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Beauty Queen / Horses

Lyrics by Tori Amos

She's a Beauty Queen
my sweet bean bag in the street
take it
down out to the laundry scene
don't know why she's in my hand
can't figure what it is
but I lie, lie, lie again

I got me some Horses
to ride on
to ride on
they say that your demons
can't go there
so I got me some Horses
to ride on
to ride on
as long as your army
keeps perfectly still
and maybe I'll find me a sailor
a tailor
and maybe together
we'll make mother well
so I got me some Horses
to ride on
to ride on
as long as your army
keeps perfectly still
you showed me the meadow
and Milkwood
and Silkwood
and you would if I would
but you never would
so I chased down your posies
your pansies in my hosies
then opened my hands
and they were empty then

off with Superfly
sniffing a Sharpie pen
honey it's Bill and Ben
off with Superfly
counting your bees
oh me honey like
one two three
the camera is rolling
it's easy like

and if there is a way to find you
I will find you
but will you find me if Neil
makes me a tree an afro a pharaoh
I can't go
you said so
and threads that are golden
don't break easily

Tori Quotes

"Horses" is part two of "Winter."

The record begins with the horses from "Winter" coming back to take me on this journey and we ride and go find the demons. The music keeps broadening out -- whether it's "Father Lucifer," which is tongue in cheek style, or something else. [Making Music - Jan 1996]

It's as if the horses have come to take us back, to descend, to find the dark side. By dark I mean what's hidden, not necessarily satanic. [Billboard - Jan 13, 1996]

When you hear "Beauty Queen," you are hearing this girl in that moment: She's standing in that bathroom, watching those girls put on that lipstick. I don't want us to be talking to her 15 minutes later about what she realized in that bathroom. I want her to go back to that moment in the bathroom: It's white. It's that funny fluorescent light. It's that tile, with the green crud in between. It's those old toilets with the beautiful handles. You can hear the sound of the water dripping. Time doesn't exist in that moment. I wanted you to feel that kind of swimming, where you're almost coming back from 15 feet under water, and you're coming up, and you're almost up. That's what it's like in that bathroom, when you're looking and you're realizing what's really going on at your table. That's what I want to catch. This is not a confident girl. You are not at acceptance level. You are in her brain, getting triggered. The little windshield wipers are going, and you're starting to see it from the other side.

You want to bring that moment...

...always onto the tape. Every time you hear it, that girl is in the bathroom, putting on that lipstick. Every time. [Musician - May 1996]

The record starts off with the horses from "Winter" taking us and we ride. Going into that program of the beauty queen. She's a beauty queen, and that's not enough because it never is. The idea that beauty is our answer when we are four years old, "Oh, isn't she pretty..." That's the first thing that you hear. So it's going after those programs of the feminine, going after them, going after them. [B-Side - May/June 1996]

Well, I felt the day that this song ["Horses"] was coming -- I'm talking about the recording part now [not the writing] -- that I knew a Leslie needed to come in there. And I talked about it with my live guys -- my live guys were very important on this record -- and I said, "I think I'm feeling Leslie," and so they said, "Well, give us a couple days," and I said, "No, no. I think I'm feeling it by four o'clock." And we were in County Wicklow, which means we had to go to Dublin or we had to fly one in from London. But we did get one from Dublin and it was probably the oldest Leslie in Ireland (laughs)... Leslie cabinet, and they brought it in and part of it wasn't working which was just fine. But they set it up in my little box cause I recorded in a... I was in a little box while the instruments were opened up to the church... It was a church in Delgany. And they had built this structure where I would go into and there were holes in the structure... only holes that would fit the keys of the Bösey and the double manual of the harpsichord and everything else was sealed up, except my pedals of course came in but everything around them... it was sealed, so that the sound... again, the instruments could work completely off the ambiance of the church and my vocal wasn't drivin' down those microphones. So I knew that "Horses" was coming and I knew that I had to get a Leslie, so finally this rickety-rackety thing gets brought in, and we had to put it out in the graveyard because we couldn't fit it anywhere in the church without it interfering so they miced it up in the graveyard and they had little blankets over the mic cause of the wind and the rain. And "Beauty Queen" and "Horses" came in one take. It was all done as you hear it, live with the pedal of the Leslie. [World Café (radio) - March 1, 1996]

This was sort of a lullaby to begin the record. Recording this was really challenging for the engineers because the Leslie cabinet was out in the graveyard of the church. (A Leslie cabinet is an amplifier where the speakers rotate, giving an organ-like sound.) It didn't rain much in Ireland, but always, when I was trying to track, the rain would come. We had to build an umbrella house for the Leslie in the graveyard. [Boys for Pele Deluxe Edition liner notes - 2016]

Neil Gaiman Quote

"I write about Tori Amos and I write about Stardust in The View from the Cheap Seats. There is a connection between them, though: I made Tori into a tree, in Stardust, after I'd showed her some of Charles Vess's paintings. 'I want to be that tree,' she said. She finished 'Horses' that day, and played it to me in a house built into a bridge." [Powell's - May 26, 2016]

Live Versions

January 21, 1996 - New York, New York
MTV 120 Minutes

"Fool on the Hill" improv / "Horses"
January 25, 1996 - Nederhorst den Berg, Netherlands
2 Meter Sessions at Bullet Sound Studios

"Beauty Queen" / "Horses"
July 12, 1996 - Oakland, California (early show)

"Beauty Queen" / "Horses"
January 23, 1997 - New York, New York
The Concert for RAINN

May 3, 1998 - Seattle, Washington

July 28, 1998 - New York, New York - Madison Square Garden

"Beauty Queen" / "Horses"
October 12, 2001 - West Palm Beach, Florida
Strange Little Webcast

May 2, 2003 - Chicago, Illinois

"Beauty Queen" / "Horses"
April 10, 2005 - Hartford, Connecticut

"Beauty Queen" / "Horses"
November 15, 2014 - Melbourne, Australia

"Beauty Queen" / "Horses"
November 8, 2017 - New York, New York

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