1000 Oceans

Album: To Venus And Back (1999)

Songfacts®:

  • The second single from Tori Amos' fifth studio album, this piano ballad was inspired by a dream the singer had early one morning. An old African woman came to her humming a melody and murmuring words in a language Amos couldn't decipher, but she understood the woman was searching for a lost love. When she woke up, she recorded the melody and got to work figuring out the lyrics. "Finally I understood when I got the phrase 'through the solar field.' It all completely aligned, because I knew we were following maps: I was hunting down what the song was trying to tell me," she explained in a 1999 interview with All Music.

    "You know, there's always galactic reference going on in this record. There's a scientific vocabulary going on in this record. 'Suede' is about seduction, but there's always a science reference, a physics reference, because that's the realm of Venus. So, I hung maps all over, and I knew I didn't have it right, coming up with things. Then finally I got that whatever dimensions the song had to cross to find the being that she was devoted to, whether it was her mother or her sister or her lover or her friend, nothing could stop her. That kind of resilience was a real anchor for the record."
  • The song took on a more personal meaning for Amos when her father-in-law died of cancer. Her husband, sound engineer Mark Hawley, was devastated by the loss and found solace in the ballad, which finds Amos crying a thousand oceans' worth of tears. Amos recalled in a 1999 interview with the German newspaper Die Zeit: "After Mark heard the song, he always came to me, sat down next to the piano and said, 'Please, play that song again.' And I played it to him. Through that we got in contact once again. I took him back from that other galaxy he was in a million miles away from me. So that dream was very special to me. It renewed the connection between Mark and me."
  • The lyrics reference Silbury Hill, a prehistoric man-made mound in Wiltshire, England. Dating back to 2400 BC, the mysterious monument is a popular tourist attraction that Amos and her husband have visited several times.
  • The music video, directed by French filmmaker Erick Ifergan ("Glory Of The 80's"), was shot in downtown Los Angeles and features Amos singing inside a glass booth as a crowd gathers around. At one point, violence erupts in the streets as she helplessly watches from the safety of the enclosure. In the commentary for her video collection Fade To Red (2006), Amos explained the clip was a response to the LA riots that broke out earlier in the decade. She recalled filming the video's riot scene:

    "The riot scene was incredibly heartbreaking, because people really took their roles on under their skin. And I think people were really able to play out how they felt. Everybody was local, so they all lived through the riots. And there was a lot of tension on the set, because you know, through art, you can play out what you've tucked behind your heart to survive something like the riots. The division that comes between lovers, friends. I liked the sexuality of certain characters, because if you think about the judgment that some women have against other women, there is no compassion in some of those actions. And yet, with other women, there's a true understanding of being made separate. And this woman touched me in a deep way, the woman that you see in the end with the children."
  • Amos' character in the clip was somewhat of a Mother Earth figure, always present but largely unnoticed in the folks' busy, day-to-day lives. She explained: "I was trying to hold a space in this video, a space of calm. In my mind I'm not a pariah. In my mind I'm not caged. But it has been deemed that I should be kept away from people, whoever I am. Erick, the director, and I discussed about what kind of space I was holding. And it sounds kind of funny, but I began to see that the earth, in a way, as a creature, is very separate from our life. If we live in cities, she's almost like a ghost. You don't really hear her. You walk through the streets and you don't think about her as an organism, or an entity, or a Great Mother that loves you and looks after you. But sometimes we can see her, the crazies, the broken-hearteds, the artists. There is something to be said for the great... performers from other countries that express their emotions through dance."
  • One of the onlookers in the video is Meghan Markle. Back in 1999, the Duchess of Sussex was still an up-and-coming actress. Within the first minute of the clip, she can be spotted on the left side of the screen. (She's wearing a navy blue shirt and looking in at Tori.)
  • This was used in the 2000 movie Here On Earth, starring Josh Hartnett.
  • Critics were split over Amos' venture into electronica with To Venus And Back, but it still earned a Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Music Album. It was also commercially successful, selling a million copies in the US.

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