Like many Americans, my first exposure to Kate Bush was via her fourth album, 1982’s The Dreaming, for despite being a chart-topper the world over, and with a 1978 appearance on SNL under her belt, Bush had virtually zero profile in America before it. The Dreaming is also my favorite Kate Bush album, although it doesn’t have a single one of my favorite Kate Bush songs on it.
Even during a period of popular music that produced such off-kilter masterpieces as PiL’s The Flowers of Romance, Japan’s Tin Drum and Nunsexmonkrock by Nina Hagen, The Dreaming was still an album that was difficult—at first—to get your head around. It’s an album that requires three to five listens before it “clicks,” but when it does, the listener is rewarded with one of the most dazzling, ambitious and audacious things an artist has ever attempted, before or since. In this case, an artist who was then just 23!
As a song cycle, The Dreaming is a complex and accomplished work, practically demanding to be listened to all the way through (if only out of respect for the genius who created it). Although I went backwards through her first three albums, in retrospect, The Dreaming—produced by Kate alone for the first time—is an abrupt (make that very abrupt) break with what had come before. Gone were the intimate observations on life, the intensely passionate musings on love. sexuality and England’s green and pleasant land—indeed all of the pretty songs that her fanbase obviously expected—to be replaced with poetic and cinematic narratives that evoked far off exotic lands, paranoia, fury, a quest for learning, a stymied oneness with God and comedy. The Dreaming is the work of a great talent operating totally free of any outside pressures or concerns. It would be ridiculous to call it the first “real” Kate Bush album, but there is certainly a clear line of demarcation between Never for Ever and everything that comes after it.
Obviously there was always something monumentally idiosyncratic about Kate Bush, but with The Dreaming, the eclectic nature of her mature vision became boldly manifest for the first time.
“Sat in Your Lap” is the album’s frantic opening number. One of the engineers Bush used on The Dreaming was Hugh Padgham, the man responsible for achieving the famous “gated drum” sound of Phil Collin’s “In the Air Tonight” number, and I would imagine he’s probably responsible for the fantastic drum sound on “Sat in Your Lap” (I could be wrong about this because Padgham brought in Nick Launay, PiL’s engineer for the heavily percussive The Flowers of Romance album, for The Dreaming and it might be he who recorded the drums here, I’m not sure) (Here’s a link to a demo of the song)
To go to show how lyrics can get misconstrued and yet still end up communicating the exact thing the artist wanted to say, the “Gaffa” of “Suspended in Gaffa” is not a place (as I assumed it was, like Goa or the title of Aldous Huxley’s novel Eyeless in Gaza, which for whatever reason, I have always associated with this tune) but, in fact, refers to gaffer’s tape, the heavy, super strong sticky stuff used on film sets and during live performances. Whether she’s literally trussed up in gaffer’s tape, bemoaning her lack of a relationship with her maker or stuck cooling her heels in some remote part of the globe, the meaning is probably the same, don’t you think?
And dig that waltz/nursery rhyme/oompah hybrid! From German TV, 1982:
The “let’s get the fuck out of here” bank heist scenario of “There Goes a Tenner”:
“The Dreaming” (Rolf Harris played the didgeridoo on this number):
Kate Bush interviewed by Paul Gambaccini in 1982 upon the release of The Dreaming:
An unbelievably charming 1982 appearance on the kids’ TV show, Razzamatazz, with an explanation of how a music video is storyboarded:
The B-side of the “Sat in Your Lap” single, a cover of Donavan’s “Lord of the Reedy River.”
“Ne T’enfuis Pas,” the B-side to the “There Goes a Tenner” single: