Kate Bush has scored an improbable and inspiring No 1 in the UK singles chart, with Running Up That Hill reaching the top 37 years after the song was released.
The 1985 track has stormed domestic and global charts after its inclusion in the hit Netflix series Stranger Things last month, introducing it to a new generation of fans.
Bush has broken three UK chart records with her No 1 placing. She is the oldest woman to top the chart, while 37 years is the longest time a song has taken to get to No 1, beating Wham!, whose Last Christmas finally made it in January 2021.
Bush also has the longest gap between No 1 singles, with 44 years elapsed since her debut, Wuthering Heights (Tom Jones was the previous record holder at 42 years). Running Up That Hill reached No 3 when it was originally released.
“It’s hard to take in the speed at which this has all been happening,” Bush, 63, said in a statement on her website earlier this week. “So many young people who love the show [are] discovering the song for the first time.
“The response to Running Up That Hill is something that has had its own energy and volition. A direct relationship between the shows and their audience and one that has stood completely outside of the music business. We’ve all been astounded to watch the track explode!” The song is currently at No 4 in the US, its highest-ever placing there.
The UK chart success of Running Up That Hill – currently achieving about 575,000 plays a day on Spotify in the UK and more than 6m a day on the platform globally – was determined by the waiver last weekend of a rule thats how streams for older songs are tallied, sparking speculation that Bush has opened the gates for more vintage songs to return.
“Running Up That Hill has itself changed things as we know it,” pop chart analyst James Masterton told the Guardian. “This is the first time in the streaming era that a back-catalog track has not only been spontaneously resurrected but has maintained its popularity over an extended period.”
While football anthem Three Lions hit No 1 again during 2018’s European Championship, “it was gone from our lives a week later as a passing fad”, Masterton added.
“The Kate Bush song has become a genuine sustained smash hit, and for that reason it is appropriate that the rules are waived so it joins contemporary releases on a level playing field. That’s the true game-changer, as it lays down a precedent for other classics to do the same if circumstances merit.”
The “accelerated decline” rule that applies to older songs was introduced in 2017. With the evolution of streaming – and following a seemingly endless 15-week run at No 1 for Drake in 2016 – measures were put in place to help new tracks get their moment of glory in the charts. So while a new song earns one “sale” for every 100 streams, older songs need to be streamed 200 times before a single “sale” is counted.
Were it not for this, songs such as the Killers’ Mr Brightside – released in 2003 – would still be in the Top 40, and Ed Sheeran’s Bad Habits would be in the Top 10 for its 47th week.
But the scales shifted last weekend when Bush’s record label EMI requested a “manual reset” of streaming ratios, which is available “in exceptional circumstances, where a track is being scheduled for promotion”. Thereafter, her streams immediately doubled in value, allowing her to soar past Harry Styles’ As It Was, which ends its 10-week run at No 1.
Martin Talbot, the chief executive of the Official Charts Company, emphasized that the rules had not changed. “Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill has simply been manually reset this week, a process that is available to all artists and used often by record labels during fresh campaign periods and surges of this nature,” he said.
Bush’s success could make labels fight harder to get archive tracks placed in popular shows in an attempt to replicate this moment, according to the former NME editor and founder of the Forty-Five, Charlotte Gunn.
“Kate Bush is beloved, as is Stranger Things. Fans were rooting for her to get that No 1 because it’s a heartwarming story,” she said.
“But even if more labels did start to request the reset, I can’t see us moving to a permanent change that would see the charts flooded with older tracks. I think everybody involved agrees that broadly speaking, the charts should be for new releases and those governing it would be incredibly wary of any permanent change that would see the Beatles in the top 10 every week.”
Bush, Gunn added, managed to reach No 2 last week without the reset, because it is a standout example. “It shows the power of a popular show to reach a global audience and how pivotal the soundtrack is in creating that popularity.”
Only four other artists have reached No 1 at a later age than Bush. Captain Sir Tom Moore is the oldest, at 99 years and 11 months, with his credited appearance on a 2020 cover of You’ll Never Walk Alone. Elton John at 74, Tom Jones at 68, and Louis Armstrong at 66 round out the list.
Additional reporting by Ben Beaumont-Thomas