Precious Things

Well, from yesterday’s post on a 1980s song, let’s move on to the 90s!

I’ve been a fan of the classically-trained American singer-songwriter and pianist Tori Amos (b. 1963) since one of our sons introduced me to her music through her 2001 covers album Strange Little Girls (please see my posts on her renditions of Tom Waits’ “Time” and the Stranglers’ “Strange Little Girl” from that collection; I’ve also posted her interpretation of “Carry” by the French classical composer Claude Debussy [1862-1918]).

At age five, Amos was the youngest person to be admitted to the prestigious Peabody Institute, a music academy at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Her career spans rock, alternative and classical genres; in fact, her album Night of the Hunters (2011) marked the first time a female artist’s work appeared simultaneously on rock, alternative and classical charts.

“Precious Things” was initially recorded with a full backing band. It appears on her debut solo album, Little Earthquakes, which she issued 30 years ago this month. The album chronicles her efforts to find her identity, sexual awakening, religious upbringing, and sexual assault. A solo piano/voice version of the song also appears on the album Live at Montreux 1991/1992 (2008).

In “Precious Things,” I believe she tells of her childhood and youth, growing up amid the usual struggles with self-acceptance and fitting in with peers, and alludes to darker experiences.

“So I ran faster
But it caught me here
Yes, my loyalties turned
Like my ankle
In the seventh grade
Running after Billy
Running after the rain

These precious things
Let them bleed
Let them wash away
These precious things
Let them break
Their hold of me

He said, ‘You’re really an ugly girl
But I like the way you play.’
And I died
But I thanked him
Can you believe that?
Sick, sick, holding on to his picture
Dressing up every day

I wanna smash the faces of those beautiful boys
Those Christian boys
So you can make me come
That doesn’t make you Jesus

These precious things
Let them bleed
Let them wash away
These precious things
Let them break
Their hold of me

I remember, yes
In my peach party dress
No one dared
No one cared
To tell me where the pretty girls are

Those demigods
With their nine-inch nails
And little fascist panties
Tucked inside the heart
Of every nice girl

These precious things
Let them bleed
Let them wash away
These precious things
Let them break
Let them wash away

These, these precious things
Let them bleed now
Let them wash away
These, these precious things
Let them break
Their hold of me

Precious, precious”

“Precious Things,” by Tori Amos.
Lyrics retrieved from AZLyrics.com

In addition to Little Earthquakes, the full-band version appears on disc two (the live recordings side) of To Venus and Back (1999), the compilation albums A Tori Amos Collection: Tales of a Librarian (2003) and A Piano: The Collection (2006), the official bootleg Legs and Boots (2007), and the limited edition From Russia with Love (2010). In one unofficial 2007 video, Amos introduces the song as her most requested piece.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here. Please enjoy.

The video I’ve chosen of a 1998 live performance by Amos and her band is an unofficial version, but the music is credited to the artist. It shows a compelling and dramatic, high-energy performance of the song.

With my best wishes,

Steve

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