Song Analysis

Taxi Ride

Thursday 22 September 2011, by Cécile Desbrun

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

"Once she gets to Chicago, she’s meeting up with people, mostly women, who have lost a gay friend. And in his death, she’s kind of seeing what it brings out in people, and who some of these women really are. Not who she thought they were. Disillusionment can um... and in some cases she kind of knew all along that some of them... some of it didn’t surprise her. But she’s seeing... what, again, what people are really made up of.

And, you know, this isn’t the outside now, this is not the enemy. The terrorists, you know, the terrorism just happened back in New York City. This is something, these were friends, acquaintances maybe, in some cases. And the betrayal is there. So the idea of betrayal, you know, there are all sorts, there are all kinds of betrayal.

And I think she’s trying to come to terms with that inside. The betrayal of an outside force, where then you become defensive and nationalistic, and then the betray that, wow, you’re completely stripped bare because it’s from the inside, it’s an inside job. I really liked the idea that Scarlet takes a taxi... all the way, all the way down. Because, let’s face it, the people, she doesn’t want to hitch a ride with anybody she knows, are you kidding me? I kind of love the idea that all these things can happen in this stranger’s car. It’s always fascinated me, you know, the things that I say in taxi cabs... over the years, all over the world. So that’s a little bit of my own kind of... read on it." (Scarlet Stories CD)

They [Scarlet and Mrs Jesus] part in Chicago, where Scarlet looks up old friends.There she learns of the death of a gay friend and resolves to visit his house in Baton Rouge, before travelling on to New Orleans. "Taxi Ride is about how people react to death and the betrayal that can happen even after death." (Scarlet’s Walk bio)

"The odd thing about ’Taxi Ride’ was that this song was being written before he died, and he even heard that line, ’just another dead fag to you.’ I was writing it as part of another song about a gay guy who was dying of AIDS. He miraculously recovered, and the song didn’t get written. It started propelling itself again early this year, and Kevyn and I were having conversations, and I didn’t know what was coming. But I knew he was in a lot of pain, and he felt betrayed by people who weren’t there when he was in need. Then everybody who shows up in his death can give a statement, but they weren’t there in the trenches. His death brought up a lot of things in people - some lovely and some despicable and disgusting. ’Taxi’ is for Kevyn." (Out November 2002)

"But having people in your life that you love is all important. And then there is that sense of fear in that people can be taken away from you, like my friend the beautiful Kevyn Aucoin who photographed me when I was pregnant and feeling like a beached whale. Kevyn was a gay man, he dined on men but he loved women and he showed me the beauty of giving up my body for another person. And those photographs are still there for myself and my husband. He appears on the album on Taxi Ride and I know I can’t talk to him now but I know I have his love. And that’s what really keeps us going I think, simply love and the wonderment of it all." (Hot Press November 20, 2002)

This is the first album of yours, that I’ve been aware, in which you openly address gay people and gay matters.

“I don’t know - I think over the years there have been references to all kinds of sexuality, but on this record there are characters that Scarlet runs into. Her friend, Taxi, is gay and he dies. I think a core theme running through [the album], though, is the outer betrayal versus the inner betrayal. The polarity of that, so in ‘I Can’t See New York’ [in which Scarlet witnesses a plane crash in midair] we see the culmination of outer betrayal that may have stemmed from some kind of inner betrayal. But then in ‘Taxi Ride’ the inner betrayal is taken to friendship where, at his death, Scarlet’s having to look at everybody that’s there and question, ‘were we really a good friend to him when he was in need?’”

Do you feel you were a good friend to Kevyn when he was in need?

“I question myself every day.”

I reckon that Kevyn’s friends, by virtue of who they are, pretty much have to be self involved — they’re artists and in the entertainment industry. And I think that in a way it’s almost harder to maintain that kind of I’m-there-for-you friendship, don’t you think?

“Yes. I think that is true. And I think that’s a fair point. I also think, however, that what’s being addressed in the song is that only you can look at your relationship with a friend and know if you could show up. The thing about Kevyn is he always showed up when you needed him. Sometimes I think the question with us as ‘celebrity’ friends, the beauty icon, if he could make you beautiful, great. But if he couldn’t were you really there for him? And that is the question that Scarlet and I are asking ourselves. Talking to you on a personal level, Kevyn is the inspiration [for “Taxi Ride”], but this is the story of someone Scarlet meets. There’s more than one gay friend that has died that brings up things in people. Death always brings up questions. This is the result.” (in newsweekly.com November 20, 2002)

"’Taxi Ride’ is a story about a guy where his friends deserted him when he needed them. I felt like we wanted to go by where he is from, and I felt like it was important that it ended in New Orleans. One reason is I like New Orleans. The other reason is I couldn’t leave Kevyn in Baton Rouge. It needed to pass by and sort of wave to him as a little boy, but it needed to have transcended and gone somewhere else, just like he did in his life.

"And there’s also a very thin veil in New Orleans between those who are walking in body and those who are walking in spirit. That veil is thinner (in New Orleans) than most places. It’s not inconceivable that you walk with the dead hand in hand and feel like there is a way to somehow contact them." (The Times-Picayune April 25, 2003)

Before the song was released under the title of "Taxi Ride" on Scarlet’s Walk in 2002, it had been called "Just Another Dead Fag" and Tori started writing it as far back as 1999. At the moment, it was about one of her friends who was dying from AIDS. She included it on Scarlet and dedicated to her close friend Kevyn Aucoin after the make-up artist suddenly died during the summer in 2002.

Q: Stero Type: We’ve been told that you are writing a song called "Just Another Dead Fag"

"Yes, it refers to another bright light that has left us. The British call cigarettes fags, and I like the meaning of that-the fire and the brightness that shines in a person. Its been tricky to write because sometimes I feel there’s a sacred ground that I shouldn’t intrude upon. This song, in particular makes me feel a sense of toil and trouble." (Stero Type — Atlantic Records gay and lesbian newsletter group — Summer 1999)