“I still dream of Orgonon,” sings Kate Bush at the opening of “Cloudbusting” from her 1985 album, ‘The Hounds of Love.’ I’ve cherished this song since its release, yet I’ve always wondered about its subject matter. Was it simply about ‘cloud busting,’ or did it hold a deeper meaning? Like any Kate Bush song, the answer is both profound and captivating.
The song references the ‘Book of Dreams’ by Peter Reich, written about his father Wilhelm Reich and his unconventional theories, particularly his concept of “orgone,” a pseudo-scientific life energy he claimed to have discovered. The Orgonon mentioned at the start of the song is Wilhelm’s ‘Orgonon’ ranch in Maine, USA, where he conducted his experiments. You can actually visit the ranch and the William Reich museum today.
Wilhelm believed that his devices, called “cloudbusters,” could manipulate this energy to produce rain and influence the weather, which explains the cloud busting aspect of the song.
However, when you combine the song with its music video, a deeper subtext emerges. The song reflects the emotional bond between Peter and his father and their experiences with the cloudbuster. The video, featuring Donald Sutherland as Wilhelm Reich and Bush as his son, further illustrates this relationship and the concept of cloudbusting.
The line, “I can’t hide you from the Government,” alludes to the son’s desire and inability to protect his father from the consequences of his actions. Reich’s conflicts with government authorities in both Europe and the United States were multifaceted, including legal actions, investigations, and his unconventional therapeutic practices.
In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pursued legal actions against him, eventually leading to his arrest in 1956. Reich was charged with contempt of court and later sentenced to two years in federal prison, where he passed away in 1957.
The music video portrays much of this story. Filmed on and around the White Horse at Uffingham, a prehistoric hill figure carved into an Oxfordshire hill, the video depicts the story of Peter (Kate) and his father (Donald Sutherland). In his pocket, you catch a glimpse of the book so the clue was there all along!
In the video’s final act, Peter wheels the cloudbusting machine to the top of a hill and starts to ‘cloud bust,’ making it rain as Wilhelm departs. This act leans more toward fantasy than reality. While Peter did explore some of his father’s ideas, he wasn’t as outspoken as Wilhelm. His book, the inspiration for this story, was his most significant contribution to keeping his father’s legacy alive.
The Hounds of Love
“Cloudbusting” occupies a unique place on Kate Bush’s iconic album, “The Hounds of Love,” released in October 1985. It serves as the closing track on Side 1, transitioning the listener into the immersive journey of “The Ninth Wave,” which encompasses the entirety of Side 2. This positioning adds to the song’s significance, bridging the gap between the hit-laden Side 1 and the conceptual and experimental Side 2.
The song’s themes of longing, wonder, and the unbreakable bond between a father and son resonate powerfully within the album’s broader narrative and remain captivating to this day.