Tori Amos - Silent All The Years (music video)
Now that I’ve put my thesis statements out there, let me back up. I first found Tori, like most Ears With Feet (it’s the fan name, like Phishfaces or Grimesophiles or whatever you people call those who are cultish fans of Animal Collective), in my pubescent pleasantly depressed notebook poetry days. It was in middle school, and as teenage damaged goods (poor/abused/anorexic/oh god we’ll get into all of this later) her dark musical theatrics were a life-giving salve to constant struggle of life. To quote Angela Chase from “My So-Called Life”, “My parents keep asking how school was. It’s like saying, “How was that drive-by shooting?” You don’t care how it was, you’re lucky to get out alive.”
It’s that same all-or-nothing sense of the emotional landscape of the world that made Tori’s music so appealing to me at first, with her mud-and-shit-stained heart firmly in her throat as a loaded weapon. I know a lot of people ended up in different corners of the mid to late 90’s musical altverse during this time period in their lives, but what was I supposed to do, listen to the Smashing Pumpkins? Every male role model I’d had in my life up to that point had been terrible, and Billy Corgan’s nasal bitching seemed no better. I needed from an idol what I didn’t have in my life and wanted desperately—a loving, caring and governing mother figure, a change from my own radically damaged and absent mom.
Enter “Silent All These Years”.
It’s impossible for me to state fully what seeing this video on late-night MTV (still the best MTV has ever been, shout out Matt Pinfield, particularly during that one MTV Spring Break where he hid in his dark hotel room for the entire week just talking about The Pixies) did to my forming sense of self. There’s no way young mushy me was able to grasp the radical self-aware feminism in Tori’s now-classic rallying cry of the self. Hell, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t until the Tales of the Librarian compilation that I finally realized why “boy, you’d best pray that I bleed real soon/how’s that thought for you?” is god damn wry and funny, like a foreshadowing to the type of writing Bono would do on Achtung, Baby. “Silent All These Years “ was a gateway drug for me, and who knows countless others, to a life of gender questioning, identity searching, and feminist inquiry.
But please don’t scream for it live. I can’t stand the stuttering, slow way she plays it live. But, dammit, she’s played it every single time I’ve ever seen her (more on Tori live later, because that’s a whole other kettle of magic).