How a Belfast-made Lambeg drum is helping Kate Bush back into UK and US top 10 after Stranger Things feature
A leading light in Northern Irish music has told how he helped Kate Bush source a Belfast-made Lambeg drum for a song that has shot up the charts again, 37 years after its release.
unning Up That Hill, first released in 1985, is currently in the Top 10 singles charts in both the UK and the US, after it was featured in the new series of the Netflix supernatural drama Stranger Things.
The track, taken from her critically acclaimed album Hounds Of Love, peaked at number three in the UK charts in 1985 and reached number 30 in the US at the time.
But it’s been receiving renewed attention around the world after featuring prominently in the latest series of Stranger Things, giving Bush her first ever US Top 10 hit.
In a somewhat bizarre twist, Bush commissioned a Lambeg drum from a shop on Sandy Row called Drum Sounds after watching a documentary on marching bands in Northern Ireland. She made a request via record label EMI, which was passed on to Mike Edgar, a member of Belfast post-punk band Cruella De Ville, also signed to the label.
The drum features in the introduction of Running Up That Hill and also on the second single to be released from Hounds Of Love, Cloudbusting.
Edgar, former head of entertainment and events at BBC NI, recalled how the drum came about.
“I was in the band Cruella De Ville at the time and we were signed to EMI, as was Kate Bush,” he said.
“We were in the recording studio in London one day when our A&R man, John Bagnall, told us Kate had mentioned to him about an amazing, big drum with ropes that she had seen on a TV show about marching bands, and, being from Belfast, John thought he’d try us.
“I knew straight away it was a Lambeg drum, so I went to Drum Sounds on Sandy Row to ask its owner, Billy Hewitt, to make her one.
“Billy was great. He’d never heard of Kate; I don’t think pop music was really his thing. But we struck a deal and he agreed to make her a bespoke drum.”
A few weeks later Edgar received a phone call from Hewitt, who has since passed away, asking “if the wee girl Kate” still wanted the drum. Edgar said she did. The drum-maker asked what she would like painted on it and Edgar went off to check. He came back and said the singer had requested “white fluffy clouds”.
“Billy was used to painting King William on a white charger or orange lilies on his drums and hadn’t painted fluffy clouds before, so he said he needed a bit more time,” Edgar said.
“Kate got her Lambeg drum and it features in the intro of Running Up That Hill, as well as in Cloudbusting. It’s a very recognisable sound.
“It’s a bizarre but fascinating story, to think that a Lambeg drum made in Belfast appears on one of the greatest albums of all time.
“A gifted drum-maker and a hugely talented and innovative performer joined forces to make something special. It’s yet another example of Belfast punching above its weight.”
The story of the drum, which cost £400 to make, was retold to launch the Oh Yeah Music Centre’s Music Bus Tour and its International Women’s Day event in 2014, which featured interpretations of Bush’s work by a host of female musicians.
Edgar, who now runs Mike Edgar Productions, said he was “delighted” to see Bush back in the charts again.
“Kate broke the mould. She was pretty much a child protégé; enormously gifted, creative and inventive,” he said.
“Her work is mind-blowing and it’s amazing to see her charting again after all this time, and to know that Belfast played its part in the story.”
Issuing a rare statement to thank her fans for the song’s resurgence, Bush, whose debut, self-penned single Wuthering Heights went to number one in 1978, wrote on her website: “You might have heard that the first part of the fantastic, gripping new series of Stranger Things has recently been released on Netflix.
“It features the song Running Up That Hill, which is being given a whole new lease of life by the young fans who love the show — I love it too!
“Because of this, Running Up That Hill is charting around the world and has entered the UK chart at number eight. It’s all really exciting!
“Thanks very much to everyone who has supported the song. I wait with bated breath for the rest of the series in July.”