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Thread: SOTW: To the Fair Motormaids of Japan

  1. #1
    ForumBound EnjoyJoy's Avatar
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    Jun 2010
    Madrid, España.

    SOTW: To the Fair Motormaids of Japan



    Random quote from 1996:

    "There are loads of songs that won't be on the album. I've cut 35 tracks [for Boys For Pele], and it's been a bit brutal. But, it's become fairly obvious to me what this album is and isn't. It's coming down between two songs to complete the album song order. The guys even have bets on it in the studio, meaning which one will make it. Mark wants one, the Dutch guys want another, and I'm the one who has to decide. Mark has fought for a B-side to get on the record, and it's pretty serious. I'm saving yet another for a film, because I think it will work better elsewhere. Her name is Cooling, and she isn't gonna be heard right now.

    There's another A-side called, To the Fair Motor Maids of Japan. That one I scratched until I'm ready to release it, but it was to be on the album. So what's happened now is, there are two songs, both B-sides, that have shoved these other ones out of the way. I don't think I can have both of them on the record because then I'll have more than 14 tracks, plus the ins and outs, meaning the shorts songs, which equal 18 songs. That makes the album 72-73 minutes long, and I'm pushin' the limit. The song order that I have now is reading for me. Some novels are very long, but it's the story now. I'm kinda clear on what the story is. There are parts of the story where I kinda cock my head and go, 'Fuck, I don't know what that means, but that's OK.' It'll keep me busy when I'm touring. I can figure it out then, or tomorrow, or whenever.'"
    -- Tori; Upside Down Newsletter #7, early 1996

    Some of my thoughts on the matter:

    I'm pretty sure Doughnut Song pushed Motormaids off BFP. Tori talks about how two songs "both B-sides" (quote above) got into the album, and refers to Motormaids as an A-side. So it was originally on BFP. Caton talks about Tori being so impressed with his guitar on Doughnut Song that she put it on the record:

    I: How did you get the effect referred to in Boys for Pele’s Liner Notes as ‘HA HA guitar’ on Doughnut Song?
    Steve Caton: I used an Ernie Ball volume pedal and some delay. The song was originally a B-side. Tori wanted me to start with Beyond the Pale, the original Doughnut Song title, to ease my way into the Pele project. She was happy enough with the end result that she put the song on the record. I tend to use a volume pedal quite a lot in my playing to achieve different things. I have been using one for so long, I cannot imagine playing without one. It is central to so many things that I do. Anyway, I coined the name ‘HA HA guitar’ because I thought it sounded a bit like laughing, but it is really a throw back to Eno records. He has all kinds of funny names for his sounds, ‘Insect Menace’ from the song ‘African Nights’ on Bowie’s Lodger recording being my favorite Eno sound label.

    -- Steve Caton; Virtual Guitar, Oct 1999

    These two songs are both sides of the same coin to me. (Which would mean they're both about Eric, maybe?) but I'm getting ahead of myself. First, I'll say that this song came out in a really relatable time in my life, so I really connected with it. I'm not sure what most of the verses could mean, but this song is clearly about the low points you go through, the humiliation, so to speak, when you're trying so hard to convince someone not to leave you...

    you may know you're dour you said, we're dead, not sleeping: This is someone saying "this is not temporary. It's off, forever. This is not a pause or a timeout. We're not picking this back up, ever."

    the things that I would go through, to turn you back around: Pretty self-explanatory.
    the laces I would trip on, bring on the circus crowds: Laces are harmless. Inoffensive. Yet here I am tripping on them, and everyone I know is laughing at me.
    the last banana hair-do got a laugh from the samurais: Samurais are serious. They are calm and collected. They have life figured out. "All my well put-together-friends are laughing at the silly makeover I got to impress you."
    the things that I’d turn into to, to turn you back to me...: Also self-explanatory. I'd become anything to get you back.

    the planes that I have died on, trade you for another cloud: Someone mentioned in another thread that this line made them think of Tori having breakdowns on planes going from show to show while on tour. I quite like that interpretation.
    the mountain biking posse, that brought back another man: I think this is like when your friends try to set you up with somebody.
    the things that I’d turn into...
    watch me turn

    Now, I think Doughnut Song also has a few moments in which she reflects being at a low point, humilation, etc. It has "and if I'm wasting all your time, this time," "and if I'm hanging on to your shade, I guess I'm way beyond the pale," "a hinge that is faltered that lets you in," but it also has moments like "I guess you'll never learned to take," "happy for you and I'm sure that I hate you," and of course, the last chorus changes to "if you've been wasting all my time this time," which are pretty empowering lyrics.

    Motormaids doesn't have any of this. It lingers on this hurt position. It ends with "watch me turn" over and over, the song ends wanting this person to come back.

    Could this be another reason why Doughnut Song replaced Motormaids on the album? Could you imagine BFP with Motormaids instead of Doughnut Song?

    For me this song comes from a very vulnerable place, so I really appreciate it.
    "A universe that needed someone to observe it in order to collapse it into existence would be a pretty sorry universe indeed."

  2. #2
    I still insist that this and "Abbey Road" were one and the same at one point. Does anyone else hear the resemblance?

  3. #3
    Senior Member
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    Nov 2012
    This is one of my favourite Tori songs- it has everything in it that I love so much about her. The piano part is so beautiful, and varied; the rolling lines on the intro (which i adore), and the chorus, but also the staccato treble section of "so i took a trip to the.." section, where i totally hear some Japanese melodic influence.
    the vocal melody is both kind of weird, and heartbreakingly beautiful, and the lyrics are both abstract but deeply moving.

    i am so happy she finally released this; in a way i wish this and cooling were on pele, but i can see that pele is perfect without it, and i wouldnt swap it for dougnut.
    to me, motormaids joins cooling, beulah land and alamo as perfect, pele-era group of songs about lost love.

    also, the line about mountain biking always makes me think of what she wrote about mountain biking in taos during the recording of UTP:

    Mountain biking became a major event in my life for a week, the mud was so thick on the tires. We got there just in time to see the mountain thaw. The sound when these two merged was something like "thclulpleekooh" I said on an intake of breath with no lips moving and no throat usage, I like this word. And I liked the idea of the eternal footman saying "asta" on a mountain bike.
    when i heard this one song last year it made me forget all the stuff that i havent been keen on the last 10 years - this one song cancels out AATS for me. i really hope she does it on the next tour...

  4. #4
    Militia of the Mind toriMODE's Avatar
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    Jun 2010
    What if it's a tour staple?

  5. #5
    Robbing the muse... Beelust's Avatar
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    Jun 2010
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    What if instead of "T and Bo" or "Lizard's Lounge" Tori plans on having a "Torasia Time". My sources tell me songs will be Asian-themed including: 'To the Fair Motormaids of Japan', 'Goodbye Pisces', 'China', 'Cloud on my Tongue' (Borneo), 'Purple People' (Judo), 'Bachelorette', 'Samurai', 'Ode to the Banana (leaf) King', and of course 'Scarlet's Wok'.
    Robbing the muse...

  6. #6
    By the methane lakes Bloody Grace's Avatar
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    Jun 2010
    Montepulciano, Italy
    I must confess that the song doesn't do much for me. It has some beautiful passages but the melody is not that great. There are bits that are too schizophrenic and the lyrics don't reach me. But it took me 10 years to feel most of Pele, I guess it will be the same with this one. Even Cooling took me some time.
    My website! LOOK, ART!1
    A certain darkness is needed to see the stars - Under a warm tuscan sun

  7. #7
    ...Under The Ivy Littlegreen's Avatar
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    May 2011
    It's a stunning little song, the juxtaposition of fragility/chaos.
    They say you were something in those formative years...

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