Down in the Park: Ten Songs About Parks. The Provisional IRA Detonates Two Bombs in Hyde Park and Regent’s Park in Central London, Killing Eight Soldiers, Wounding Forty-Seven People, and Leading to the Deaths of Seven Horses. This Day in History, 20/07/1982.

1.  Gary Numan ‘Down in the Park’

(from the album Replicas, 1979).

2.  Small Faces ‘Itchycoo Park’

(single A-side, 1967).

3.  Lou Reed ‘Perfect Day’

(from the album Transformer, 1972).

4.  Blur ‘Parklife’

(from the album Parklife, 1994).

5.  Richard Harris ‘MacArthur Park’

(from the album A Tramp Shining, 1968).

6.  Spandau Ballet ‘To Cut A Long Story Short’

(from the album Journeys to Glory, 1981).

7.  Kirsty MacColl ‘Soho Square’

(from the album Titanic Days, 1993).

8.  The Cowsills ‘The Rain, The Park and Other Things’

(from the album The Cowsills, 1967).

9.  The Zombies ‘Beechwood Park’

(from the album Odyssey & Oracle, 1968).

10. The Doobie Brothers ‘Another Park, Another Sunday’

(from the album What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, 1974).

Song of the Day: Biography in Music (Day One). “But Every Time It Rains, You’re Here in My Head …”

Right from her early days, Kate Bush was never afraid of demonstrating her literally knowledge.  For her first single, Bush had released Wuthering Heights (The Kick Inside, 1978), based on Emily Bronte’s novel of the same name (1847).

For her second album Lionheart (1978), she had referenced J.M Barrie’s Peter Pan in both Oh England My Lionheart …

… and In Search of Peter Pan.

Further to this, Get Out of My House from 1982’s The Dreaming album was inspired by Stephen King’s 1977 novel, The Shining.

For her 1985 album, Hounds of Love, Bush’s love of literature and writing about her favourite works in song took a biographical turn with the song Cloudbusting, which took its cue from Peter Reich’s 1973 book, A Book of Dreams, a biography of his father, Wilhelm Reich.

Wilhelm Reich (1897 – 1957) was an Austrian psychiatrist and philosopher who was trained in Vienna by Sigmund Freud.  Reich’s work combined Marxism and psychoanalysis in order to advocate sexual freedom.  He would often visit parents in their homes to see how they lived, and took to the streets in a mobile clinic, promoting adolescent sexuality and the availability of contraceptives, abortion and divorce, a provocative message in Catholic Austria.  His aim was to attack the neurosis by its prevention rather than treatment.

In the 1930’s, Reich became an increasingly controversial figure.  From 1932 until his death, all his work was self-published.  His promotion of sexual permissiveness disturbed the psychoanalytic community and his associates on the political left, and his vegetotherapy, in which he massaged his undressed patients in order to dissolve their muscular armour, violated the key taboos of psychoanalysis.  In 1939, he and his son moved to New York, in part to escape the Nazis.  Shortly afterwards, Reich proposed the concept of orgone, a physical energy contained in the atmosphere and in all living matter.  In 1940, he started building orgone accumulators, devices which his patients sat inside of in order to harness the reputed health benefits.  This led to newspaper reports about sex boxes that cured cancer.  Reich is also famed as the inventor of the Cloudbuster, a device which manipulated the orgone energy in the atmosphere, forcing clouds to form and causing rain.  This invention is what informed the concept of Bush’s Cloudbusting.

After two critical articles about Reich in The New Republic and Harper’s, the US Food and Drug Administration obtained an injunction against the interstate shipment of orgone accumulators and associated literature, believing that they were dealing with a “fraud of the first magnitude”,  In 1956, Reich was charged with contempt for having violated the injunction and was sentenced to two years in prison.  In the summer of 1956, six tons of his publications were burned by order of the court.  Reich died of heart failure whilst in prison just over a year later and days before he was due to apply for parole.

Although Bush’s Cloudbusting is the most recognised, and personally, I feel the best song based on Reich, his life and concepts, it was not the first.  Other songs about Reich include Birdland by Patti Smith, from her debut album Horses (1975), which is also based on A Book of Dreams.

Cloudbusting is about the relationship between Wilhelm Reich and Peter Reich as a young boy, told from the perspective of Peter Reich as an adult.  The song describes the boy’s memories of his life with Reich on their family farm and research centre, which Reich named Orgonon, hence the song’s first line, “I still dream of Orgonon”.  Today, Orgonon is a museum dedicated to Reich and his research.  Of the first verse of Cloudbusting, which continues, “… I wake up crying, You’re making rain, And you’re just in reach, When you and sleep escape me”, Bush told Alternative Press Magazine in 1989:

“All of us tend to live in our heads.  In Cloudbusting, the idea was of starting this song with a person waking up from this dream, “I wake up crying”.  It’s like setting a scene that immediately suggests to you that this person is no longer with someone they dearly love.  It puts a pungent note on the song.  Life is a loss, isn’t it?  It’s learning to cope with loss.  I think in a lot of ways, that’s what all of us have to cope with”.

The second verse of Cloudbusting, “You’re like my yo-yo, That glowed in the dark, What made it special, What made it dangerous, So I bury it, And forget it” refers to part of Peter Reich’s A Book of Dreams in which he tells of his father’s dislike of fluorescent light of any kind, believing that it held bad orgone energy.  Wilhelm made Peter bury his fluorescent yo-yo in the back yard in order to stop its harmful effects.  The yo-yo of which Bush speaks stood out from everything around it, thus bringing attention to itself in much the same way that Wilhelm Reich’s genius set him apart from other people and brought attention to him, leading to his demise.  Reich’s genius made him a very special person but also caused him to appear “dangerous” to the Federal Government.

In the song’s chorus, we find the lyrics “But every time it rains, You’re here in my head”, referring to the cloudbuster built by Wilhelm Reich.  In these lines, every time Peter sees the rain, he remembers his father and his experiments.  In an interview for MTV in 1985, Bush said of these lines:

“And the song is really using the rain as something that reminds the son of his father.  Every time it rains, instead of being very sad and lonely, it’s a very happy moment for him, it’s like his father is with him again”.

The chorus’s phrase of “… something good is going to happen” refers to the recurrent foreboding in A Book of Dreams that “something bad was going to happen”.

The lyrics of Cloudbusting’s third and fourth verse describe Wilhelm Reich’s abrupt arrest and imprisonment, the pain of loss felt by the young Peter and his helplessness at being unable to protect his father:  “On top of the world, Looking over the edge, You could see them coming, You looked too small, In their big, black car, To be a threat to the men in power” and “I hid my yo-yo, In the garden, I can’t hide you from the government, Oh God, Daddy, I won’t forget”.  Additionally, the lyrics “On top of the world, Looking over the edge, You could see them coming”, refers to the following passage in A Book of Dreams:

“He was like a man who was standing on top of the world looking over into a new world.  That is what Daddy was like.  He had lifted himself so he was looking the horizon to a new world, a free and happy world.  He stood there on the edge of the universe looking into the future … They pulled the ladder out from under him and killed him”.

The wonderful seven minute long music video for Cloudbusting, directed by Julian Doyle, the was an idea collaboration between Terry Gilliam and Kate Bush and features Canadian actor Donald Sutherland in the role of Wilhelm Reich, whilst Bush plays his son, Peter.  The video shows Wilhelm and Peter on top of a hill attempting to make the cloudbuster work.  Wilhelm leaves his son on the cloudbuster and returns to his laboratory, where in a flashback, he remembers the times he and Peter enjoyed working on various scientific projects.  He is then interrupted by government officials who arrest him and ransack the laboratory.  Peter senses that his father is in danger and tries to reach him to no avail, watching as his father is driven away.  Peter runs back to the cloudbuster and to his father’s delight, gets it working and begins to rain.

The video was filmed at The Vale of the White Horse in Oxfordshire, England.  Bush personally approached Sutherland to ask him to appear in the video at the hotel room in which he was staying.  She found out where he was staying from actress Julie Christie’s hairdresser.  In the UK, the music video, conceived more as a short film than a standard video, was shown at some cinemas as an accompaniment to the main feature.  Due to difficulties in obtaining a work visa for Sutherland at short notice, the actor offered to work on the video for free.  Despite the fact that the events in the story took place in Maine, the newspaper clipping in the video reads “The Oregon Times”, possibly in reference to Reich’s home and laboratory, Orgonon.

The cloudbuster depicted in the video was designed and constructed by people who worked on the alien in the film Alien (1979) and later, Aliens (1986).  The machine bears only a superficial resemblance to the original cloudbusters, which were smaller and featured multiple narrow, straight tubes and pipes and were operated whilst standing on the ground.  The video makes reference to Peter Reich’s A Book of Dreams, acknowledging the song’s inspiration, in the scene where Bush pulls a copy of the book out of Sutherland’s coat.

The video is a magnificent retelling of the song and of the life and times of Wilhelm and Peter Reich.  If the song successfully manages to convey the moment when a child first realises that adults are fallible lyrically; then the video, in which Bush, as always, uses her significant acting talents so wonderfully, is a powerful visual interpretation of that theme.  When asked about her role in the video during a 1985 interview with MTV, Bush replied:

“I think it’s something I’d obviously worried about.  When you’re not a child, there are a lot of things that could be a problem.  Like I could look old and not young.  And we were also [coughs] – excuse me – trying to take away the feminine edge so that in a way I could be a tomboy rather than a little girl.  Trying to keep the thing as innocent as possible.  And I think rather than being that worried about playing a child, I was just worried about the whole process of acting, because it’s something I’ve not really done, in a true sense.  I’ve performed in lots of ways, but not really acted.  And it was something that I was wary of and I was actually surprised at how much I enjoyed it”.

Song of the Day: Music Inspired by Television Shows (Day Four). “Come Dancing, That’s How They Did It When I Was A Kid …”

Come Dancing, from The Kinks’ 1982 album State of Confusion, takes its name from the TV series, Come Dancing, a BBC British ballroom dancing competition show which ran from 1949 to 1998, making it one of television’s longest running shows.  Come Dancing is also the forerunner of Strictly Come Dancing, which has ran on the BBC since 2004.

In addition to its title inspiration, the song was also inspired by memories of Ray Davies’ sisters, who loved to dance, going on dates to the local Palais and in particular, his sister, Rene.  Rene, who lived in Canada with her reportedly abusive husband but visited her parental home in Fortis Green occasionally, is notable for having bought Davies his first guitar for his thirteenth birthday (21st June 1957) after his attempts to get his parents to buy him one had failed.  On the evening of the same day, Rene, who had a weak heart as a result of a childhood bout of rheumatic fever, died of a heart attack whilst dancing at the Lyceum ballroom.  In an interview with NPR Music in 2014, Davies said of the day:

“[Rene] had died dancing in a ballroom in London in the arms of a stranger … Coming back from Canada where she’d emigrated to die, really, and again, being a source of inspiration … She gave me my first guitar, which was a great parting gift”.

Davies and his older brother and band-mate, Dave Davies, had six sisters.  Another sister, Rose was the inspiration behind the song Rosie, Won’t You Please Come Home, from the album Face to Face, 1966.

Later, on the album Arthur or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire (1969), Rose inspired the song Australia.  Rose had moved to Australia in 1964, with her husband Arthur Anning, who gave the Arthur… album its name.

Lyrically, Come Dancing is a nostalgic look back at the songwriter’s childhood, with memories of Rene and his other sisters going on dates at the local Palais dance hall where big bands would play.  The lyrics also tell of how the Palais has now been demolished and of the changes that have taken place in Davies’ native London:  “They put up a parking lot on a piece of land, Where the supermarket used to stand, Before that they put up a bowling alley, On the site that used to be the local Pally, That’s where the big bands used to come and play, My sister went there on a Saturday”.

The lyrics go on to reminisce his sisters’ dates:  “She would be ready but she always made them wait, In the hallway, in anticipation, He didn’t know the night would end up in frustration, He’d end up blowing all his wages for the week, All for a cuddle and a peck on the cheek”.  Davies also remembers his sister coming home from the dates in the lines “My sister should have come in at midnight, And my Mum would always sit up and wait, It always ended up in a big row, When my sister used to get in later, Out of my window, I can see them in the moonlight, Two silhouettes saying goodbye by the garden gate”.  Later in the song, Davies tells of how his sisters’ daughters are now going on dates:  “My sister’s married and she lives on an estate, Her daughters go out, now it’s her turn to wait, She knows they get away with things she never could, But if I asked her, I wonder if she would, Come dancing …”

In an interview with Uncut magazine in 2014, Davies stated that the song was sung from the perspective of a spiv:  “It was about an East End spiv, sung in a London voice.  If anybody had lost faith in us being real people, that record would restore it”.  However, in a 2010 interview with Clash magazine, Davies also stated the song was sung from the point of view of an East End barrow boy:  “[Come Dancing] is sung by an East End barrow boy – I think there’s cockney rhyming slang in it”.

Musically, Davies has stated that Come Dancing was an attempt to get back to the “warmer” style which had informed their songs before their transformation into an arena rock act.  In his 2014 interview with Uncut magazine, Davies said:  “I wanted to regain some of the warmth I thought we’d lost, doing those stadium tours.  Come Dancing was an attempt to get back to our roots, about my sisters’ memories of dancing in the ‘50s”.  The music of Come Dancing takes the idea of the big bands mentioned in the song and uses it to great effect, creating an upbeat pop single which rightfully reached number 12 in the UK charts, the band’s highest charting single since Apeman, from the album Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One, in 1970.

The single also fared successfully in the US, reaching number 6 and becoming the band’s biggest hit since Tired of Waiting for You, from the album Kinda Kinks, in 1965.

The promotional video for the single, filmed at Ilford Palace in November 1982, was directed by Julien Temple, also famous for his work on promotional videos for the Sex Pistols, Culture Club and Dexys Midnight Runners.  The lyrics of the song are used in the storyline for the video, with Ray Davies starring as a spiv character who takes the sister out on a date.   The rest of the band appear as the band playing at the Palais after the events from Davies’ childhood, with the spiv character solemnly watching.

Davies would also play the spiv character in the video for Don’t Forget to Dance, also directed by Julien Temple.  Don’t Forget to Dance was the follow up single to Come Dancing and also taken from the State of Confusion album. 

The Spiv character was also reprised for the video for the Do It Again single, from Word of Mouth (1984), once again directed by Julien Temple.

Additionally, according to Davies, The Kinks’ 1986 album Think Visual was originally conceived as a concept album centering around taking the character and putting him in the environment of a video shop.

Just like the Palais mentioned in Come Dancing, Ilford Palace, the setting of the single’s video was demolished in 2007 in order to make way for luxury flats.  Come Dancing later served as the title track for The Kinks’ 1986 compilation album, Come Dancing with The Kinks: The Best of the Kinks 1977 – 1986 and the title track for Ray Davies’ 2008 stage musical of the same name, set in a 1950’s music hall.

Song of the Day: Places in Music (Day Six). “Within Weeks they’ll be Re-opening the Shipyards …”

There are few songs which capture the mood of the time and place so poignantly as Elvis Costello’s Shipbuilding.  Written by Costello with Clive Langer, who composed the song’s hauntingly beautiful piano line, the song was first given to Robert Wyatt and released as a single two months after Britain had won the Falklands War.

The Falklands War was a ten week war fought between Argentina and the United Kingdom over two British overseas territories in the South Atlantic:  the Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.  The war had begun on Friday 2nd April 1982 when Argentina invaded and occupied the Falkland Islands (followed by their invasion and occupation of South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands the following day) in an attempt to establish the sovereignty it had long claimed over them.  In response, the British Government, led by Margaret Thatcher, dispatched a Naval task force to engage the Argentine Navy and Air Force before making an amphibious assault on the islands.  The conflict lasted or 74 days and ended with the Argentine surrender on the 14th June 1982, when the islands were returned to British control.  In total, 649 Argentine military personnel, 255 British military personnel and three Falkland Island residents died during the war.

In a time of great British patriotism, Shipbuilding bucked the trend by being an anti-war song.  The very fact that when the Robert Wyatt’s version of the song was released as single, it only managed to reach number 35 in the UK Top 40 said much about the public attitude of the time.  However, it was the first single released by record company Rough Trade to reach the UK Top 40 and 33 years after its release, the song is probably much more remembered than many of the 34 songs that beat it on that week.  What Shipbuilding accomplished was to remind the United Kingdom, which was in the midst of its post-war celebrations, that things weren’t as rose-tinted for the communities of the young men who had done most of the fighting and for the locations in which the warships were built, which would now, once again, be subjected to closure.

The song’s opening line, “Is it worth it?” (very) temporarily lures the listener into thinking that what will follow will be a standard anti-war protest telling of the pointless loss of life.  However, what Costello accomplishes with aplomb is a song which weighs up the benefits of temporary job availability in the dying industry of the shipyards and a better way of life (“A new winter coat and shoes for the wife”; “And a bicycle on the boy’s birthday”) during the conflict against the cost of human life which all that labour has, in part, influenced.  A majority of the 255 British troops killed were killed at sea in warships which had been built in shipyards around the United Kingdom.  The Falklands War had been an unexpected boost for the ailing shipbuilding industry.

Shipbuilding was written at a time when unemployment in the United Kingdom had risen above three million for the first time in history.  Traditional industries such as shipbuilding were in turmoil and two years after this song was released, Britain was in the midst of the Miner’s Strike.  In the song, Costello speaks of the plight of a British working class which had now become sacrificial lambs on the battlefield and off it.  The lines “Somebody said that someone got filled in, For saying that people get killed in” tells of the result of one person’s objection to shipbuilding for the war effort.

Shipbuilding is a song which takes the idea of the protest song and puts a new spin on it.  Take for instance the line “The boy said, ‘Dad, they’re going to take me to task but I’ll be back by Christmas’”.  Here, we see Costello playing on the term ‘task force’ with the hoary old adage that in all wars, the sailors and soldiers will be “back by Christmas”.  And then, in a verse (fitted between two stunning brass solos performed by Chet Baker on the Costello version), we find the line which is the crux of the song, “Within weeks they’ll be re-opening the shipyard, And notifying the next of kin”:  Reopening the shipyard will result in the deaths of troops “Diving for dear life” when they “could be diving for pearls”, who will then have their next of kin notified.

The contradiction of Shipbuilding is that beneath the surface of its beautiful exterior lays the heart of angry socialism.  Costello was known for his hatred of the Thatcher government and he made it known in his songs.  Take for example, Pills and Soap, from the album Punch the Clock (1983) and credited to Costello’s alter-ego The Imposter, which is a scathing attack on the changes to British society and economy brought about by Margaret Thatcher’s reign in Number 10.  Costello chose to release Pills and Soap as a single shortly before the 1983 UK General Election.

Shipbuilding takes a slightly more subtle approach in its disdain of the British government but, quite wonderfully, becomes more powerful for doing so.  Costello’s recorded version of arguably his most beautiful song was released a full year after Robert Wyatt’s version on the album Punch the Clock.

In 2013, Elvis Costello, in collaboration with The Roots, released an answer song to Shipbuilding, written from the perspective of the other side in the conflict.  The song, Cinco Minutos con Vous (which translates as Five Minutes with You) is a duet partly sung in Argentinean Spanish by La Marisoul.  Cinco Minutos con Vous can be found on the album Wise Up Ghost.

Shipbuilding: Ten Songs About The Falklands War. The British Nuclear Submarine HMS Conqueror Sinks The Argentine Crusier ARA General Belgrano. This Day in History, 02/04/1982.

1.  Elvis Costello ‘Shipbuilding’

(from the album Punch the Clock, 1983).

2.  Crass ‘Sheep Farming in the Falklands’

(single A-side, 1983).

3.  Billy Bragg ‘The Island of No Return’

(from the album Brewing Up with Billy Bragg, 1984).

4.  The Fall ‘Marquis Cha-Cha’

(from the album Room To Live (Undilutable Slang Truth!), 1982).

5.  New Order ‘Blue Monday’

(Single A-side, 1983).

6.  Dire Straits ‘Brothers in Arms’

(from the album Brothers in Arms, 1985).

7.  Joe Jackson ‘Tango Atlantico’

(from the album Big World, 1986).

8.  The Exploited ‘Let’s Start A War’

(from the album Let’s Start A War, 1983).

9.  New Model Army ‘Spirit of the Falklands’

(from the album Vengeance, 1984).

10. Super Furry Animals ‘The Piccolo Snare’

(from the album Phantom Power, 2003).