What is soft dick rock? Using the elements of dick to create a softer, toned-down sound.
Jenny Hval, Kingsize
In 1992 some of my friends had a love affair with Little Earthquakes. I went around to James’ place where some of my friends were staying over the weekend and they were involved in doing three things: (1) using every towel in the commodious linen cupboard for endless showers, (2) playing a role-playing game about vampires, and (3) listening to Little Earthquakes. I think driving James insane may have been a fourth thing.
Because they had been staying over, and I hadn’t, I remember feeling a little bit on the outside of all the over-the-weekend-in-jokes my friends were making so I didn’t really listen to Little Earthquakes properly, or get into the vampire role-playing game. Later a girl I liked made me a mix-tape that had Winter on it. Winter has always been my favourite Tori Amos song.
Which means that when I hear Tori Amos I think of vampires, and my friend’s mostly empty house, and not quite clicking.
It’s hard for me not to think about Kate Bush when I listen to Tori Amos. I like Kate Bush more than Tori Amos but I’ve never thought about why. Running Up That Hill might be why. Hounds of Love? It’s natural to link music to other music. When I was 19 and this album came out I was much more of a snob though and thought “true art” should be completely original. I don’t know where I picked up this preposterous idea. Nothing is completely original because people are born into and grow up in a culture. In the past I thought that saying “she sounds a bit like Kate Bush” was a criticism.
Now when I listen to her I hear her influence on others, and her back and forth interaction with her contemporaries. I hear a little Byörk, and Alanis Morrisette, and Jenny Hval.
I also used to think that second albums were always going to be worse than first albums. This is why I didn’t listen to Rage Against the Machine’s second and third album until 20 years after I was introduced to them. Now I find that Tori Amos has something like 17 albums and I have listened to none of them. Well, until now. Now I’m up to album number six. I remember (it really is weird the things you remember) talking about Faith No More with two friends: Justin and Sean. Justin and I were explaining how Faith No More’s second album was shit, and Sean said: “Have you actually listened to it?” “Um, no.” “Well, how do you know? I’ve listened to it and I think it’s good.” Man, that was embarrassing.
Where does the desire to want to seem to know things come from?
I haven’t listened to that second Faith No More album to this day. Something I should do.
Tori Amos makes me realise how unusual it still is to hear a woman talk about sex in her songs, how sexist the language of pop music and culture itself remains. There was a Tori Amos, Alanis Morrisette, Sex in the City, master of my own domain vibe that things were going to change for a while there, but they didn’t. Brown Sugar is ok. Giving the Dog a Bone is ok. Smack My Bitch Up. What about,
So, you can make me cum
That doesn’t make you Jesus
Precious Things, Tori Amos
Give me peace, love
And a hard cock
Professional Widow, Tori Amos
And, of course, Me And A Gun, which, that day I was at James’ house, someone specifically played to me.
I often think of Caliban’s quote about learning his master’s language: “You taught me language; and my profit on’t. Is, I know how to curse. ” As I told one of my Year 13 classes: Shakespeare is a genius; Kanye West ain’t.
For Tori Amos I think of it because of her relationship with Christianity which is, to say the least, complicated.
When I was growing up [in Maryland] in the 60s – my father a minister, my mother, part native-American but a Christian woman – going to church was mandatory. Four times a week, three times on a Sunday.
Right now, as I write this section of this post, I’m listening to Datura. The song changes half way through and the lyric shifts to a repeating line: “Dividing Canaan”.
Datura is a genus of nine species of poisonous vespertine flowering plants belonging to the family Solanaceae. They are commonly known as daturas, but also known as devil’s trumpets, not to be confused with angel’s trumpets, its closely related genus Brugmansia.
The Christian framework of morality is part of the architecture of Amos’ mind, and she has access to all the complicated and contradictory stories that the Bible uses to convey its message to tell her own stories. That Christian idea of good vs evil, that binary that doesn’t work in our non-binary world, and distorts us. Get the devil’s trumpet confused with the angel’s trumpet at your peril.
Satanists are Christian. Like vampires. They require Christianity to make sense. Being introduced to Tori Amos via the unlikely medium of a role-playing game about vampires makes perfect sense. Vampires are about good and evil in a Christian moral frame, and about sex. Virgin, not a virgin, saint, slut. Temptation. Desiring liberation from what culture tells you about gender, enjoying some of the things you can find there. Refashioning. Using what already exists. Fighting. Being tired.
All that. None of it.
PS – I listened to Angel Dust by Faith No More and I kind of hated it. Oh well.