This Kate Bush 1985 classic was about the psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich, portrayed in the video by the actor Donald Sutherland. In the 1950s, Reich claimed he had invented a machine called a ‘cloudbuster’, which channelled ‘orgone energy’, a sort of cosmic life force, and directed it into the sky to stimulate clouds to rain. Supposedly, the machine also had the power to disperse atmospheric pollution.
Wilhelm Reich had been a star pupil of Sigmund Freud’s in 1920s Vienna. He moved to the United States in 1939, and soon made a name for himself as a maverick proponent of the psychiatric benefits of sexual liberation. Before his cloudbuster, Reich invented a number of other machines to harness the biological energy he called orgone for its supposed medicinal benefits. Sitting inside one of his ‘orgone accumulators’ could, he claimed, cure cancer. The machines were, however, little more than boxes of wood and metal, his cloudbuster just an array of aluminium pipes ‘earthed’ into water below.
In the early 1950s, Reich was investigated by the US Food and Drug Administration for selling fraudulent equipment. He was arrested in 1956 and imprisoned, his orgone accumulators destroyed, his books about orgone burned. Two years into his sentence, Reich died of heart failure. Reich’s orgone accumulator machine was later parodied as the ‘Orgasmatron’ in Woody Allen’s film Sleeper.