KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #383: Cloudbusting by Kate Bush.

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.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KTOM-Song #456…Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush.

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 #456: Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush.

In the Fall of 1982, as I was settling into my new life at Ryerson University in Toronto, I found myself wandering through the big downtown mall known as The Eaton Center. Anchoring the mall on the north end was a six-floor Eaton’s department store. At the south end, just across the street was a six-floor Simpsons department store. It was in the electronics department of Simpsons that I saw Kate Bush for the first time. On their wall of tvs, they were airing a new show from fledging local station, City-TV, called “New Music Magazine”. On this show, they were profiling this young female singer from England and were showing her video for “Wuthering Heights”. In this video, Kate Bush sang in a voice I had never heard before, about a classic literary book by Emily Bronte, all the while wearing a red dress and dancing as the professionally-trained dancer that she was. The effect of this wall of sight and sound was mesmerizing to me at the time. Admittedly, I have been mesmerized by her ever since.

Kate Bush’s career began at age 18 with “Wuthering Heights”. The initial demo of the song was given to David Gilmour of Pink Floyd fame. He put up the initial money to have the song recorded and Kate Bush became a musical phenom overnight! But Kate Bush was no one-hit wonder. She has had a long and successful career characterized by songs that are literate, intelligent, artistic and that speak to the human condition. While Bush was a huge star in England in the early stages of her career, it took the US a while longer to warm up to her singing style. The song that helped break the ice, as it were, was “Running Up That Hill” from an album called, “The Hounds of Love”.

“Running Up That Hill” was the only US Top Ten hit for Kate Bush. It is a song about the sexes and how little we truly understand one another. The song contains lines such as,

“If I only could, I’d make a deal with God and get Him to swap our places.”

A little later on in the song,

“Is there so much hate for the ones we love?

Tell me, we both matter, don’t we?

You, you and me….

It’s you and me and we won’t be unhappy”.

In the “official” video for this song, Kate Bush and a male dance partner perform a contemporary dance routine that helps explain the emotion behind the yearning for understanding between a man and a woman in a relationship. MTV refused to air this video because they felt, at the time, that the concept of contemporary dance would be confusing to US audiences. Instead, they aired a video of Kate Bush singing the song live, on stage, with a backing band because, “audiences like to sing along with people they can see singing”.

Kate Bush is my favourite female musical artist. For me, there is no one who is even a close second. “Wuthering Heights”, the song that created a fanboy out of me, will appear closer to the end of this list. For today, I will play the contemporary dance video version of “Running Up That Hill” that she wanted the world to see. As well, I will add a live version of the song that she performed with David Gilmour (pardon the 80s hair), with whom she has enjoyed a long friendship and musical/artistic partnership. Finally, I will show an excellent cover version performed by a new group that you should be aware of called, “First Aid Kit”. If this is your first exposure to Kate Bush then, get ready for a singer with a voice as unique and original as there is in all of music. If you are already familiar with her work then, I will say what I always say in these circumstances, enjoy. 🙂

The link for the official music video for Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush can be found here.

The link to the live music video performance of Running Up That Hill with Kate Bush and David Gilmour can be found here.

The link to Kate Bush’s website can be found here.

Finally, the link to the wonderful cover version of Running Up That Hill by First Aid Kit can be found here.