Monday, August 07, 2006

fire thought she'd really rather be water instead.

Once upon a time, I was a piano girl. Me and my piano were best friends and worst enemies - whatever the relationship at the time it was impossible to think of me without thinking of my piano. I remember the day I got her; I was 5 going on 20, for various reasons..none of them good. In came piano to distract me. It was a deep brown shiny upright Alex.Steinbach with golden pedals and glistening keys of the black and white persuasion. I petted her with my small hands while I rested my ear to her side, stuggling to hear songs I had yet to compose I think. She lived in my room. I often woke and just looked at her when I should have been sleeping.

Much of my childhood is synonymous with piano girl memories. Practising, practising, practising until I hated her so much I couldn't think. Wanting to go play outside in the sun. Wanting to take a break. Wanting to be better at playing her. Wanting to be something else. Wanting to give away Mozart and Miriam Hyde. But, still - she was my friend: Sometimes my only one. I played her often with tears running down my cheeks, my only consolation after a bad day - and yet also with frustration, slamming down on the keys and stomping with my foot on the pedals, until I was asked to stop and settle down. Sometimes I forgot I was even playing her and could find me sitting on a cloud, eyes closed with my fingers resting lightly over the keys and a smile on my face.

For better or worse, when I was 13 I closed the lid forever. A decision that I'm not all together comfortable with, but it had more to do with me than feeling the pressure of expectations (though there was that too). It was about wanting to be more than piano girl - to be my own person with other interests. I wanted to be normal, everyday girl. There's a lot of unfinished business in that shiny old deep brown tomb with keys of the black and white persuasion. I left a lot of myself inside the piano when I walked away - I don't know if she can ever be pulled out.

It was a year or so after I gave up being piano girl that I discovered Tori Amos: another piano girl and I transfered all my piano love to her. A chance find of her solo debut album Little Earthquakes at the local library sealed my musical fate. I lost count of how many times I borrowed that album, but I fell in love with it at first listen.

I remember reading an article where Tori Amos said that she'd never write an album like Little Earthquakes again. She said it was like opening her diary and just reading straight from it, something that she wasn't keen to repeat. True enough, all her albums since have been overloaded with dizzy metaphors that are difficult to navigate.

I think with Tori, you either love or hate her. Mostly, if you have a penis you hate her (though not always true). If you don't like high pitched banshee type wailing you hate her. If you hate Kate Bush, you hate her (sometimes if you *really* love Kate Bush you hate Tori). So many reasons to hate her. I don't. I'm a follower of the holy trinity of Tori Amos, Neil Gaiman and Trent Reznor - which you will find many Tori fans are...but is another story entirely.

When I did my top 100 songs a year or so ago I had two Tori Amos songs in there Precious Things and Cooling. Precious Things is one of those songs that if you love her it's because she was already in your blood before you'd even heard a note. It's not an easy song (too passionate, too true, not commercial enough..) which is fine because I'm not an easy girl either.

I remember putting Cooling at #1 last year, but if you want the truth: Precious Things is the girl left in that piano when I put down the lid over her zebra stripe keys and walked away.

Precious Things - Tori Amos

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