Song Analysis

Not the Red Baron

Tuesday 27 September 2011, by Cécile Desbrun

Coming soon! In the meantime, read Tori’s quotes about the song.

The turning point [on Boys for Pele] was the song "Not the Red Baron," which was sparked by romantic difficulties that she saw her road crew experiencing.

“That’s the moment when I began to have compassion for boys again. There was no joy anymore when I saw guys in my crew crashing and burning over their love for a girl who was just urinating all over them. And I went, ‘Oh, I’ve just been on the other side of this.’ Whatever the realization, in that moment it was compassion that made me want to wipe the hair off their brow and give them a Guiness. That was always a popular move!

“My crew teaches me a lot. They recorded this album live with me. And though I would be having battles on different fronts, the road crew would let me into this world of boys, where it was safe and I could see it from their side of things.” (The Boston Globe, January 19, 1996)

“’Not the Red Baron’ was a B-side, but really got, she slipped in there. She slipped in and kicked another one off because... it was a compassion for the men. Not the ’Red Baron’ holds so much compassion for the boys for me because as they’re going down in their planes, and they’re crashing. And as I started to see in some of the relationships with the men, how when it was their turn to crash, their turn to scream, their turn to face the pain. At that point I didn’t want to kick ‘em in the nuts anymore. And there was nothing I could do, ‘cause I was going through mine and they were going through theirs and sometimes all you can do is just pat them on the head and give them a Guiness. Yet this song really became about... [sings] ‘and are there devils with halos and beautiful capes, taking them into the flames, taking them into the flames.’ And I saw these lovely women ushering the men with the tears to their next place. Always connected to Fire, always all of us trying to find our own fire.” (World Café, March 1, 1996)

“Then of course in the record we move into a whole other moment. ’Not the Red Baron’ is the moment of compassion for all the men on the record. It’s where I could see their planes crashing, I could see that they have a side too. And if their planes would crash I started to gain compassion for their side of it. But I’m still acknowledging the war with ’Agent Orange’, the idea of the war.” (B-Side, May/June 1996)