Kate Bush Sings “Cloudbusting”

Kate Bush CloudbustingListen to this track by Bexleyheath-born singer-songwriter and art rock innovator Kate Bush. It’s “Cloudbusting”, a top twenty single as taken from her 1985 masterpiece The Hounds Of Love. The song was inspired by the story of psychoanalyst, inventor, physics theorist, and (some would say) kook Wilhelm Reich and his relationship with his son Peter, the story of which Bush read about in the younger Reich’s book A Book of Dreams.

An immigrant from Austria to America, Reich the elder was personally acquainted to and worked directly with both Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein, arguably bridging their two disciplines of psychoanalysis and particle physics. Reich was a contributor to both fields, interested in how human sexuality and particle energy converged. Particularly in his later years, he sought ways of finding the Life Force as linked to the human libido as an observable physical phenomenon, leading up to his theories of orgone energy, his invention of orgone “accumulators” that would collect and harness that energy, and even ways to use it to manipulate the environment with the invention of “cloudbusters”. This device was, effectively, a weather control machine that was meant to excite the orgone energy particles in cloud formations in order to make it rain — literally.

That seems like an unlikely subject for a top twenty UK hit, right? And yet, Bush found herself drawn into Reich’s story, and that of his son. Even the video (starring Donald Sutherland as Reich!) reflects the drama that unfolded surrounding Reich, his life in rural Maine at his home Orgonon (named after orgone energy, of course), and his unpleasant encounters with the establishment, who eventually jailed him in part for his theories connected to sexuality. What were some of the common threads that tie it all together in this song? Well, amid all the sex and science, I think what this song is really about is perception, specifically from the point of view of a child to his parent. Read more

Kate Bush Sings “King of the Mountain”

Listen to this track by British homebody singer-songwriter and record producer Kate Bush. It’s “King Of The Mountain”, a single as taken from 2005’s critically acclaimed Aerial. This record was her first double album, and one that had tremendous success when it was released in November of that year.

This song, the lead single which was released roughly a month previous to the album, would score an instant #4 on the UK charts, and hit top ten positions all over the world. But along with the rest of the new album, it had taken her a while to deliver it – 12 years.

Since 1993’s The Red Shoes, Bush had removed herself from public life. This wasn’t necessarily because the record industry got her down. But, because like in anyone’s life, she had other priorities; buying a new home in Devon, fixing it up, building a home studio to work quietly in, and eventually becoming a mum, too.

When you’re in the pop music industry, this kind of thing isn’t always allowed. The penalty is often that you get called an ‘eccentric’, a recluse, “past it”, or maybe just an underachiever. The story on Kate Bush remained uncertain for many years. All the while, Bush still had musical ideas percolating as everyone hoped she would.  But, what does this song say about her view on the whole biz we call show and the demands of fame on artists? Read more

Kate Bush Sings ‘Babooshka’

Here’s a clip of British songwriter, and out-of-left-field pop star Kate Bush with her UK top five hit ‘Bambooshka’ the lead track from her 1980 album Never for Ever.

Kate Bush debuted in 1978 with her album The Kick Inside, with an immediate hit with her song “Wuthering Heights”.  Even while continuing her career as a solo artist, she contributed vocals to Peter Gabriel’s third album – that’s her on his single “Games Without Frontiers” – as well as on the duet with Gabriel on “Don’t Give Up”, in the video of which she also appears.  Among other things she took away from her experience in working with Gabriel was his approach to songwriting, which involving building a song starting with a drum track.  This informed her 1984 album The Hounds of Love, arguably her most celebrated work.
Kate Bush debuted at age 19 with her album The Kick Inside, with an immediate hit with her song “Wuthering Heights”. Even while continuing her career as a solo artist into the 1980s, she also contributed vocals to Peter Gabriel’s third album – that’s her on his hit single “Games Without Frontiers” – as well as on the duet “Don’t Give Up”, single and video. Among other things she took away from her experience in working with Gabriel was taking up his approach to songwriting, which involves building up a song starting with a drum track, and layering other elements on top of it . This approach informed her 1985 album The Hounds of Love, arguably her most celebrated work.

This is a love-gone-wrong tale as told in an olde worlde style – a fairy tale or parable about a woman who tests her husband by writing him letters, pretending she is a mysterious young would-be lover, and ultimately loses her relationship because of her groundless suspicions of him.  There is something classically literate about this song, making me wonder where someone so young could have come up with it. Of course her first hit was based upon Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, so she was clearly interested in a literary approach from the get-go.

In terms of the way the song sounds, there is nothing like this tune as reflected in any other artist I’ve ever heard; it’s unique, as is its author.  The odd arrangement of male backing vocalists, use of sound effects, and of course Bush’s own delivery which is singular by anyone’s standards, should make this track sound more avante garde than pop.  Yet, pop it is, along with a singalong chorus.

Such an approach to songwriting and presentation would of course never be permissible today for a 22 year old woman.  It’s interesting in the video that Bush is using sexuality in the same sorts of ways as many a pop starlet might.  Yet, you also get the impression that this is more of a byproduct of what she’s trying to do, rather than a simple play to illicit a response to her physical presence.

The very subject matter of the song works in the opposite direction, railing against the forces against a woman who feels she is of less worth because she is no longer physically attractive to her husband, the truth of which is never fully revealed.  This type of complexity and irony would make it possible for other likeminded artists – Sarah McLachlan, Jane Siberry, Tori Amos, et al – to explore the same kinds of thematic landscapes, full of sexuality, yet not objectifying the authors.

Bush would continue to have success, particularly on her Hounds of Love album, which is looked upon by many as her masterpiece.  The title track off of that was memorably covered by UK guitar band The Futureheads.  After a spate of records by the end of the 80s, Bush’s career took second place to her role as a mum.  She recently put out a double-album Aerial in 2005, recorded in her home studio in Kent.

For more information, take a gander at the official Kate Bush website.

And for more music, check out the Kate Bush MySpace page.