Friday, 11 March 2016

50 albums to take to my grave #33: The Dreaming

I simply could not go to my grave without having a bit of Kate Bush for company. While many would no doubt - and understandably - opt for the masterpiece that is 'Hounds Of Love', for me there was never any question what I'd be going for - its immediate predecessor, the ultra-mad 'The Dreaming' from 1982.

I had long been aware of Kate Bush, mainly as she was one of the biggest pop stars around when I was growing up, but the first thing I bought of hers was Running Up That Hill, cloely followed by 'Hounds Of Love', then the compilation 'The Whole Story'. From there I investigated Kate's back catalogue. When I got to 'The Dreaming', it was like some kind of weird epiphany. It was by far the most bizarre record I'd ever heard, yet it captivated me. Most of it was beyond me in terms of understanding what the hell was going on, yet time and again it lured me back, almost begging me to get to grips with it. It's become like a metaphor for my life, really. I've had all sorts of weird shit happen that I can't make head nor tale of, yet I've somehow continually been drawn to confront it.

And that's probably what 'The Dreaming' was to Kate Bush. She calls it her "I'm going mad album", and it is just that. It is crazy, schizophrenic, unstable and the most uneasy-listening of her entire career. Yet for all that, it is an astonishing piece of work that I can come back to time and time again and manage to pull something new out of.

To think, a song like Sat In Your Lap was deigned to be the most suitable track to put out as the album's first single. Unsurprisingly, the singles that followed flopped. No one on radio dared play them. If you wanted to hear 'The Dreaming', you had to buy it. If you wanted to understand it, you had to immerse yourself in it, deeply, over and over. There's so much going on. There Goes A Tenner, a song inspired by old crime movies, employs a jaunty oompah beat as Kate sings of a failed bank robbery; Suspended In Gaffa, probably the closest thing we get to a so-called 'conventional' song on the whole record, is actually a twisted waltz about wanting something that continues to elude you. The title track is a dark tale of the plight of Aborigines driven by Rolf Harris' didgeridoo and loud tribal rhythms inspired by Peter Gabriel; and Night Of The Swallow draws on her mother's Irish heritage with its reeling uilleann pipes and penny whistles as Kate sings of a criminal's desires to move on to pastures new while his lover pleads with him not to go.

If I had to choose just one song to illustrate the often disturbing nature of 'The Dreaming', it would have to be the closer Get Out Of My House. Influenced by Stephen King's 'The Shining', it is Kate at her most unsettling. "GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!" she shrieks; "Eee-aww, ee-aww" she growls, along with her backing singers (who include her early mentor David Gilmour, incidentally). Bizarre isn't the word, but I'm at pains to find a word that is!

'The Dreaming' is chaotic, angry and dark. It's also brilliant, intriguing and constantly full of surprises, even after 34 years. That's probably why I keep coming back to it and want to take it with me.


And a couple of videos from the period...


  1. I am of a similar opinion. I'm not sure it is her best album, but is by far my favorite. I'm a dumb Yank and had heard some stuff by her, but this is the first one that grabbed me and got me hooked to this day. Hello from Oklahoma, btw...

  2. I only bought this album last year... I believe on your recommendation. Not the least bit disappointed.

  3. wonderfully written appreciation of a very fine and occasionaly bonkers record

  4. After I read this I made a mental note to make some time to listen to the album.
    I then forgot but immediately remembered again as watched an episode of Top Of The Pops that had the video for Sat In Your Lap.

    It has been a long time since I originally heard the album. A long long time.
    Listening to it again here in the future I heard it very differently from what I originally recalled. I've just listened to the entire thing and am now playing the LP from the beginning again. Kate tells some interesting stories on this that I never got the first time round...