Every Time It Rains: How Kate Bush and Patti Smith Immortalized Wilhelm Reich in Song

Inspired by Wilhelm Reich’s “energy of orgasms”, Kate Bush is stylized, controlled, lush, and multi-layered in her approach; Patti Smith, on the other hand, is ferocious and driven.

In 1978, a 20-year-old Kate Bush released The Kick Inside, an album of deeply strange, moving music she had recorded various times from 1975-1977. Bush’s soaring, dramatic four-octave range soprano soared through songs about kites, saxophones, strange phenomena, and a man with a child in his eyes (all on side one.) The track “Wuthering Heights”, a gorgeous realization of the classic Emily Bronte novel sung to Heathcliff from Cathy’s perspective, was typical of what Bush represented in those days.

This breathtakingly beautiful young woman with a thick mane of lion-like hair and large brown eyes was a dancer, a singer, and equal parts seductive and lethal. In those pre-MTV days, Bush was less a video star than a cinematic musical savant who could give birth to a song like “Them Heavy People” that opened with childish lines (Rolling the ball/ Rolling the ball) and in the middle dropped references to Gurdjief and Jesus. The remarkable and distinctly original presence known as Kate Bush had started, and her artistic children Tori Amos, Lady Gaga, Bjork, and PJ Harvey (among many) were furiously taking notes.

By 1985, seven years into her recording career and four years into the MTV era (when the “M” in that cable network’s name stood for “music”) Bush released Hounds of Love, a remarkably rich sonic exploration of love, senses, loss, and desire. The sound of such tracks as “Running Up That Hill [a deal with God]” is very much of the era: synthesizers and drum machines and textured echos. Side two (before streaming and CDs and when artists were able to construct things this way) featured seven linked songs featuring a character stranded on a slab of ice in the middle of the ocean. Bush’s triumphant 2014 Before the Dawn concert appearances in London marked not only her first concert performances in 35 years but also a stunning realization of that narrative.

Parts operatic, dramatic, and all theatrical, Hounds of Love came alive again in 2014 but its heart was already beating in 1985, its release year, and vital for those willing to surrender to it. In particular, the song “Cloudbusting”, the final cut from side one, stood out above the others. “It’s about a special relationship between a young son and his father,” Bush recalled. In 1973, Peter Reich had written and published a memoir (Book of Dreams) about life with his father Wilhelm, best known for his belief that an energetic connection he called “Orgone” was shared by all living beings. Wilhelm developed a device he called an “orgone accumulator” and its goal was to collect the energy. As a result, US government officials confiscated his material and sentenced him to two years in prison in 1956 for contempt of court.

“What astounded Dr. Reich… for over two thousand years… this orgone energy… was overlooked… [he] discovered… the energy responsible for the biological pulsation of life on earth (and possibly the universe.)” — Alex Denney, Dazed

The video for “Cloudbusting” was rich and cinematic in its time, and while it might seem awkward today (Bush dressed in dungarees and what one writer noted a “red Dennis the Menace” wig), there’s a sweeping beauty in its seven minutes. Bush the esoteric auteur is in full-force here. Friendly with director Terry Gilliam, whose 1985 classic “Brazil” was released 6 months before the video, “Cloudbusting” opens with a shot of actor Donald Sutherland (as the scientist father) and Bush, as the young song, pushing a giant machine up a hill. There are pipes, levers, pistons, and as they aim it towards the sky we wonder what they’re going to capture. Bush (as the boy) embraces his father and pulls from his jacket pocket a copy of Peter Reich’s A Book of Dreams. Innocence is captured in the midst of all those rolling hills and the emerald green Oxfordshire countryside.