home / interviews
FM4 Guest Room (Austria, radio)
February 2, 2003
Some of my favorite songs that inspired me as a songwriter.
Hello, FM4 Guest Room. I'm Tori Amos and I'm thrilled to be here playing some of my favorite songs and favorite song writers tonight. So this one that maybe a lot of people already know, but everytime I hear it, it feels like my heart just opens up like it did the first time I heard it. this is James Taylor - "Fire and Rain".
James Taylor - "Fire and Rain"
As a songwriter, sometimes you close your eyes, and if you could write any song, to be able to write something like "Fire and Rain," it's your whole life's ambition. She walks in a room and it's one of these women that, you have to look at her. Her presence, her style. It's her style, it's the way that she handles herself, and she seems to move like a direction. Whether she's the east -- a storm coming in from the east -- but she moves in that way and she's embodied herself into this woman called Carly Simon.
A song that I used to love and play when I was growing up was this song called, "That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be," talking about a girl growing up and her mother reading her magazines. When I heard that James Taylor and Carly Simon were getting married, it was one of those things where so many of us who loved their songs would wonder, "Do they sing to each other at night? Do they play each other their songs?" Because their songs had done so much for so many of us that it was talk about a real marriage of songwriters.
Carly Simon - "That's the Way I've Always Heard it Should Be
I'm Tori Amos here in the Guest Room playing some of my favorite songs. This next song is maybe a bit of a different choice: "Pilate's Dream," from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. I was always drawn to the Judas character in this musical. It was so well written and in the production when he sings this particular song, I kind of, for a moment, really side with him. You can have compassion for him and talk about songwriters being able to sway people to opening up to Judas. That's a pretty good songwriting team. When I'm in the shower, I do a much better version of this, but it's something like: "I dreamed I met a Galilean / a most amazing man / he had that look you very rarely find / the haunting, hunted kind."
"Pilate's Dream" from Jesus Christ Superstar
At that time, when this came out, another album was circulating: Carole King's Tapestry album. The babysitters would bring the album over and they'd carry it under their arms, hoping I had popcorn and they brought the music. What I did with my babysitters is that we'd sit and listen to their records all night, and then they'd try and get me to play -- "Now you play my favorite song" -- and they would do karaoke. So the babysitter would then sing the song and I played the piano for them. Everybody was still listening to "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" but I was really drawn to this one by Carole King off Tapestry.
Carole King - "It's Too Late"
Of course that was "Too Late Baby" by Carole King from the Tapestry album. I'm Tori Amos here in the guest room playing some of my favorite songs that inspired me as a songwriter. So, I guess around the same time we're talking about -- this is a nostalgic time for me. This is when I was forming as a songwriter. Seven years old, that's when I started really learning how to write songs. I wrote a lot of bad ones, but I was trying things at that time and I didn't say to myself, "Well, you know, I'm too young and I'm not confident." Well, I guess I was young and maybe not overly confident but it didn't stop me from playing them for myself. And I would write tons and tons and tons and tons of songs, like I'd try and write one a week. That was my goal. And sometimes I'd listen to a song that I loved and say, "Let me look at the structure of this," no different than, say for example, if you looked at someone else's building and how were you going to build that with your little building set. With sand and mud and whatever, if you see what I mean.
So, one of the songwriting teams that really kind of formed me as a songwriter was, of course, Elton John and Bernie Taupin. And a song that is sort of a part of my life -- one of my Polaroids in my life with my friends -- was "Someone Saved My Life Tonight."
Elton John - "Someone Saved My Life Tonight"
"Little Green" is a song that wasn't played on the radio much and I don't know if many people have heard it unless you have the Blue album by Joni Mitchell. But this was one of those things where a particular girlfriend of mine, as she went through a lot of stuff in her life -- she was an incest survivor and she got involved with heroin just to deal with the pain of it all -- this became her kind of signature song. And when she would have tears in her eyes and be at the edge of her life, maybe not wanting to live another day, she would, you know, call me on the phone and we would just sing: "Just a little green," together, "And sometimes there'll be sorrow..." And if we were 5,000 miles away from each other or further, we would both hum that to ourselves and say, "We can make it one more day. It's going to be okay because some days you two have sorrow, and that's just what you have, but we still have each other"
Joni Mitchell - "Little Green"
The Blue album was just one of those albums that I think reached inside so many women, particularly. Kind of like a little diary for what it's like going from girlhood to womanhood and all the confusion that that brings.
A very different kind of choice here where the opposite of girlhood which is deep deep manlihood here with this voice. In some ways, he reminds me of the Tim Curry of singers. You know, if Lucifer had a voice it would have to be Leonard Cohen because it's ageless and ancient. And I just feel like it's very sexy and it's knowing. It seems to know every crevice that the earth herself has. His voice has seduced every part of the earth -- knows every secret -- and I find that quite sexy.
So my choice is "Blue Raincoat," mainly because I was driving this old beat-up truck in New Mexico when I was seduced by the desert to be out in the middle of it for about a year and a half. And I would listen to this song on my long drives alone and I couldn't get it out of my head and here it is. This is Leonard Cohen. "Blue Raincoat"
Leonard Cohen - "Famous Blue Raincoat"
If you bump into Leonard, you can tell him that I said he's Lucifer's voice. Which I think would be great. I think he was a Buddhist monk for a while and I think that's all well and good, but if you're Lucifer's voice, you really don't need a whole lot more than that. And I don't mean Satan -- very, very important that all the little Satanists out there [realize that].
A song that, I guess, I don't know, took me by surprise anyway, but it just kept haunting me when I heard it, [was The Cars', "Drive."] And it's something that comes back to me every time I hear it. I can smell the perfume i was wearing that night in the car, driving around within my baby blue Caprice in LA when i was a rock chick. And meeting, and having this clandestine meeting with this young man that i probably shouldn't have been having, BUT I was walking into that dangerous place that you walk when you're a young woman in your 20s and you must explore that. And this song came on the radio that night, and I just remember thinking that he was speaking to me. Saying, "Who's gonna drive you home tonight if you turn yourself over to him completely and you lose your sense of everything? You might not make it back, and not in the way you want to make it back." And it was one of those things, and it's a very good thing that I heard that song that night because this guy showed up with a friend, a male friend, and there were two of them, who wanted me to go off with both of them and we'll leave it at that but I eventually made it home.
The Cars - "Drive"
When I hear Bono sing with the guitar that is married to his voice, sometimes I just feel a sense of a perfect marriage. And I think for women hearing this song it was kind of -- every woman that I know, anyway -- felt it was autobiographical, although it wasn't written about us. Any of us. But "Running to Stand Still" was something that a lot of us felt like we were doing at the time when it happened and they were just able to describe what it was like being a woman at that time and they're these guys. just because they observed in a woman what they knew so this is U2 from the Joshua Tree album.
U2 - "Running to Stand Still"
So that's about it for me. I'm Tori Amos and i've been in the Guest Room playing some of my favorite songs and now i really do have to run.
t o r i p h o r i a
the World of Tori Amos