The Sea is the Sky (Flying Dutchman)

Flying Dutchman (1992)

Flying Dutchman (live, 2001)

Flying Dutchman (2012)

Flying Dutchman (live, 2017)

Some time early in Amos’s time in LA, while she was still playing the airport Holiday Inn to pay her rent, a friend of hers helped her move, and asked her kinda sorta boyfriend Rantz Hoseley to help. Hoseley was attending art school in the city, and the two hit it off immediately (Hoseley cameos in the video for “The Big Picture”). A few years later, in the wake of Y Kant Tori Read, Amos called her friend to chat. Hoseley, an artist who wanted to make it in the comics industry, had recently left Los Angeles after a number of setbacks that included being told by Marvel editor Tom DeFalco that he should give up and become a plumber and what he describes s “some very scary near-fatal experiences,” and was living with his parents in Washington, but the two remained close. Amos was starting to bounce back from her own setback and in the early stages of Little Earthquakes, and asked her friend how he’d describe himself. Hoseley’s response, delivered from the depths of his depressive spiral, was to say, “Tori, I’m the ...

A Little Warm in My Heart (Winter)

A fitting entry for a day I'm snowed in with a foot of snow. Anyway, quick update about where we stand on Doctor Who Series 12 reviews, as it's just under a month until it debuts. The answer is that we are very, very far from them—the Patreon is at its start of month lull due to declined pledges, but as it stands we're over $100 from the $800 tier where I'll do Series 12 reviews. If you'd like me to howl into the void about Chibnall Who, you'll want to go to Patreon and fix that. And in the process you'll unlock 26 more Dalek Eruditorum entries.

Winter (live, 1991)

Winter (1992)

Winter (music video, 1992)

Winter (TV performance, 1992)

Winter (live, 1997)

Winter (TV performance, 2003)

Winter (live, 2005, official bootleg)

Winter (live, 2007, official bootleg, Tori set)

Winter (radio performance, 2009)

Winter (2012)

Winter (live, 2017)

Fathers are, of course, a standard of women’s art, whether about an invented relationship (“Papa Don’t Preach”) or an authentic one (“Daddy Lessons’). And traditionally there is a fraught tone to these. The character changes—the father can be treacherous, unreliable, abusive, authoritarian, or any ...

An Angel To A Girl Who Hates to Sin (Happy Phantom)

Happy Phantom (demo, 1990)

Happy Phantom (live, 1991)

Happy Phantom (1992)

Happy Phantom (live, 2001)

I’m Not Gonna Fuck This One Up/Happy Phantom (live, 2007, official bootleg, Tori set)

Happy Phantom (live, 2014)

A slender, even whimsical doodle of a song, “Happy Phantom” sees Amos larking about on the occasion of her death, or more accurately its immediate aftermath. This, as Amos explains it, came from the collaborative interplay of the rest of her faery circle, which collectively “decided we needed to hang out with death for a while.” Speaking nearly twenty years later, Amos rationalized this as a need for a measure of ego death: “the image that I had created for whatever reason, had to die. If so, she balked big time in crafting the song. By and large, however, other options present themselves.

The song is simple enough—the second shortest on the album, coming in an entire second longer than “Leather,” it uses each of its verses deliberately, establishing a concept, adding depth to it, and finally subverting it. It opens with a jaunty and bluesy piano line which Amos plays with a loud and slightly out of control sounding abandon. The vocals, meanwhile ...

Any Kind of Touch I Think Is Better Than None (Upside Down)

Upside Down (live, 1991) 

Upside Down (1992) 

Upside Down (live in Cincinatti, 1992) 

Upside Down (live, 2007, official bootleg, Clyde set)

Upside Down (web concert, 2010)

Upside Down (radio performance, 2011)

Upside Down/Upside Down (live, 2014)

By some margin the best of the Little Earthquakes b-sides, to the point that Amos in 1994 described its omission from Little Earthquakes as her “only regret.” (She would eventually say something similar about “Honey” missing the cut for Under the Pink and “Cooling” not making it onto Boys for Pele.) And Amos is right—without being so crass as to name names, “Upside Down” is straightforwardly better than at least two songs on Little Earthquakes, and is heads above the next best b-side. This is, presumably, why it found an almost immediate release, coming out as track two of the “Me and a Gun” single in the UK, and showing up on both the “Winter” and “Precious Things” singles in the US—a clear and easily justified decision to make it the primary b-side of the album. 

Much of Little Earthquakes is built in the balance between Amos’s more gnomic tendencies and a confessional approach that relies on a ...

Waiting For Somebody Else to Understand (Silent All These Years)

Silent All These Years (live, 1991)

Silent All These Years (TV performance, 1991)

Silent All These Years (1992)

Silent All These Years (music video, 1992)

Silent All These Years (TV performance. 1992)

Silent All These Years (TV performance, 1994)

Silent All These Years (TV performance, 1996)

Silent All These Years (TV performance, 1997)

Silent All These Years (live, 1997)

Silent All These Years (TV performance, 1998)

Silent All These Years (TV performance, 2003)

Silent All These Years (live, 2005 official bootleg)

Silent All These Years (radio performance, 2007)

Silent All These Years (live, 2007, official bootleg, Tori set)

Silent All These Years (2012)

Silent All These Years (radio performance, 2014)

Silent All These Years (TV performance, 2017)

In many ways, it is Amos’s signature song. It’s not her biggest hit but it’s the song one turns to in order to encapsulate her. It was the one picked for rerelease as a single to benefit RAINN in 1997, the one she’s played on scads of TV and radio performances across her career, and the one picked as the leading single for the album in both the US and UK (even if the first UK release was titled “Me and a Gun ...

Choke Him to Death Daddy (Sweet Dreams)

Sweet Dreams (demo, 1990) 

Sweet Dreams (1992) 

Sweet Dreams (live, 2001)

Sweet Dreams (2003) 

Sweet Dreams (official bootleg, 2007, Isabel set) 

A political song (973.928—History of North America:Politics of Illusion, according to Tales of a Librarian), but let’s immediately be cautious of treating that as a way of distinguishing it from other songs we’ve talked about, as if “Crucify,” “Leather,” or “Silent All These Years” are not also political. The more accurate assessment is that “Sweet Dreams” is a song that is overtly about electoral politics, with a second verse that makes overt reference to George Bush’s “thousand points of light” speech at the 1988 Republican National Convention. 

For the most part, there is something vaguely unsatisfying about this sort of thing. It’s not that there aren’t good songs about electoral politics in pop music. But it’s a routine quagmire in which artists turn out badly over-earnest and strident songs about how bad the President is. The problem is not that Amos is wrong that George Bush is “a constipated man” whose friends “got the earth in a sling / the world on her knees / they even got [his] zipper between their ...

Poison Me Against the Moon (Mother)

Mother (1992)

Mother (live, 1992)

Mother (live, 1996)

Mother (live, 2005, official bootleg)

Mother (live, 2007, official bootleg, Tori Set)

Mother (live, 2014)

“Mother” unfolds with strange formality, opening with a minute-long instrumental prelude in Cm before the song proper begins in Gb. (The official sheet music omits this entirely, beginning at the start of the main piano line.) It’s scarcely the only time Amos will use an approach like this—she’ll use the same trick next album on “Icicle,”for instance. But it grounds the song more in Amos’s classical training than anything else on Little Earthquakes, giving the song a strange and almost ritualistic feel when compared to anything around it. 

This fits the strange confrontation within it. “Mother” is structured around a relationship of authority—it opens in the imperative: “go, go, go, go now / out of the nest it’s time,” and with instructions to “tuck those ribbons under / your helmet be a good soldier.” But Amos is in no way content to play the submissive underling. The song’s narrative voice bleeds from mother to daughter, shifting midway through the first verse. And the daughter is far from compliant, keeping secrets and plotting her escape.  ...

A Ghost Story for Samhainn

Calder's Room

 

Thomas Calder, a lieutenant in the 1st Surreys, was sent back to England in autumn 1917 after being injured during the Battle of the Somme.  He spent a week or so in a conventional military hospital in France, but his wounds were primarily psychic rather than physical, so he was sent back to England, and to Sandilands.

Sandilands had by that time come under the directorship of Dr. K. J. Ravichandra.  Ravichandra was marked out by his universally acknowledged skill, and by his advanced and humane ideas.  Before his advent, Sandilands had effectively been a torture chamber for men who were considered weak and cowardly, in need of being shocked or bullied back to obedience.  Whatever our modern opinion of Ravichandra’s approach, there can be little doubt that his informal and conversational style represented an improvement on treatment through freezing cold water, or electric shock, or cigarette burn.  The men who came under Ravichandra’s care at Sandilands - an Elizabethan manor in East Anglia, bought by the government and converted for use as an Army psychiatric hospital - generally showed great improvement. Calder turned out to be something of an exception. 

One ...

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