This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #383: Cloudbusting by Kate Bush.
In a recent post, I spoke about how books have inspired many of the best songs of our generation. This is very true of the song that is the focus of today’s post: “Cloudbusting” by Kate Bush.
Back in 1973, Kate Bush read a book called, “A Book of Dreams”. It was written by a man named Peter Reich. Reich was the son of a well-known philosopher and psychiatrist named Wilhelm Reich. “A Book of Dreams” is a memoir of the father-son relationship that they enjoyed. Unlike many ordinary families, the Reichs lived in the rolling hills of Maine in the U.S., where Wilhelm had built a hilltop laboratory. The chief focus of his research was on building a machine that could change the weather, causing it to rain at will (which was, especially, important in times of drought). The machine he was attempting to invent was called a “Cloudbusting” machine. Unfortunately, his work became a source of concern to the government and Wilhelm Reich was arrested and taken to prison, his laboratory was ransacked and his son, Peter, was left to watch helplessly as his father was taken away.
Kate Bush often infuses her songs with references to the Arts and “Cloudbusting” in no exception. The lyrics to this song tell a fairly faithful re-creation of the original story. When she shared her song with Peter Reich, he commented on how perfectly she captured the competing emotions of the security he felt when with his father in his laboratory and the complete loss of everything he knew as he watched his father being taken away. But, as much as the song stands alone as one of Kate Bush’s best and most popular works, it is the music video that truly takes this song to another level.
The video for “Cloudbusting” was directed by Terry Gilliam (of Monty Python fame). It plays like an epic, full-length movie, even though it is only 5-6 minutes long. The video stars Canadian actor Donald Sutherland as Wilhelm and Bush (with shortened hair) starring as the son, Peter. The cloud busting machine was designed by the same set designer who came up with the “Alien monster” from the movie, “Alien”. If you are familiar with the movie, “Alien” at all then, you will see the physical similarities between Wilhelm Reich’s machine and the movie monster quite readily. In any case, this song pulsates with a beat that mimics a heartbeat and is filled with emotion as the relationship between father and son grows and swells and then, is taken away once the authorities arrive on the scene. When this video was first released in the UK, it was often shown in theatres (like a movie trailer) before the start of the main feature and it was quite common for people to cry as it ended or, to cheer, as well.
All in all, the ties that bind parents and children are among the strongest and most primal that we, as humans, experience. “Cloudbusting” captures every emotion present; in the good times and the bad. In a world where “Hey, Baby, Baby” is the standard relationship arc that fills our airwaves, “Cloudbusting” serves as a reminder of the many other important relationships that exist in our lives. It is a remarkable saga told through song and through video. Please enjoy.
The link for the music video for “Cloudbusting” by Kate Bush, can be found here.
A link to a website devoted to Kate Bush can be found here.
A link to order the book written by Peter Reich called “The Book of Dreams” can be found here. I ordered the book and can attest to the fact that it is a very unique and interesting story.