Episode 5: Tori Amos – Yes, Anastasia
In this episode of Play It Back, NBC Documentary producer and The Soundtrack Series podcast creator Dana Rossi reflects upon how a terrible recent tragedy brought her back to a song that she first heard in 1994 and found applicable as a salve to any trouble in high school…and apparently beyond.
About Dana Rossi
Dana Rossi is the Associate Producer of Deadline: Crime with Tamron Hall at NBC News, and creator of the widely revered Soundtrack Series podcast, which has 247 episodes and counting! She is also a storyteller and writer at large in New York City, and openly admits that she would want to come back as David Hyde Pierce of Frasier if reincarnation were a thing.
Five Secrets About Tori Amos’s “Yes, Anastasia”
1. Despite the fact that Tori Amos is known for out-there lyrics that sometimes escape clear interpretation, this is in fact a nod to Anastasia Romanov, daughter of Russian Tsar Nicholas II, the last ruler to enjoy reign over the Russian Empire. In an interview with UCLA, Tori Amos described how the spirit of Grand Duchess Anastasia overcame her while she was sick and vulnerable from food poisoning after consuming bad crabs in Maryland. Though she had never read up much on the historical figure, she conjured up an epic 9+ minute song from the encounter, during which the apparition challenged the artist to face herself.
2. Years later, when asked in a Huffington Post interview if she still receives visits from ghostly inspirations, the artist replied, “It happens. I’m just more guarded about it. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t talk about it, but nobody asks me…But if someone asks me, I’ll tell them. But nobody asks me! Of course it still happens. Of course. Something like that happened to me for ‘The Light Princess’ [the musical Amos has been writing for the past several years]. The muses tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Take dictation — it’s coming in.’” She added that the spirits respectfully keep their distance from her daughter Tash, and that the most recent guest from “the other side” was creeptastic photographer Diane Arbus.
3. During her childhood, Anastasia Romanov was known as a wild spirit. Well, little redheaded Tori was a spitfire herself. This youngest daughter of a Methodist preacher had been studying classical piano since age five at the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University when she started making her own creations. The school examination board discontinued her scholarship when she remained stubborn about performing her wayward pop works. So by age 13, she was playing in clubs around Washington, DC. By age 22, she had started her band Y Kant Tori read. Though the group (which included drummer Matt Sorum, who would go on to join Guns N’ Roses!) only lasted three years max and is now the subject of Tori’s own retrospective scorn, Atlantic Records’s six-album requirements remained. The breakthrough album Little Earthquakes was born within this contractual obligation in 1991, and the rest is history.
4. In the liner notes for the April 2015 reissue of her Under the Pink album, Tori wrote, “There’s a bravery that has to occur for you to live your life – for you to be present in your life…we can make so much of our lives and our choices if we’re awake for it.” This suggests the evolution of her mindset from first facing herself to being present in every moment of reckoning.
5.The German prog rock band Dark Suns chose to end their newest album Everchild, released in June of this year, with a cover of “Yes, Anastasia.” Critic Jedd Beaudoin of Pop Matters commented, “Certainly one might read the cover…as an unnecessary reach. But that’s unfair because it’s ultimately the perfect choice for inclusion, the kind of song that traverses the same distances that Dark Suns can travel in the 10 other pieces.” The cover contributes a whopping 10 minutes and 8 seconds to the album’s total playing time of 80 minutes.
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