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Blood Roses

Lyrics by Tori Amos

Blood Roses
Blood Roses
Back on the street now
can't forget the things you never said
on days like these starts me thinking
when chickens get a taste of your meat
chickens get a taste of your meat

you gave him your blood
and your warm little diamond
he likes killing you after you're dead
you think I'm a queer
I think you're a queer
I think you're a queer
Said I think you're a queer
and I shaved every place where you've been
I shaved every place where you been

God knows I know I've thrown away those graces
The Belle of New Orleans tried to show me
once how to tango
wrapped around your feet
wrapped around like good little roses

Blood Roses
Blood Roses
back on the street now
now you've cut out the flute
from the throat of the loon
at least when you cry now
he can't even hear you
when chickens get a taste of your meat
when he suck you deep
sometimes you're nothing but meat

Tori Quotes

Baroque gone askew. [Making Music Jan 1996]

The songs started coming. "Blood Roses" was the first, and it was that feeling of ripping open your vein and going, "This blood has sold millions of records. This blood can do many things." And the men are like, "Yes, Tori, and this blood isn't enough for us."

Tori: Another movie that touched me deeply was The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, Her Lover.
HUMO: Why? That's a very negative, violent movie full of people humiliating each other psychologically...
Tori: [sighs] Exactly. That's the victim in me... don't forget I... Well, you know what happened... Hey, you don't write a song like "Blood Roses" if you didn't have yourself shit on... literally. At any rate, I felt very related to the thief's wife, the woman who was humiliated most... It's connected to the drama, the trauma in my life... If you have witnessed abuse of power nearby, and men's blind lust, and psychological mind games, you see that movie from a different angle... For years I've been a willing victim myself, I had something in me... I conciously wanted to surrender myself to the mercy of the men in my life; I wanted... to be dominated. Why?... I'm still asking myself that question.

"Let go and love" -- fuck that shit! My heart is scarred. I have a tear running down the middle of it and I'm not ready to say, "Let go and love." [Spin - March 1996]

"Blood Roses" is really about me finally being aware that I'm choosing to be defecated on.

She's very aware of a thing that I haven't dealt with: faithful anger. Anger expressed faithfully.

We couldn't go to "Blood Roses," who we needed to go to first, because she's the one that is crawling on her knees, and has given it all away just to be accepted. And has gotten defecated on to the point where she's in the middle of the stench going, "How could I have let myself be so degraded? How could I have degraded myself by letting certain events happen?" But we had to go to her, we had to travel. And it was very important that "Beauty Queen"/"Horses" took us there. [World Cafe - March 1, 1996]

You know when she says, "I think you're a queer, well, I think you're a queer and I've shaved every place where you've been, boy, God knows I know I've thrown away those graces"... it's very clear that the war has begun. You've just walked into the record and the war has begun. The blades are out. And she's become a piece of meat in her mind, she's willing to cut out her voice, she's willing to "cut out the flute from the throat of the loon, at least when you cry now he can't even hear you." It doesn't matter who the people are, you know, and if you resonate with letting yourself go that far to be needed or to keep something going, well, do you need another pound of flesh? What do you need, what more do you want? And that's the point when I say, "he likes killing you after you're dead." So from the beginning of the record on it's really obvious that you're walking into not what is going on on top of the table, the conversation with the rose at the dinner of the couple, but what's really going on in the couple. Sometimes the man changes, but it's her story. It's her, who she pulls in to work this out with, and the men that defecate, the men who can't be enough, the men who aren't ready to embrace themselves so no matter how much you like them you can't go there because... [B-Side - May/June 1996]

So many girls will come to me with tears in their eyes and scratches all over their wrists from self-mutilation, and I'll say, "I actually do understand the obsession to be difficult." I mean, I was in absolute horror that I allowed myself to be raped. "Blood Roses" is the on-the-knees version of that, the ripped-open veins and the blood dripping, going, "Why is it my fault now?"

One little thing can completely change who she [the character in "Blood Roses"] is. So I'll sit there and go, "This woman is five years younger than the woman who's singing this song. The woman who's five years younger does not know this song. She cannot sing it." I'm talking about a quarter of a DB on the reverb. It's not me: She has got me by the fucking throat now. Really, I'm just translating. Once I accepted that, this isn't really about me, it's just about tapping into different sides of Woman. Then I can take on these parts. I don't necessarily think they're parts of me. I'm a part of that, but it's just part of this... this... being. That's what my life is. These beings... I don't know what a shrink would call me. I don't want to know. But they come in and out, these fragments. Like, I couldn't record "Blood Roses" for days. Technically, I could play it. But she had not come. A lot of times, it's what's happening around me, for me to get to that stage. It's who I run into, the phone call that comes. Then it's like [snaps fingers]. That's why we live here, on location, because it's like, "She's here. Let's go."

The dynamics of this piece are very extreme, and I have to get it on tape without squashing things too much -- especially the harpsichord, which they did squash. But what it is is, they harnessed her. Just like they -- quote, unquote -- "had to do." I know when we've lost a frequency of her. The "c" word is not "cunt" these days for me -- it's "compression." That's what I told them: When you have a woman coming out of a church, and she's yelling and expressing something, and she's screaming, you do not try to make that okay. You get in trouble when you try to trim the edges. But at the same time, she's all over the road. I was ramming into that Neumann. I'm sorry, but that mike was a fucking fried egg. We kept changing the reverb to make her a plate [reverb] instead of a room. She kept telling me, in my ear, "Get me a plate." Then the plate worked. The problem with the plate, though was that we kicked it up half a dB in parts because that's what's telling a story. Mark said to me, "Yeah, I like the plate, but it's not sitting in the track the whole time." There are times when she's removed, in another room from the track. So it's about kicking that reverb up beneath the plate reverb. And it's changing everything." [Musician - May 1996]

From my viewpoint, "Blood Roses" sums up Boys for Pele. I think because bloodlines are such a big part of that story. Following my own bloodline, Christianity, that moved from the hills of Virginia back to Ireland and Scotland, I made the decision to record Pele in Ireland. I was following a bloodline musically as well as geographically and how religion and music had come over to the New World.

Following the bloodline of the piano back to the harpsichord was a subtext of that concept. Mark and Marcel had introduced me to a woman, who built harpsichords, by the name of Tania Staite. I would wake up dreaming about playing the harpsichord, even though I had never played one in my whole life, and I knew this was something I had to make the center of my life. So Tania began taking me around to different harpsichord makers, and she exposed me to the tapestry of early keyboard history, which as a piano player I really should have already known. But I was a player, I was never a music historian at the Peabody Institute. Once I purchased my first harpsichord I didn't want to sleep; all I wanted to do was get my hands on her manuals and learn to play this creature. [A Piano liner notes - 2006]

This is one of the big harpsichord numbers on the record. We put the keyboards through a Marshall, a guitar amp. The idea was to make sure that the harpsichord has a real bite to it, as the song does. I had been studying Scarlatti and listening to a lot of that music to carry this melodic whimsy, but I needed to break free of that and not be held back by it. For a moment, I thought we were going to be recording in the American South: part of this record was looking into the Irish-American connection and the religion that got brought to the States. [And the lyric "I shaved every place where you've been, boy"?] I meant it. [Boys for Pele Deluxe Edition liner notes - 2016]

Live Versions

"Blood Roses"
January 23, 1997 - New York, New York
the Concert for RAINN

"Blood Roses"
September 24, 1999 - Las Vegas, Nevada

"Blood Roses"
November 1, 2007 - Cleveland, Ohio

"Blood Roses"
June 15, 2014 - Moscow, Russia

"Blood Roses"
September 16, 2017 - Frankfurt, Germany

"Blood Roses"
October 27, 2017 - Chicago, Illinois

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