Music Review: Cloudbusting by Kate Bush

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Back in the 80s, Kate Bush was an entire sub-culture of her own. Her beautiful weirdness and haunting expressiveness appealed to young and old alike. As a singer-songwriter, many of her songs included literary allusions (Wuthering Heights being the finest example and not really an allusion, but an entire ode to the Emily Brontë novel) and told intricate stories. Her interpretive/modern dancing in the avant-garde music videos was, of course, an added bonus.

This song, Cloudbusting, is about an Austrian psychologist, philosopher, and scientist, Wilhelm Reich, played by the very handsome Donald Sutherland and his rich, golden mane. The son, Peter Reich, was played by Bush in a rather unfortunate wig. It was inspired by the son’s memoir, A Book of Dreams. Look closely, and you’ll see Bush shyly pulling out the book from Sutherland’s pocket at one point.

The video was conceptualized by Bush and Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame. A terrific director who, I might add, was robbed of directing the Harry Potter movies by Warner Bros even though he had been J K Rowling’s first choice.

Back to Cloudbusting and a personal story. Over the years, this has become a go-to song just because of the sheer joy that comes from the thumping bass that starts off the hope-filled hook/chorus. My most lasting memory of listening to the song (because all great songs are like punctuation marks in our lives, highlighting key events — so, I believe), is from the late 90s. In 1999, I was doing a solo cross-country trip from Michigan to California, with all my worldly belongings in a dodgy Taurus (the suspension fishtailed alarmingly if you got above 70 mph or on uneven or wet roads). In California at last, as I was driving the old Highway 1 from Monterey to San Luis Obispo, during one particular 90-mile stretch, I got caught in a sudden thunderstorm. There I was, driving, no, fishtailing, down a winding 2-lane highway, with sheer cliffs and the Pacific Ocean to my right, sheets of rain just slamming down and reducing my visibility so much that every crazy careening car in the left lane felt like it was launching out of nowhere straight at me and would knock my little car right into the ocean below. And, other than the odd scenic lookout spot, there wasn’t anywhere to pull over and wait. So, I kept on driving with this song on an endless loop on my car stereo and sang along at full lung capacity whenever the chorus came on. It got me through (although I did need a strong drink at the end of those 90 miles). Here’s that chorus:

And every time it rains
You’re here in my head
Like the sun coming out.
Your son’s coming out.
Ooh, I just know that something good is gonna happen.
And I don’t know when,
But just saying it could even make it happen.

[PS Patti Smith also sang about this same father-son in Birdland but it’s a sadder song, I find.]

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