Once I taught high schoolers Wuthering Heights. The novel by Emily Brontë that is, but yes, of course I also showed them the film; the famous one with sir Laurence, and some clips from the remakes, Andreu Arnold’s sombre version with a black Heathcliff and the TV flick starring Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche, which the critics hated but I loved more than any of the others. And, of course, of course, I made them listen to Kate.
Because Kate Bush happened to be their age when she made it big with “Wuthering Heights” at nineteen (we finish high school in Iceland pretty late). It’s hard not to imagine her originally making the song as a creative essay at some British high school, and if that’s the case it would take a cold-hearted teacher not to grade her a perfect ten.
Because what she conveys so brilliantly is how ridiculous the novel is – and at the same time, how brilliant. She sends the novel up with a ton of love, or as she puts it in the lyrics: “I hated you, I loved you too …”
It should also be mentioned that Emily and Kate share a birthday, Kate was born when Emily would have become 140 years old, had she been a Guinness record holder but not just one of those 19th century novelist who died ridiculously young. In addition, the female protagonist is a Catherine just like Kate. There’s some mysterious cosmic connection there, the kind you only fully grasp when you’re eighteen and can’t sleep because you’re busy writing your first international hit.
Personally I was only two when “Wuthering Heights” became a hit so my first introduction to Kate Bush was her duet with Peter Gabriel – „Don‘t Give Up.“ And it’s a bit like Kate has found her Heathcliff in Gabriel, something you realize when you watch the video as they spin on top of one of those wuthering heights and the wind machine blows their hair just the right way.
The irony is subtler now, even if it’s still there, the glowing moon behind them, the stage of the GRAND LOVE – and the lyrics Gabriel sings at the beginning would be befitting of a Heathcliff:
In this proud land we grew up strong
We were wanted all along
I was taught to fight, taught to win
I never thought I could fail
No fight left or so it seems
I am a man whose dreams have all deserted
I’ve changed my name, I’ve changed my face
But no one wants you when you lose
But despite the irony the chemistry is real, they wouldn’t hold each other so tight otherwise. To add to the dramatics, we see a complete lunar eclipse happening behind them, unless the video takes place over a full month?
Finally, Kate stresses to Heatcliff, I mean Peter, not to give up because somewhere there’s a place they belong. True, earlier she tells him not to give up because he got friends, so the Heathcliff analogy doesn’t completely work – but apparently Gabriel wrote the song about a struggling worker under Margaret Thatcher, perhaps Heathcliff would have found friends in the Thatcher era?
Texti: Ásgeir H Ingólfsson