Night Of The Swallow

Album: The Dreaming (1982)
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Songfacts®:

  • The fifth and final single from Kate Bush's fourth studio album, this Irish-themed song follows a woman who desperately tries to keep her lover from embarking on a dangerous mission. "She wants to control him and because he wants to do something that she doesn't want him to she feels that he is going away," Bush told Melody Maker in 1982. "It's almost on a parallel with the mother and son relationship where there is the same female feeling of not wanting the young child to move away from the nest. Of course, from the guy's point of view, because she doesn't want him to go, the urge to go is even stronger. For him, it's not so much a job as a challenge - a chance to do something risky and exciting."
  • The Dreaming was Bush's first album as sole producer, which meant she was finally able to make her own creative decisions. On this track, that meant using Irish instrumentation to capture the emotion she wanted. She contacted Bill Whelan, the keyboard player for the Irish band Planxty, who wrote the arrangement and played it for her over the phone.
  • In a 1982 fan club newsletter, Bush explained how the Irish music added significance to the choruses: "As soon as the song was written, I felt that a ceilidh band would be perfect for the choruses. The verses are about a lady who's trying to keep her man from accepting what seems to be an illegal job. He is a pilot and has been hired to fly some people into another country. No questions are to be asked, and she gets a bad feeling from the situation. But for him, the challenge is almost more exciting than the job itself, and he wants to fly away. As the fiddles, pipes and whistles start up in the choruses, he is explaining how it will be all right. He'll hide the plane high up in the clouds on a night with no moon, and he'll swoop over the water like a swallow."
  • While most of the track was recorded at Abbey Road studios in London, Bush recorded with the Irish musicians during an all-nighter at Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin. She recalled: "As the choruses began to grow, the evening drew on and the glasses of Guinness, slowly dropping in level, became like sand glasses to tell the passing of time. We missed our plane and worked through the night. By eight o'clock the next morning we were driving to the airport to return to London. I had a very precious tape tucked under my arm, and just as we were stepping onto the plane, I looked up into the sky and there were three swallows diving and chasing the flies."
  • The lineup of Irish musicians includes Bill Whelan (bagpipes), Liam O'Flynn (uilleann pipes, penny whistle) and Donal Lunny (bouzouki) of Planxty, along with Sean Keane (fiddle) of the traditional Irish group The Chieftains.

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