The picture I have of Kate Bush writing 1985's majestic CLOUDBUSTING is her alone and isolated in her private studio. It is 1984 and she is taking a break from recording what would become her massively influential album HOUNDS OF LOVE and reading Peter Reich's A BOOK OF DREAMS. Kate is struck by the book detailing Peter's father Wilhelm Reich's arrest and imprisonment and she sets out to write a song about it, CLOUDBUSTING was the outcome.
Reich's story had also influenced Patti Smith, arguably the only female performer of the last thirty years more influential than Kate. There seemed to be something in his story that artists, particularly an artist struggling with themselves, could latch onto.
Reich had been an influential psychiatrist who, after suffering a reported mental breakdown, had invented what he claimed was a machine that could induce rain by literally splitting open clouds. It was this odd idea and the connection between him and his son that would give Kate Bush the idea for one of her greatest works.
With THE DREAMING album in 1982 it appeared to many people that Kate Bush had created her own Cloudbuster. The utterly brilliant and brave THE DREAMING had baffled most critics and even her most hardcore fans. HOUNDS OF LOVE was the major album of Kate's career, one in which she had to captivate the alienated and yet remain true to THE DREAMING'S innovative and startling ideas.
CLOUDBUSTING closes out Side one of HOUNDS OF LOVE and along with RUNNING UP THAT HILL would be the most successful single off of the album. The startling sound of the album and the CLOUDBUSTING single were showcases for a perfected sound Kate had gotten using the Fairlight CMI synthesizer. This tricky instrument would become one of the most over and misused tools of the period but in the hands of people like Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel and Danielle Dax it could be produce some of the most moving sounds imaginable.
Featuring a stirring string section by Dave Lawson, played beautifully by The Medici Sextet, 'sweeping' is one of the first words that comes to mind when describing CLOUDBUSTING. With the opening passage,
"I still dream of Orgonon.
I wake up cryin'.
You're making rain,
And you're just in reach,
When you and sleep escape me."
Bush begins one of her most iconic and emotional songs that never fails to move me when I hear it. Kate doesn't seem at all phased that she is narrating the song as a young boy and would indeed play one convincingly in the striking video for the song. The songs final moments where we hear the heartbreaking, "I'm Cloudbusting Daddy." followed by the closing, "Your Son's Coming Coming Out" is one of the greatest moments in a career filled with them.
The video, said to be partially created with Terry Gilliam's assistance, would be directed by Julian Doyle and star one of Kate's favorite actors, the unbeatable Donald Sutherland as well as Kate herself. Kate is a well known movie buff and it seems logical that she would have felt a kinship to the star of Nicolas Roeg's DON'T LOOK NOW. In a world filled with dispensable and disappointing music videos, the film of CLOUDBUSTING is a triumph. It's a rare example, along with the likes of Bowie's ASHES TO ASHES and Bjork's HUMAN BEHAVIOR, of a video that totally transcends the genre. CLOUDBUSTING isn't just a music video, it is a work of art in itself that perfectly compliments and, possibly even, makes an already great song even better.
The underrated BURNING BRIDGE is featured as CLOUDBUSTING's B-side and it continued Kate's tradition of having album worthy flip sides. It is no coincidence that one of the most satisfying albums in Kate's catalogue is the b-side collection featured in the box set THIS WOMAN'S WORK.
CLOUDBUSTING would barely crack the British top twenty and, like the majority of Kate's work, wouldn't make a dent in the U.S. charts. Still it is a fan and critic's favorite, a song that would prove Kate could be commercial while still maintaining the uncompromising stance THE DREAMING had taken.
Kate Bush becomes more and more iconic as each year passes and it is hard to imagine a female artist whose sound has influenced more young women in the rock world. HOUNDS OF LOVE is often cited as her crowning achievement and the extraordinary CLOUDBUSTING is possibly its greatest track.
Reich was said to have seen UFO's in Orgonon, Maine shortly after creating his Cloudbusting machine. Listening to Kate Bush's six minute ode to him I not only believe in his machine but perhaps the things he claimed he saw after he busted his clouds apart.