No one expected Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill (Make a Deal With God)” to become one of the biggest hits of 2022, including musician Rob Simonsen, who arranged the orchestral version featured in season 4 of “Stranger Things”.
Because the song features prominently in the Netflix series – as Max, played by Sadie Sink, mourns the death of her half-brother Billy, the hat’s vulnerability leaves it open to the series’ villain, Vecna, who turns attacks its victims through their trauma – and is used to soundtrack a pivotal moment, its resonance carries in large part due to its orchestral treatment.
The combination of the two – the 1985 Bush classic and the instrumental version – helped propel the song to the top of the UK charts and Top 5 in the US.
So, how was the grafted instrumental born?
While Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon served as the show’s composers, Simonsen was commissioned by director and executive producer Shawn Levy to write four pieces for orchestra, including one for “Running Up That Hill”. Simonsen says, “‘Running Up That Hill’ is my favorite Kate Bush song, and I was so excited to get to do this orchestral treatment for her.”
In putting the music together, Simonsen says he wanted the instrumental to almost sound like a lullaby he made with the addition of a chorus. It was about finding the right emotional tone. “There was a big juggernaut of a full orchestra with the song and giving it a lot of muscle in the penultimate scene as we fanned out with the kids,” he says. “The choir mainly sings the ‘oohs’ and there are some lovely melodic bits.”
For Simonsen, the ideal room to record the arrangement was the famous Air Studios in London. The perfect musicians? “The Contemporary London Orchestra. “I wrote for this space and this set in mind because it’s a very special reverberating space that sounds pristine,” he says. “It sounds both clear and lush.”
See footage from the recording session below: