Tori wrote this about her very strict religious upbringing. Her father was a Methodist minister.
Sylvain - Montreal, Canada
This song was Amos' call to God to explain His omnipotence in the light of such issues as the repression of women through religion. She explained to Creem magazine: "There's a division of power, male and female power, and there's a division within my own being. There's been a dishonoring of us with each other, and us with ourselves, and women against women, and men against men, and women against men... and that's how the song 'God' got written. The institutional God who's been ruling the universe, in the books, has to be held accountable. I want to have a cup of tea with him and just have a little chat. I feel like the song is a releasing, a sharing. It's honest and loving. And it's sensuous. It's the goddess coming forth and saying, 'Come here, baby. I think you've had a bit of a rough job, and I don't mind helping out now.' Which I think is really cute."
A #1 hit on the US Modern Rock chart, this was also Tori's first entry on the Billboard Hot 100. Her initial success came in the UK, where her record label thought the eccentric, piano-playing alt-rocker would find a more accepting audience compared to the US, where guitars and grunge dominated in the early '90s. Under The Pink, her second solo album, still fared better across the pond, where it peaked at #1.
To illustrate the way the Church often treats women as inferior beings, Tori quotes a bible verse from Proverbs 31:3, which states: "Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings."
You'd think her father would be the perfect person to suggest an appropriate verse, being a pastor and all, but he was no help. The singer told WHFS Press in 1994: "Well, I'm going to tell you something cute about my dad. I called him from the studio and I said, 'Look, I need a quote from the Bible that shows the raw deal women got.' I call him back, and I'm in England 'cause we're mixing, and I just needed this quote and my father says, 'Would you like to hear my quotes?' He gives me two pages of quotes from the Song of Solomon which says, 'Thy globes are like ripe sweet berries; thy navel is like a cup which poureth spring water.' It just goes on forever and I say, 'Dad, no, this is not representative of what I'm talking about.' He says, 'Yeah, but these are beautiful quotes.' And it was very interesting to me how my father, bless his cotton socks, just can't acknowledge the way that the Church has treated not just women, but people in other cultures - it's hard for him as a minister to see the other side of Christianity and what it's done in the name of God."
In a 2004 interview with Woman Who Rock magazine, Amos described the tune's narrator: "The woman in this song, the voice of this song, was really about a consort of God. That's the one song where, in all my work, I'm exploring God's lover. And I'm not talking about Mary the mother, or Mary who got 'impregnated' by God. I'm talking about - if we pull back and look at Christian mythology, and the idea that there is a God, why wouldn't there be a Goddess? In all of nature, there is not a male-only species. There has to be a female and a male."
The music video, directed by LA photographer Melodie McDaniel, contains shots of Amos singing in front of a lit candle and allowing rats to climb all over her. "It's about rituals, different rituals," the singer told MTV's Alternative Nation of the video. "The rats' ritual is in East India, where the rats are considered sacred, so when they run across somebody, it's the god Dharnish traveling on the rats, and that means you've been blessed when the rats come to you. And it actually happens: We tried to document it correctly."
The music video got the Beavis and Butt-Head treatment on MTV. The cartoon metalheads are impressed with the rats and candles, but Butt-Head declares Amos "psycho."
"She's pretty hot, but I don't know man," Beavis replies. "I'd stay away from her."
In a 1999 interview with Virtual Guitar, Amos' guitarist Steve Caton explained how he came up with the "shrieking guitars" on the single. He said producer Eric Rosse "had pulled out one of those tiny 9-volt battery operated Fender amps. You know, the type with only an on/off switch and a volume knob. I like to try everything at least once, so I plugged into it, flipped it on and ended up using the thing for every part on 'God.' The clean rhythm, the crunchy chords coming out of the bridge. All of it, literally. And quite honestly, the noisy bit was the end product of having nothing else to play. It came out of a moment of frustration. I started pulling at the strings, an idea I had gotten from listening to bands like the Lounge Lizards, and Eric had the good sense to press the record button. After immediately deciding we liked it, I went back and did a second complimentary part. The two of us were having such a great laugh because, although it was completely evident that the part was the right one for the song, it was totally outrageous for us to even begin to believe that anyone else would agree. An element like that being introduced into the song that was going to be the single on the new Tori Amos album. The audacity! Anyway, I played the song on my sunburst Strat and, believe it or not, no effects were used other than a Rat pedal for the overdriven chords and some compression. A bit of reverb might have been added in the mix."
When Amos heard Caton's "Industrial Revolution meets The Twilight Zone" guitar work, she was worried it was too bizarre for radio, and her record label agreed. Said Caton: "There was so much fear amongst the management and record company people that radio would not play the song in that 'crazy, left-of-center state' that Eric Rosse was instructed by someone at Atlantic Records to make several different mixes of the tune with varying amounts of The Dreaded Guitar Noise, the last mix being completely devoid of it. The different mixes were all put on a CD and sent to radio so the program directors could choose for themselves which version of 'God' they wanted to air. All the business people thought that the mix sans guitar would be the one. Of course, radio picked the one with the loudest noise guitar. A great moment for me. A vindication of sorts."
Amos began re-examining her beliefs about God when she moved to Los Angeles in the '80s. "When I moved to LA, I started experiencing other spiritualities and ways of worshipping, going to Joshua Tree, opening myself to the nature, spirits, and energy of Mother Earth," she told Entertainment Weekly in 2021. Her spiritual awakening truly came to fruition a decade later when she immersed herself in nature during the making of her Under The Pink album in Taos, New Mexico. "I didn't find Jesus in the church," she said. "I found Jesus under a tree."