IMHO Installment #37: Who's The Dog? (#2)

30 Apr 2007

In today's continuing examination of dogness, we'll look at another older, yet more obscure tune: Babooshka, by Kate Bush circa 1980. I'm sure fewer will be familiar with this one than the tune examined last week ( the Pina Colada song ); but this is actually a similarly themed song, so perhaps you'll enjoy the analysis nonetheless. (My wife is a major fan of Kate's, btw, and owns at least a dozen of her CDs.) Let's take a look at the lyrics:

She wanted to test her husband.
She knew exactly what to do:
A pseudonym to fool him.
She couldn't have made a worse move.

Right away, Kate uncovers a truism: Wives (i.e.,"women") should not play head games with their husbands (i.e., "men"). It'll only lead to no good, ladies. After all, wasn't it only one year prior to this song's debut that the band Foreigner warned us all of the dangers involved in these tactics? Recall the lyrics of that band's 1979 mega-hit, Head Games : "No time ever seems right / To talk about the reasons why you and I fight / Its high time to draw the line / Put an end to this game before its too late." Poor Kate, a foreigner who didn't heed Foreigner.

If you're unfamiliar with Kate Bush, you may not know that she generally prides herself on telling "The Whole Story" (after all, she's got an album so named). But, something's clearly missing here. Why, for example, is this woman suspicious of her husband? Is it jealousy? Paranoia? PMS? Insecurity? Hysteria? His prior history of infidelity? His wandering eyes? We may never know. Whatever the motive, let's observe this woman's action:

She sent him scented letters,
And he received them with a strange delight.

Ahhh, the old "send your husband a scented letter" trick. Clearly, this woman is an order of magnitude more diabolical than the wife from the Pina Colada song. Where the former could be chalked up to the inevitable, banal sexual ennui of shallow proletarian relationships, this one describes a sophistication of neurotic desperation reserved for those who can afford certain luxuries. In other words, there's an obvious class distinction between the worlds of a commonplace drunken slut and some completely out-of-touch middle class hysteric. What does the husband think of these letters? Well, they're ...

Just like his wife ...
But how she was before the tears,
And how she was before the years flew by,
And how she was when she was beautiful.

The line "just like his wife" is critical here. It switches the POV momentarily; he recognizes certain qualities here -- the virtues and convictions once held by his own wife. Presumably, she no longer outwardly displays these attributes; how "she was," it says three times: (1) before some unnamed painful event or string of events; (2) before the passage of years; and (3) before her "beauty" faded. Yet these attributes persist (though faintly), buried deep within. Why they diminished over time isn't clear. In any case, we're presented once again with a relationship that has gone cold. However, instead of discussing the issue like mature adults, one party decides to engage in some sort of psychological experiment, unbeknownst to the other.

She signed the letter
"All yours, Babooshka, Babooshka, Babooshka-ya-ya!
All yours, Babooshka, Babooshka, Babooshka-ya-ya!"

Overall, it's an ill-conceived plan, as the narrator concedes early on (stating, "she couldn't have made a worse move"). However, it's notable that the woman here at least recognizes the problem as one rooted in communication. Where the Pina Colada tramp's solution was to take out a triple-X personal ad offer drunken beach sex to almost any stranger, this woman has attempted to open up a line of communication with her own husband. There's at least a modicum of nobility in the wife's intention, however painfully misguided. Unfortunately and predictably, her capacity for foresight completely fails. Let's watch:

She wanted to take it further,
So she arranged a place to go,
To see if he
Would fall for her incognito.

Adding a delicious layer of irony, the woman chooses disguise as her method of reestablishing communications with her husband -- which is interesting, as one might easily presume that concealing her emotions over all of the preceding years was what caused the couple's lack of communication in the first place (or, at least contributed to it).

And when he laid eyes on her,
He got the feeling they had met before.
Uncanny how she
Reminds him of his little lady,
Capacity to give him all he needs,
Just like his wife before she freezed on him,
Just like his wife when she was beautiful.

It's a screwy stanza, isn't it? He's reminded of his little lady, but it stops short of full recognition. What he wants, of course, is to find someone who will be as his wife once was, both physically and mentally. (As an aside: Why "freezed" instead of "froze"? Perhaps just for the assonant rhyme with "needs.") So, believing he's found such a person, he goes totally ape-shit:

He shouted out, "I'm
All yours, Babooshka, Babooshka, Babooshka-ya-ya!
All yours, Babooshka, Babooshka, Babooshka-ya-ya!
All yours, Babooshka, Babooshka, Babooshka-ya-ya!"

As I was getting at, this ending is significant, as the final inference is left up to the listener. In the previous chorus, when the woman was signing her letter with the Russian nickname, she says Babooshka only six times. Here, he screams it at least nine times. (And, if I could go back to the record now, I'm fairly certain the chorus repeats additional times.) It's important to understand that the woman only signs the letter with the sobriquet, whereas he shouts it out to the world, unabashed, over and over, each repetition another painful nail in the coffin of the wife's psyche.

VERDICT: I'm sure by now some of you think my point with these entries is to simply wax misogynistic for 20 minutes per day. However, that's untrue; it just so happens that, in each case so far, the woman has been portrayed in the worst light. Still, the woman in this tune cannot be called a dog per se. She's a bona fide head case, though; that much is certain. But, I'm afraid it's the HUSBAND who's the cheating dog here. Of course, he's got a bit of a rude awakening coming his way when he runs off with his babooshka. Let's hope they have rum, coconut milk, and pineapple juice handy.

Original Comments

Below, are the original comments on this post. Additional comments may be made via Facebook, below.

On May 2, 2007, Grant Miller wrote:

You were an English major, huh?

On May 3, 2007, Mountjoy wrote:


More like this please!

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