Army Dreamers

Song written by Kate Bush. The song is about the effects of war and about a mother who grieves for her young adult son, who was killed on military manoeuvres. Saddened by his unnecessary death, she wrestles with her guilt over what she could have done to prevent it. The song was originally released on the album Never For Ever, and as a single soon thereafter.

The song was blacklisted during the Gulf War in 1991 – joining a list of 67 songs simultaneously banned from BBC airplay, including The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, ABBA and Queen.

Formats

'Army Dreamers' was released as a 7" single, with two songs on the B-side: Delius (Song of Summer) and Passing Through Air.

Versions

There are two versions of 'Army Dreamers': the album version (which fades out) and the single version (which has a 'cold' ending).

Music video

The music video opens on a closeup of Kate Bush, dressed in dark green camouflage, holding a child. She blinks in synchronisation with the song's sampled gun cocks. The camera pulls out and shows that Bush has a white-haired child on her lap. The child walks off and returns in military combat uniform. Bush and several soldiers (one of whom has "KT8" or "KTB" stencilled on the butt of his rifle: "KTB" was a monogram used by Bush early in her career) make their way through woodland, amid explosions. As the song progresses, Bush reaches out for the child soldier, but he disappears. Finally, one of the soldiers is blown up.

Performances

Kate performed 'Army Dreamers' on television a few times in different territories. In Germany, she appeared in the programme Rock Pop, to lipsynch the song as 'Mrs. Mop'. In the Netherlands, she performed the song in Veronica Totaal on 15 October 1980 dressed in an army outfit.

Cover versions

'Army Dreamers' was covered by Big City Orchestre, Theo Bleckmann, Sarah Daly, Dattola, Mary Dillon, Goodknight Productions, Göteborgs Symfoniker, Martin John Henry, The Hounds Of Love, Chris Inman, The Kate Bush Experience, Dania Landsberg, Matches, Glenn McDonald, Moddi, The New Heaven & The New Earth, Vincent Peirani & Émile Parisien, Niki Romijn, Saint Saviour, Silvermoths, Situations, Skan The Skin and Patrick Wolf.
The song was covered in Finnish as 'Äidin Pikku Sankarit' by Kaivanto.
There is also a Hebrew language cover by Mazi Cohen, entitled Shem ba'even.

Kate about 'Army Dreamers'

'Army Dreamers' is about a grieving mother who through the death of her soldier boy, questions her motherhood. (Kate Bush Club newsletter, September 1980)

It's the first song I've ever written in the studio. It's not specifically about Ireland, it's just putting the case of a mother in these circumstances, how incredibly sad it is for her. How she feels she should have been able to prevent it. If she'd bought him a guitar when he asked for one. (Colin Irwin, 'Paranoia And Passion Of The Kate Inside'. Melody Maker (UK), 10 October 1980)

The song is about a mother who lost her son overseas. It doesn't matter how he died, but he didn't die in action - it was an accident. I wanted the mother to be a very simple woman who's obviously got a lot of work to do. She's full of remorse, but he has to carry on, living in a dream. Most of us live in a dream. (Week-long diary, Flexipop, 1980)

No, it's not personal. It's just a mother grieving and observing the waste. A boy with no O-levels, say, who might have [??? Line missing!] whatever. But he's nothing to do, no way to express himself. So he joins the army. He's trapped. So many die, often in accidents. I'm not slagging off the army, because it's good for certain people. But there are a lot of people in it who shouldn't be. (Derek Jewell, 'How To Write Songs And Influence People'. Sunday Times (UK), 5 October 1980)

The Irish accent was important because the treatment of the song is very traditional, and the Irish would always use their songs to tell stories, it's the traditional way. There's something about an Irish accent that's very vulnerable, very poetic, and so by singing it in an Irish accent it comes across in a different way. But the song was meant to cover areas like Germany, especially with the kids that get killed in manoeuvres, not even in action. It doesn't get brought out much, but it happens a lot. I'm not slagging off the Army, it's just so sad that there are kids who have no O-levels and nothing to do but become soldiers, and it's not really what they want. That's what frightens me. (Kris Needs, 'Fire In The Bush'. ZigZag (UK), 1980)

Highest chart positions

Ireland: 14
Israel: 2
Netherlands: 25
UK: 16

Lyrics

"B.F.P.O."
Army dreamers.
"Mammy's hero."
"B.F.P.O."
"Mammy's hero."

Our little army boy
Is coming home from B.F.P.O.
I've a bunch of purple flowers
To decorate a mammy's hero.

Mourning in the aerodrome,
The weather warmer, he is colder.
Four men in uniform
To carry home my little soldier.

"What could he do?
Should have been a rock star."
But he didn't have the money for a guitar.

"What could he do?
Should have been a politician."
But he never had a proper education.

"What could he do?
Should have been a father."
But he never even made it to his twenties.
What a waste
Army dreamers
Ooh, what a waste of
Army dreamers

Tears o'er a tin box.
Oh, Jesus Christ, he wasn't to know,
Like a chicken with a fox,
He couldn't win the war with ego.

Give the kid the pick of pips,
And give him all your stripes and ribbons.
Now he's sitting in his hole,
He might as well have buttons and bows.

"What could he do?
Should have been a rock star"
But he didn't have the money for a guitar

"What could he do?
Should have been a politician"
But he never had a proper education

"What could he do?
Should have been a father"
But he never even made it to his twenties
What a waste
Army dreamers.
Ooh, what a waste of
Army dreamers
Ooh, what a waste of all that
Army dreamers
Army dreamers
Army dreamers ooh...

("B.F.P.O.")
Did-n-did-n-did-n-dum...
Army dreamers.
Did-n-did-n-did-n-dum...
("Mammy's hero.")
("B.F.P.O.")

Army Dreamers
("Mammy's hero")
("B.F.P.O.")
No harm heroes
("Mammy's hero.")
("B.F.P.O.")
Army dreamers
("Mammy's hero")
("B.F.P.O.")
No harm heroes

Credits

Bodhran: Stuart Elliott
Acoustic guitar: Brian Bath
Mandolin: Paddy Bush
Electric & bass acoustic guitar: Alan Murphy
Fairlight: Duncan Mackay
Backing vocals: Brian Bath, Paddy Bush, Alan Murphy

References