Feed the Tree (1993) :: Belly
“This little squirrel I used to be,
slammed her bike down the stairs.
They put silver where her teeth had been.
she grins and grins.”
About the song:
Feed the Tree is a song by Belly, released as the band’s first single from their debut album, Star, in 1993. It is also the band’s biggest hit, reaching # 1 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart in the United States.
According to lead singer Tanya Donelly, the song is a metaphor about commitment and respect, with the tree being a place on a large farm where a family would be buried.
She was quoted in The Illinois Entertainer as saying this song was about commitment and respect. The metaphor is the tree that would be planted on large farms as a point of reference to getting around (the only tree sometimes). Because nothing would grow under the large tree, the family would be buried under it. Hence: “Take your hat off, boy when you’re talking to me and be there when I feed the tree.”
Belly was an alternative rock band formed in 1991 by former Throwing Muses members Tanya Donelly (who was also in The Breeders) and Fred Abong. The band was based in Boston, Massachusetts, though all of the original members grew up in Newport, Rhode Island.
The band consisted of Donelly on lead vocals and guitar, Abong on bass, Tom Gorman on guitar, and Chris Gorman on drums. Tom and Chris, who were brothers, were childhood friends of Donelly’s; they had previously played in the hardcore punk band Verbal Assault.
On several early tour dates (in early 1993) in Albany, NY, and the short warm up tour in the UK, former Throwing Muses member Leslie Langston lent a hand on bass.
Donelly named the band “Belly” because she thought the word was “both pretty and ugly.” Their EP, Slow Dust (1992), made it to number one on the UK indie chart. Soon after, their single Feed the Tree made the Top 40 in the UK Singles Chart and their first album, Star (1993), hit number two on the UK Albums Chart.
In the United States, the album was RIAA certified gold, largely based on the success of Feed the Tree on Modern Rock radio stations and MTV, where the video (see above) was featured as part of MTV’s Buzz Bin videos and Alternative Nation video show for much of 1993.
In the spring of 1993, they embarked on a US tour supported by Radiohead. Following a short warm up tour of smaller venues in the UK also in early 1993, they embarked upon a larger tour where they were supported by the Cranberries.
Feed the Tree (live, 1993) :: Belly
This song is 1993 to me. It reminds me of the apartment I lived in, the coffee house I frequented that was walking distance, the badly chosen relationship I was falling out of, and the love I was falling into. New love was starting to grow out of a friendship. He used to come over to my place, usually in the late afternoon on days I didn’t work. We would watch MTV together, sitting a little too close for “friends“, cross-legged on the hardwood floor. After we grew tired of music videos we would watch movies or VHS taped copies of Twin Peaks. We drank way too much coffee and smoked far too many cigarettes. Sometimes we would go out walking when the sun was starting to set. I had a baby then, a year old little girl. He was not her father, though he was there so much more than her actual father was, for both of us. We would joke and say this song was morbid, but at the same time we seemed to get the intention of it. The kind of love that sticks around until the end.
The album, Star, that this song is from seemed to always be around me during 1993, whether being played out of my over-sized speakers in the living room of my upstairs apartment, or at night in the kitchen of the coffee house, the Winged Heart Cafe down the street (it always seemed to be playing when I was hanging out there after closing). I walked down there often with my tiny daughter accompanying me in a stroller, falling asleep to the songs while I drank coffee, or hot Thai tea. The song brings back a flood of memories and faces from my past, along with an array of feelings. In many ways I was such a different girl back then, and in many ways I am still so much the same.
Me and my daughter, and her father, in July of 1993 (that is not the hardwood floor apartment, but a friend’s place)
picture courtesy of Mick