Hammer Horror

Album: Lionheart (1978)
Charted: 44
Play Video


  • The song is about two actors who are friends. One is playing the lead role in a production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a part he's read all of his life and has been waiting for a chance to play. After many rehearsals he accidentally dies and his friend is asked to take over the role,which he does because his own career is on the line. The dead man comes back to haunt him because he doesn't want him to have the role, believing that he is taking away the only chance he ever had in life. The actor is saying, "Leave me alone, it's not my fault. I have to take this role but I'm not sure if it's the right thing to do because the ghost won't leave me alone and is really freaking me out. I see him at every corner."
  • This was inspired by James Cagney playing the role of Lon Chaney as the hunchback in the silent horror star's 1957 biopic, Man Of A Thousand Faces. "He was an actor in an actor in an actor, rather like Chinese boxes, and that's what I was trying to create," she explained in the Kate Bush Club Newsletter in 1979. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Lee - Ottawa, Canada, for above 2
  • Hammer Film Productions is a British-based company that gained prominence in the mid-'50s for its horror films, such as The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Mummy. While the song borrows its name from the company, Bush says the tune is not really about Hammer Horror films. In fact, the studio never produced an adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame in its more than 80-year history.
  • In the music video, helmed by her frequent director Keith MacMillan (aka Keef), Kate is dancing in a darkened room when she's joined by a black-clad figure who mimics her moves. She recalled the experience in a 1979 Kate Bush Club newsletter: "Making the video of 'Hammer Horror' was the first time I had worked with a dancer. I wanted to do something different with it, using a dancer, and I was sitting in a hotel room in Australia when it suddenly came to me - the whole routine happened before my eyes - and the next morning at 9 a.m. the dancer turned up to start work. We'd never met before, and in ten minutes we were having to throw each other around. He was so inspiring that we did the video that same afternoon. I did it again in New Zealand, when we arrived late, so I went straight into the routine with a dancer I'd never met before who had learnt it from the video. It was the strangest experience - I got to the chorus and suddenly this total stranger appeared behind me doing the routine perfectly. I just couldn't stop laughing, and we had to do about three takes."

Comments: 3

  • Alan Murphy from IrelandI always thought this song was about a woman losing her virginity - "First time in my life, I keep the lights on to ease my soul." and the phrase "Hammer horror" referring to sex. I think it must be, consciously or unconsciously, about this as well as the above.
  • Rod from Gainesville, FlJeez i don't know if the explanation is right I just thought it was someone being tormented and they refer to Hamer Horror which was a series of pictures made in english studios.
  • Erick Overveen from Amsterdam, NetherlandsI like the way she sings about the metaphysics of horror, ans strange phenomenals like death and ghosts
see more comments

Editor's Picks

George Clinton

George ClintonSongwriter Interviews

When you free your mind, your ass may follow, but you have to make sure someone else doesn't program it while it's wide open.

"Private Eyes" - The Story Behind the Song

"Private Eyes" - The Story Behind the SongSong Writing

How a goofy detective movie, a disenchanted director and an unlikely songwriter led to one of the biggest hits in pop history.


MetallicaFact or Fiction

Beef with Bon Jovi? An unfortunate Spandex period? See if you can spot the true stories in this Metallica version of Fact or Fiction.

Pete Anderson

Pete AndersonSongwriter Interviews

Pete produced Dwight Yoakam, Michelle Shocked, Meat Puppets, and a very memorable track for Roy Orbison.

Into The Great Wide Open: Made-up Musicians

Into The Great Wide Open: Made-up MusiciansSong Writing

Eddie (played by Johnny Depp in the video) found fame fleeting, but Chuck Berry's made-up musician fared better.

Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull

Ian Anderson of Jethro TullSongwriter Interviews

The flautist frontman talks about touring with Led Zeppelin, his contribution to "Hotel California", and how he may have done the first MTV Unplugged.