Subscribe to our newsletter

(Credit: Alamy)

Music

The Kate Bush song about a radical sex philosopher

@TomTaylorFO

‘Cloudbusting’ begins, “I still dream of Orgonon,” begging the frank question – ‘What on planet f–king hell is Orgonon?’ Elusive meaning aside, it’s the sort of light loveliness that nonetheless punches with the power of a heavyweight, which Kate Bush is known and adored for. The old Muhammad Ali adage, ‘float like a butterfly sting like a bee’ is a term that permeates Bush’s output as an artist. Nobody has made the whimsical so damn visceral quite like Bush.

Following that fantastical first line, over sweeping strings, Bush continues to billow out the lyrics, “I wake up crying / You’re making rain / And you’re just in reach / When you and sleep escapes me,” they would be powerfully pretty lyrics even if they pertained to an abstract metaphor, but the fact that they express a true story elevates them beyond the beauty which they already hold in prose alone. 

There’s a pretentious argument out there that every song is from a true story or book in some shape or another, but if that’s the case, then it can be easily asserted that barely any capture the feel of the tale from which they are based as perfectly as Bush with her 1985 release ‘Cloudbusting’. It was the second single from the iconic Hounds of Love record, which somehow only peaked at a disappointing 20 in the UK charts. 

Though the euphoric feeling of the cello-driven anthem could be experienced by a blade of grass, the question remains: What is it about, and what mystic tale does it draw upon? Although it might sound fantastical on the surface, and the meaning remains obscure as a result, Bush rather fatefully crafts a pastiche out of snippets from the Peter Reich memoir A Book of Dreams. In short, Bush’s anthem is a bittersweet collage of the loving relationship between a radical philosopher and his son. 

Having trained in Vienna with Sigmund Freud, Peter’s father Wilhelm Reich, arrived in the US in 1939, where his books and ideas about human sexuality gained a substantial audience. Therein he set about making the world a better place by extolling the power of sexual liberation and the eternal force of Orgone Energy. However, his mission was viewed as subversive by many, and this threw up difficulties. 

Nevertheless, the stress of surveillance and other issues only strengthened his bond with his son and at their rural home in Rangley, Maine, they set about world-changing experiments. In their vast open garden sat a Cloudbuster. This giant telescope-like construction was connected to little more than hollow pipes. Nevertheless, it was asserted that this machine could channel live-giving Orgone energy and that energy could break up clouds, influence weather and summon UFOs.

This might sound wild on the surface, but in Peter Reich’s emeber-glowing memories, it was little more the sort of loving bond that makes the world go around in a whirlwind of wonder. As Joan and Erik Erikson opine in an appraisal of the memoir: “Nature offered a wonderland of sensory stimuli, parents allowed freedom and gave devoted care, and other visiting adults supported his physical playfulness with amused appreciation.”

Continuing: “But as his father’s ally, he became enmeshed in a star wars fantasy too ‘far out’ to be reconciled with reality. Love, loyalty, and the loss of father and his guiding purposes demanded resolution. … But the much-loved land and tensely experienced sensory memories have endured and are described with such authentic simplicity. If more of us could remember childhood with such clarity of recall, adulthood could be both enriched and clarified.”

Reich’s works, once widely respected, were now viewed as obscene by some, but as Peter Reich says, “I loved my dreams more than reality.” Whether that was a good thing or not is something that he wrestles with throughout the book, but it never resides as a regret. After all, there is a call for wonderment in the world. Kate Bush’s art has always sought that same sense of primordial exultation—the book stirred that same feeling in her.

Sadly, the eudemonia of days spent dreaming by the cloudbuster would end in tragedy. Wilhelm Reich’s obsession that Orgone Energy could be a cure created issues. He crafted and sold energy harnessing devices that would improve your sex and cure all sorts of ailments. While many celebrities purchase these devices and Sean Connery and Norman Mailer swore by them (and there is even an argument that they were central to kickstarting liberation), the government were less keen on the philosopher asserting that could cure cancer.

When Wilhelm Reich refused to retract this remark, he was arrested, and the stress of the upheaval caused him to die shortly after in prison from a heart attack. His son was left heartbroken in boarding school, however, as Bush stunning sings as though channelling Peter’s own rhapsodic emotional release from fleeting reality: “every time it rains, You’re here in my head, Like the sun coming out, Like your son’s coming out.”