Song Analysis

Jamaica Inn

Sunday 2 October 2011, by Cécile Desbrun

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

“For a songwriter, Cornwall is a very inspirational place to be. Daphne du Maurier based her novel, ’Jamaica Inn’, on the coaching inn at Bolventor. During the 19th century, it was a meeting point for outlaws and smugglers. Cornwall is a good place for bad boys and outsiders - there’s always been a bit of piracy going on. What a great time in history it must have been, when people were having adventures and breaking away from the authority that was choking them.” (Woman’s Journal, November 2001)

She says on the phone, for instance, that "Jamaica Inn" (the title taken from a Daphne DuMaurier novel) literally came to her as she was parked by a foggy Cornwall cliff. "The song," she says, "waltzed into my passenger seat and as she sat down, she began to weave a tale of a modern love triangle." (The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 22, 2005)

"For my wisdom, and my sort of Tree of Knowledge to expand I chose to follow my heart so I followed my husband down to Cornwall… wellie boots and all. This would not have been my first choice, I enjoy living in cities. But now, over the last few years there has been a rythm here and the weather is very much a character in this theatre piece of my life. It’s a huge part… and the power of it when the gales blow in off the Cornish coast. There’s a song, "Jamaica Inn", that I wrote as I… didn’t get trapped but I was just driving down on a beautiful – I mean it was raining, it’s England. And all of a sudden the gales started to come in and my mind started to wander and I pulled over on a cliff and I started to think about the story that I had been told by some of the locals where the wreckers would come in when a ship would run aground and take everything.

And I started to think about this story that was taking over my car in that moment. ’Jamaica Inn’ walked in my Saab and she said : ’You might not like my story because I’m gonna tell you how to say it. And you need to travel with me and we’re going to have to explore your deepest fears.’ And I think my deepest fear is come down to betrayal in love, friendship… It’s not death that’s my greatest fear, it’s tragic if it’s untimely but it’s gonna happen to all of us. What always stops me is betrayal. And if I betray someone that scares me too." (The Beekeeper Bonus DVD)

"I’ve always been drawn to fire. When I was seventeen I chased it, when I was twenty-seven I danced with it, and when I was thirty-seven I nursed it. Like women, fire changes. In one moment it can be warming, in another moment it can burn everything around you to the ground. These days I’m entertaining the idea of a lighthouse. When I was being told a bit of Cornish history I was fascinated with the stories of the wrecker. Wreckers did not bring accidental destruction upon a vessel. By holding up a light, wreckers gave ships the false signal that it was safe to come in. Daphne Du Maurier’s book Jamaica Inn goes into detail about the Cornish custom of wrecking. Apparently, even vicars would hold a false light up so that once a ship was wrecked they would be able to sustain the local village with the goods that were smuggled out of the water.

When I was driving down the coast from Bude to Padstow, I was drawn into this modern-day idea of homewrecking. In my car I started to sing the chorus for the song ‘Jamaica Inn’ after seeing a small boat through the gales that I found myself in. After all, I was physically in the land of Daphne Du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn, which was a real place, as well as Rebecca, another one of her books that took place in Cornwall. I reference both of these books in the song because they are the antecedents. I still don’t know to this day if my character survives the shipwreck she is in.. " (Tori Amos: Piece by Piece)

“Diary Entry:
Jamaica Inn
Autumn Equinox: September 22, 2004. Light and Dark = Equal parts.
We move into a state of perfect balance today.
As much Light
As much Dark
The house is buzzing. A new cycle is in motion and we have chosen to move with it. Dunc will be lighting the candles for tonight. The house will be alight waving to the beautiful darkness outside.
Animal totems will be chosen for the season until Winter Solstice.
We will have the carved animal totem representations made by artist from all over the South West. Once chosen, we reference the animal wisdom from the book, Animal Speak, by Ted Andrews or the Animal Medicine cards by Jamie Sams.

Mabon. Today. The witches day of giving thanks. The harvest that has come in. Whatever that is.
Gathering in and getting rid of that which will not serve me in the coming months. Donating items that have served their purpose and can serve another purpose for someone else now. Natashya is donating her bottles to a baby yet to be born. Her bottles have been around the world with her. It was a constant and now she seems ready to let them serve and comfort a "twinkle in the sky" that is about to be born.

Tash believes, at this time, that children are first "twinkles in the sky" before they are born. She also has believed that when you die you then become a "twinkle in the sky". So tonight as Dunc is preparing mulled wine for those in the house and those visiting, Tash will be preparing warm soy milk in a teapot with all kinds of different tea cups to choose from. Very Alice in Wonderland and why not?

The gales are blowing outside with an eerie howl. Mark and Marcel are getting ‘Jamaica Inn’ up on the board. This is the sort of day that inspired the creating of that song - from the writing, to the tracking with Matt and Jon to the backgrounds which will be put down within a few hours. Mac Aladdin will then add some Mandys. What our leading female character has to confront is harrowing in a sense.

It has been months since I wrote the above thoughts. It is now the week of the Chinese New Year - Year of the Rooster. But Mardi Gras day and Pancake day, Shrove Tuesday, arrive where I sit first, signalling the observation of Lent. It’s been almost a year now since I got caught in the gale storm somewhere in North Cornwall and ‘Jamaica Inn’ came down and sat next to me in the passenger seat of my Saab.” (Diary Entry Toriamos.com)