Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)

Album: Hounds Of Love (1985)
Charted: 1 3
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Songfacts®:

  • This song is about making a deal with God to swap lives with another person. Bush explained in a 1985 interview: "It's about a relationship between a man and a woman. They love each other very much, and the power of the relationship is something that gets in the way. It creates insecurities. It's saying if the man could be the woman and the woman the man, if they could make a deal with God, to change places, that they'd understand what it's like to be the other person and perhaps it would clear up misunderstandings. You know, all the little problems; there would be no problem."
  • Bush wrote this with the title "Deal With God." Her label made her change it because they didn't think radio stations in any religious countries (Italy, Ireland...) would play a song with "God" in the title. Bush thought that was ridiculous, but agreed to the change because after spending two years making the album, she didn't want her song to get blacklisted because of the title.

    It was a rare creative compromise for Bush, and one she came to regret, as she feels "Deal With God" is the proper title and part of the song's entity.
  • This was Kate Bush's biggest hit in the US, where she has a small but devoted following. She was a chart regular in her native UK, where the Hounds Of Love album knocked off Madonna's Like A Virgin to claim the top spot, and popular throughout much of the world, but remains mostly unknown in America.

    Stateside success was never her priority. Bush rarely plays live and never did a concert in America. Her record company had a hard time promoting her there because she didn't travel to the country and didn't do many phone interviews with American journalists. While "Running Up That Hill" was taking off in other parts of the world, American radio was saturated with more straightforward acts like Duran Duran, Whitney Houston, Huey Lewis & The News, and Phil Collins. A lot of it had to do with MTV, which didn't put the "Running Up That Hill" video in rotation.
  • Bush wrote "Running Up That Hill" using a Fairlight CMI digital synthesizer. She was one of the first to use the device, including it on her 1980 album Never For Ever.

    Typically, Bush writes on piano, but composing on the Fairlight opened up new gates of inspiration. "There is something about the character of a sound," she said in a 1992 radio documentary. "You hear a sound and it has a whole quality of its own that can be sad or happy, and that immediately conjures up images, which can of course help you to think of ideas that lead you onto a song, so everything is crucial for trying to find some direction with inspiration. A good sound is worth a lot artistically."
  • Kate Bush not only wrote her own songs, but starting with her 1982 album The Dreaming, was also her own producer, a rare feat at the time especially for a female artist. Until she came along, the only woman on this level who did her own writing and production was Joni Mitchell, another singer of immense influence and acclaim.
  • The song's concept is a flip on the Faustian bargain where one makes a deal with the Devil. When Bush thought about what it would take to switch places with your partner, she first thought of the deal with the Devil, then decided it could also be done through a deal with God, which would be even more powerful.
  • A new version of the song, subtitled "2012 Remix," reached #6 on the UK singles chart in August 2012. The track was transposed down a semitone to fit Bush's current lower vocal range and was premiered during the 2012 London Olympics closing ceremony. Bush did not appear in person, but the recording was featured in a crucial section after the athletes entered.
  • Bush often used interpretive dancing in her music videos to express the emotion of her songs. By the time she released "Running Up That Hill" in 1985, she felt the art was being cheapened by the newer crop of talent on MTV. She explained in a 1985 TV interview with Canada's Good Rockin' Tonight: "During the gap between the last and this album, I'd seen quite a few videos on television that other people had been doing. And I felt that dance, something that we'd been working in, particularly in the earlier videos... was being used quite trivially, it was being exploited: haphazard images, busy, lots of dances, without really the serious expression, and wonderful expression, that dance can give. So we felt how interesting it would be to make a very simple routine between two people, almost classic, and very simply filmed. So that's what we tried, really, to do a serious piece of dance."

    Clad in Japanese hakamas, Bush and her dance partner, Michael Hervieu, perform an intimate dance routine before they're torn apart by a crowd of masked strangers. The dancers' archery-inspired gestures are referenced in the single's cover art, which features Bush brandishing a bow and arrow. The clip was directed by David Garfath and choreographed by Diane Grey.
  • Instead of airing the music video, MTV decided to use footage from Bush's performance on a BBC TV program. According to the singer's brother Paddy Bush, "MTV weren't particularly interested in broadcasting videos that didn't have synchronized lip movements in them. They liked the idea of people singing songs."
  • Bush did just one concert tour - a run of 24 shows in Europe in 1979. She stopped touring because she got so focused on making music and the visuals to accompany it. "Running Up That Hill" she performed at just a handful of charity events until 2014, when she put on a production called Before The Dawn that ran for 22 shows at the Eventim Apollo in London. These shows were highly theatrical, with dialogue, dancing, illusion and elaborate set design framing her performances.
  • Bush's record company wanted to release "Cloudbusting" as the first single, but Kate convinced them to release "Running Up That Hill" instead. Since they had already renamed her song, it was considered a compromise.
  • This was used in these TV shows:

    Stranger Things ("Chapter One: The Hellfire Club" - 2022)
    On Becoming A God In Central Florida ("American Merchandise" - 2019)
    Big Little Lies ("The Bad Mother" - 2019)
    How To Get Away With Murder ("We Know Everything" - 2019)
    Vanity Fair ("In Which Becky Joins Her Regiment" - 2018)
    Warehouse 13 ("Emily Lake" - 2011)
    NCIS: Los Angeles ("Empty Quiver" - 2011)
    The Vampire Diaries ("Pilot" - 2009)
    CSI: Crime Scene Investigation ("A La Cart" - 2007)
    Bones ("Judas On A Pole" - 2006)
    The O.C. ("The Avengers" - 2006)

    And in these movies:

    Close (2019)
    The Circle (2015)
    The Human Contract (2008)
    The Chocolate War (1988)
  • A version by British band Placebo was recorded for their 2007 Covers album. It entered the UK singles chart in January 2010 as a result of its use in the theatrical trailer for the feature film Daybreakers.
  • The Los Angeles singer-songwriter Meg Myers released a popular cover in 2019 with a video that got over 2 million YouTube view. Said Myers: "This song to me, represents an opening of our hearts and a possibility of acceptance for all."

    Her version dawdled, rather than ran, up Billboard's Rock Airplay chart. Forty-two weeks after its release, it reached the top spot on the tally, giving Myers the first #1 Billboard single of her career. That's the longest any track has taken to conquer the Alternative Songs summit.

    Prior to Meg Myers, the record was held by Fitz and the Tantrums, who took 33 weeks to top Alternative Songs with their 2013 single "Out Of My League."
  • We learn during Stranger Things season 4 that "Running Up That Hill" is Max Mayfield's favorite song. Whenever she escapes in her music, the tune seems to play on a loop in her headphones. It even saves her life (we won't go into detail in case you've yet to watch it).

    Stranger Things music supervisor Nora Felder explained how the song lyrics fit perfectly into the storyline involving Max Mayfield. "Kate Bush's lyrics can mean very different things to different people," she told Variety. "In the face of Max's painful isolation and alienation from others, a 'deal with god' could heart-wrenchingly reflect Max's implicit belief that only a miracle of unlikely understanding and show of support could help her climb the hills of life before her."

    Felder sent her request to Wende Crowley, Sony Music Publishing's SVP of creative marketing "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," said Crowley.

    It turns out Bush is a fan of Stranger Things and she granted them permission after agreeing to their vision for "Running Up That Hill." After the episode aired, she posted a message on her website praising the "fantastic, gripping" new series of the show and sharing her elation over the resurgence of her song. "It's all really exciting!" she wrote. "I wait with bated breath for the rest of the series in July."
  • Thanks to its use on Stranger Things, the song ran back up the charts in 2022, reaching the Top 10 in 34 territories. In America, where the song's #30 placement in 1985 was Bush's highest showing, it climbed to #4. Bush's entire catalog saw a big boost in streaming around this time.
  • Winona Ryder, who stars in Stranger Things, is a huge Kate Bush fan and encouraged the producers to use her music. Ryder said she would often wear her Kate Bush T-shirts on set as a hint.
  • Powered by its placement in Stranger Things, "Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)" completed a 36-year race to #1 in Australia. In its second week after re-entering the tally, the song rose to the summit of the ARIA Chart dated June 13, 2022. Bush had topped the Australian chart on one previous occasion in early 1978 when her debut single "Wuthering Heights" led the survey.
  • In the UK, "Running Up That Hill" reached #1 on the singles chart dated June 17, 2022. Its ascension to peak position broke three records:

    1. Bush's previous chart-topper, "Wuthering Heights," reached the summit in 1978. The gap of 44 years broke the record for the longest wait between #1s, previously held by Tom Jones. There was a 42-year gap between the Welsh singer's "Green Green Grass Of Home" and his charity single "(Barry) Islands in the Stream."

    2. "Running Up That Hill" eventually reached #1 37 years after its release, breaking the record for the longest time taken to reach the top spot. Wham!'s "Last Christmas" previously held the record; it topped the chart 36 years after its release.

    3. At 63 years and 11 months, Kate Bush became the oldest female artist to top the UK singles chart. She replaced Cher, who was 52 when "Believe" reached #1 in 1998.

Comments: 34

  • Daniel from Los AngelesRe Kal OR
    Are you serious about the synth sound?...The 2 "notes" are the push and pull, Yin&Yang, back and forth of the relationship between the man and woman in the lyric story...plus an omnipotent God that the woman pleads to and bribes him with a deal...the dynamics of the trio's role combined with the buhm-bah synth sound is what gives the song an otherworldly foreboding and gravitas.
  • Kol from Ashland Oregon I wasn't a fan of that particular synthesizer she used when she recorded [ a deal with God ] back in 85. I haven't changed my mind about that. I really love the song though so I covered it on my acoustic guitar. Killer lyrics on that track. Speaking of tracks, track & field covered that song for a couple movies. One show, warehouse 13 { Emily Lake } was an incredibly emotional scene with their cover of the song..
  • Woody from Los AngelesIn 1985, I discovered this at Borders Bookstore because you could listen to promoted samples of the CDs. I liked it, I bought it and didn't care that it wasn't played much at all on the radio. It was one of my CD's that I was glad I bought. I even made new friends because of it. Oddly, the cover art was different then anything I could find with Google. It was a room sized Victrola horn attached to a piano sized box that Kate was sitting at and appeared to be playing it. The overall instrument looked somewhat military. I would imagine it made the Fairlight synthesizer sound since I was unaware of either device.
  • Sarah from Los AngelesI became aware of this song from the Meg Myers cover that’s currently on US alt rock radio. It definitely has an 80s sound so I’m not surprised to learn it is a cover of an 80s song. I love it and hope the new version does well.
  • Frvd from BelgiumThe main synth sound in the song is produced by a synth named Fairlight (cf Sound on Sound forums)
  • M2 from Oakland, Ca UsaHere is a new cover of Kate Bush's Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqAZMt5kONc
  • Jantje from EindhovenGreat song, but am I the only person who thinks Kate has a strange way of pronouncing 'places' in ...' Swap our places'?
  • Armin from GermanySex has always been a big item for Kate Bush, but in this it is just one of several layers of things that cannot be expressed but only experienced. An this is just possible by swapping places.
  • Philip from Akron, OhThe instrument playing the hook is the Fairlight synthesizer. Kate was an early enthusiast of the instrument (she learned of it through Peter Gabriel, another early adopter).
  • Susan from Copperas Cove, TxThis song is about a lover that is holding a deep secret hurt from the other lover," How deep the bullet lies ", hating him/her for it at times, wanting desperately for the uninjured party to trade the pain to ( Swap our places) so she/he could be free of it while the other lover experiences it," Hurt the ones we love"
    and he/she could "be running up that hill running up that building with no problem"
  • Emma from Adelaide, Australiareally love this song, and a great cover by Placebo as well.
  • Jim from Long Beach, CaIt still baffles me that Kate never broke in America. I know she had fear of flying and did a little promo tour in the East Coast in '85 just press, no live appearences.
  • David from Grants Pass, OrAccording to wikipedia (the sources are sited), Kate has said in an interview "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 others place for a while, I think we'd both be very surprised! [Laughs] And I think it would be lead to a greater understanding. And really the only way I could think it could be done was either... you know, I thought a deal with the devil, you know. And I thought, 'well, no, why not a deal with God!' You know, because in a way it's so much more powerful the whole idea of asking God to make a deal with you. You see, for me it is still called "Deal With God", that was its title. But 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 we all know.
  • Peter from Leicester, United KingdomWhen she wrote this song Kate lived in Crockham Hill in Kent (England). My best mate at University, Mark and his parents lived next door to her ("Next door" was about 100 yards away - they were both VERY nice houses). Mark was an obsessive long distance runner. Crockham Hill (as the name hints) is on a hill and there is quite a slope between the houses. Kate must have regularly seen Mark running by when she looked out of the window and I have always assumed this inspired the song, assuming that his life was care free whilst hers was all stress.
  • Phoebe from Belchertown, MaFantastic song. Kate Bush is amazing.

    Experiencing the male orgasm...
  • Alexx from Las Vegas, NvThe first verse of the Placebo cover of this song was played during the last few minutes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation second episode for season eight, A La Cart. It fit perfectly for the scene, which depicted one of the main character's thoughts about leaving the team, which included her boyfriend.
  • Alen from Coeur D'alene, IdRunning Up That Hill received some minor FM radio airplay (in the upper Midwest where I grew up, anyway) when it first came out in '85. I'd never heard anything like it by a female artist up to that point, and I dare say Kate Bush's brilliance is still unmatched. I guess I never pondered the lyrics as the music and her delivery was intense and captivating enough for me. An innovative visual artist, her early concerts supposedly influenced stage shows of other female artists such as Madonna. This song is off "Hounds of Love", which is a must-have, along with her prior release "The Dreaming." Simply put, Kate Bush is pure musical genius.
  • Brad from Topeka, KsThis was the first song by Kate I had ever heard. It was 1985. I was hooked. Kate is not popular in America, so I was surprised to discover this 'new' musician/vocalist. What I love about this song is, not only the lyrics and Kate, but of the sustained single note that fades in the song, plays through the songs entirety, and fades out at the end of the song. For some reason, that is so fascinating to me.
  • A from Fdsafds, AustraliaI agree with shana. This is a song about love and the difficulties inherent "...Running up that hill..."

    It's a cliche that "you only hurt the one you love" - she puts it more succinctly: "Is there so much hate for the ones we love". The bullet is metaphorical - a metaphor for hurting the ones we love.

    "Running up that hill" is also metaphorical, it's a metaphor for the difficulties we encounter during our life with the one we love. If she swapped places with her lover, she could run up that hill with "no problems".
  • T. Michels from Venlo, NetherlandsGreat song.
    Actually, the Dutch band Within Temptation covered it a few years ago, but it wasn't a better version.
    Beautiful synths and a very dreamy subject. I don't go in on details like orgasms or whateva :)
    Unfortunatly Bush didn't have that much hits in Holland. As far as I know, and actually I don't know it exactly, 'Running up that hill' and 'wuthering heights'.
    But I guess that's just the way it went :)
  • Shana from London, EnglandThis song to me represents the deep emotional connection one experiences when in a state of complete infatuation and love. I get the impression that the song is about the loss of a lover hence "if I only could make a deal with god...I?d be running up that hill" What Kate is trying to portray is that she feel as if she can no longer on with out the presents of her lover so if she could make a deal with god to get him/her to switch the place of her lover in heaven with her she would not think twice. That?s what I think anyway...
  • Amanda from Las Vegas, NvThat whole orgasm thing seems a bit ridiculous but I do think this is a really good and motivational song. Personally I prefer the cover by the Dutch gothic metal band Within Temptation. The lead singer Sharon den Adel definately does the song justice and brings it great energy and the music is even better than the original.
  • Tom from Hartford, CtMy wife says it's about a deal with God where she changes bodies with a man so that she can experience the intense male orgasm.
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesIn the UK, this was the most successful of Kate's 1980s releases, though her biggest hit was her 1978 UK No.1 "Wuthering Heights". After a slow chart climb - and also holding the No.4 position for five (chart) weeks in August - it finally peaked at No.3 in September 1985, and Kate performed it at least six times on Top of the Pops (surely a record for a UK single that failed to hit the top slot...) Her other big hits included "Cloudbusting", "The Man With The Child In His Eyes", "Babooshka", "This Woman's Work" and "Don't Give Up"
  • Carissa from Seattle, WaThe song of Coldplay called Speed of Sound's base line was intended to be the same base line of Running Up That Hill. Chris Martin admitted it in the summer of 2005.
  • Steve from Chino Hills, CaI like the song also, but not really sure what it's about. On the onehand she is talking about swapping places to see discover how deep the bullet lays, but later on she is talking about exchanging an experience.

    Maybe it's like The Cars earlier works, abstract lyrics. I still adore it!
  • Robyn from Adelaide, AustraliaThe Placebo cover isn't a patch on the original. It just doesn't have the spirit that Kate gives it. It's such a motivational song!
  • Paul from London, EnglandThe instrument used in the beginning of this track not sure if it's a pan pipe but it blows me away!
  • Dee from Indianapolis, InI love this tune. I'm not a huge fan of many solo female artist, but this song is great. It reminds me of the height of the 80's and my youth, back when things were so care free and much more relaxed then today. Those days will never be forgotten, just not relived.
  • Will from Sf, CaOne of the things I love about this song is the music and ryhtm beneath it. Did Bush produce her own recorsd> I'm surprised the keyboard rift hasnt been sampled for a rap song yet its really good.
  • Lee from Ottawa, CanadaI absolutely adore Kate Bush!!Like Jaquie in New Zealand she has greatly influenced my life.It is difficult to believe that her music has not been embraced by more people in North America.Here in Canada she is a bit more known than in the U.S.A.Muchmusic(Canada's version of MTV)played many of her videos on a regular(but certainly not heavy)rotation.
  • Jaquie from Auckland, New ZealandI love kate bush.
    I was given the cassette of 'the whole story' when I was about 12. she is the only artist that has left a lasting impression on me.
    She is odd, smart and brilliant.
    Even now as I'm nearing 30 she is still as powerful and evocative as ever.
    it sounds cliched and cheesey but she has really influenced my life and music.
    I hope she is happy wherever she is.
  • Tiana from A City, Oh"Mostly unknown in America"? I had no idea. I mean, I live in America, and I guess I've never heard people talk about her, but my dad loves her so much. I guess I always assumed most people knew who she was.
  • Pete from Nowra, Australiahad a few hits downunder, Babooshka, Wuthering Heights, Running up that hill and the duet with Pete Gabriel ,Don't give up , great film clip
see more comments

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