Yes, Anastasia

Album: Under The Pink (1994)

Songfacts®:

  • This dramatic, 9-minute epic from Tori Amos' second solo album was inspired by Anastasia Romanov - the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia - and Anna Anderson, the woman who impersonated her. In 1918, Anastasia and her family were executed by Bolshevik revolutionaries. Rumors surfaced that Anastasia and her brother survived the massacre and, a few years later, a woman named Anna Anderson claimed to be the long-lost grand duchess. For decades, Anderson fought a losing legal battle to prove her "true" identity. She died of pneumonia in 1984, still claiming she was Anastasia.
  • According to Amos, the idea for the song came directly from the ghost of Anderson/Anastasia, who visited her while she was suffering a horrible bout of food poisoning on a tour stop in Virginia, where Anderson lived when she died. The singer told B-Side magazine in 1994: "She comes and goes, 'You've got to write my tune.' I go, 'Ohhh, now's not really a good time.' She says, 'No, you've got to understand something from this, there's something here that you've got to come to terms with.' And that night came, 'We'll see how brave you are,' and that was really about the whole record. That came just about before everything. And whenever I sing that chorus, 'We'll see how brave you are,' it means so many different things to me. It's part of my self, my spirit self saying to the rest of myself, 'If you really want a challenge, just deal with yourself.'"
  • In a 1994 interview with Keyboard magazine, Amos explained how the track came together: "The first part of 'Yes, Anastasia' is a good example of free form. 'Anastasia' was written how you hear it. I wrote that whole first half with a tape recorder: The second half was written first, and then I was just noodling, just stream of consciousness with my ghetto blaster on. It took me six weeks to learn the first half of 'Anastasia' from that tape, because it was all about free form. I'm much better when I've never done something before, because when I try to do it the second time, I'm recreating instead of creating. That changes everything. I usually don't get it together enough to finish a work like that; it's like I've got too much pesto on my noodles. I'll only get a couple of measures, and then it gets all jumbled. Then I start screaming and hating myself. It's just bratty prodigy behavior, because I get in my own way a lot. Sometimes I don't have the discipline of a more formulated person. Bridges have always been my strength, but sometimes the rest of the song is like pissing in the wind: The land masses on either side of the bridge ain't so great. I've got my Coleman stove and my little jacuzzi on the bridge, because sometimes there ain't nothin' on the other side."
  • John Philip Shenale, the architect of the prepared piano on another Under The Pink track, "Bells For Her," did a string arrangement for the track… after Tori erased all the existing strings from the album. Her record label had brought in another esteemed arranger for a four-song session with a 50-piece orchestra. But Tori wasn't feeling it. After a round of margaritas with her boyfriend/producer Eric Rosse, she worked up the courage to erase all 50 pieces on the four tracks without telling her record label.

    "'Yes, Anastasia' was one of those tracks where I erased the strings," she recalled in the liner notes to the 2006 compilation, A Piano. "She was with me during that time, all the way from Virginia. I think because of the blood on the tracks for Anastasia herself - with the brutality, the murders that happened with her family - that when there was a misalignment with the string arrangement, when the composition of the structure was compromised, and when ultimately the story was compromised, I decided we needed a little blood on our tracks too. Maybe that's not such a bad thing. I think she made the greatest case for me to erase everything."
  • When Amos sings, "Poppy, don't go," she's referencing the character from her 1991 single "Silent All These Years."
  • The late Anderson made headlines in 1991 when her identity was finally confirmed - not as Anastasia but as Franziska Schanzkowska, a Polish factory worker who suffered from mental illness. By the early '90s, the Soviet Union collapsed and information about the slaughtered royal family's whereabouts was revealed. Their bodies were exhumed from a mass grave and their identities were confirmed through DNA testing: They were Tsar Nicholas, Tsarina Alexandra and daughters Olga, Tatiana, and Maria. Anderson's DNA was also extracted from a tissue sample and a lock of hair and compared to samples from the Romanov and Schanzkowska families. She matched the latter. If that's not enough, the bodies of the two missing children - Anastasia and Alexei - were discovered in 2007.
  • Under The Pink was Amos' second consecutive album to garner 2 million sales, which earned her lots of media exposure for her subsequent release, Boys For Pele.

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