April 27, 2020

"I talk in the book about thinking about playing 'Imagine.' But that wasn’t the right one."

"I needed to play something from a great songwriter that had an emotion that wasn’t about violence, but that also contained grief. Tom Waits has the line, 'So close your eyes, son, this won’t hurt a bit.'"

Said Tori Amos, asked about performing Tom Waits’s song “Time” when she was the first musical guest to play on David Letterman's show after the 9/11 attacks. She is quoted in "Tori Amos Believes the Muses Can Help//A conversation about music, politics, and what you learn about America from being on the road" (in The New Yorker).

Here are the lyrics to "Time." Consider the process of thinking twice about playing "Imagine" and coming up with "Time." That was back on September 18, 2001. Now, as celebrities ineptly return to "Imagine" for our coronavirus pain, it's worth reflecting on Tori Amos's alternative, "Time."

Here's her new memoir, "Resistance."


Ficta said...

What a great choice. Dear God I love that song.

"Imagine" is not poetry it's a sermon (although it's a great tune). "Time", on the other hand, feels like it means so much, but everything eludes your grasp, much like our experience of Time itself.

She skipped the last verse, but following 9/11 I can see why.

CJinPA said...

Honestly, entertainers hate me, and I can't Imagine being able to turn to them to provide me anything useful during national trauma. Must be nice for those who can, though.

RNB said...

"Amos explains how she managed to create meaningful, politically resonant work against patriarchal power structures..." Yep. That is to say, "Nope."

Todd said...


One of the worst songs ever. Just really listen to the words and if you don't think it is one of the worst songs ever, you are part of the problem...

Fernandinande said...

"Resist[ance]" is NewDogWhistleSpeak for Orange Man Bad.

+1 for Mike @9:51 AM

Churchy LaFemme: said...

Laurie Anderson performed O Superman in New York on 19/20 September 2001:

Here come the planes.
They're American planes. Made in America.

You could practially hear the auidence gasp.

Was it a good idea? I don't know. Did it take guts? Yes.

rhhardin said...

Impedance, not resistance. A clever activist gets the opposition sloshing around, not stationary.

Kay said...

I never liked Tori’s music, but one ex of mine (my first very significant relationship) used to play it so often that I get pleasant pangs of nostalgia every time I hear it or see her.

Lurker21 said...

Not a bad song. I get the feeling that if Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen had had children together their kids would be Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits.

These efforts by entertainers to cheer us up don't impress me, nor does Tori Amos's desperate struggle to become relevant again. But maybe the point is that if people still bother with such stuff, things can't be so bad.

Known Unknown said...

I would've played "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother."

But what do I know?

Wince said...

Amos does seem more grounded than most lefties, eschewing PC and to actually care about her fans.

Yet it's been my experience that a lot of celebrities on the left are schooled on which boogie men to hate by the people they are told are "in the know" -- just before they are asked for money. The business side of "activism".

I was being taught the three branches of government, but I wasn’t being taught about the Federalist Society, I wasn’t being taught about legal criminality.

I assume Amos has never attended an actually Federalist Society forum.

And the muses said to me, Do not buy into this propaganda that we are so divided. So many Americans have lost people to the fight for democracy.

Taking her at her word, I actually think it would be useful to invite her to Federalist Society event.

The muses explained to me that you can be groomed by Putin and not even fucking know it—you can be groomed into an idea, into an ideology, and not even know it.

I'm sending her a copy of Durham Report as soon as it comes out!

In 2014, I played in Russia, after the invasion of Ukraine. The Russians and Ukrainians who came to the shows tried to warn me, and to explain how they survived the constant Russian propaganda attacks. They survived by reclaiming their own narratives, which is not easy to do if you are susceptible to hearing and accepting the information you are being fed. Which made me realize most of us are targets for mind control if we are not vigilant about asking ourselves the pointed questions. We must seek out people who not only know what they are talking about but whose agenda is to expose the facts. It was made clear to me all those years ago, by the people who survived technological warfare, that Putin wanted to rebuild a variation of the former Soviet Union. Therefore Ukraine making a deal with Europe was beyond unacceptable to him, his oligarchs, and those who stand to gain from them. That meant that the West and what it stood for was his enemy. But he could not destroy democracy alone. He and some of the American senators who stand to gain a lot of money and power from his gaggle of authoritarians were not going to announce that they were killing democracy.

Obama sent blankets!

It’s no different than how a domestic abuser operates to gain power and control over their prey—they do not show up even on the seventh date and say, “I am going to divide you from everything you once held dear even divide you from your own thoughts and replace them with our thoughts which you will then believe are your own.”

Known Unknown said...

"Oh, remember that time when Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton and the gay woman on Saturday Night Live opened playing piano and singing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah! ?"

That was the most unintentionally funny thing Kate McKinnon has ever done.

MadAir said...

The song was a perfect choice, but I always thought the line would be better as "close your eyes son, this will hurt a bit."

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

when the shout
...keep your distance

narciso said...

the Russians annexed the rest of the Ukraine, around 200 years ago,

Bill Peschel said...

Tori is so amusing, thinking we care about lyrics. It's the beat, man, the beat that counts!

(Remember our discussion about "Born in the USA" and "YMCA"? Who cares what the funque those are about?)

Michael said...

We should be singing: "Let My People Go!"

Nichevo said...

Michael said...
We should be singing: "Let My People Go!"

4/27/20, 11:48 AM

Here's an instrumental version:


Roughcoat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roughcoat said...

Never heard of "Time." Listened to the song and read the lyrics. What's it about?

Anthony said...

I just remember Tori Amos as being ridiculously hot but not caring too much for her music.

And I didn't even pretend to like her music because she was hot. Nice act live though, which I have watched on the tube every now and then.

boatbuilder said...

That Letterman grab at the end seems a lot creepier nowadays, huh?

Sebastian said...

"Here are the lyrics to "Time.""

Gave it a shot.

Poetry for people who don't like poetry. Poetry that sounds better than it reads.

William said...

Whoever thought that we would be looking back at 9/11 as the good old days.

rightguy said...

Tori is one king-hell weird chick- she wears a stripper outfit to do a tune for 9/11 on Letterman and then does a cryptic tune by Tom Waits with legs widely splayed towards the camera.

Nonapod said...

"Imagine" is a god awful song. It manages to be banal and trite and insulting all at once.

I like Tori Amos for the most part. But I'm really a big Kate Bush fan, who I think does the whole manic, fey, surreal, ethereal female singer thing in a truly unique way. I (perhaps unfairly) always end up comparing artists like Tori Amos to Kate Bush and always find them wanting.

PJ57 said...

My favorite Tori Amos verse:

So you found a girl who thinks realy deep thoughts,

What's so great about really deep thoughts?

Boy you better pray I bleed real soon,

How's that thought for ya?

Unknown said...

I am a Tori Amos fan. I think she chose Time because it was the best choice from her then current CD of cover songs called "Strange Little Girls". While that CD was all cover songs, I think she is the most prolific singer, song-writer, pianist of my lifetime. She is two months older than me, so a lot of overlap!

Some of her throw-away lyrics embedded in songs are amazing ("Too many stars and not enough sky", "They say Confucius does his crossword with a pen", "So you can make me cum, That doesn't make you Jesus", "Her blood's on my hands, It's kind of a shame cause I did like that dress", "Somewhere someone must know the ending", "With their nine-inch nails And a little fascist panties".)

stephen cooper said...

My favorite song from a Tori Amos type musician is called Adia (Sarah McLachlan).
The singer sings of innocence, and the song is about how we do not protect each other.

But, IRL, the singer supports the fact that abortion is promoted in minority communities (she is too stupid and selfish to understand).

Art is really not that interesting, compared to Truth, Love, and Charity, is it ?

Bunkypotatohead said...

Scarlett's Walk was a great album. A 74 minute tour of the USA, post Sept 11th.

Daniel Jackson said...

Tom Waits is a master of Solitude. His lyrics evoke images that are not unlike the prints of Brassai in Paris By Night. For many, these lyrics, imagery, and the melody capture the sense of desolation, as well as emptiness so strongly associated with Solitude.

"Left for him down here" I assume is a reference to the Deity.

In such matters, I prefer Tom to Leonard. The former is more honest.

Good call, Tori; good call.

Lurker21 said...

Tori seems like she must be hell to be around. The 90s, though, were big for female folk-type singers: Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, Lisa Loeb, Natalie Merchant, Jewel, Meredith Brooks, Joan Osborne, and (not so folky) Alanis Morrisette. That's a whole genre of music that we don't have now. I guess we now have to call it a genre of "White girl music." Katy Perry isn't quite the same thing. Not enough angst, not enough heartbreak and emotional messiness.