Viewing posts tagged little earthquakes

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 ...

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 ...

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.  ...

Love Isn't Forever (Leather)

Leather (live, 1991)

Leather (1992)

Leather (live, 1997)

Improv/Leather (live, 2003)

Leather (official bootleg, 2005)

Leather (TV performance, 2005)

Leather (official bootleg, 2007, Tori set)

Leather (live w/orchestra, 2012)

Leather (live, 2017)

The confessional mode of songwriting is full of pitfalls for a critic, and “Leather” offers us opportunities to topple into all of them. The song creates as aggressive an intimacy as is possible: “Look I’m standing naked before you,” it opens, immediately making its singer vulnerable with regards to the listener. From there we plunge into debasement: “don’t you want more than my sex? / I can scream as loud as your last one / but I can’t claim innocence.” There is an immediate sense of knowing more than we should—a feeling that we’ve been brought into a space we do not belong. 

It’s a trick, of course. To state the obvious, Amos is not standing naked before us. The line is a sly game of medium. “Look,” Amos proclaims in an entirely auditory form. “I’m standing,” she says on a recording that was already two years old when it was released to the public. “Naked before you,” she declares from a ...

An Empty Cage Girl (Crucify)

Crucify (live, 1991)

Crucify (TV performance, 1991)

Crucify (1992)

Crucify (music video, 1992)

Crucify (single mix, 1992)

Crucify (Top of the Pops, 1992)

Crucify (TV performance, 1992)

Crucify (TV performance, 1993)

Crucify (live, 1998)

Crucify (TV performance, 1999)

Crucify (TV performance, 2002)

Crucify (live, 2003)

Crucify (official bootleg, 2007, Tori set)

Crucify (radio performance, 2009)

Graveyard/Crucify (TV performance, 2015)

There is a teenage girl, though she doesn’t know it. I don’t remember how she came to Little Earthquakes. More likely than not, it was recommended to her by someone at CTY, the academic summer camp she went to and met all the other awkward teen weirdo nerds, no small portion of which, it turned out, were self-closeted queers just like her. That or she just saw mention of Tori Amos online in discussions of other music she was into, which, alongside a smattering of the contemporary alternative scene, was mostly female singer-songwriters.

Sitting in her bed, she presses play on the CD. It’s immediately clear that Amos fit the bill of her taste. But it’s just as immediately clear that there was more to this than merely being “her thing.” The first forty-five seconds of “Crucify” are an ...

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 ...

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