by DJ El Toro
For this week’s Review Revue, I pulled out one of my all-time favorite albums, The Dreaming by Kate Bush. When it came out in 1982, the record was very divisive, not only within my circle of friends, but with critics and pop fans in the UK (where Bush was an established chart star). Some listeners were severely bummed that the airy-fairy princess of “Wuthering Heights” was nowhere in evidence on her fourth full-length, but others (myself included) were thrilled at how she embraced the then-radical sampling capabilities of the Fairlight, and composed wholly original songs that ranged from the Irish reel of “Night of the Swallow” to the thundering percussion of “Sat In Your Lap.” Hell, on the final “Get Out of My House,” she even turned into a braying donkey -- scary stuff.
Not surprisingly, the staff at KCMU were similarly at odds over this wildly inventive album. As I read over their comments from a quarter-century ago, I found myself wanting to jump into the argument. Repeatedly. So I did... (comments in italics):
“For some strange reason, Kate Bush’s singing reminds of me of Rex Harrison, or maybe it’s Noel Harrison...”
One assumes this is a reference to her rather stentorian, very British delivery on the jaunty bank heist number, “There Goes A Tenner.” At least, I hope so. Lord knows, Bush had no problem carrying a tune, while the great thespian was renowned for speak-singing his way through “My Fair Lady.”
“Some of this is very folksy, some of it is like a hit of LSD”
“Folksy? Not ‘down home’ folksy, I think.” Well-needed album. ‘Sat In Your Lap’!!”
“I like this album. I also like LSD.”
Personally, I’d be scared to ingest psychedelics while listening to this disc. It is pretty far out-there for even the soberest listener.
“She is part Aborigine after all -- so her folkiness isn’t surprising -- it works well.”
Um, excuse me? What do these two topics have to do with each other? In today’s PC climate, would anyone dare to write such a snarky comment on a new release?
“A new Lene Lovich?”
“An old -->”
"This is cool sounds like a cross between Nina Hagen & Lene Lovich (vocally)"
Bingo! Throughout the 1980s, it drove me nuts that women like Bush, Lovich, and Hagen -- plus Hazel O’Connor, Diamanda Galas, Yoko Ono, etc. -- were forever lumped together by armchair critics. All these women were wildly disparate performers and writers, yet because each had a highly idiosyncratic vocal style, they all got lumped under one umbrella. Jazz critics would never do the same thing with, say, Patty Waters and Jeanne Lee.
“I personally like the earlier stuff she put out, although this album’s
“Kate Bush is in a class all her own -- she deserves more recognition and credit.”
“The vocal equivalent of pheromones. KATE IS GREAT!”
“Avant garde masterpiece.”
“I love her”
I want to hang out with these people.
“These songs are all about dreams she’s had.”
“Not so. For instance, ‘All The Love’ was inspired by her phone answering machine going crazy. It refused to record the messages, only the goodbyes, which is what you hear during the song. (I’ve followed her since the 1st LP.)”
“I sit corrected.”
Damn right. In fact, the underpinnings and inspirations of all ten songs on this record are just as bizarre and ambitious. I look forward to finding out what my esteemed colleague Ann Powers of the Los Angeles Times makes of this epic when she completes her exploration of it for Continuum’s 33 1/3 book series.