The b-sides for Little Earthquakes are a mixture of fine songs that it’s difficult to see how missed the album, or that if it is clear, it comes down purely to tonal fit instead of quality—“Upside Down” and “Take to the Sky”—and the usual mix of songs that fall just short of the album tracks that did make it—“Mary” and “Sweet Dreams.” And then there is “Song for Eric,” the only song among the Little Earthquakes sessions to simply be bad. An a capella love song framed entirely in fantasy romance pablum about a “fair maiden” who will “wait all day for my sailor” that unironically includes the phrases “over hill and dale” and “you know me like the nightingale,” it is at best a cut rate version of “Etienne,” and at worst a rehash of the character-based love songs she wrote as a teenager. (It’s worth comparing specifically to “Rubies and Gold,” which is essentially the same song only with a baroquely complex musical arrangement instead of an a capella delivery.)
Exactly what happened here is hard to discern, not least because it’s one of only two Little Earthquakes-era songs upon which Amos has literally never made any sort of comment. It was on the rejected first version of Little Earthquakes, sequenced between “Sweet Dreams” and the terminally unreleased “Learn to Fly,” but the commercially released version (dumped on a limited edition reissue of “Silent All These Years” in the UK) comes from the London-based 1991 sessions with Ian Stanley that yielded “China.”
Where the second set of sessions for Little Earthquakes were an effort to reconceptualize the album away from the excessive lightness of the Siegerson tracks, these London sessions were essentially just extra. After rejecting the first cut of the album and giving Amos no end of grief (as described in “Leather”), Atlantic executive Doug Ross called Amos up after the second version to say, in his own words, “I don’t know how to tell you this, but I’ve fallen in love with your record.” (Ironically, the track that grabbed him was “Winter,” one that had been on the original version.) Still puzzling over how to promote an artist as unusual as Amos, Morris decided that the easiest thing to do would be to ship Amos off to London for a year to work the British market. With a much smaller geographic area and national radio stations, the UK had always been a more hospitable market for odd artists. Amos performed a set for East West honcho Max Hole, who as a devoted Kate Bush fan, made the leap to Amos fandom with relative ease, and Amos was up and running. And in the course of her UK residency, she found herself in the studio with former Tears for Fears member Ian Stanley cutting another set of songs.
These sessions are something of a curiosity in general—they’re by far the least remarked upon recording block for Little Earthquakes, and the songs that came out of them are a baffling mix—a handful of new songs Amos had penned between the completion of the home sessions with Eric Rosse in late 1990, a couple of covers, and a few reworkings of old material such as “China” and “Song for Eric” (and possibly “Girl” under one theory of “Thoughts”’s provenance).…