Elvis are you out there?’: narrative voice and symbolism in Kate Bush’s ‘King of the Mountain’
After more than a decade away from releasing albums and singles, Kate Bush returned to the UK charts in October 2005 with ‘King of the Mountain’, the first and only single from her long anticipated album Aerial. Paying homage to Elvis Presley, ‘King of the Mountain’ is narrated in the second person, speaking out directly to Elvis, asking if he is still alive and living a different life.
Bush is perhaps most well known for ‘Wuthering Heights’ (1978), in which she narrates the story from the perspective of Cathy, and encapsulates the first-person narrative style that she pursued for most of her early career. In contrast to this, ‘King of the Mountain’ marks a change in her narrative position, taking a step back from the character to take an outsider’s perspective. The music video to accompany the single echoes this viewpoint, as Bush becomes the lip-synching narrator, whilst an animated white jumpsuit, symbolic of Elvis, takes centre stage. Another symbolic element key to the song is the lyrical reference to ‘Rosebud’, a name that is central to the plot of the 1941 film Citizen Kane. The video makes further allusions to the film, confirming the reference with an image of a sled named ‘Rosebud’. Used as an allegorical device in the film, this succinctly adds an additional layer of meaning to the song.
This paper will explore the position of the narrative voice within the song and how the use of intertextual symbolism adds meaning from outside. It will show how this external influence allows the focus of the narrative voice to be shifted outside of the character without losing sight of their perspective.
Stephanie Naisbett is currently studying part-time for her PhD in Music at Newcastle University. The focus of her PhD is the role of narrative in the work of Kate Bush, exploring the use of pre-existing characters and stories, Bush as auteur, and the development of narrativity throughout Bush’s career. When she’s not studying, Stephanie spends the rest of her time working as a peripatetic music teacher, teaching piano, violin and cello.