Some Magic Buried Deep in My Heart (Take to the Sky)

Take to the Sky (1992)

Take to the Sky (TV performance, 1998)

Take to the Sky (webcast, 2001)

Take to the Sky (TV performance, 2002)

Take to the Sky (official bootleg, 2005)

Take to the Sky (official bootleg, 2007)

Take to the Sky/Datura (webcast, 2014)

In the wounded aftermath of Y Kant Tori Read, with Atlantic demanding a new record on about six months turnaround, Amos was invited over by her high school friend Cindy Marble, who was living in LA also failing to make it in the music industry. Marble had a piano at her place, and Amos, who had gotten rid of her own piano during her excursion as a rock chick, sat down to play, finding herself so utterly engrossed by her old instrument that she lost track of hours and of Marble. Marble implored her to take the instrument back up, arguing that this was the setting in which Amos felt authentic and genuine. And so Amos rented a piano for the apartment she was sharing with her boyfriend/producer Eric Rosse and began to write.

Unsurprisingly, she began with a song that grappled with her failure. “Take to the Sky,” called “Russia” in ...

I Never Was On the Fence (When I Was Dreaming)

When I Was Dreaming (c. 1988 demo)

Dreaming (Al Stewart, 1988)

Ten Cents (Al Stewart, 1988)

Year of the Cat (Al Stewart, 1991, live)

Charlotte Corday (Al Stewart, 1993)

Amos’s primary benefactor in the immediate aftermath of  Y Kant Tori Read was her producer, Joe Chiccarelli. Much as he’d brought Kim Bullard on board for Y Kant Tori Read after working with him on previous projects, he spent a few years hiring Amos for a variety of session gigs while she regrouped from the album. Most of these were relentlessly unglamorous affairs. She did backup vocals on the album Modern Madness by Robert Tepper (a minor rock star who’d scored a hit when his 1985 song “No Easy Way Out” got used in Rocky IV), sang on Sandra Bernhard’s cover of “Little Red Corvette” (“they’re great ‘oohs,’” Bernhard noted six years later), did three tracks on former Wall of Voodoo singer Stan Ridgway’s album Mosquitos, and sang on pioneering Canadian folk musician Ferron’s 1990 album Phantom Center (this last album having been, cheekily, rereleased in 1995 with Amos’s vocals higher in the mix).

The most enduring creative relationship of this period, however, was with Al Stewart. Stewart was ...

I Could Easily Have Died (Distant Storm)

Distant Storm (1988)

In 1988, Hong Kong movie studio Golden Harvest was in the early stages of attempting an expansion into the US market (a process that would eventually lead to them producing three Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies). To this end, they decided to create an English-language vehicle for Cynthia Rothrock, an American star who had broken out in Hong Kong. The result was China O’Brien, which ended up failing to accomplish this task, instead getting dumped to home video in 1990.

The soundtrack for the film was assembled by David Wheatley and Paul Antonelli, who, when looking to record the song penned for an early sequence, “Distant Storm,” ended up tapping a young L.A. based vocalist whose first attempt at an album had just bombed spectacularly: Tori Amos.

Amos had ben understandably shell-shocked the immediate aftermath of Y Kant Tori Read’s failure. She’s talked about how she “sat on the kitchen floor counting the specks in the linoleum, crawling to the bathroom and back again. For like a month.” She’d regroup soon enough, not least because she had six more albums on her contract with Atlantic and they wanted her to try again, but ...

I Don't Speak German, Episode 32 - Captain America

Daniel and Jack take a relaxing detour back into discussing pop culture and consider the Marvel movie Captain America: The First Avenger... along with the MCU more generally, the links between the Military Industrial Complex and Hollywood, how Nazis watch Marvel, the ways fascism is represented in movies, etc.

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Show Notes:

Bisexual Steven Rogers

Steven Atwell: Steve Rogers Isn't Just Any Hero

Lyndsy Ellis on The Ideology of the First Order and Woke Disney

I Saw a Future (China)

Distance/China (demo)*

China (live, 1991)

China (1992)

China (video, 1992)

China (television performance, 1992)

China (television performance, 1994)

China (official bootleg 2007, Tori set)

China (live, 2009)

China (live, 2015)

An oddity on Little Earthquakes, “China” is a holdover from the Y Kant Tori Read era, where it was recorded under the name “Distance” on a demo tape alongside “Etienne” and “On the Boundary.” This fact makes almost immediate sense when you think about the song, which is about an unsatisfying relationship, in marked contrast to anything else on Little Earthquakes, but very much like most of Y Kant Tori Read. Indeed, its original title played this up further, putting the emphasis on its subject—emotional distance in a relationship—instead of on the deftly shifting metaphor of China, which opens the song in the sense of a country, but in the second verse shifts to china in the sense of dishes.

It’s certainly possible to make too much of this history—the song was, after all, not actually recorded for Y Kant Tori Read, and may well have been deemed musically unsuitable for the project. But it also opens the tantalizing possibility that the Y Kant Tori Read songs were ...

I Don't Speak German, Episode 31 - 'Dynamite Nashville' with Betsy Phillips

In this fascinating new episode, Daniel is joined by Betsy Phillips to talk about her forthcoming book Dynamite Nashville: The KKK, the FBI, and the Bombers Beyond Their Control, the story of three unsolved bombings in Tennessee during the late 50s and early 60s.

Content Warning

Permalink / Direct Download

Show Notes:

Betsy's Twitter

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The wicked irony behind a new Cobb County home for Democrats

Killing King: Racial Terrorists, James Earl Ray, and the Plot to Assassinate Martin Luther King Jr. by Stewart Wexler

Clarion Ledger: Mississippi Burning Killings: Religious Terrorism? by Stewart Wexler

House Committee on Un-American Activities Ku Klux Klan

A Witch Lost in Time (Etienne Trilogy)

Etienne Trilogy (1988)

Etienne (live, 1996)

Etienne (live, 2002)

Etienne (official bootleg, 2007, Tori set)

Etienne (live, 2017)

We have been returning frequently to the lens of Amos’s eventual reclamation of her Y Kant Tori Read work, mostly in the course of her 2014 tour. And so it’s fitting that we end discussion of that period of her career with the first song from the period that she played live, the album closer, “Etienne.” It happened on April 28th, in her old stomping grounds of Washington DC, about two month into the 1996 Dew Drop Inn tour for Boys for Pele, and five days before she debuted “Cool on Your Island” in a medley with “Hey Jupiter.” It went on to feature twenty-six times over the course of that tour—far from one of the most played songs, but in no way one of the least either, and ahead of multiple songs from all three of her albums up to that point. She cooled on the song a bit past that—those twenty-six performances make up nearly half of the song’s total appearances—but once reclaimed it never entirely left her setlists. 

Of course, “Etienne” marks only a part of ...

Much Stronger Than You Know (Cool On Your Island)

Cool on Your Island (1988)

Cool on Your Island (single mix, 1988)

Cool on Your Island/Hey Jupiter (first performance, 1996)

Cool on Your Island (official bootleg, 2005)

Cool on Your Island (official bootleg, 2007, Tori set)

Cool on Your Island (live, 2011)

Cool on Your Island (live, 2017)

On an album of misfires, “Cool On Your Island” stands out as the song that Amos has most readily accepted and reintegrated into her canon. It is not the first song from the album that she played live—we’ll deal with that next entry as we wrap up this stretch so that we can actually get into the good stuff. But it is the one she has ultimately played the most—seventy-two times over the course of her tours, more than “Girl” (70), “Professional Widow” (57), or “Muhammad My Friend” (42). If you’ve seen a Tori Amos concert, there’s around a one in twenty chance she played it—it’s one of her hundred most common choices (out of a gobsmacking 485 unique songs played live across her career). And it comes the closest to being a song she’s spoken about, if not warmly, at least not entirely coldly, amusingly suggesting in 1998 that “ ...

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