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Silent All These Years

Lyrics by Tori Amos

excuse me but can I be you for awhile my DOG won't bite if you sit real still I got the anti-Christ in the kitchen yellin' at me again yeah I can hear that been saved again by the garbage truck I got something to say you know but NOTHING comes yes I know what you think of me you never shut-up yeah I can hear that but what if I'm a mermaid in these jeans of his with her name still on it hey but I don't care cause sometimes I said sometimes i hear my voice and it's been HERE silent all these years so you found a girl who thinks really deep thoughts what's so amazing about really deep thoughts boy you best pray that I bleed real soon how's that thought for you my scream got lost in a paper cup you think there's a heaven where some screams have gone I got 25 bucks and a cracker do you think it's enough to get us there years go by will I still be waiting for somebody else to understand years go by if I'm stripped of my beauty and the orange clouds raining in my head years go by will I choke on my tears till finally there is nothing left one more casualty you know we're too EASY easy easy well I love the way we communicate your eyes focus on my funny lip shape let's hear what you think of me now but baby don't look up the sky is falling your MOTHER shows up in a nasty dress it's your turn now to stand where I stand everybody lookin' at you here take hold of my hand yeah I can hear them...

Tori Quotes

The bumble bee piano tinkle came first. This one evolved slowly but it stayed an obsession until it was finished. I entered boxer occupation -- part of me not wanting to hear what "I" was saying, the other part fighting off "The Brain Drain." I finally distracted The brain Drain with the task of filing chocolate cake recipes. [Little Earthquakes sheet music book - 1992]

"Silent All These Years" is about a lot of things. I started it with this bumblebee riff. You know, we all grew up playing... you know that bumblebee song? I decided that that song tortured me so I'm going to pay it back. [World Cafe - May 18, 1992]

I am not the kind of woman who takes things sitting down. I wrote "Silent All These Years" because you can have a big mouth and not be saying anything. I didn't know how to say "fuck you" to the people who knew every answer about how I should live my life. I would find myself sitting with my hand on a fork [her hand clutches hers violently], and I don't know why I wanted to go for the jugular of the person across the table. I didn't understand: What buttons is this person pushing in me?" [Glamour - August 1992]

With this record, a song like "Silent All These Years" has a certain story line going on musically that's really the antithesis of what's going on verbally. It's counterpoint, pure and simple. But instead of French horns and cellos or something, it's words and music. And I find it very exciting when an acoustic instrument has its knife out. It can take on these different roles. The idea of being a woman... you come over to my house and I'm serving a fruit plate. That's not always going to happen. Especially if somebody isn't being polite, or if somebody's being a dick. Then I'm going to put the peelings on the floor and watch you trip, and giggle. And that's the same with the acoustic instrument. It's not always just about, "I'm vulnerable, I'm sad." There are many different sides, and the beauty comes in exploring them. [Keyboard - September 1992]

In most people's songs men are always potent, women never have their period, rape's unexistant and orgasm vaginal or faked. They're Barbie doll songs, songs without pubic hair or obvious genitals; they don't fit anatomically. My songs come rather from my womb than from the heart. You know, there's some fucking going on in other people's songs, but no one ever gets into an unwanted pregnancy. I sing, "Boy you best pray that I bleed real soon." [Nieuwe Revu - February 1994]

I'm these extreme people and when it would come to my personal life, I would not acknowledge anything, absolutely nothing in my life. And so people that knew me would see me become like this warrior or crawl up in a little corner and not be able to even make a peep. So "Silent All These Years" really became sort of a mantra for me to learn how to speak up. [KROQ - May 16, 1997]

It's about realizing, painfully, you've kept that voice inside yourself, locked away from even yourself. And you step back and see that your jailer has changed faces. You realize you've become your own jailer. [E! Online Star Boards - July 1998]

A lot of people ask me about this song. And what I try to explain to them is, I was writing it for somebody else, actually. Because I was trying to get some of my songs placed with people. I wrote something for Cher. And it got turned down of course. And then I wrote something for Tina Turner. It was really good. The one for Cher was called "But I'm Experienced, Babe." I thought that was really good.... So um, then I just sort of tried to make the rounds cause I was getting fired from too many Mariotts. I mean, I kept doing the same thing.... But I did that for like, 13 years, and my leather skirts were getting higher. And then, I got fired again. So finally I needed to like, get work. And I decided, wow, I met this new person who was really nice to me because he looked at me and said, "You've never had good wine." And I went, "Oh my god, how do you know?" And he was like, "I can tell, it oozes from you, you just don't know it." Oh. You know what I mean? ... It gets a little nerve-racking. You don't know what you're doing wrong. And so Al Stewart took me to a restaurant and showed me wine like I've never seen wine before. And so um, I wanted to write a song for him. And I started to do this thing. And I went to Eric, who I was with and who partly produced Little Earthquakes, and he didn't produce this bit so he was totally objective. And he looked at me and said, "You're out of your mind. That's your life story." And I went, "Oh." So, needless to say, Al Stewart didn't get that song." [VH1 Storytellers - October 24, 1998]

I think when you're attacked for something that you've been doing since before you could talk -- and again, we're talking about deep respect, its misrepresentation, and you think, "Oh geez, I don't want to become a Mrs. Representation." And you're in your twenties, saying, "I'm only in my twenties and it's over." And I think, "By the time you're 25, they will say you've gone and blown it." [Lyrics from "Curtain Call," from Abnormally Attracted to Sin] It comes from that period of time.

So I was with my niece Cody, who was a little girl at the time, and she's very much a part of "Silent All These Years," because she loved fairytales and stories, and we would share the Little Mermaid story -- Hans Christian Andersen and the idea that she'd lost her voice -- and watching Cody respond to this young woman giving up her essence and power, all for something else, and in that moment, I realized that when she had no voice, that just completely took me to the place where I needed to go to reclaim it. [Rolling Stone - December 18, 2009]

Maybe because I'd been living as a fish out of water for a long time, being in L.A. since I was 21, I think the mermaid mythology started to make sense to me. That idea of not fitting into the box of what a female contemporary artist should be. There was folk and there was grunge, and in either of these worlds, a place for a piano player, there was not.

I began writing Little Earthquakes around 1988. Musically, we were coming out of a time with a lot of emphasis on Depeche Mode and into a time of Nirvana. If you fit into that, in land or in sea, you had a home. But being a contemporary piano player wasn't working within the music business, because I wasn't aiming towards a definable category. I had one foot in the classical world I'd been trained in and one foot in a contemporary world I was passionate about. But I had to find a way to stay true to what I really was, because I'd already suffered the misstep of trying to become what everyone else wanted my to become. I could talk myself into anything. If you can play by ear, if you can hear something and play it back verbatim, then you can start talking yourself into it. But just because you can do it doesn't mean you should. That was a really big lesson. Therefore, I had to start forcing myself to put parameters on my style, so that I wouldn't be influenced by people telling me they would only support what they knew they could sell. I decided I had to Be, I had to accept that I was what I was -- so flesh from the naval up, and scaly from the naval down.

Therefore, writing "Silent All These Years" was foundational. I started writing it for Al Stewart -- the melody, not the lyrics -- because he'd asked me to write something. I allowed myself to find my voice for somebody else, but not for myself. Then Eric Rosse made me ask myself the question: How could I give a song like that away? So as I started to claim it as my own, I was able to write the words around it. I think this song became my mantra. As a child, with a dream to use her musical vision, I had been silenced by my ambition to have a career beyond the bar rooms where people spilled cocktails all over the piano. While writing "Silent" I decided that even if I had to go back to a life of performing standards in piano bars, I would rather do that than live a musical life creating music I couldn't wear well. "Silent" was almost a talisman. Which brings me back to the tale and the mermaid mythology. [A Piano liner notes - 2006]

Live Versions

"Silent All These Years"
November 22, 1991 - London, England
The Jonathan Ross Show

"Silent All These Years"
August 11, 1992 - Los Angeles, California
The Dennis Miller Show

"Silent All These Years"
September 10, 1992 - Los Angeles, California
The Arsenio Hall Show

"Silent All These Years"
January 29, 1997 - New York, New York
Late Show with David Letterman

"Silent All These Years"
September 24, 1999 - Las Vegas, Nevada

"Silent All These Years"
July 18, 2014 - Portland, Oregon
Bing Lounge on KINK 101.9 FM

"Silent All These Years"
November 11, 2017 - New York, New York
CBS This Morning: Saturday Sessions

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