Twist In My Sobriety

Album: Ancient Heart (1988)
Charted: 22

Songfacts®:

  • The beginning of the song, "All God's children need traveling shoes" is the title of a book by the writer Maya Angelou. It is the fifth and last book of her autobiography series in which Angelou writes about her dream to return home as a black American woman to Africa and her subsequent emigration to Ghana. Said Tikaram: "I don't know why I used it but it sounded poetic and spiritual too me; the rest of the song is really about not understanding - when you're 18, you've got a very particular emotional relationship with the world, you feel very isolated, and everybody else is so distant and cold. And I think I was singing about not feeling anything or not being moved by things around. I think this is a strong feeling when you're just after adolescence. There is a very good film called Heavenly Creatures by a director from New Zealand, I don't know if you've seen it, it's about two girls that kill their mother... but it's not the murder that matters but their feelings and how you're feeling at that time. But then it passes by." (quote from an interview on Polish television)
  • In 1989, Liza Minnelli covered the song for her album Visible Results, which was produced by The Pet Shop Boys. Tanita told us that she is "deeply honored that Liza Minnelli sang that." She admitted that when Minnelli recorded her version, she was younger and didn't "really appreciated who she was." But now she's "a huge fan."

    Tanita added that she thinks that Minnelli, "understood the song in an American way," as "sobriety has a very specific meaning in America, about recovery... and alcohol." However as a Brit, the word had a different connotation to her, meaning "just to be very serious and sober in your behavior." (See our interview with Tanita Tikaram for more.)
  • Tanita Tikaram is of Malaysian and Indo-Fijian parentage and is the sister of actor Ramon Tikaram. Her debut album Ancient Heart was released when she was 19 and was produced by Rod Argent and Peter Van Hoote. It featured this song and her biggest UK hit "Good Tradition," which peaked at #10. Subsequent releases have failed to meet with similar commercial success.
  • This was Tanita Tikaram's only US chart entry peaking at #25 in the Billboard Modern Rock chart.
  • A bookish teenager who was especially fond of the work of the early 20th century poetical novelist, Virginia Woolf, Tikaram's love of literature is evident throughout Ancient Heart. When we asked her what went though her mind when she wrote this song, Tanita replied that "a lot of the imagery is very bookish," adding that it's a "kind of road song. It's a real song with a landscape, and you feel that someone is describing a landscape."
  • Tikaram told the February 1990 edition of Q magazine that the song is, "about being too scared to get involved in things."
  • The song was accompanied by a sepia colored video, set in rural Bolivia, which was directed by Gerard de Thame.
  • Ancient Heart remained in the top ten on the U.K. album chart for more than six months. It was also an international hit, especially in Norway, where the LP remained at #1 for 17 weeks.

Comments: 4

  • Szandra from CremonaMartin, I believe there could be some influence there... this is exactly why I came to visit this site. First, I listened to Diana's live playing of Temptation, then as it reminded me of something, I checked Tanita's song, and now I am reading your comment, just to find out, we took the same path landing on this page. By the way, today it is 2020.02.02.
  • Martin from WageningenToday I heard the song Temptation by Diana Krall (Original by Tom Waits(1987)). There are remarkable parallels between those two songs. Is Tanita influenced by this song?
  • Jorge from Lima, PeruIt's actually an oboe, played by musician Malcolm Messiter.
  • Fred from Laurel, MdThis song got a lot of play here in the States, too -- don't know how it charted, but its haunting tone was extremely contagious. I find it irresistible.
    Perhaps the best use of an English horn in a popular song -- although the only other one that comes to mind is, "I Got You, Babe," by Sonny & Cher (1965).
    [Someone please correct me if either of these is actually an oboe -- they sound so similar -- but the E.H. is more mellow.]
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Dino Cazares of Fear FactorySongwriter Interviews

The guitarist/songwriter explains how he came up with his signature sound, and deconstructs some classic Fear Factory songs.

Don Brewer of Grand FunkSongwriter Interviews

The drummer and one of the primary songwriters in Grand Funk talks rock stardom and Todd Rundgren.

Zakk WyldeSongwriter Interviews

When he was playing Ozzfest with Black Label Society, a kid told Zakk he was the best Ozzy guitarist - Zakk had to correct him.

Experience Nirvana with Sub Pop Founder Bruce PavittSong Writing

The man who ran Nirvana's first label gets beyond the sensationalism (drugs, Courtney) to discuss their musical and cultural triumphs in the years before Nevermind.

Charlie Benante of AnthraxSongwriter Interviews

The drummer for Anthrax is also a key songwriter. He explains how the group puts their songs together and tells the stories behind some of their classics.

Eric ClaptonFact or Fiction

Did Eric Clapton really write "Cocaine" while on cocaine? This question and more in the Clapton edition of Fact or Fiction.