Tag Archives: Tori Amos

30 Day Music Challenge: Day 15 – A Song That Describes Me

Tori Amos – Liquid Diamonds


“I guess I’m an underwater thing so I guess I can’t take it personally”

I promised myself I wouldn’t repeat artists but I really had to make an exception for this. I’m almost certain no one has ever written a song about me, and while there are thousands out there that I identify with on one level or another, very rarely do I think ‘yup, that’s me described to a T’.

But there’s a reason I’ve been a fan of Tori’s work for nearly 20 years. There’s a reason I collect her music obsessively, and still listen to her entire discography profusely. If I ever gain the capacity to put it into words without sounding like a loon, I’ll do so… Let’s just say, for now, she has an uncanny knack for chronicling the things I know well – for most of the categories in this challenge, the first song I thought of was one of hers.

It always seems slightly on the side of conceited to take a song that – in reality – has nothing to do with me and say it describes me; particularly when it’s a song I love as much as this one. It feels somewhat akin to putting up a picture of some gorgeous model on my Facebook profile or something. But then again, from when I first heard this song back in 1996 to when I hear it today, I always think…

I live here.

 

S4E

PS I quite like this clip, too, which is a fan made vid using bits n’ pieces of various other Tori videos.


30 Day Music Challenge: Day 1 – My Favourite Song

Tori Amos – Cooling

“Is your place in heaven worth giving up these kisses?”

“Favourite” used to be a difficult choice, and one I never actually made until I heard and got to know this. It’s one of the most breathtaking songs I know, with some of the most beautiful lyrics ever written. Tori has a tremendous capacity to both break my heart and heal it, this song does both. It’s my favourite because I know it, down to every last word, and I don’t mean that in a recital sense.

It never appeared on any albums, though a live version was on the second disc on To Venus and Back, and it also appeared as a B-Side to the single Spark. There are some stunning live versions out there, but I wanted to show the song in the first incarnation that I heard it.

S4E


Theme Songs For Favourite Things – Stories #1

Tori Amos – Blood Roses

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Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid

Before I learned to write, I told stories. I’m sure I’ve mentioned that on more than one occasion, and the “I write fairy tales” line in my bio remains, though I haven’t written one for over a year now.

As the heading should tell you, the above picture is from an adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson‘s classic fairy tale, The Little Mermaid. I’ve had – and treasured – that book around 25 years; in part because of the stunning illustrations by Laszlo Gal, but more because of the story itself.

If you’re not familiar with the original version, when Disney turned it into an animated feature back in the late 80’s, in amongst some fairly prominent religious allegories¹ they took it upon themselves to remove (fair enough), they also removed some of the core plot points, and changed the ending entirely. In doing so, they removed one of the most important messages behind the story.

On the off-chance you require it, here now is a warning that henceforth, plot spoilers abound.

In Anderson’s original version, the key difference lies not just in the ending, but the extent of the sacrifices Ariel made to become human. The deal with the sea witch had further consequence than the removal of her voice – in fact, her voice was not magically captured in a glass bottle, the witch cut her tongue from her mouth.

She warns Ariel that once she is human, she can never again be a mermaid, and that if she fails in her endeavour to win the prince’s heart, her own heart will break, she will die and become sea foam.

The pain she suffered when her form changes from mermaid to human was merely the beginning. Throughout her time with the prince, every step she took felt as though knives were cutting into the soles of her feet, until they actually bled. Yet, of course, she uttered not a sound of complaint, nor even gave any indication whatsoever that she was constantly in an incredible amount of physical pain. What she did was dance for him, with a smile on her face.

In the Disney version, Ariel’s personality shines through her silence, the prince falls in love and they live happily ever after. In Anderson’s version, the prince’s heart belongs to the woman who saved his life. We all know that it was Ariel that brought him to shore, but she watched him from the sea until another woman found him.

While Ariel dances and smiles through her pain, the prince, who has grown fond of his silent little foundling, pines for the other woman. He declares, however, that she must never leave him, for she is so beautiful and dances unlike any other. Here’s the real testement to how the prince feels: he has a bed made up of velvet cushions outside his bedroom door, so there she sleeps, much like a faithful dog.

Ultimately, the other woman is found, and – wouldn’t you know it – she happens to be a beautiful princess. The prince, hopelessly in love, marries the princess and on their wedding night, Ariel dances for them both, knowing that she will cease to exist the following morning.

Her sisters, however, have each sacrificed their own treasures to the sea witch, and in the middle of the night they beseech Ariel to come home. She was implored to take a knife and plunge it into the prince’s heart, letting his blood wash over her feet so that she would once more be a mermaid.

She couldn’t do it, of course, so while the prince lies with his bride, the little mermaid resigns herself to her fate and dives into the sea.

What’s the point of that story?

I like stories.

Aside from the above being one of my favourite quotes from The Simpsons, I do have a point to all this.

Disney’s moral is overly simplistic and ultimately unrealistic – just be yourself, people will recognise you for the beauty you have on the inside and everything will be Ok. Nice sentiment, but it doesn’t even apply to the story they told. Why? Because Ariel wasn’t being herself, she had given away her core essence, her voice, which in this story is supposed to be something of an allegory.

This tale is about silence.

This is a tale about the consequences of sacrificing who you are for another person. The prince has no idea of the sacrifices Ariel made to be with him, he has no idea of the pain she endures. He has no idea who she is, so how can he love her?

I interpret Anderson’s moral as: if you compromise yourself, who you truly are, for another person, it’s not only going to be incredibly painful just to be with them, but they won’t be able to love you because they’ll never know who you are, they’ll love someone completely different and ultimately who you were will become nothing.

I’ll end discussion on the story with a quote from the book, which was re-told by Margeret Crawford Maloney:

“But if you take my voice, what will I have left?”

“Your beautiful body, your graceful movement, your eloquent eyes. Surely these can snare a human heart.”

Considering the original ending, I think those two lines incisively convey the importance of the message.

In that regard, the theme song I have chosen for The Little Mermaid is Tori AmosBlood Roses. I do try to keep a little variety in my choices, and briefly thought I should find something else as this is the third nod to Tori in this series, but there really is no other song out there (that I know of) that drives the point home like this one.

Back in 2009, I sat next to someone who had not long before told me they didn’t have the energy to accommodate the weight of my thoughts – not my words, but the things he thought I wasn’t saying – while we watched Tori perform this song live. That concert was one of the most profound events I have ever attended. Maybe one day I’ll tell you about it.

The lyrics to this song can be read over at one of my favourite sites, Here In My Head, along with some quotes from Tori herself explaining the meaning behind certain phrases.

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1: In the revised and published version of The Little Mermaid, we are told that while mermaids live for exactly 300 years, they do not have an immortal soul. When they die they become nothing but white horses (an older term for the white foam that forms on the sea). Ariel’s desire is not just for the prince, but for an immortal soul – to live forever, even in death. Ariel dies but is granted a soul for having sacrificed herself for her true love’s happiness.

This ‘reward’, for me, undoes a little of the work of the story, because in the first version Ariel merely dissolved. which is a much more natural resolution to the preceding narrative, as well as in keeping with the message as I have interpreted it. The religious reference is obvious and was tacked on, to the detriment of the story as far as I’m concerned. So it’s not just Disney that know how to ruin a good story, authors do it to their own work, too.



Theme Songs For Favourite Things – Films #1

Tori Amos – Here In My Head

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Favourite Romantic Comedy – Amélie

French title: Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain, which translates to The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain

I’ll start by acknowledging I’ve probably set myself a complicated challenge with this particular notion, as – quite obviously – films generally have dedicated theme songs. With the nature of a theme song being what it is, these things aren’t just loosely associated, but rather the original theme song and film tend to become quite intrinsic to one another. So these can be considered less a theme for the films, and more a theme that summarises something about what they mean to me.

I’m not really a fan of romantic comedies in general, but I suppose the reasons why are applicable to most genres of film – clichés, boring characters, formulaic scriptwriting… All the things that make movies feel like you’ve seen it all before yet they remain instantly forgettable. One of the things that makes this film so special is that it captures what happens to the heart when it loves, rather than doing that thing most other romantic comedies do – make fun of how people react to it. Not to mention that it is probably one of the most charming films ever made, and full of whimsy. And I do like me some whimsy.

As you may have seen in the trailer, Amélie is a French film, starring the gorgeous Audrey Tatou (and please do watch it in its original language, if you decide to see it. Rarely do dubs convey the same level of emotion and/or other necessary things as the actors that spent months getting to know their characters). It’s a little difficult to describe this film in any language other than consistent sighs, particularly as I want to steer clear of spoilers and all the key reasons why I love it would contain exactly that.  In a very vague and over-simplified summary, though, it chronicles Amélie’s attempts at bringing a little magic into the world of those around her, while being afraid to truly venture out into it herself.

The music of the soundtrack was composed by Yann Tiersen, with the signature piece (arguably, maybe) being La Valse D’Amélie; below is a solo piano version that is just beautiful:

Even if it was my intention, it would be nigh on impossible to compete with music that is perfect for the film in every way, so the theme I’ve chosen speaks more to one of the lessons I took from it.  Here In My Head, like most of Tori’s songs, can be interpreted in a few different ways, but I think  the key theme is relevant – namely, the references to what can happen when you live in your head, even though in other ways you can give out so much of yourself. Amélie is a supreme fantasist, and while it means she has a profound effect on those around her, her actions are ultimately of a vicarious nature and she struggles to find a way to connect with the object of her desire in any way other than through a series of contrived, mystery adventures.

 

Amelie fantasises while baking a cake

I think… Sometimes, no matter how little or how well others may know us, we’re the only one up in that mind of ours and for some that can be a retreat. It’s a safe place to go, where imagination, fantasy and thoughts can be driven by – or to – things that we want, love, need… All the things that we yearn to bring close, because there’s not much that’s closer to a person that what goes on in our thoughts, considering it’s the most private, internal emotional process we have. But in that way it can actually have the opposite effect and distance us from those things in real life. Ultimately it can make it that much harder to come out from there and form real connections with people, where they are subject to the flaws of human nature and dangers inherent in real life and circumstance.

There’s a lot of scenes in the film that (to me) shoot straight at the heart. Little things like the bold gesture of inviting him to her then being too afraid to reveal herself, even though he’s sitting there saying ‘I know it’s you…‘, then watching him leave,  literally dissolving into a puddle of water on the floor. While there’s probably countless films that had a scene or two in them that got me a little teary, usually upon a second watch it doesn’t quite have the same impact, but I have to admit that the scene where she’s baking a cake and starts daydreaming about  not a different life, but one that’s simply shared with someone else that knows you well – just a little every day circumstance that makes her laugh and cry –  gets me every single time.

And so does this song.

 

S4E

PS Just in case it doesn’t happen automatically, to ensure the English subtitles appear in the trailer, click the CC button as pictured so that it is highlighted in red:


Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

For any and all readers of S4E.

For those (like me) that love the smell of tinsel, freshly baked gingerbread and pine trees. For those that still wear those silly paper hats from crackers no matter how old they get and won’t give up the little plastic whistle or alien finger puppet for anyone.

For those that swear this time they won’t eat so much, and for those that don’t have so much to eat. For those who hope to get everything they want, and for those that give everything they have, including hope.

For those that still believe in magic and maybe even Santa, and everyone that helps create the magic I still believe in.

For those with good friends, those who are good friends; and especially for those who miss them.

For my good friends.

 

S4E


Theme Songs for Favourite Things

This is a blend of a few different ideas I had that never quite came to fruition, but simply, for me, a good opportunity to think about music and the way I relate to it in a different way, as well as – every so often and hopefully, draw some attention to some of the other awesome things that are in this world. I have pretty much a neverending supply of favourite things, so the idea is to make this a (probably sporadic) permanent feature.

Favourite Colour – Purple

Just about everything looks awesome in purple, so I doubt much more explanation is required. And, surprise, the theme song for purple is not by Prince or Jimi Hendrix, but the infinitely beautiful and long-treasured song Purple People by Tori Amos. I first heard this track nearly 15 years ago and I still love it. The lyrics in the final verse – thunder wishes it could be the snow / wishes it could be as loved as she can be / these gifts are here for her, for you, for me – are made beautifully ambiguous by the vocal. If you listen to it, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

 

Favourite Animal – Lion

Yes, I have something of an obsession with lions – their symbology, mythology and the pure, primal nature they represent; which I reference on a continual basis in other writing endeavours. There is nothing more awesome on earth than watching a lion take down its prey – raw and savage power not always driven by need. Thus, the theme song for lions is The Resonance of Goodbye by The Angelic Process. (Contrary to what the vid says, the song is from the album Weighing Souls With Sand).

 

Favourite Sandman Character – Delirium

Pretty much one of the greatest fictional characters. Ever. It’s simply impossible not to adore her. She is one of the seven Endless – siblings in The Sandman comic series by Neil Gaiman. She often comes across as a child – confused, whimsical, innocent and a little bit odd, but the perfection of her character (to me) is that her thoughts, where they come from and where they go, are simply unthwarted by the things we get taught “should be”, which  often ignores  possibilities. I highly recommend the comic series, and for more on Delirium specifically, check out this  awesome blog dedicated to her. The theme song for Delirium is Fishes and Honey by Scout Niblett.

S4E

 


Some Kinda Jazz

A week into October and I’m thus far yet to let the world know what’s floating my musical boat – madness! (Actually, now that I think of it, what would float a musical boat? Oh, that is just asking for myriad groan-worthy puns: Buoy George…erm, I’m sure there are more drifting around out there, someone else can think of them).

Anyway, I have been erstwhile engaged with a review for [sic], as well as all sorts of other crazy goings on, so what I’m about to do now is the blogging equivalent of a scat, and summarise my week in short bursts of random noise.

Eep!

(Hypocrisy)
A cassingle I had to have:

Why? Because it has a new Pillars and Tongues track on it, and they make music so awesome that it’s very necessary. Last album was vinyl only, I bought it even though I still don’t have a record player. Now it’s cassette, and I don’t have a cassette player either. In my defence, though, the cassette  has complimentary downloads of the tracks, the other of which is by a band named This Is Cinema, who I have to admit I hadn’t heard of before, but I took a listen to some stuff over at the website where I purchased the tape (Hotel Earth) and am now quite intrigued and looking forward to hearing more.

(Let’s not mention at all that this is actually the third cassette I’ve bought since my fairly notable tirade against them… I mean, sure, it’s probably significant which artists I’ve made an exception for, but knowing that I rate Lois Magic above such convictions will just make me look even more a hypocrite and put my entire reputation into question, and I’m hardly likely to be prepared to do that, am I?).

On a completely unrelated note, Lois Magic is awesome and if you don’t believe me, go buy Desert Colour at Skrot Up. If you’re not quite up for that, at least pay a visit to Last.fm and grab the free tracks from an EP called Killer Looks.

Woot!

(Joy)
The last in a long line of Beekeepers

I am about to make the above mine, thus bringing a near-three year long quest to its close. There has been some good times and some very dark times along the way, but I’ll be damned if I’ll say it wasn’t worth it.

WTF??

(Srsly)
What are you waiting for?

Badge

Help me make this happen, people, else I shall get very cross.

More cross that I get when people suddenly decide to listen to each of their mobile phone ringtones at 5am, and when I yell at them to shut the hell up, they start singing them instead. Out of key.

S4E