Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love: A Deeper Understanding
She’s a flower of the mountain. I see only see her face, framed by hair the color of chestnuts. Full red lips blossom into a smile, eyes full of stars. We do not touch, but warmth fills my heart to the point of tears as I breathe the perfume of recognition. When she approaches me, I wake myself. I remember who I am: a man with nine kids and married to someone else. I remember who she is: Kate Bush, the neo-romantic British pop singer who attained great popularity in the eighties. This is the fifth time I’ve dreamt she is my wife.
Later that morning, as I fill my travel mug with coffee and wrap my almond butter wheat toast in paper towel, I tell my wife about the dream. “I dreamt I was married to Kate Bush again. Isn’t that funny?” She utters a sound somewhere between “indignant scoff” and “incredulous pshaw.”
“Nothing happens,” I explain. “I’m just married to her. I think she’s supposed to be you.”
Indignant scoff. “So do I. Why isn’t she?”
“I mean she represents you. Like a cipher. Something to give me objectivity.”
“What time are you coming home, Mister Objectivity?”
I know when to stop.
I grab my mug, my toast, and my book bag. I hug her and kiss her lightly on the lips. She’s under ice.
“Cut it out,” I say. “Nothing happened.” Then I add, “She reminds me of you.” Which is true (one of my kids even thought a video of Kate singing “Hounds of Love” with David Gilmour was his mom), but it is not necessarily the right thing to say at the moment.
I am not going to win.
I first encountered the music of Kate Bush in 1985. I was twenty-three, a struggling songwriter and guitar player given to idealism, when I heard the end of her “Running up that Hill” on the radio. Intrigued, I went out the next day and bought a cassette copy of Hounds of Love, the album on which it appears. I didn’t play it right away. I saved it.
That night, a rainy Thursday in November, I decellophaned the cassette alongside my friend and bandmate (and very recently my brother-in-law) Jason as we sat in a party store’s parking lot inside my grey Chrysler TC3, trying to drink enough of our Cokes so we could top them off with a little Grand Macnish. The TC3, while it was not the slickest ride on the strip, did have a fine Pioneer sound system. Our beverages in order, I popped the tape into the deck: Track A:1, “Running up that Hill (A Deal with God).” As the opening C minor chord on the Fairlight swelled and then bled into a martial yet profoundly emotional drum cadence, we sat enthralled. In the song’s passionate bridge, when Kate sings, “Let’s exchange the experience,” a drum fill climaxing in thunder, Jason turned to me and yelled over the soundtrack, “I’m going to marry her!” We are both guilty. So guilty.
Years after Jason and I were blown into the ethers by the English girl from Kent, my wife and I were awaiting the arrival of our fifth child. The due date was July 25th. July 25th came and went and no baby. On July 29th, on a trip to the grocery store, I heard a disc jockey on public radio, one of those pretentious bastards who peppers his between song banter with words like “oeuvre” and “zeitgeist,” introduce a set of Kate’s songs in honor of her impending birthday on July 30th (coincidentally, also Emily Bronte’s birthday). Once home, I told my wife what I’d heard. Stupidly, I asked, “Wouldn’t it be great if the baby came tomorrow?”
“Just great,” she said. But she didn’t sound like she meant it.
The baby, a girl we named Zelie, was born at home on July 30th at around 11:30 pm, just squeaking in under the deadline, as it were. Now almost fourteen, Zelie loves to sing and dance, write poetry, and play the piano. A coincidence? I think not.
Hounds of Love is one of about four CDs I have in rotation (the others are The Waterboys’ This is the Sea, Derek and the Domino’s Layla and other Love Songs, and Fairport Convention’s Liege & Lief). Okay, so I’m kind of stuck…but the record has only gotten better with age The imaginative scope of the album is astounding—from the heartache of the opening track, the Romantic stoicism of the title track, the optimism of “The Big Sky” and the memorial to Wilhelm Reich in “Cloudbusting” on side one (I still think in terms of album sides) to the Ninth Wave sequence on side two, particularly the exhilarating “Jig of Life” and the haunting “Hello Earth,” the album is a masterpiece from start to finish. And, even though the sound of the Fairlight permeates the songs, they don’t sound dated. No doubt, this is all due to Kate’s lyrical imagination which is lent clarity by the pure splendor of her voice, uncompromised as it is by the sordid need to sell product so characteristic of the music of our current moment.
But, then, it may be that I can no longer tell the difference between biography and aesthetics.
Kate Bush impersonating my wife:
Jig of Life:
—In addition to teaching philosophy and English at Marygrove College in Detroit, Michael Martin is a biodynamic farmer living with his wife and most of his nine children in Waterloo Township, Michigan.