This was the fifth single from American singer-songwriter Tori Amos' solo debut album, Little Earthquakes. It was released as an EP in the US and as a single in Europe and Australia. The song was Amos' first Top 20 single in the UK.
In 1986, Amos co-founded the synthpop band Y Kant Tori Read, and was signed to Atlantic Records. The group released a self-titled debut album in 1988, which was a spectacular failure and the band dissolved. Amos explained to Rolling Stone how in this song she dug deep inside herself to reveal the discouragement of expectations never met, utilizing various religious symbolisms to expose her hurting psyche. Said Amos: "I was living in L.A. when I wrote that. Times were changing. I had just recently come out of the Y Kant Tori Read experience, which catapulted me - drove me - to begin making this music. Unknowingly, I just had to write. Because I wasn't used to failure. I'd been a child prodigy. From child prodigy to 'vapid bimbo,' I think, was one of the quotes - it was a galaxy apart. Signs were happening around me. Across town, somebody called Tracy Chapman was in the studio recording her first record. There was another gal that was coming out at that time called Melissa Etheridge. Those two other women were being supported to be true to their art. I kind of got put in a category. There were categories of more artistic, more commercial, and in my mind, commercial wasn't a dirty word. Because at the time, there were all kinds of artists that I liked that were doing it. When Y Kant Tori Read was decimated, the image wasn't a good choice. I learned a lot by not really picking the photographer myself, not working with a proper stylist who understood what you were trying to do and can help you show that. I had to put the pieces back together, because I hadn't been used to being a failure. So I had to then look at my part in the misrepresentation of my soul, and how I pulled the trigger."
The song grew out of Amos' inner frustration with not being able to express herself. She recalled in the Little Earthquakes songbook: "Bells started going off every time I wouldn't stick up for myself. I accepted Quasimodo was a squatter in my cerebral area. A rhythmic pattern kept chasing me around. I dug out the drum machine and put the pattern down. I would leave that pattern on for hours while I just sat and argued with myself about stuff. The first music to get put to the pattern was the 'B' section, 'I've been looking for a savior'... a door opened and the demons started to show up."
Amos, the daughter of a Methodist minister, offended some religious circles with her "blasphemous" lyrics. She told Hollywood Report
in 1992: "I've been in the alternative stations because they won't play my lyrics. The whole Bible-belt banned me for 'Crucify' because they thought I was being sacrilegious. They felt that it was detrimental material for their children and that it was blasphemous. So 'Crucify' was banned and 'Silent All These Years
' with the 'anti-Christ'... I'd do better using four-letter words."
The music video was directed by Cindy Palmano, who helmed clips for the album's other singles, but was finished by Atlantic Records. According to Palmano, the label eventually took charge because they wanted the video edited differently to include shots of Tori performing at the piano, among others. "'Crucify' could have been good but it was cut with some mad stuff that they shot later," Palmano told the fanzine Really Deep Thoughts. "I didn't shoot any of the performance clips. I think it looks dreadful, that stuff. It's such an obvious approach to femininity, that, and it's one that I'm not at all interested in."
The director does have a fondness for the scene where Tori, dressed in garb similar to that of Anne Boleyn - the second wife of King Henry VIII who was famously beheaded for treason - submerges herself in a bathtub. "The filling of the bath was good, wasn't it?" she said. "That was a good shot. I really liked that one. I like when she steps into the bath and comes out of the bath. It all looks really Hitchcock, I love it."
The video was skewered in a 1994 episode of MTV's Beavis and Butt-Head ("Most Wanted"), where the animated critics claim the clip looks like a commercial for VH1. The sniggering cartoon characters got a lot of material from Amos' videos.
This was used on the TV show Homicide: Life On The Street in 1995 episode "Law & Disorder." It was also featured in the 2015 movie I Am Michael, starring James Franco.