Ampersand

Album: Who Killed Amanda Palmer? (2008)
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • This is an ampersand: &
    It's used to join two things together as one unit, such as a romantic couple. When we spoke with Amanda Palmer, she had just hours earlier gotten engaged to Neil Gaiman, a writer whose books include Coraline and Stardust. Yes, Amanda was going to be one side of an ampersand. She told us:

    "the seed of 'Ampersand' was just the image of the ampersand as a symbol that happens to people when they cease being Mary, and they're always John & Mary. They turn into this really irritating relationship people who'll only ever say 'we,' even in terms of, 'Yeah, we really like the movie, but we weren't really sure about…' And those people drive me so f--king crazy.

    And in my life, there was that, 'I don't ever want to just be Amanda & Neil,' and 'Maybe they should send their book over to Amanda & Neil.' That concept terrifies me, because I'm so staunchly independent. But it also seems deeper than this, because at the time of that song, I was single, I had hit 30, and I was finding myself in a really defensive position, probably of my own making. I started to sort through the cultural noise, what it meant to choose to be single, and to choose my path as not the relentless crunch to find some magic other person to complete me. I had been single for long enough that I sat myself down for a year or so and said, 'If you're looking for a relationship, and don't even know that you are, are you looking to a relationship as what has been mandated as what you have to do to be happy?' And I was really, really thinking deeply about this, because I had looked around a lot, and I was like, Wow, I've been single for 3 years. I might like to be in a relationship. But actually, I'm really happy. I love my friends, I love my life. I'm not in a relationship, and yet I feel this weird pressure from culture as a whole, from my parents, saying, 'But you won't be truly happy until you find that special someone.' And I don't know if I buy it. I sat down and thought about it long and hard; do I buy it? Or is it possible to be alone and truly happy?

    That song came out of that deliberation. I was also leaving my band, and that was like going through a divorce. It was the same death of painful separation that, no matter how good or bad the relationship is, no matter how good the highs are and how bad the lows are, at a certain point you just get so used to being in the relationship that when you leave it, you're just reeling. Because all of the sudden, the person isn't there. And that's f--king hard to do. And so I was dealing with that aspect of my relationship with Brian, and overall thoughts about relationships and whether it was even a road I wanted to go down. All of that stuff was swirling around and plonking into 'Ampersand.'"
  • Regarding the lyrics, "Lying in my hospital bed, you said there's no such thing as accidents," Amanda told us: "That's an Amanda Palmer special. There's a line almost identical to that in 'Girl Anachronism' where I say, 'Trying to convince you that I have a soul beneath the surface.' You'll find a line where I say it was accidentally on purpose. And that was an actual snarky remark that my parents used to make to me when I was a kid any time I hurt myself. Like if I fell down the stairs or if I came home with scrapes and bruises, they would roll their eyes and say, 'Oh, sure that was an accident – accidentally on purpose.' And I would go, 'No, really! I f--kin' ate it on the sidewalk!' And it bent my head in a strange way, because when you're a kid, your intuition is saying, Well, that's not true, that's not right. But then you're constantly second-guessing, because the adults know which way the wind's blowing. So I was really twisted about what my intentions were as I was growing up, and I never trusted myself. I never trusted my own instincts and my own intentions, especially when it came to attention-getting. Because I felt trapped in this strange narcissistic hole where I knew I liked attention, but I was taught that it was a very bad, naughty thing to want it. So I was coming out of a very warped space for a long time before I sorted out my own stuff, which was the better part of my teens and 20s. That line is a reference to all that stuff."
  • This is an example of a song Palmer wrote in a non-linear style, meaning she collected ideas and piece them together. According to Amanda, the lyrics to these songs are very hard for her to remember. She said: "I've had some classic moments. I once forgot the words to 'Girl Anachronism' three times in a row, and I finally just handed the mic to a fan and I had them carry it. They're very forgiving. They see the move as very rock and roll."
  • Paul Buckmaster did the string arrangement on this track. Buckmaster is known for his work with Elton John, The Rolling Stones and Stevie Nicks.
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 1

  • Cat from CtI think this is like Girl anachronism, but "her" a few years later.
see more comments

Martyn Ware of Heaven 17Songwriter Interviews

Martyn talks about producing Tina Turner, some Heaven 17 hits, and his work with the British Electric Foundation.

Richie Wise (Kiss producer, Dust)Songwriter Interviews

Richie talks about producing the first two Kiss albums, recording "Brother Louie," and the newfound appreciation of his rock band, Dust.

Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear: Teddy Bears and Teddy Boys in SongsSong Writing

Elvis, Little Richard and Cheryl Cole have all sung about Teddy Bears, but there is also a terrifying Teddy song from 1932 and a touching trucker Teddy tune from 1976.

He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss): A History Of Abuse PopSong Writing

Songs that seem to glorify violence against women are often misinterpreted - but not always.

Howard JonesSongwriter Interviews

Howard explains his positive songwriting method and how uplifting songs can carry a deeper message.

Peter LordSongwriter Interviews

You may not recognize his name, but you will certainly recognize Peter Lord's songs. He wrote the bevy of hits from Paula Abdul's second album, Spellbound.