Wow

Album: Lionheart (1978)
Charted: 14

Songfacts®:

  • When Kate wrote this song she was trying to emulate the Pink Floyd sound - "something spacey." David Gilmour of Pink Floyd helped nurture her career by financing her demo tapes and helping her land a record deal.
  • This is a song about show business, not just rock music but the entertainment world in general, including acting and theater. Bush is portraying a female movie star (probably a sex symbol) and the song is a send-up to various aspects of show business. "People say that the music business is about ripoffs, the rat race, competition, strain, people trying to cut you down, and so on, and though that's all there, there's also the magic," she explained in a 1979 Kate Bush Club newsletter.
  • 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
  • In the original music video, Kate appears in a darkened studio, twirling out of thin air. When she hits the chorus, she's illuminated by spotlights. One gesture got the clip censored by the BBC: When Kate sings the line about Vaseline, she suggestively pats her behind (implying its use as a sexual lubricant).

    A second video was made when the song was included on her 1986 compilation album, The Whole Story. That version features a montage of Kate's live performances.
  • Kate performed this on the TV special ABBA in Switzerland in April 1979.
  • The album was recorded from July to September of 1978, and Kate struggled under the time constraints. She became more self-conscious and wanted to do multiple takes of the songs until she was satisfied, much to the dismay of her producer, Andrew Powell, who preferred one-take vocals. Powell recalled to MOJO in 2003: "For 'Wow' she did a very musical guide vocal, but she sang it maybe four or five times an hour ten hours a day for a week. At times one would try to convince her that her performance was great, but if she was really unhappy she had to have the chance to do it again. She was optimistic every time. Not necessarily easy to share. Physically very demanding and intensely frustrating for her."

Comments: 18

  • Bob from Greater ManchesterOmg she says vaseline.
  • Jerry Hayes from Coleman., GaA consummate professional, but still human and very much a lady. Thank heavens (Sir) David Fillmore helped her talent get to us. She is gifted. I am only now discovering the depth of her work. She says what she needs to say through her music. I was 25 in '79. Wish I had started earlier.
  • Chrissyjj from Uk@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.
  • Dyan from 19029Yes 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.
  • Peter from CornwallCan't possibly be about Mark Arden. London Burning didn't start till 1988, several years after Wow.
  • Dylan from San FranciscoGood 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.
  • John from Stoke, United Kingdom@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.
  • Rj from Cleveland, Oh@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.'
  • Anotherg from San Francisco, Ca@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.
  • Anna from Kent, United KingdomWhoops, 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 from Kent, United KingdomThe 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"!
  • Stella from London, United KingdomThis 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.
  • Joe from London, United KingdomI 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.
  • Chris from Claremont, CaVery overdramatisiced. But good nonetheless.
  • Tony from Cleveland, OhI 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).
  • Mike from Vancouver, CanadaOh. Right on! It must have been the original video I saw. YouTube came through.
  • Mike from Vancouver, CanadaI wish I could see the CBC (Canada) show from the 80s when she performed this. Maybe I'll try Kate Bush YouTube.
  • Matt from Essex, Englandkate 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.
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