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Wow by Kate Bush

Album: LionheartReleased: 1978Charted:
14
  • When Kate wrote this song she was trying to emulate the Pink Floyd sound. David Gilmour of Pink Floyd was a helped nurture her career.
  • This is a song about show business, not just rock music but show business in general including acting and theatre. Bush is sort of portraying a female movie star (probably a sex symbol) and the song is a bit of a parody of a lot of the things in show business.
  • The line, "He's too busy hitting the Vaseline" refers to the fact that there are a lot of homosexuals in show business. She did not mean this as a criticism, but just as an observation. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Lee - Ottawa, Canada, for all above
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Comments: 16

@Dylan, I used to think that but then it occurred to me that actors tend to use COLD CREAM for taking off their make-up, not Vaseline.Chrissyjj - Uk
Yes Dylan you're right but take into consideration that in her video when she sings that line she's also patting her ass so maybe she is referring to that.Dyan - 19029
Can't possibly be about Mark Arden. London Burning didn't start till 1988, several years after Wow.Peter - Cornwall
Good lord, people! The "vaseline" line has nothing to do with gay sex! Nobody uses vaseline for sex.

Vaseline is used by performers to remove stage makeup. The image is of an actor sadly wiping away his stage persona alone in his dressing room after the magic of the performance has faded and the cheapness of the illusion is revealed.
Dylan - San Francisco
@Anna, I'm 99% certain that you are wrong. If you google images for Kate Bush Lyrics Wow, I came across a scan of what looked like the back of the single cover, and the word is clearly Vaseline.John - Stoke, United Kingdom
@all those of you who deny the line is "hitting the vaseline," watch the embedded video. kate actually pats her rump while singing it. yes, it *is* "vaseline," and yes, it *does* mean "that.'Rj - Cleveland, Oh
@Anna, I like your comment, because it works for the song, but I'm pretty sure you're off with the words. "Screen"/"Queen" and "Célèbre" do not rhyme at all. ("say-LEHb(r)" would be how it'd sound), and I seem to recall that Kate's French is quite good. Further nitpick: the French word for "celebrity" is "célébrité" and your word means "famous" (and of course a "famous bar" makes literal sense too, but I still don't think that's right). Critically, her rump-patting, rather cements her reference to a more sexual nature, although there might be some connection between an ass hitting a stool in a famous bar, so there's that.

The song itself, no, I would agree with most folks here, is not specifically about homosexuality. It certainly has a snappy, snarky, and, frankly, cruel element to it, paired with the video, and it could easily be read as "camp," from a certain angle. It's kind of what impressed me about it. But I've personally always accepted the song as a scathing, yet somewhat sympathetic, indictment of a raging narcissist, of someone who must be the center of attention at all times. Who must always be "on" in front of people ("We're all alone on the stage tonight..." so why are you still "acting" the song seems to say). "Unbelieveable!" is a great word too, since it literally means something that can not be believed, but is itself neutral, although what is actually referenced could be good or bad.

I say "sympathetic" because there is also a sense from the song that her subject is trapped in his role of attention-seeker. And Kate's "we" of people saying their lines they've said "so many times" before to the subject has an element of pity as well as weariness. And "the actor" always dies "too soon," oblivious of others, totally into himself, which is the center of the tragedy of the song.
Anotherg - San Francisco, Ca
Whoops, my previous comment didn't manage to reproduce the french punctuation marks, so here it is without the proper punctuation: The line refered to as "He's too busy hitting the vaseline", is actually "He's too busy hitting the bar celebre". This is a play on the popular phrase 'cause celebre' derived from the french. So he's hitting the celibrity bar. It is quite hilarious that so many websites have copied and spread this embarrassing mis-hearing. I doubt anyone could contact every single site and correct it, I certainly couldn't be bothered, so a nation will continue to sing along with "vaseline"!Anna - Kent, United Kingdom
The line refered to as "He's too busy hitting the vaseline", is actually "He's too busy hitting the bar célèbre". This is a play on the popular phrase 'cause célèbre' derived from the french. So he's hitting the celibrity bar. It is quite hilarious that so many websites have copied and spread this embarrassing mis-hearing. I doubt anyone could contact every single site and correct it, I certainly couldn't be bothered, so a nation will continue to sing along with "vaseline"!Anna - Kent, United Kingdom
This is a song about the false promises and insincerity in the entertainment industry and Kate Bush makes a very clever analogy between the musician and the actor. It's very difficult to make it and to become established. The reference to Vaseline is to do with the fact that in order to succeed the actor (or musician) has to put themselves in a position where they can be screwed, and has got nothing to do with homosexuality. I don't think Kate Bush would write a song or a line pointing out that there are a lot of homosexuals in show business, and pointing this out doesn't add anything to the meaning of the song.Stella - London, United Kingdom
I am not sure the song itself is to do with homosexuality, but im pretty sure the line, "He's too busy hitting the Vaseline" is. In one of the promos for this song Kate pats her rump whilst singing this line. Aslo London's Burning was made years after this song, so any character he played in that wouldn't have appeared in this song.Joe - London, United Kingdom
Very overdramatisiced. But good nonetheless.Chris - Claremont, Ca
I don't think 'Wow' has anything to do with homosexuality. The album Lionheart was full of references to British pop culture at the time. I believe the song was a homage to a comedian named Mark Arden. Mark Arden starred in TV and radio as well as on stage so he was very versatile. He was well known for starring in an award winning comedy called 'The Wow Show' which is what I think the title is referring to. Mark Arden also played Roland 'Vaseline' Cartwright in the show London's Burning. He would never make 'The Sweeney' (a police drama..why...because he's a comedian?). His name is in lights but not the other actors(he's a star on stage) but he's also 'too busy hitting the vaseline' (his TV character on London's Burning).Tony - Cleveland, Oh
Oh. Right on! It must have been the original video I saw. YouTube came through.Mike - Vancouver, Canada
I wish I could see the CBC (Canada) show from the 80s when she performed this. Maybe I'll try Kate Bush YouTube.Mike - Vancouver, Canada
kate hated the original video and when she rereleased the song for the "whole story" album and video,the accompanying video was a montage of old video clips and live footage.Matt - Essex, England
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