Utah Saints 'Something Good': Kate Bush, Nazis, UFOs and sex cults [June 21, 1992]
Plus: Mariah Carey, Megadeath, Tori Amos, and Kyuss
Greetings, Time Travellers! 👋 Welcome back to the week of June 21, 1992.
📰 In the news this week: Yitzak Rabin becomes the new Israeli Prime Minister. In Russia, the bodies of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandria are identified in Yekatarinberg, nearly 75 years after they were executed by the Bolsheviks.
📽️Big new film in the cinema is The Player, Robert Altman’s searing satire of Hollywood, starring Tim Robbins and a very funny Bruce Willis cameo.
📺On TV, ITV begins broadcasting Frankie’s On…, a series of comedy specials recorded by Frankie Howerd before his death.
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🎶 Number One song in the UK Top 40 is still Erasure’s ABBA-esque EP (which we talked about here), but let’s now turn our attention to…
This week’s Number 4: ‘Something Good’ — Utah Saints
This week in 2022, something miraculous has happened. A rare event that hasn’t occurred in at least a decade.
People care about the Top 40.
The reason people care is because we have a very unlikely Number One: ‘Running Up That Hill’ by Kate Bush, a song that was first released 36 years as the lead single from the album Hounds of Love.
Netflix’s Stranger Things used ‘Running Up That Hill’ as a major plot point, and the Gen Z audience went rushing to Spotify to listen to this utterly kickass song over and over again, driving it to the toppermost of the poppermost.
Presumably, some of these young people explored the rest of Hounds of Love. If they did, they might have found themselves confused by the opaque, beguiling opening lines of ‘Cloudbusting’:
I still dream of Orgonon
I wake up crying
What is Orgonon? And what is ‘Cloudbusting’? The official video for the song raises even more questions. Why is Kate is dressed as a six-year-old boy? Why is Donald Sutherland trying to control the weather?
Answers to all of these questions can be found in a book by American author Peter Reich, called A Book of Dreams.
A Book of Dreams opens with a kid—our narrator—talking to another kid he has befriended. The narrator explains how his father has invented a machine called a Cloudbuster. This machine can make rain in the desert and farmers pay him to save their crops.
The narrator runs home and we meet his father, who is a kind but serious man with a thick European accent. The boy and his father live on a ranch called Orgonon, where they’re aided by a group of assistants called the Corps of Cosmic Engineers. Peter, our narrator, is a Captain in the corps.
Now, we discover the secret of the Cloudbuster. Peter’s father has discovered that the earth is wrapped in a layer of lifeforce energy, a force that he has named Orgone Energy. Orgone flows through everything but it can become blocked or diverted. In humans, these blockages cause cancer; in nature, deserts.
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To make matters worse, the earth is under attack from flying saucers. These aliens are energy vampires that suck orgone from our atmosphere, replacing it with DOR (Deadly Orgone Radiation).
The Cloudbuster doesn’t actually create clouds. Instead, it sucks orgone energy out of passing UFOs and channels it back into the earth. This drives away the UFOs and allows the weather to return to its natural cycle. Peter is a dab hand with the Cloudbuster and has already downed multiple flying saucers, even though he’s barely eight.
Now, here’s the wild thing about A Book of Dreams. It’s not science fiction.
It’s an autobiography.
Peter is real. The cloudbuster is real. The UFOs are doubtful, but Peter’s father really did believe in them.
His father—the character played in the video by Donald Sutherland—was the Austrian psychoanalyst, sociologist and inventor Wilhelm Reich.
Wilhelm Reich was born in a middle-class Jewish family in Austria-Hungary in 1897. By the time he was 20, his parents were dead and he had lost everything, even his country (his hometown has changed hands a number of times and is currently part of Ukraine).
After fighting in the Great War, he studied medicine in Vienna, where he met and befriended Sigmund Freud. Reich was a sharp, smart young man who made a vivid impression, and Freud personally invited him to begin practicing psychoanalysis.
For a while, Reich was quite respected in Vienna. He wrote and lectured, and was an important voice in the development of psychology. He wrote one of the first objective texts about Nazism (The Mass Psychology of Fascism) and foundational texts like Character Analysis, although Peter Reich notes that:
Psychiatrists in training are told to stop reading Character Analysis halfway through because, ‘that was when Wilhelm Reich went mad’.
Freud eventually distanced himself from his protege, mainly because Reich developed an obsession with one idea: that all neurosis could be cured by a good orgasm. Reich was slowly ostracised. Meanwhile, the Nazis were seizing control of Europe.
Reich fled to America and began working on his new theory, which was that all life was animated by a mysterious energy called orgone, which we feel most strongly during orgasm. He built devices to concentrate orgone energy, and began conducting dubious medical experiments.
Orgone meant more than just better orgasms. He claimed that his orgone accumulators could also cure physical diseases, including cancer. Still, his devices were colloquially referred to as “sex boxes”.
Reich purchased a 150-acre ranch in Maine for $4000 as a base for his research. This ranch was called Orgonon.
Around the beginning of World War II, Reich began theorising that orgone might be a universal force like gravity or electromagnetism. He made contact with another European emigré, Albert Einstein, and they talked about developing an orgone energy weapon to help fight Hitler
Einstein actually acquired an orgone accumulator and ran some tests to see if the idea was feasible. But the tests showed nothing. Einstein realised that Reich was a quack and cut ties with him.
This didn’t put him off. Reich continued to develop and sell orgone accumulators to people who wanted to cure cancer and/or have incredible orgasms. Meanwhile, Reich began working on a device that could fix orgone blockages at a planetary level: the Cloudbuster.
That’s when the government stepped in.
After the war, there was a boom in snake-oil salesmen and the Food and Drug Administration were tasked with shutting them all down. Reich made their enemies list, mainly because of the claims about cancer. The fact that his accumulators were possibly sex toys just made things worse.
The FDA response was astonishingly heavy-handed. They obtained a court order to destroy every orgone accumulator and forced Wilhelm to smash them up with is own hands.
Then, they burned all of Reich’s writings that mentioned orgone energy. That even included copies of The Mass Psychology of Fascism, which had mentioned Reich’s new ideas in an updated foreword.
This moment seems to have sent Reich into a spiral of paranoid delusion. He started to believe that the earth was under attack by aliens who fed on orgone and emitted deadly radiation. He also believed that he had a secret pact with the President, and that every plane in the sky was a fighter jets sent to help him win the cosmic war.
Reich continued to sell orgone devices. He was eventually arrested and slapped with a punitive 20-year sentence. He died in prison shortly after.
Peter Reich was 13 years old.
In 1973, Peter Reich wrote a poetic, melancholy book about growing up at Orgonon. It tells the above story from a child’s point of view. A child who believed in orgone and UFOs and was subject to some very unethical experiments, but a child who, most of all, just loved his dad.
In 1985, Kate Bush wrote a poetic, melancholy song about that book. She finds the joy and the fear at the heart of this intense parent-child relationship.
In 1992, Utah Saints pulled a sample from that Kate Bush song and wove it into a huge, anthemic dance track. All of the above context is stripped from the song. Instead, we just get Kate Bush singing one line over and over:
I know that something good is going to happen
It’s all the context you need at a rave. This is the moment of greatest joy in ‘Cloudbusting’, and raves are all about joy.
Imagine if one of those UFOs had swooped down over Orgonon, picked up Wilhelm Reich, and transported him across time and space to an early 90s rave. What would he think as he watched the sweaty, writhing bodies moving to the beat?
I think he’d be fascinated by MDMA. And he would kick himself for not figuring out the role of neurochemistry in human emotions. Serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin—these chemicals do a lot of the things that he thought could only be explained by orgone energy.
Or maybe not. He was, fundamentally, a very bad scientist. Grandiose, monomaniacal, massively unethical, and incapable of admitting he was wrong.
So, I think he would have tried to argue that a rave is effectively a vary large orgone accumulator. The pounding, repetitive beats and the proximity of so many half-naked bodies in motion leads to a uninhibited flow orgone energy.
And he would have tried to explain this to mashed-up ravers, and they would have smiled and enthusiastically agreed with him. Ravers are nice that way. A few might have shared a spliff with him and listened to his ideas in fascination.
Maybe someone would have offered him a pill, and he would have been carried away in the beat. And, when the music peaked, maybe he would have looked up at the sky and seen nothing to be afraid of.
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Elsewhere in the charts
Number 11 (New Entry): ‘I’ll Be There’ — Mariah Carey
Mariah was killing it in the States in the early 90s, but over here she had failed to make an impact since ‘Vision of Love’ made the Top 10.
All that changed when she released this Jackson 5 cover version. It had been a last-minute addition to her MTV Unplugged set—Mariah hadn’t realised that Unplugged artists generally included at least one cover version.
The song rocketed up to Number 2 in the UK charts and officially launched Mariah Mania in Europe, with her next eleven singles all making the Top 10.
Number 8 (↑ from 12): ‘Blue Room’ — The Orb
This song holds a UK chart record, and it is all thanks to Prince.
In the early 90s, a few experimental artists began pushing the boundaries of the pop single by releasing packing discs with additional materials. Prince released 1991’s ‘Gett Off’ as a Maxi-Single with two B-Sides and almost half an hour of remixes. This was great value for fans, but official chart rules meant that a single could contain no more than 25 minutes of material. Therefore, the ‘Gett Off’ Maxi-Single was listed in the album charts.
Obviously, this was ridiculous, so they changed the rules. The new rule (which still applies today) said that your release is eligible for the single charts if it contains:
One song title and any number of remixes of that featured title to a maximum of 40 minutes applicable to “Maxi” physical or digital formats and 12” vinyl formats.
The Orb, being a bunch of loveable weirdoes, decided to push this rule to its limits by recording an extended version of ‘Blue Room’. The track was already 17 minutes on their album U.F.Orb, but the single version is stretched out to a mighty 39 minutes and 57 seconds.
‘Blue Room’ is still the longest song to ever appear in the charts. Not only did it make the charts, it actually peaked at Number 8 and helped drive U.F.Orb to the top of the album charts.
Number 15 (New Entry): ‘Symphony of Destruction’ — Megadeth
If you’re not following this newsletter on Twitter (@Twit90s), then you’ll have missed the embarrassing climbdown yesterday when we tweeted Megadeth with two A’s. Megadeath.
Please follow us on Twitter for more high-quality tweets about Motley Crew, Deaf Leopard, and The Beetles.
Number 19 (↑ from 36): ‘Crucify’ — Tori Amos
Like Mariah, Tori Amos also had a career-cementing hit in this chart.
It’s strange, isn’t it, that you might have started this week in 1992 by not knowing who Mariah Carey and Tori Amos were, and by the end of the week they had become a permanent fixture in your life.
Number 26 (↑ from 38): ‘Four Seasons In One Day’ — Crowded House
Which is the best climate-based Crowded House song, ‘Weather With You’ or this one? Answers in the comments please!
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Album of the Week
Blues for a Red Sun — Kyuss
When Queens of the Stone Age played Coachella in 2014, it marked one of those Circle Of Life moments in rock history where a legendary figure ends up back where it all began.
QOTSA frontman Josh Homme began his career playing gigs in the desert, including a few in the Coachella valley. As a teenager—as a child, really—Homme had been part of a band called Kyuss who were famous for throwing what were known as “generator parties”.
Generator parties basically involved driving out into the middle of nowhere, setting up a generator, plugging in a stack of amps, and seeing how loud you could get. Carloads of teenagers would show up and dance until the sun came up.
This environment had a huge impact the way Kyuss sounded. They didn’t have to worry about noise controls, but they also couldn’t rely on natural acoustics, as the music disappeared off into the depths of the wilderness. Desert rock needs to be big and bass-heavy, and it also has to cater to an audience that is dehydrated and super high.
Some of this vibe is captured in the video for the second single off of Blues for a Red Sun, ‘Green Machine’
There are two things that might strike you if you’re watching this for the first time.
The first is that Josh Homme is really young here. Just an absolute baby, barely 20 years old in this video, and yet he’s already one of the coolest people in the world. Even though he’s the only one with short hair. Because he’s the only one with short hair. Because he has always, always done his own thing.
The second detail you might notice is that John Garcia, the lead vocalist, is kind of a liability. It’s not that Garcia is a bad singer, it’s just that Kyuss are playing 23rd century space rock, while Garcia is singing like he’s on Sunset Strip in 1987.
Blues For A Red Sun is an album that really wants to be instrumental. And roughly half of it is, which leads to some astonishing lyricless tracks such as ‘Apothecaries’ Weight’, which sounds like My Bloody Valentine pretending to be cowboys:
That’s not to say that Garcia ruins the album. His best contribution is on the prog rock-esque epic ‘50 Million Year Trip’, while he almost sounds like Layne Staley on ‘Thong Song’:
(‘Thong Song’ would absolutely have been an alt-rock radio hit in 1992 if it had major label support, but then we might not have gotten Sisqo in 1999. Swings and roundabouts.)
But the vocals always feel like an afterthought on an album that’s dominated by musicians. Homme and Queen of the Stone Age bassist Nick Oliveri are the stars, while Brant Bjork’s drumming is a relentless engine driving the whole thing forward.
As it is, Blues For A Red Sun only ever sold around 35,000 copies, but it’s one of those “everyone who bought a copy started a band”. Even Metallica (allegedly) borrowed some ideas from Kyuss, before Queens Of The Stone Age made their sound mainstream.
An astonishingly intelligent and experimental record. Hard to believe that it was created by a bunch of stoned teenagers who mostly played at illegal parties.
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We’re off for a week—see you in July!