From an old record box: Tori Amos – Winter

‘Winter’ is one of the most gorgeous songs I will ever hear.  You might think that a little strong, perhaps ? I hope to have many years yet and many, many songs, after all.  But it’s been two decades already and if anything it only grows greater as the time passes.

In a sense it shouldn’t be surprising that ‘Winter’ gains power as I get older.  This song is a remembrance of her father and her grandfather; an exploration of parental/adult hopes for their young; and a poignant looking-back at childhood fears and needs.

We’re very used to Christmas and seasonal fare.  Many of the greatest selling/earning songs of all time are connected with the snow, the festival and the joy.  ‘Winter’ is something else.  It doesn’t pretend that it is all wonder, excitement and happiness; or that it is neatly packaged heartbreak, loneliness, and sadness-by-contrast.

‘Winter’ does not skim the surface through mentioning basic sights and sounds and seeking to rack up enormous sales through proclaiming cruelly-timed rejection. Tori takes us somewhere altogether richer and more evocative.

I hate to seem so lazy as to use the lyrics to do all the work, but when the words are this good, why waste your time with too much of what I might have to say ?

A young girl’s desire to head into the whiteness is tempered by contrary practicality, and even then, the protection of a parent is so reassuring:

“snow can  wait, i forgot my mittens,
wipe my nose, get my new boots on.
I get a little warm in my heart, when I think of Winter.
I put my hand in my father’s glove”

Teenage exploration meets adult isolation, the seasons as metaphors:

“boys get discovered as winter MELTS
flowers competing for the sun
years go by and i’m here still waiting
withering where some snowman was”

The melancholy of age and trying – perhaps failing – to live up to expectations:

“hair is grey and the fires are burning
so many dreams on the shelf
you say i wanted you to be PROUD of me
i always wanted that myself”

But most of all, it is the haunting lines, sung out over that recurring piano motif, that will stick with you forever. These are the ones that Tori herself has named as her favourites:

“when you gonna make up your mind
when you gonna love you as much as i do
when you gonna make up your mind
cause things are gonna change so fast”

Please, please, please listen, especially listen hard to the moment at 4:45 when the French Horn comes in. And maybe weep a little for time.

Catalogue number A7504 is backed by ‘The Pool’. This song holds a terrifying fascination. The report of a conversation, of a summoning perhaps ? It might be the words, the promises whispered through The Veil that consumed Sirius Black. Cold, clammy hands that bring only death. Or a ghostly presence that will fill you with such warmth as you had never known and, on leaving, a cold that can never be quenched ? In so few words, so few notes: so beguiling, so chilling.

“one with her hands
don’t be afraid, she said
no one will know it
just you and me
and when it’s over
i’ll go back”

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