Bells For Her

Album: Under The Pink (1994)

Songfacts®:

  • In an interview with the Dutch music magazine Oor, Tori Amos explained the meaning behind this track from her sophomore album. "We are no more than walking plasma, just stuff," she said. "That song 'Bells for Her' is one of the most emotional moments on the record, because it handles the end of a friendship. You go through the life force and see how your friend walks out and you can't stop the things happening because of that, no matter what you try to do. Who tries to resist the life force gets sucked in. When you're confronted with a painful experience, a shocking deed of betrayal, you must be able to ventilate those feelings of anger and violence somewhere, but there are certain borders. You can't wound someone and just walk away."
  • Amos was waiting around all day for a spark of creativity when this suddenly came out all in one go. "It was written and recorded exactly as you hear it. The lyrics came in that moment," she told Creem in 1994. "It was almost like a trance, how that song came. It just came through. I was translating as the feeling came through my body. Spontaneous, no fixes. I had to write the lyrics down after I sang them to see what they were."
  • Producer Eric Rosse brought in arranger John Philip Shenale to help refashion an old upright piano to use for the song. Amos explained in the liner notes for the 2006 compilation, A Piano: "He put nails in it and did all kinds of things to make it. It was an old piano. We just needed an old upright that could be reconstructed. I didn't know what the sound was until we found it. They were also taking silver balls - those Chinese meditation balls - and rolling them down the strings of the Böse, then recording that. So we were working with a lot of sound effects that were being generated from a piano. The technical term for this was prepared piano."

    The experiment opened up a whole new world of possibilities for the singer. She continued: "With this album began a passion to explore ways of taking a keyboard instrument and changing its inherent character. 'Bells for Her' planted a seed of possibilities for keyboards. So whether putting a harpsichord through a Marshall amp, a piano through a Leslie cabinet, or a Clav through guitar pedals, I began to realize there were some definite possibilities. But that would come later."
  • Amos sings about "blanket friends" and "blanket girls," but then claims, "We go at each other like blankettes." That's not a typo. The singer told The Baltimore Sun in 1994: "When it got to the end, 'blankettes,' and the spelling changed, and when I was writing it down, I did it 'blankettes' as in - well, what it means to me is just blank women, chicks. Yet they were making mudpies and creating and it's void now. And if you talk to people that know her, they think she's a together, great babe. And if you talk to people that know me, I'm a together, great babe. And yet just couldn't do it. So there is a triangle on this record of the betrayal of women. It's not just that relationship. It's many other things in other tunes."
  • The album was a critical and commercial success. In November 1994, it earned a Platinum certification with 1 million copies sold. By 1999, the album - a #1 hit in the UK and #12 hit in the US - it went double Platinum (2 million). Under The Pink is also well-regarded in the alt-rock canon. Rolling Stone listed it as one of the Essential Recordings of the '90s.

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