The Albums that Made Me #6 – Kate Bush, ‘The Dreaming’ (1982)

Album cover is a sepia-toned photograph of Kate Bush. She is holding the head of a man who is facing her and she seems to be leaning in to kiss him, but her eyes are looking away to the left. There is a chain and padlock on the man's shoulder.

I’ve written about The Dreaming before, so this is a bit of a repeat post, but I just had to include it on my ‘Albums that Made Me’ list.

I can’t overestimate the influence The Dreaming has had on my taste in music and, possibly, in shaping aspects of my personality. I must have been around six years-old when I started listening to it. My Dad was a Kate Bush fan and we always had her albums around the house.

The Dreaming is probably the album that first sparked something in me which could be called a sense of “taste” in music. I loved it, but I was also quite terrified by songs like ‘Get Out of My House‘. I was fascinated by the soundscape and the way Kate Bush manipulated her vocals on different tracks. I was slightly outraged that a woman could sound like that! In summary, it got me to start thinking about music.

I would play it in the kitchen and dance madly to ‘Night of the Swallow‘, ‘Sat in your lap‘ and ‘The Dreaming‘. That’s what I mainly remember. Dancing, dancing, dancing until I was exhausted. One time, I ran up and down the room so wildly, I winded myself on the kitchen sink.

As an adult, my favourite Kate Bush album is Hounds of Love, but I still have a very special place in my heart for The Dreaming.

Album of the Week: Kate Bush, ‘The Dreaming’ (1982)

Kate_Bush_The_Dreaming_Cover

Arguably Kate Bush’s strangest work, I feel like The Dreaming has had a role in shaping my personality. I spent entirely too much time dancing round the kitchen to this album when I was a kid. I was fascinated by the weird, even scary, soundscape. Kate Bush has called it her “I’ve gone mad album” and the listening experience does feel like being inside someone’s mind. As a little kid, I was particularly impressed by the vocals. I couldn’t believe that a woman could make all those different sounds. My favourite track then was ‘Night of the swallow‘ because I liked the strings and bagpipes, but as an adult woman who is more interested in setting boundaries, I find myself most excited by the door-slamming chaos of ‘Get out of my house’.  Play loud, as the sleeve notes advise.

Meanwhile, in other Kate Bush news, hundreds of fans celebrate ‘Wuthering Heights Day’ by recreating the 1978 video.

Soundtrack to the Spring

Until recently, I’d have said that The Red Shoes was my least favourite Kate Bush album. I hadn’t listened to it for years. Then Lily and Big Stripey Lie  scrobbled on my last.fm account and I completely changed my mind. Maybe The Red Shoes resonates more as you get older. It’s a complex, mature woman’s album, exploring themes of self-determination, resilience (Rubberband Girl), creativity (The Red Shoes), and spirituality.

Well I said, “Lily, oh Lily I don’t feel safe
I feel that life has blown a great big hole
Through me” And she said
“Child, you must protect yourself
You can protect yourself
I’ll show you how with fire”

My partner got me listening to Cris Williamson’s classic of feminist, lesbian and women’s music, The Changer and the Changed (1975). Williamson has such a beautiful, soaring voice. ‘Waterfall’ (0.00) gives me chills and you can just hear them playing ‘Sweet Woman’ (12.51) for the slow dance at the end of the lesbian disco in the 1970s. You might like to compare the original ‘Shooting Star’ (21:15) with the Butchies cover. Williamson has developed a more solidly country sound in recent years. Fringe (2007) is awesome too.

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Soundtrack to Summer 2014

The album of the summer was Lissie’s Back to Forever (2013). Her catchy tunes and big, confident sound was just what I needed to hear over the last few months. The more reflective and stripped-down acoustic versions of the songs are also excellent.  Ingrid Michaelson’s delightful Lights Out came a close second with its smart, witty lyrics and great vocal arrangements. It makes me want to dance so much (thanks to @infamy_infamy for the recommendation).

We’ve been listening to Janelle Monáe’s albums, The Archandroid (2010) and The Electric Lady (2013). I think I have a slight preference for the first, but they’re both dizzyingly creative and exciting. You can hear all her influences at work, but the music sounds so fresh.

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Soundtrack to our (Feminist) Lives

Last week we got together with some women friends to talk about the music that’s influenced our relationships with feminism.  We put together a playlist, listened to each track in turn, and then discussed the reasons why it had made the list.

Talking through the tracks, I was reminded of just how powerfully music becomes associated with particular moments in our lives.  After we listened to L7’s ‘Shove’, the women of around my age talked about  Donita Sparks’s legendary tampon throwing moment at Reading Festival in 1992.   I’ll also never forget Donita blowing my poor little repressed mind on British youth television show, The Word, when she pulled down her pants during a performance to reveal a serious lack of underwear.  These may not have been the most helpful feminist acts ever taken (or maybe you think they were), but we agreed that they made us feel that something was changing and it was exciting.   For similar reasons, but from a few years later, Andy talked about No Doubt’s song ‘Just a Girl’ which threw stark light on her suburban upbringing, a childhood of bedrooms being painted pink by parents and an adolescence of being told not to drive at night.

Andy also nominated Lesley’s Gore’s proto-feminist 1964 hit ‘You Don’t Own Me’ which was part of the soundtrack to her childhood because her parents love all of that 60s pop, but which took on new meaning as she came to appreciate the lyrics and discovered that Gore later came out as a lesbian, a piece of queer knowledge that gives an added twist to the song’s meaning.   When we first started dating she put the song on a mix CD for me, as a bit of homage to the way that music has become a method of communication between lesbians.  I think the song still sounds fresh and relevant.

Speaking of leshian music, I was quite glad to find that I wasn’t the only one who thought Kathleen Hanna was singing ‘She’s got the hottest dyke in town’ on ‘Rebel Girl’ rather than ‘She’s got the hottest trike in town’.  And the oldest woman in the group brought along a vinyl copy of Alix Dobkin’s Lavender Jane Loves Women, the very first album made by and for lesbians, released in 1973.  We didn’t get round to listening to it, but maybe next time we will, even if it is, as she says, “a bit scratched”.

The politics of Kate Bush’s ‘Army Dreamers’ surprised us when we stopped just listening to the pretty production, actually read the lyrics, and found that they address the way that poor kids are sent off to die in war.  Kate Bush is very important to me; I spent a lot of time in my childhood dancing in the kitchen to her album The Dreaming.

Andy recommended Ani DiFranco’s ‘Talk to me Now’ from her first album released when she was 19 years old, which features the great line,  “I was blessed with a birth and a death and I guess I just want some say in between”.  There was a general agreement that DiFranco is particularly good at drawing the political implications out of personal experience.

Patti Smith’s extraordinary ‘Gloria’ was universally loved and still has the power to make me blush.  I actually bought her album Horses because of her photograph on the cover, not because I knew anything about the music.  There was a lot of discussion about Smith’s self-presentation and although I hate the word ’empowering’, right now I can’t think of another one to describe the effect people said she continues to have on them.

It was interesting that the Throwing Muses’s song ‘Hate my Way’ was liked and disliked by different people for the same reason – because it’s so raw and angry.  I think those of us who like it do so because it represents a woman completely owning her negative thoughts and feelings.  The part when Hersh lets rip with ‘My pillow screams too/But so does my kitchen/And water/ And my shoes/And the road’ still raises the hairs on the back of my neck.  It’s not the line itself so much as the way she delivers it.  Incidentally, I had a nightmare the other night in which I found out that the Throwing Muses were playing in my town and I couldn’t find a computer with internet access to book tickets.

Someone put Sonic Youth’s song ‘Swimsuit Issue’ on the list, causing me to reappraise a band I’d always rather resented because when I was a teenager, only the coolest kids at my school were allowed to listen to Sonic Youth.  I would never have dared to listen to them because it would have just looked like I was trying too hard.

I’d never really been convinced by Le Tigre before, but had to admit to enjoying ‘Decaptacon’ and ‘What’s your take on Casevetes?’  I am now persuaded to give them another chance.   The same goes for Chicks on Speed and even Peaches.   The list introduced me to some new artists to explore, M.I.A who sounds amazing and Fever Ray.  Other people were introduced to new music too, and some were espeically bowled over by the gorgeous mystery of Nina Nastasia’s ‘Dear Rose’ from her album Dogs.

Possibly the most important track for me on the list was P J Harvey’s ‘Dress’ from her first album Dry, which a friend put on a mix tape for me way back around 1996 and which started the ongoing love affair with Harvey that has brought me so much joy and pain.  I don’t think I’ll try and articulate my feelings; I’ll just post a video of her performing the song live.

We realise that we’ve hardly scratched the surface and that the list had many limitations, so we’ve decided to keep adding to our collaborative playlist and do it all again in a few months time.