In "Talula," I'm begging this concept of ideal woman to come alive in myself, feeling afraid of losing someone. If it matters, it must be something worth losing. Each song began to be a piece of claiming myself. [Making Music - Jan 1996]
"Talula" is the track on the record that holds the space for permission to dance. And as the record moves on with the story, once we get to "Talula," where she's placed, there's been so much grieving, there's been so much acknowledgment, finally after "Jupiter," when she knows it's over, whatever "it" is, but she knows that she can't go back and things just aren't gonna... you can't pretend that certain events haven't happened once they've happened in a relationship. And we travel further into "Little Amsterdam," we go down South, which is really symbolic for the primal, the primitive, and the lies and the... really the domination. "Little Amsterdam" is so essential to release that place before we can finally say... we went back to the childhood, we went back South, to the bloodline, where there is so much hierarchy… and now it's time to just let her dance.” [World Cafe - March 1, 1996]
"Talula"... when I wrote this, my mother was sitting in a chair, and I'd been playing for a few hours. She was fading in and out of sleep. I'd been going through some of my blood, guts and widow's tunes. And all of a sudden I needed to breathe. I started playing "Talula," and it became like a breath, 'cause I needed freedom from all these songs that where showing me my monsters. "Talula" started to show me how to dance. And my mother began to wake up.
The song is really a riddle. "Talula" just came to me, telling me her name. A lot of the times I'm just trying to interpret what I'm seeing on the other side. A name holds an energy, like anything else. Look at "Ruby Tuesday." I think "Talula" became about rhythm and tone an sensuality. It ain't fuckin' "Catherine." There's something in there about West Indian dance. And yet it's a very classic name, too. "Talula" really just started to represent all women to me -- women that let themselves dance - for themselves.
BALANCING CAKE AND BREAD:
[A reference to Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI of France. When she was told that her country's peasants were starving for lack of bread, she replied: "Qu'ils mangent la brioche" ("Let them eat cake"). She was deposed, together with her husband in the Revolution, and guillotined in Paris in 1793.]
That's my little moment of Ziggy Stardust, my Gary Glitter moment. An homage. It's one thing to be a glitter girl, but it's another thing to be all woman. And that's what Marie Antoinette desperately wanted.
YOU DON'T WANT TO LOSE HER:
This person walking out the door, this affects me-at least I'm not so numb. And if you're numb, you can't dance. So it became this thing about celebrating loss. Because I value it and it's touched my heart and I'm hurting that it's going. At least it meant something to me. When Trent Reznor wrote "Hurt" -- "I hurt myself today, to see if I could feel" -- I thought, "Hey, this girl feels, man."
[Native American word (from the Algonquin tribe) for baby. Also used to describe an infant's sling.]
It's the Indian reference. It's the whole idea of the cycle, the rebirth. There's something being born within, which is the ability to let go. When a man you love walks out of your life, and you have that ache, you feel not only can you love again, but can love a son. The son or the daughter is the rebirth of the soul.
"Fig Newton" is a term of endearment. It's not the Oreo Cookie. It's certainly not the politically correct cookie. It's not a commercial cookie. It's the one with the jelly in the middle.
[Married Henry VIII in 1533, aged 20. Henry changed religion and divorced his previous wife, Catherine, because she couldn't provide him with a male heir. When Anne gave birth to female (the future Queen Elizabeth), Henry had her beheaded, supposedly for adultery, in 1536.]
As I went back into the bloodline of western women, I began to see the fragmentation. For example, with Anne's daughter Elizabeth -- "The Virgin Queen" -- if you had respect and a certain power, you didn't have your sensuality and sexuality as well. There has been this division in Christian women. I went after those archetypes that have been so misunderstood. With Anne Boleyn's relationship with Henry VIII, he'd manipulate the truth. That's why he says one plus one is three. Whatever the patriarchy says goes, and you'll burn for it.
[The executor who chopped off Anne's head.]
I heard stories that they brought in this henchman from France, and I really aligned with him. He had Anne move her hair over [before the execution] and he made her look away. He did it when she didn't know. Even though his job was a bit brutal, he had more compassion than the king. The riddle in Talula is things are not what they seem.
A lot of writing on this album is about association. Jamaica, to me, represents the mysteries. If you go back to that culture, they had belief in the spirit world. Some call it voodoo. Voodoo became something different once the Christians came in. Before then, there was an understanding of other worlds we have chosen to disrespect. When I say "Do you know what I have done," I haven't honored that world.
[According to the bible, Mary Magdalene was a prostitute who washed Jesus' feet and dried them with her hair.]
A lot of scholars believe that she was, in her own right, a High Priestess. People believe that Mary Magdalene became the High Priestess when Jesus was being crowned "King" of the Jews. The weave of Magdalene represented woman. Not virgin, not mother, but WOMAN - which wasn't passed down. Certain fragments have been lost, theologically. There are secrets in the blood that get passed down.
The men in power, patriarchy. It's about domination, yet that's not where real power is. It's in the blood, the feminine. The old programming of domination is never just about "Go, dance, and let me dance, and I'll let YOU."
[Feathered creature in Sesame Street.]
Big Bird is a play on what he represents. Whether it's a Big Cheese, or whether it's Jesus or whether it is Big Bird. It's just the big guy. At this point in the song it's going after that patriarchy domination thing.
[Jesus sought some of his disciples from fishing boats. He promised he would make them "fishers of men" -- ie, hookers.]
I KNOW ABOUT HIS ONLY BRIDE:
That's about a reference to Jesus and Magdalene, the theory that they were married.
THE RUSSIANS DIE ON THE ICE:
It's really about covert operations. About secrets. It's a riddle.
Even at a certain point, if you've been "dominated" by the patriarchy, you become a slave to it by buying into the victim side. [Vox - April 1996]
It keeps moving into the dance of "Talula," and her desperately trying to dance, desperately trying to figure out the whole idea of loss: it must be worth losing if it's worth something. So if I feel like I am losing something, at lease I valued something enough to lose it in the first place... it's going back into that train of thought. "Talula" is very much a riddle. The sense of loss is such a tricky one, because we always feel like our worth can grow with things we are willing to lose. So there's a real letting go. "Talula" is about letting go and getting the dance. I do not want to lose him... The loss of Eric in my life was... it felt like half of me walked out the door. And Talula came as a nursery rhyme, my little dance that I would do when things were so sad. Because I started thinking, "But God, I have these feelings, which means..." We shared so many moments that I value, I really valued that, so what a gift that I can feel this loss, that I am not so numb, that I haven't cut myself off so much, and once I could feel the loss then I started to feel free. I want to dance and go, "Yeah, I want to be with Talula." I want to be able to dance through the people that come in and go out of your life. I want to learn how to dance with the gifts when they come and the gifts when they need to take a different route. [B-Side - May/June 1996]
Pele is a really pure work, like it or hate it. There are no trying-to-be's on this record. No one is trying to be anyone. They are all stretching forms, particularly with "Talula," where it starts and stops again, and then she finally dances. So everything was a reflection of what was really going on with the characters. I tried to make that happen with the music... [B-Side - May/June 1996]
"Talula" the song has 2 major themes: Power and Value. Those in power can demand that we see and agree with them by threatening us with a loss of some kind. Here in "Talula" my character is separated from her primal voice, her bloodline, which is represented by the harpsichord. If you don't agree or follow those in power, I do believe there will be rejoicing by your own inner child. Loss is a scary thing but what I found to be more scary would be to feel nothing after a loss. Similar to that sentiment, I would rather have loved and loss than to have never loved at all. [Tori Stories book - 1998]