Since its pop-cultural resurgence following the release of Stranger Things 4 earlier this year, Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill has become an earworm of the highest order. So much so, in fact, that you may have recently found yourself subconsciously singing the synth hook to yourself without even knowing.
One version of the track that particularly stands out to electric guitar fans, though, is the one that was captured in 1987 at the London Palladium, which recruited the fretless bass guitar wizardry of The Firm's Tony Franklin and swapped the synths for a six-string courtesy of David Gilmour.
Now, in an effort to supply internet users with more information about this storied moment in music history, Franklin – aka The Fretless Monster – has posted a video on YouTube that recounts his experiences of playing with Bush and Gilmour for the on-off show.
“There’s been quite a resurgence of interest in Kate and that song,” Franklin said. “I’ve had many people reaching out to me about it because people are searching for info about the song. As far as I know that’s the only live performance of that song, certainly from that time anyway.
“I got a call out of the blue from David Gilmour. Believe me, that doesn’t happen everyday,” he continued. “I got a call from David, [who was] very charming, exactly as you’d picture him to be: very calm, very kind, very proper, very English. That’s exactly how he was on the phone. He told me about this gig with Kate Bush and him at the London Palladium.
“The London Palladium… well, that was enough. Then there was playing with Kate Bush. Now, Kate Bush, I was already a huge fan of hers. You’ve got to remember that David Gilmour discovered Kate when she was 16, I believe. He was instrumental in getting her a deal with EMI, which led to everything that followed. The two of them had this very close connection.”
After recounting his fondness of Bush’s first four albums – especially 1978’s The Kick Inside, which contained Wuthering Heights and The Man with The Child in his Eyes, and Lionheart – Franklin then recalled piecing his parts together for Running Up That Hill using a cassette.
In what then becomes a lesson in the art of arrangement, the Kenny Wayne Shepherd bassist dissects his approach to the track, revealing how he aimed to honor the original while adding his own fretless spin on it. Not that there was much time for rehearsal.
“I think we did two or three run-throughs and that was it,” Franklin said. “I seem to remember it going very, very quickly. We all knew what we were going to do. We just went in there and did it.”
And what the did was sublime. With Franklin using his JayDee bass to supply the oceanic low-end, the Pink Floyd legend used a headless Steinberger for a series of gravity-defying bends, super-compressed lead lines, wailing whammy wiggles and rendition that is arguably better than the original.
Gilmour’s playing isn’t the only highlight. Yes, we are talking about Franklin’s perfectly pomp’d '80s hair. Indeed, as one astute YouTube commenter pointed out, the live video is “a showcase for three incredible talents – David Gilmour, Kate Bush, and that other guy’s hairdresser”.
“I love seeing the YouTube comments. I am quite amused by them all,” Franklin added. “I was my own hairdresser so kudos to me, even if nobody knows my name.”
Now that everyone and their dog wants to listen to Running Up That Hill, may we suggest the trio get back together for a new performance? Franklin can do the styling, and judging by the new video he still has a fine head of hair. We see no reason why this can’t happen.
The Gilmour-featuring rendition isn’t the only guitar-heavy reimagining of Bush’s classic track, though. Since its release, the track has attracted the attention Mastodon, First Aid Kit and more, all of whom made it onto our list of seven guitar-led covers of Running Up That Hill.