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excerpt from Chapter 3: Under the Pink
"Space Dog" was a drawing on a mud wall in New Mexico. In the hacienda where I recorded this record in New Mexico, in one of the rooms, there was this imprint of this creature. It was a shape, and it really was, if I could take a picture and show it to you sometime -- itís "Space Dog." A feather on his head, and it has this really big, sharp nose. It just really is. Thatís how so many of these songs came, in this Under the Pink world. If you rip all your skin off, weíre all pink, and itís about whatís underneath that. Thatís how I see it, anyway.
"Space Dog" would come and visit me, just as my alternative deity, so to speak. The idea that everybody puts their faith in, I donít know, this yogi or this channel or this god or this saint or this whatever, well, "Space Dog" was like, "Hey, itís my deity. Weíve worshiped everything else, why not him?"
It would, like, look at me when Iíd pass it by sometimes. And it would talk to me. And itís funny because it wanted me to write this song so bad that it pulled me away from my romance novel that was getting so good, you know the part where it goes, "his swollen member in her throbbing bud," you know that part? Itís like, yeah, I read that trash, I know. But you know, you have to read that if you do this. Itís like, you go insane. Itís like, people think I read all this great poetry. Itís like, no, Iím reading, you know, My Swollen Heart.
Anyway, I was flying over Chicago from New Mexico. It was a very cold night in March, and I was going in for a signing at Rose Records. And so Iím sitting there riding on this plane, and this dog is sitting on my shoulder, interrupting me. Iím reading a romance novel, so Iím being disturbed, right? So he says, "Check this out down there... Check out the boy, check out the boy, check out the boy by the 7-Eleven." And Iím like, "Now is not a good time." And so heís screaming on my shoulder, this creature, going, "Check it out, check it out, check it out!"
So I look out the window, down there. I was in the window seat and I was just watching, like, way down. Before I got into the city, I was flying over, and I just felt this scene happening by this 7-Eleven I could see way in the distance. I was flying in, and I felt this young boy, thirteen, fourteen years old, with his family, playing with his food at dinner. Heís eating peas. His family is like some of those people that show up on Oprah Winfrey sometimes, that you just go, "My God, if I had to go home with them, I would contemplate, like, eating Pledge."
I heard him -- him who lives near the 7-Eleven, fork in hand at a dead dinner table, staring at the peas on his plate going, "Come in, Lemon Pie. Do you read me? Do you read me? Beam me up and get me out of this place. I am not related to these slimes. I canít have their genes in my body." And heís sitting there rolling his peas around on his plate. They want him to eat, but heís blocking them out, thinking, "I donít want to eat this! Come in, Lemon Pie. Do you read me?" And itís like, "Whoa. I totally read you, buddy."
Iíd been talking to him, and I felt "Space Dog" going, "Lemon Pie. Coming through, Lemon Pie." It was very Agent 99. I kind of felt like Agent 99 going, "Oh, Max." And this young man responded, "There is something out there." And I just felt his presence. I felt him just opening himself up to another possibility, because his world was just so closed. The best thing he had near him was the 7-Eleven goddess.
Itís funny, I kind of find it all pretty clear. I can see how "Space Dog" is tricky, but "Space Dog" is a mushroom trip anyway. It is supposed to be, kind of. The thing is, with a lot of the language itís not, like, thought out ahead, but itís kind of like a camera, where Iím filming myself in these experiences. And the best way I can describe things sometimes is like how Iím tasting, with tangible things. Not just to say, "These girls betrayed me and I really feel bad now."
I began looking at the constellations and looking at the Dog Star thinking of a relationship that didn't feel as if betrayal existed -- it was just acceptance. I was confiding things in my Space Dog -- which is the Dog Star -- and it seemed like if I could do that, then any bomb that got detonated, I would have placed my faith in relationships that were based on some kind of integrity. Sometimes you have to stand up and go out to a place where you can see the stars, and you say, "Wait a minute -- I don't need a backstage pass to get here. I'm welcomed." And anyone is welcome. That's what I love about the energy of the Dog Star -- it's always there for you, and it's always there for me.
There are a lot of triads in this whole record, and "Pretty Good Year" and "Space Dog" kind of kiss each other. In the bridge, "Deck the halls," going back to, again, not having resolve. "Iím young again. Somewhere, someone must know the ending. Whereís Neil when you need him?" You know, thatís all in that. Iím talking about Neil Gaiman, the author of The Sandman, one of our greatest writers. I also talked about him on Little Earthquakes. As for Patti Smith -- "is she still pissing in the river now?" -- I especially admired her energy, her life-power. "Heard sheíd gone, moved into a trailer park." Concept being: somebody that had all of these beliefs and then just numbed themselves.
And the philosophy of "Space Dog" is, well, together, when Iím hanging out with him, itís, "So sure we were on something. Your feet are finally on the ground, he said." Thatís the philosophy of "Space Dog." And the counter-vocal in the end goes into, again, the betrayal stuff, mostly girls and yet, if Iím in the present and Iím on something, which is on the Earth, on the ground, then I have total opportunity to decide what my reaction will be. I canít decide anything else, but I can decide if Iím going to let something totally take over my life, which it did in "The Waitress." But by "Space Dog," Iím going, "I do have a choice." Itís part of the growth.
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