As of writing, Kate Bush’s classic ‘Running Up That Hill’ is set to top the UK singles chart due to its renewed popularity on the hit TV show Stranger Things.
This got us thinking about other songs that managed to climb their way back up the UK charts to the most lauded position in the weekly musical countdown. For reasons from everything from sports performances to uses in popular advertisements, these are singles that, after many years, found themselves back at the music helm.
Please note for this list, we will be excluding re-entries due to death as there are many of those for artists such as George Harrison, Queen, and Aaliyah amongst others.
‘Running Up That Hill’
I may be jumping the gun here considering the single is not yet a chart-topper but it seems not unlikely and well-deserved for Kate Bush; Bush being one of the most influential voices in style and presentation – devoid of gender.
As alluded to earlier, Bush’s 1985 single ‘Running Up That Hill’ was prominently featured in Netflix’s Stranger Things. If you have not seen the show – firstly, what are you playing at? Secondly, it is a highly-acclaimed and consistently popular science fiction/horror series which has perhaps been Netflix’s greatest success and one of the most discussed television shows of the past decade. The song was used in its fourth season – as the show is framed in the 1980s – and with the impending hype of the new series, Bush’s single has again shot into the public eye.
Already, it has given Bush some great success. It has thus far peaked at number two in the UK, higher than upon its original release. Furthermore, it has reached the top five of every significant musical chart, including becoming Bush’s first top US Hot 100 single. If it can reach the British top spot, it will be her first chart-topper since 1978 when her blockbuster debut ‘Wuthering Heights’ stunned audiences. Due to a “chart rule reset” as the BBC put it, it is increasingly likely to become the number one, thus stopping any record-breaking plans for Harry Styles, who is currently number one with ‘As It Was’ and has been for 10 weeks.
On her website Fish People, Bush has left a series of thanking messages to listeners and Stranger Things itself with the immense popularity reflected in new sales. Bush most recently penned the following:
“It’s all so exciting! Since the last post, ‘Running Up That Hill’ has gone to No 1 in Norway and Austria. This is such great news and we just heard today that it’s up from No 8 to No 4 in the US. The track is being responded to in so many positive ways. I’ve never experienced anything quite like this before! I just want to say a really big thank you to everyone in the US who has supported the song. It’s the first time I’ve had a top ten single over there and now it’s in the top 5! Thank you so much again to the Duffer Brothers – because of their latest, extraordinary series of Stranger Things, the track is being discovered by a whole new audience.
Best wishes, Kate”
She would be the oldest female to have a number one, 11 years older than previous record-holder Cher and the artists with the longest drought between number one singles, beating Tom Jones.
‘Three Lions’, sometimes stylised as ‘3 Lions’ depending on the version, holds the record for being the only song to hit the UK number one position a whopping four times.
Comedians and presenters David Baddiel and Frank Skinner made themselves household names in the mid-1990s, hosting the football-based show Fantasy Football League. With that year’s Euro 1996 hosted in England and with the already established poster boys, they released ‘Three Lions’ in 1996, which achieved the rare feat of entering straight at number one. A few weeks later, the single again hit number one after England advanced to the quarter-final, eliminating Spain, sweeping the nation in football fever until eventual and inevitable elimination.
A remastered edition was created for 1998’s FIFA World Cup, which again where it went to number one, staying for three weeks. England was eliminated earlier this time, losing on the nation’s Achilles heel: a penalty shoot-out, falling short to previous rivals Argentina.
The original 1996 edition single was the one that again topped the charts in 2018. In July’s World Cup, England bested both Colombia and Sweden, closing in on the cup by entering the quarter-finals. Even despite a heartbreaking loss to Croatia on the 11th, it could not stop the single hunting down the top spot.
The single is now probably the go-to football song in England, sung by drunk fans whenever the nation sees any modicum of football success, belting the lines “It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming, football’s coming home!”
‘Killing In The Name’
When you think Christmas number one, you think Rage Against The Machine.
Despite a highly ani-commercial band, the Zack de la Roche-led band earned that bizarre moniker in 2009. A FaceBook campaign led by Tracy and Jon Morter created a message which quickly gained traction that read: “Fed up of Simon Cowell’s latest karaoke act being Christmas No 1? Me too … So who’s up for a mass-purchase of the track ‘KILLING IN THE NAME’ from December 13th (DON’T BUY IT YET!) as a protest to the X Factor monotony?” As implied, this was a campaign against the regular Christmas number one role, occupied by X Factor winners, to which judge Simon Cowell replied calling it “stupid” and “a cynical campaign geared at me.”
Morter has quite the track record for these kinds of stunts including backing musicians such as The K**ts, Rik Mayall, and Rick Astley.
The campaign was backed by a whole hoard of musicians including Paul McCartney, Dave Grohl, Muse, The Prodigy, Kasabian, and Jedward.
Despite the absurdity of the campaign, Rage won as X Factor’s Joe McElderry failed to win with ‘The Climb’ ten-fold. ‘Killing’ received 502,672 downloads in the week leading to Christmas, enough to secure the top spot on downloads. It even got placement in the Guinness World Records under the category ‘Fastest-selling digital track (UK)’. On the Radio 1 chart show, lead singer Rocha called it an “incredible organic grassroots campaign.”
When it hit number one on December 20th 2009, it was over 17 years since the song first charted in the UK when it peaked at 25.
‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go’
As proved with Stranger Things, a bit of cultural coverage can do wonders. Ironically, also a song prominent in Stranger Things, The Clash’s ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go’ saw initially mild chart success, hitting the top 20 in 1982.
Like Rage, The Clash too are the antithesis of the pop chart’s regular chart-topping singles, not being a catchy, upbeat dance or pop number nor a sultry ballad.
The Clash oozed anarchism with a rejection of mainstream ideals, refusing to let the likes of Dr Pepper or British Telecom use their songs.
By 1991, the band were no more, having broken up in 1986 after a disastrous break-up in which founder Mick Jones was shown the door and the ejection button was pressed on him. Clash Magazine writes that “Levi’s adverts slowly became an important facet of popular TV culture” so indeed it was that Jones allowed the makers of denim jeans to use their 1982 song from the ‘Combat Rock’ album to be used. Not only would this get further eyes – or ears, I guess – on the track, but it also allowed Jones the opportunity to promote his new band Big Audio Dynamite II.
The ad took off. In short order, the track – already nearly a decade old – had topped the UK charts where it stayed for two weeks.
It would be The Clash’s only number one single in anywhere of significance.
‘Let’s Get Ready To Rhumble’
In the words of Monty Python, “And now for something completely different”, as we do quite the 180 from talking about the London punk rockers to the cheeky northern duo of Ant & Dec, then known as PJ & Duncan.
The single ‘Let’s Get Ready To Rhumble” was initially released in 1994, hitting the number nine spot. The song can best be described in the phrase “of its time”. The spelling is notable, spelt in such a way to avoid copyright issues from famous ex-World Championship Wrestling (WCW) announcer Michael Buffer whilst also a homage to rhumba music.
The song was re-released in March 2013 after the duo performed it after a fan vote on their show Saturday Night Takeaway. The very next week, the song hit number one with royalties going to Childline – the charity counselling service for youths to talk about issues at home.
The song was certified silver, having hit the top spot nearly two decades after the single was originally released.
‘Candle In The Wind’
The 1997 single Elton John’s ‘Candle In The Wind’ to this day is the best-selling single in UK history. The only song with over four million sales, and now likely tipping over five, the single was dedicated to the memory of the recently-deceased Diana, Princess of Wales – one of the most beloved royals in British history. All sales benefitted Diana-sponsored charities.
Its success is shown through Guinness World Records commenting that it is “the biggest-selling single since UK and US singles charts began in the 1950s, having accumulated worldwide sales of 33 million copies.” It sold 1.5 million in its first week.
Despite its success, the 1997 single was not new, some lyrical alterations aside.
The song was actually written and released nearly a quarter of a century earlier. This reached number 11 in a time before Elton had even had his first number one single though a live recording eventually hit number five. This single featured on the album ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’. The song was still about a much-loved blonde royal but this time acting royalty: Marilyn Monroe, who had died 11 years earlier. It has also been dedicated to the likes of AIDS-suffering student Ryan White with it potentially to be written about the likes of James Dean, Jim Morrison, or others.
Of course, this very has long been overshadowed by the version 23 years later in which the single was a number one smash across the world.
For many, many years, ‘Last Christmas’ held the UK record for the best-selling single to never hit number one with the Wham! record constantly gaining sales each year due to its seasonal relevance and positioning high but never number one.
The feeling was that the single was going to be a definite chart-topper. That was before the Band Aid concept was conceived – actually involving George Michael himself. The second best-selling single in British history kept Wham!’s song off the top. The song still spent five weeks at number two at came in at the same number in 2017 on the one-year anniversary of George Michael’s death on Christmas but never got to that top position.
That was until 2021. The single had performed its usual high spot, this time fluctuating between the second and third spot. On January 1st, the song took the top having seen 9.2 million streams in the week of Christmas.
Ex-Wham! member Andrew Ridgely commented on Twitter: “I am delighted, somewhat amazed & profoundly pleased that WHAM!’s iconic Christmas classic Last Christmas has finally achieved the accolade of becoming a No 1. It’s a fitting tribute 2 George’s songwriting genius and 1 of which he would’ve been immensely proud & utterly thrilled.”
It is somewhat sad that it has lost its claim to be the best-selling song to never hit number one (a record now held by Maroon 5’s ‘Moves Like Jagger’). It does however now hold the record for the longest time between single release and hitting number one – a space of 36 years! This record is in jeopardy at the hands of Bush however.
On the topic of chart records, ‘Unchained Melody’ has the most appearances in the chart at the same time with June 1955 seeing four different versions in the top 20 and the only song to be number one under four different artists. Despite this, no version is better known than the 1965 single by The Righteous Brothers.
The Righteous Brothers recording originally peaked at 14. This was vastly out of place with then-number one single ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction‘, top 10 single ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, and ‘California Girls’ – the song by a growing overseas match: The Beach Boys.
The box office blockbuster Ghost used the song during a scene where (as the UK Official Charts website described it): “the main characters bonk on a pottery wheel (kind of)” The single was actually re-recorded despite singer Bobby Hatfield’s vocals not as strong as they were 25 years ago.
Ghost gave the single renewed and significant success. Although late in the year, it went on to become the UK’s best-selling single in 1990, selling 840,000 sales. It reached the top in November 1990, staying there for four weeks.
It was taken off number one by Vanilla Ice. Oh well.
Not only did this song manage to become revived in 1990 to get to number one but to become the top-selling song of that year even as late as it was re-released. The song’s success had become unchained.
Although to hear that Kate Bush may be the UK number one in 2022 is a weird time warp although as evidenced, is not unprecedented.
A rejuvenation of popularity towards a song or an artist through a new entity can prove to make a song more prominent than ever. When exposed to a larger and new audience, the song takes on a unique life in a second wave of acclaim, potentially propelling a cult classic into a timeless and unforgettable track.
It takes a lot to hit number one but even more for your work to again grow popular and see a popular and relevant second life atop the UK charts.
It is thus very pleasant to see a new breath of appreciation of the brilliance of Kate Bush as ‘Running Up That Hill’ is running up the charts. You love to see it.