush performs the song in a foggy space wearing a white dress. The second version is arguably the most iconic clip ever. Recorded before November 1977 (the initial intended release for the single), the video shows Bush “out in the wily, windy moors”, a piece of land near Salisbury Plain. Bush performs the song out in the open, wearing a flowy red dress.

Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights - Toppop (

Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights – Toppop


On March 25, 1978, the Dutch pop program Toppop broadcast a Wuthering Heights clip which was filmed in the Toppop studio.

Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights - Efteling special (

Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights – Efteling special


On May 12, 1978, Dutch television broadcast a special that promoted the new Spookslot attraction of Dutch theme park De Efteling as well as Bush’s debut album, The Kick Inside. The special lasted around 20 minutes. Besides the songs Moving, Them Heavy People, The Man With The Child In His Eyes, Strange Phenomena and The Kick Inside, recordings were also made for Wuthering Heights. The best known Bush song was recorded at the Spookslot: Bush crawls form a sarcophagus wearing a long white dress.

Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights - Covers (

Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights – Covers (regular, The Netherlands, Spanish countries, US)


The single cover strongly resembled the cover of her debut album, which contained a picture of Bush like she was “clinging to a large painted dragon kite, gliding across a vast, all-seeing eye”. For the American and Spanish markets another cover (picture) was used.

Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights - Gold single (

Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights – Gold single


On February 18, 1978, Bush debuted at number 27 in the UK singles chart. Three weeks later Wuthering Heights reached the number 1 position. She was the first female artist to reach that position with a song written by the artist herself. In the UK the single was certified gold, meaning that the single sold over half a million copies.

But the success wasn’t limited to the UK. Wuthering Heights was a major hit in Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, West-Germany and Australia. The single was certified platinum in New Zealand, holding the number 1 position there for 5 consecutive weeks.

Of course, it was also a huge hit in The Netherlands, to which I (all too gladly) cooperated. I bought the single (maybe it was a present for my birth day?) and was absolutely enchanted. On March 11, 1978, the single debuted in the Dutch Top 40, where it would reach the 4h position. The single disappeared from the charts after 11 weeks.

The only market Wuthering Heights didn’t do too much was the US, where they didn’t know what to do with Kate Bush. She didn’t fit any radio format, or maybe she was just too “alien”?

Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights - Dutch Top 40 1978 (

Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights – Course in the Dutch Top 40, 1978, week 9 to 20

Bush on Wuthering Heights

What did Kate Bush have to say about Wuthering Heights, shortly after the single’s release?

When I first read Wuthering Heights I thought the story was so strong. This young girl in an era when the female role was so inferior and she was coming out with this passionate, heavy stuff. Great subject matter for a song.

I loved writing it. It was a real challenge to precis the whole mood of a book into such a short piece of prose. Also when I was a child I was always called Cathy not Kate and I just found myself able to relate to her as a character. It’s so important to put yourself in the role of the person in a song. There’s no half measures. When I sing that song I am Cathy.

Gosh, I sound so intense. Wuthering Heights is so important to me. It had to be the single. To me it was the only one. I had to fight off a few other people’s opinions but in the end they agreed with me. I was amazed at the response though, truly overwhelmed.

Kate’s Fairy Tale, Record Mirror, February 1978


The audience picked it up instantly. This was something different, new, quirky and unique. As unbelievable as it is, but Record Mirror (the same publication that published the quote above) categorized the single as “B-o-r-i-n-g”. But generally speaking, the press was positive.

Her presentation was (and still is) a popular subject for satire and ridicule. Every time someone appears in a red dress the link to Bush is quickly made.

Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights - First video (still) (

Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights – First video (still)


Well, what can I say about Wuthering Heights? My opinion is very clear, It is one the most beautiful songs I know, still to this day, after all those years. I still get goosebumps, I still can get teary eyed. It’s one of those (rather rare) songs that hit me upon the very first note. Don’t get me started on the part where she starts singing “Ooh, let me have it, let me grab your soul away”

I have always followed Bush’s closely and a number of her albums are part of my all-time favorites (including The Dreaming, Hounds Of Love and Aerial).


Songs written by Kate Bush.

  • Wuthering Heights
  • Kite


  • Kate Bush – vocals, piano
  • Ian Bairnson – electric guitar
  • Stuart Elliott – drums
  • Duncan Mackay – (Hammond) organ
  • David Paton – acoustic guitar
  • Morris Pert – percussion
  • Andrew Powell – bass, celesta


Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights - Handwritten lyrics (

Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights – Handwritten lyrics

Kate Bush - The Kick Inside (

Kate Bush – The Kick Inside

After Wuthering Heights

The Wuthering Heights single was followed by the release of Kate Bush’s debut album, The Kick Inside, on February 17, 1978. It was the starting point for a varied, bold and outright genius career by one of the most important forces in (pop)music over the last 5 decades.

In 1986 Wuthering Heights was remixed and new vocals were added, which was released on the compilation album The Whole Story.

In 2018 Bush was asked to provide an epitaph for a stone to be placed by the original home of Emily Brontë. Bush wrote a poem, Emily. Bush: “to be asked to write a piece for Emily’s stone is an honor and, in a way, a chance to say thank you to her”.

The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever 2017 (

The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever 2017

The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever

In 2013 an attempt at a world record was made: the most people dressed up like Kate Bush gathered in one place. Dress code: thé red dress. Since 2016 The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever is an annual event. Hundreds of people in red dresses dance to Wuthering Heights. Fans gather in cities like Melbourne, Brussel, Copenhagen, Berlin, Austin and Edinburgh. After Bush was shown a video of the event, she said she thought it was “very touching and sweet”.

In closing

What’s your take on Wuthering Heights? Let me know. It’s greatly appreciated!

This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: The world gets to know Kate Bush: the release of Wuthering Heights. The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.


    • Edward on 01/21/2023 at 9:15 AM
    • Reply

    Some kind of debut! Extremely iconic, quirky, very own, and most certainly unique. And all that in the midst of disco and punk. I was immediately mesmerized by the single, and then continued to follow her career. That is exactly what a debut single should be able to do.
    Funfact: I still remember sometimes playing The Kick Inside, and friends saying: can you please put on another album, I can’t stand that voice. Hahahah. Whilst I was thinking: man, what are you talking about?!

    1. I have never understood it, but apparently there are a lot Kate Bush haters out there. Absolutely incomprehensible to me.

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