We take a listen back at The Dreaming, maybe unfairly sidetracked in her impressive canon of work
It seems almost ridiculous to be writing a “Not Forgotten” piece about Kate Bush. She is currently all the rage after undertaking her first live performance in 35 years, her back catalogue of albums charting again and a whole host of people discovering her music for the first time. It’s no surprise that Hounds of Love and The Whole Story, her greatest hits compilation, are selling well now the live run has begun. Amongst the albums not selling quite so well is The Dreaming. It would be an awful shame to forget it.
Realeased in 1982, The Dreaming is that halfway house between Kate Bush as the mezzo soprano testing her full range and the softer, gentler voice we hear later in her career. The edge in her voice can still be there, but she does so much more with it, uses it as an instrument in its own right. Since The Kick Inside, her music evolved from piano-based tracks to a bigger, more cinematic sound. The Dreaming straddles the earlier work and the later complexities of The Hounds of Love, both in terms of what we hear and the concepts behind the songs.
It’s a mix of musings from opening track Sat In Your Lap, which lyrically explores the sense that knowledge and enlightment is always just out of grasp, to There Goes A Tenner, a ballad in the truest sense which tells the story about a robbery. There’s a sense of the other in the songs, Aborigines in The Dreaming, freedom fighters in Pull Out The Pin, an illusionist in Houdini. It has a feel of a musical version of The Illustrated Man, tiny tuneful tattoos that hint at a whole of what is kept at the fringes, those who are overlooked or that the mainstream has attempted to lock out.
I have two favourite tracks on the album. The Night of the Swallow always struck a chord with me because combination of the mystery of the subject matter and the music. Again there is a feel of the song being about activity at the fringes of society, Bush creating a diaglogue between someone pleading with the other not to covertly pilot a plane across the sea. The reason, passengers and destination are unclear, but we know it’s dangerous and secretive. I love the way Bush is pushing her voice to hoarseness in the verse, taking on the complete desperation of the character she is playing, begging other other character not to leave. In the counter view point in the chorus, the pilot tunefully jigs their way over the words to the accompaniment of pipes and penny whistle. There is a downplaying of the danger saying “There’s no risk,/ I’ll whisk them up/ In no moonlight”, words and music reminiscent of the sharp, swooping arcs of the swallow. The drama of The Night of the Swallow is replicated in Get Out Of My House, a fantasy nightmare full of people leaving, returning and trying to break through barred the doors. More characters feature, most notably the sultry conceirge who appears in the chorus, whispering “chez-moi honey”. A male voice joins Bush at the end of the song, an intruder who is trying to get back into the house after having left. The female character turns into a bird, he turns into the wind and as a conclusion she turns into a mule and says “Hee – Haw”. The End. It is gloriously mad and layered with shouting and braying, like a Midsummer Night’s Dream with a Fairlight.
Locking and unlocking runs through the whole of the album, unlocking knowledge in Sat In Your Lap, breaking a safe in There Goes A Tenner, Leave It Open exploring locked doors, cages, close minds. Even the picture chosen for the album cover features passing the key with a kiss, an image from the song Houdini. What is Bush testing here? It’s almost if her music is pushing on a door which she thinks might be locked, maybe sensing that the listener might not be open to hearing what she now wants to create. Her lowest selling collection of songs, Bush herself called it the “I’ve gone mad album”. Let it be mad. Let her be taking on all these characters and bringing them to life. Let it be screaming ‘Get out of my house’ and turning into a mule. Let the imagination run wild with the imagery and the scope of the noise. These songs would make incredible theatre sequences. If only…..