Tori Amos’ Boys for Pele Celebrates 20 Years. #MusicMonday
While there always is and will be, great music, each era definitely has the collections that avid listeners will trip over themselves to celebrate the artists sound & craft. Look no further than David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust (still cannot believe Bowie has passed on….and, lo and behold, a 9th planet is discovered), The Beatles Rubber Soul, and of course, the parade of brilliance that struck in the 1990’s; Nevermind from Nirvana, PJ Harvey’s howl on To Bring You my Love, Courtney Love demanding to be “The girl with the most cake” on 1994’s Live Through This. You get the idea.
Yes, this is a Tori Amos post. But, not just any: Her 3rd effort, Boys for Pele, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this week. Does this make me feel a little old? Sure. Am I among one of the countless Ears with Feet that is forever grateful that Tori decided to take charge of her ship and “be the Captain” (her words) for the first time on this album? Hell yes.
Boys for Pele is not an easy listen. Similar to an intense film, or a book that gets inside your skin, to the nitty-gritty, Amos was at a major turning point in her life in 1995 when she set out to conceive Boys for Pele; she had split from her boyfriend/producer of 7 years, Eric Rosse and had found herself in a slew of affairs (Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor among the rumors) that had left her empty, “Chasing baby demons” she described it and needing to surrender her pain to this album that was coming out of her whether she liked it or not.
She traveled to Hawaii, she took psychedelic drugs (“I’ve had some elixirs” she once told Charlie Rose), she surrendered herself to the volcano goddess, Pele, and then set up shop in an Ireland church to record Pele with her crew on deck. There are even grunts from a live bull you can faintly hear on Professional Widow.
Beginning with the eerie opening that is Beauty Queen, we meet up with Tori’s unmistakable vocals, and off we go on a strange, at times, manic, adventure for healing and hysteria. While we got acquainted with Tori in 1991 with Little Earthquakes, which found her finding her voice & sharing diary secrets, her 1994 follow-up, Under the Pink, was all about exposing secrets and the inner hatred women have for women. While these works baffled the critics and solidified her strong connection with her listeners, it was just the tip of the iceberg for what was to come.
From Beauty Queen into Horses, these song-girls are very famous Amos; cryptic, melancholy lyrics accompanied with her trusty Bosendorfer. As we progress into such tracks as Blood Roses (“I shaved every place where you’ve been, boy” she confesses) & Father Lucifer (“How’s your Jesus Christ been hanging?” she sings, which could mean a number of possibilities as she sings a somewhat lullaby-love song to the Devil).
Much like Kate Bush’s masterpiece, Hounds of Love, Pele could easily be considered to have chapters; there are characters, there’s confessions, there’s a lot of sex angst….and, there is the infamous photo within the liner notes of Tori breast feeding a piglet. Anything goes on Boys for Pele, yet, I never have felt Amos knowingly set out to create a shock-rock album: She just has had it, and felt it was time to share everything in her sub-conscious with her faithful fans, and it left us all begging for more.
Tracks like Hey Jupiter, Putting the Damage On and Doughnut Song return Amos to the vulnerability that made me fall in-love with her work. “Happy for you, and I am sure that I hate you” she declares on Doughnut Song (which isn’t about breakfast pastries at all, just sayin’) while Hey Jupiter finds her coming to terms with the fact that she is all that she has; “No one’s picking up the phone. Guess its clear he’s gone” she cries.
Thankfully, Boys for Pele has remained one of Tori’s most beloved albums, and it was announced last week that we’ll be treated to a 20th anniversary remastered set this year! I think that calls for busting out the Shisedo red & getting some sun on my skinny legs 😉
PRE-ORDER HERE and get it on the day it comes out!
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