On Thanksgiving break, in 1986, I came home from college with four albums that I had just purchased.
I was buying cassettes at the time -- they were easier to store and transport as a college student -- and only one of the tapes was a new release, "Get Close," by The Pretenders.
In an example of how long new music lasted in people's consciousness compared with what is released today, the other three cassettes had been released nearly a year prior, more than a year prior and three years prior.
Those other three were "The Hurting," by Tears For Fears, "Promise," by Sadé and "Hounds Of Love" by Kate Bush.
The Pretenders, I knew, having purchased LPs of theirs while still living at home. I also bought Sade's "Diamond Life" and Tears For Fears' "Songs From The Big Chair" while at home, too, the year before, the year each were released, both big sellers, propelled by videos on MTV.
Kate Bush, I didn't know. Although she had been a household name in the UK for almost 10 years already, my knowledge of her when I arrived back home was "Running Up That Hill," which I couldn't get enough of, listening to the alternative radio station out of Toronto in the fall of 1985, and the just released duet with Peter Gabriel, "Don't Give Up."
That was enough for me to give "Hounds Of Love" a try. I knew she was eclectic, theatrical and moved to her own drum, but I had found so much other new music since moving to college. She was worth a try.
Those four or five nights back home, I would pop the cassettes into my Walkman after everyone had gone to bed -- I was always the night owl -- and listen to "Get Close," "The Hurting," "Promise" and "Hounds Of Love".
I tried to get through "Hounds Of Love," anyway.
It was too different. Jarring. So many voices and alarming imagery and really nothing as pleasing as "Running Up That Hill." The dreamscape nature of her music put me at unease. I couldn't even listen to the second side.
Thirty-five years later, three of the cassettes are still with me. But not "Hounds Of Love." When I got back to campus, I threw it away. One of the few LPs, cassettes or CDs that I've ever thrown out.
The years moved on and I grew to respect Kate Bush quite a bit, though never really listening to her other albums. The appreciation of her as an artist had grown far beyond the alternative world, helped a bit by a couple of more radio-friendly albums, but mostly by a new generation that embraced her weird genius more readily, even in the U.S.
It was early 2019 now, and I was on my daily hunt for new music when I came across the most recent album Bush has released, the 2011 issue, "50 Words For Snow," a concept album, like only she can do, about snow.
The songs were long (probably too long) and mysterious. Bush sets a mood like no one else. During weekly trips back to my parents house to help care for my mother, who was in the final months of an exhausting battle with ALS and dementia, I would head to my bedroom upstairs, eager to shut out the anxiety, stress and immense sense of loss, switch on my laptop and listen to Bush sing about snow as the wind whistled outside. It was February.
This was the low point in caring for my mother. My dad insisted on caring for her at home. He also thought his kids should drop everything in their lives to care for their mother. Arguments came and went and then came again. My mother sat, she could still sit then, in the other room and listened, I imagine.
Nights were brutal. It was tough to find care workers but my dad finally relented to having them come to our home. But it was difficult to find ones who would sit with my mom at night and be able to give her the care she needed. I'd leave my house on weekends to help tend to her. My mom was required to sleep in a certain bed to assure that she wouldn't fall out of it, but she hated the bed and if we ever successfully got her into the bed, despite all of her protesting, she would wake up throughout the night, yelling and protesting (this was very unlike her when she was healthy, the most mild-mannered person you could meet). Then there were the bathroom trips, an often two-person project when there was no caregiver around, fraught with tension, fear and try to go back to sleep after an hour of that at 3 in the morning.
When my help wasn't needed, I would hide in the bedroom, press the ear buds tighter to my ears in an attempt to drown out the sounds -- and preserve my sanity -- and listen to Kate a little closer.
I had moved on to "The Hounds Of Love" by then and it amazed me how much I loved it. Quite the different reaction than I had 33 years earlier. The first side was thrilling, just one sweeping story with abundant hooks.
The second side, titled "The Ninth Wave," well that was the side that caused me to throw out the cassette years ago. But this time, I sat on my bed, captivated.
"The Ninth Wave" is a suite, several songs in which Bush tells the story of a woman who has been thrown overboard from a ship and is forced to live with her thoughts on a raft in the middle the ocean. It addresses many of Bush's own fears, living with her imagination and where that will lead. I felt like I was on my own raft, completely lost in what I should do to help my mom, and dad, angry, feeling guilty and selfish, feeling incompetent, and like I was going under.
And there was mom, seated right next to us through most of the day, but none of us could understand what she was feeling, what she was experiencing. She was lost on her own raft.
This album spoke to me in a way I never knew it could. It is filled with tension, with an almost nervous quality as Bush faces her nightmares and demons. It is now one of my favorite albums of all-time, a classic that I could relate to, despite all of Bush's odd constructions, inflections. intimidating and mysterious choruses, and being an album that was 33 years old.
My mom passed away just a couple hours into Mother's Day, 2019. ("Mother Stands For Comfort"). When she was living, she never would have understood Kate Bush or this album. Neither would my dad. But I will never stop thinking of them when I hear this album for the rest of my days.
It's time for Match the Song Title again. Here is the track list.
Match the Song Title: "Hounds Of Love," Kate Bush
Track 1: Running Up That Hill
The one American "hit" off of the album, I believe it went to No. 30 on the charts, which irked me back in 1985. The electronic drums propel this song almost to its conclusion. It's about Bush's wish that the sexes could take each other's places in order to understand each other. That's impossible, of course, therefore, Bush's line about "a deal with God," which was the original title for the song.
I like to think that if players could wear headphones in the field one of them could have "Running Up That Hill" playing as they ran up Tal's Hill in Houston, prior to its removal in 2016 (I know this card is from 2019, that's as close as I could get).
Track 2: Hounds Of Love
A terrific visual about being hounded by your fears, whether that's fear of commitment or whatever, compared to being hunted in the woods by a pack of dogs. "Take my shoes off, and throw them in the lake."
There are some great scary hounds cards in Magic: The Gathering, but since I don't collect that stuff, I am posting a foaming-at-the-mouth Wacky Packages hound.
Track 3: The Big Sky
This song sounds so huge for its theme, which is about the simple enjoyment you found as kid by looking up at the sky and watching the clouds. It's easy to forget that amazement when we are adults but I think it doesn't matter what age you are, if you were standing on the ground looking up at the Petronas Towers in Malaysia on a cloudless day, you'd be a kid again.
Track 4: Mother Stands For Comfort
Kate Bush isn't going to go where you think she should. This is a song sung from the perspective of a murderer. The murderer knows that his mother will always protect him and look out for him no matter what he's done.
But for simpler comfort, I recommend searching out a Mother's Cookie, both the cookie and the card.
Track 5: Cloudbusting
A song written about philosopher and psychologist Wilhelm Reich and his son, Peter, from Peter's perspective in the memoir "A Book Of Dreams". Peter described his memories of him and his father on the family farm, "cloudbusting," which would involve pointing a machine, that his father had made, at the sky to make it rain. The song also refers to Reich's arrest and Peter's feeling of helplessness after his dad was in jail. Helplessness is a big theme on this album, which is why 2019 me related so much to it. I love Kate's voice on this: "I just know that something good is going to happen."
This was one of the easiest cards to find in the whole exercise, just had to find someone nicknamed, "Bringer Of Rain".
"The Ninth Wave" begins
Track 6: And Dream Of Sheep
Another easy pick. Finally, Jake Lamb has a use for me.
The Ninth Wave is not only about a woman alone at sea, but alone at sea at night (the video for this song is Bush singing to the sky from a life raft in the darkened water). She's waiting for someone to rescue her but it's starting to look like it's not going to happen, and she's fighting sleep because she knows if she falls asleep, she'll drown.But she wants to sleep to get away from her problems. She does fall asleep, and then the next song begins.
I listened to this song over and over those nights at my mom and dad's house.
Track 7: Under Ice
So the woman has fallen asleep and now it's one nightmare after another, she's on a frozen lake and then she gets a glimpse of someone under the ice and then she realizes to her horror that it's her under the ice.
I looked closely at these Bowman Ice parallels to see if the image of the player is under "the ice." But no, they're superimposed on the ice effect. What a relief.
Track 8: Waking The Witch
The dream continues as all of these people from the character's past try to wake her up so she doesn't drown, her parents and her teacher, and then it morphs into a medieval witch trial in which Bush is lashing out against sexism and fear of women's power. "Confess to me, girl."
It was at the point of these last two songs that I decided in 1986 that Bush wasn't for me. They're not traditional songs, rather arty and progressive, with a bunch of frightening voices and strange sounds, and this song ends with a helicopter traveling overhead and someone yelling "Get Out Of the Water!". None of the Side 2 songs are accessible at first listen. I wasn't ready for all of that.
Anyway, I'm sure the first witch I knew was the one on Bugs Bunny cartoons.
Track 9: Watching You Without Me
Kate Bush has said a lot of these songs are her own nightmares illustrated in music and this song refers to the character being able to see her loved ones worrying about her, waiting for her to come home, but her having no way to communicate with them.
Not really the same thing, but I thought of the cardboard cutouts in vogue during the 2020 baseball season and how it was images of specific people, "watching" the players, without the person pictured actually being there. "Watching You Without Me."
Track 10: Jig Of Life
Allen & Ginter is so good for these "Match the Song Title" projects.
Bush was highly influenced by her surroundings in Ireland with this song, there are Irish musicians on it. She's said the dream continues with this song in which the character's future self comes to her and tells her not to give up, because if she doesn't stay alive neither does her future self.
Track 11: Hello Earth
The song is kind of like the perspective astronauts have looking down at the earth, but Bush has twisted it into being able to look at the earth from the character's position in the water.
Track 12: The Morning Fog
The finale, the character has finally been rescued and she has new perspective on life and she's grateful.
Josh "Fog" Fogg is appropriate here. I was noticing when I selected this card that the border around it is orange, rather than the gold of the other Pirates cards in the set.
And that's where the needle comes off the record.
Even after all these years of so many new musicians and genres since the mid-1980s, Kate Bush remains an acquired taste. Even her biggest fans would probably admit she's "weird" and certainly not conventional. But that's why we love her.
Kate Bush doesn't have many trading cards, you'd think given how popular she was in England that she would've shown up in the UK version of the 1991 MusiCards set. But I just purchased one of the few and I may post it sometime.
I haven't really moved past this album and a couple of her other ones, but I hope to, amid all of the other music I've discovered over recent years.
I'm just happy I was able to salvage that cassette tape that died in vain all those years ago. It still bothers me that I did that.