Written after Tori Amos suffered a miscarriage in late 1996 while on tour with her now-husband Mark Hawley, Playboy Mommy is a heartfelt cry from a mother to her lost little girl. Although Tori never quite gets around to apologizing to her dead daughter for not being a squeaky-clean June Cleaver mom, the raw sense of emotional loss nonetheless comes through loud and clear in the song’s bluesy jazz riffs and powerfully haunting lyrics.
The song was released on Tori’s 1998 album, From The Choirgirl Hotel. In an interview for Q Magazine later that same year, Tori explained her motivation for the song, and shed some light on its unapologetic, almost defiant stance ("Don't judge me so harsh, little girl, so you got a Playboy Mommy"). Tori said in the interview that "Playboy Mommy dealt with my feelings of rejection - 'wasn't I enough to be your mother, didn't you want me? Well, don't come, then. Go choose some little right-wing Christian for your mother.' It's a human response."
Human response or not, Tori’s interview revealed a deep sense of pain and anger over the loss of her child, and a bitter sense of resentment towards any parent who mistreats their child or takes their child for granted:
"I got pregnant on tour, it was a surprise, but I was deeply thrilled about it. I was almost three months pregnant and I miscarried. And it was very difficult. The sorrow was just really deep . . . You see people hit their kids in stores and you just go, what force of judgment gives these people these little lives? I have a lot of questions right now. I know it's a free-will planet. Things happen. But you know that saying, ‘Bad things don't happen to good people?’ That's a painful lie, and it hits you on such a core level.”
In the song, Tori angrily lays claim to motherhood, for better or worse ("I'll say it loud here, by your grave, those angels can't ever take my place"), and tearfully promises to see her little girl, once again, on the other side ("I'll be home, to take you in my arms").
Fortunately for Tori, though, writing Playboy Mommy wasn’t all angst and rage. On one of the live versions of the song, Tori goes into a five-minute discussion of how she came up with the opening lines. It seems that although she had written the latter part of the song very quickly, she couldn’t come up with a good -- preferably lighter -- way to begin.
So Tori launches into a description for her audience of a 1997 trip to France she took with her friend Beanie, Beanie’s mother, and several other people. It seems that they found themselves in one of the “schmoozy suites” in some club in Paris, and Beanie and her friends were having an argument about something inconsequential. Tori, wanting to keep the peace, ordered Krug champagne for everyone.
After everyone had gotten suitably sloshed, they all made up and headed downstairs to the dance floor. Apparently, the club had a winding staircase straight out of the Love Boat, and Tori tripped in her Prada suedy slip-ons (“Serves me right," she said), falling all the way down the stairs to the carpeted landing below.
As Tori tells it, she hit so hard that her face felt taped flat to the carpet. As she lay there, face down, her friend Beanie rushes up to help, and Tori says, “Oh Beanie, I need more champagne. I feel awful, but . . . Oh My God, I have the beginning to the song.” And thus was born the classic opening line "In my platforms I hit the floor, fell face down, didn't help my brain out."
Talk about shakabuku, that “swift, spiritual kick to the head that alters your reality forever.”