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Vox (UK)
May 1996

Song Of The Month

Talula by Tori Amos

The new single from Tori Amos' 'Boys for Pele' album concerns the break-up of a relationship and the problems of male-dominated society. It also refers to voodoo, Sesame Street and biscuits. Stuart Bailie checks her pulse... TALULA

"When I wrote this, my mother was sitting in a chair, and I'd been playing for a few hours. She was fading in and out of sleep. I'd been going through some of my blood, guts and widow's tunes. And all of a sudden I needed to breathe. I started playing Talula, and it became like a breath, 'cause I needed freedom from all these songs that where showing me my monsters. Talula started to show me how to dance. And my mother began to wake up. The song is really a riddle. Talula just came to me, telling me her name. A lot of the times I'm just trying to interpret what I'm seeing on the other side. A name holds an energy, like anything else. Look at Ruby Tuesday. I think Talula became about rhythm and tone an sensuality. It ain't fucking Catherine. There's something in there about West Indian dance. And yet it's a very classic name, too. Talula really just started to represent all women to me - women that let themselves dance - for themselves."


A reference to Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI of France. When she was told that her country's peasants were starving for lack of bread, she replied: "Qu'ils mangent la brioche" ("Let them eat cake") . She was deposed, together with her husband in the Revolution, and guillotined in Paris in 1793.


"That's my little moment of Ziggy Stardust, my Gary Glitter moment. An homage. It's one thing to be a glitter girl, but it's another thing to be all woman. And that's what Marie Antoinette desperately wanted."


Last year, Tori broke up with her boyfriend of eight years, Eric. Many of the songs on the album 'Boys for Pele' relate to this.

"This person walking out the door, this affects me-at least I'm not so numb. And if you're numb, you can't dance. So it became this thing about celebrating loss. Because I value it and it's touched my heart and I'm hurting that it's going. At least it meant something to me. When Trent Reznor wrote Hurt - 'I hurt myself today, to see if I could feel' - I thought, 'Hey, this girl feels, man.'"


Native American word (from the Algonquin tribe) for baby. Also used to describe an infant's sling.

"It's the Indian reference. It's the whole idea of the cycle, the rebirth. There's something being born within, which is the ability to let go. When a man you love walks out of your life, and you have that ache, you feel not only can you love again, but can love a son. The son or the daughter is the rebirth of the soul."


A brand of American biscuit.

"Fig Newton is a term of endearment. It's not the Oreo Cookie. It's certainly not the politically correct cookie. It's not a commercial cookie. It's the one with the jelly in the middle."


Married Henry VIII in 1533, aged 20. Henry changed religion and divorced his previous wife, Catherine, because she couldn't provide him with a male heir. When Anne gave birth to female (the future Queen Elizabeth), Henry had her beheaded, supposedly for adultery, in 1536.

"As I went back into the bloodline of western women, I began to see the fragmentation. For example, with Anne's daughter Elizabeth - "The Virgin Queen" - if you had respect and a certain power, you didn't have your sensuality and sexuality as well. There has been this division in 'Christian women'.

"I went after those archetypes that have been so misunderstood. With Anne Boleyn's relationship with Henry VIII, he'd manipulate the truth. That's why he says one plus one is three. Whatever the patriarchy says goes, and you'll burn for it."


The executor who chopped off Anne's head.

"I heard stories that they brought in this henchman from France, and I really aligned with him. He had Anne move her hair over (before the execution) and he made her look away. He did it when she didn't know. Even though his job was a bit brutal, he had more compassion than the king. The riddle in Talula is things are not what they seem."


"A lot of writing on this album is about association. Jamaica, to me, represents the mysteries. If you go back to that culture, they had belief in the spirit world. Some call it voodoo.

"Voodoo became something different once the Christians came in. Before then, there was an understanding of other worlds we have chosen to disrespect. When I say 'Do you know what I have done', I haven't honored that world."


According to the bible, Mary Magdalene was a prostitute who washed Jesus' feet and dried them with her hair.

"A lot of scholars believe that she was, in her own right, a High Priestess. People believe that Mary Magdalene became the High Priestess when Jesus was being crowned "King" of the Jews.

"The weave of the Magdalene represented woman. Not virgin, not mother, but woman - which wasn't passed down. Certain fragments have been lost, theologically. There are secrets in the blood that get passed down."


"The men in power, patriarchy. It's about domination, yet that's not where real power is. It's in the blood, the feminine. The old programming of domination is never just about 'Go, dance, and let me dance, and I'll let you'."


Feathered creature in Sesame Street.

"Big Bird is a play on what he represents. Whether it's a Big Cheese, or whether it's Jesus or whether it is Big Bird. It's just the big guy. At this point in the song it's going after that patriarchy domination thing."


Jesus sought some of his disciples from fishing boats. He promised he would make them "fishers of men" - ie, hookers.


"That's about a reference to Jesus and the Magdalene, the theory that they were married."


"It's really about covert operations. About secrets. It's a riddle."


A previous Tori song, 'Me and a Gun', described a rape scene in terrifying detail. Tori (who suffered a dreadful attack herself) has been outspoken on the subject, supporting Nirvana when their song 'Rape Me' caused controversy. She is a founding member of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), which sponsorsa toll-free hotline in America.

"Even at a certain point, if you've been 'dominated' by the patriarchy, you become a slave to it by buying into the victim side."

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