The Devirginizing Of Tori Amos
Nieuwe Revu article. (February 1994)
Typed by Marcel Rijs 100276.2176@CompuServe.COM
Her debut album of six years ago, Y Kant Tori Read, she still hates. But then
she was of course a virgin - in a manner of speaking. Recently her third album
was released, Under the pink. She's more content of that one. But she has been
devirginized by the music business. My songs are more from my womb than from my
heart, Tori says. An intimate conversation.
By : Serge Simonart
Orthodox, eccentric and openhearted is the least one can say about Tori Amos
(29). And besides talented and sexy she's also not particularly prudish. She
takes me to her bedroom (prohibited grounds for the press with every other
artist), she doesn't really apologize for the mess (an obviously used bed,
underwear and even more intimate things), and before I can even ask a question
we're already sitting on the bed, her hand on my knee, halfway through a
confession about good sex in bed hotelrooms. I like her new CD Under the pink
even better than I did before now.
The original, hyper-sensual songs of Tori Amos leave hardlky any place left for
misunderstandings : in Me and a gun she describes a rape... hers. In God she
says onto the Lord that He needs a woman to look after Him. Icicle praises the
joys of masturbation. In another song the singer form North Carolina tells her
lover : So you can make me come, that doesn't make you Jesus. Tori Amos is a
Tanita Tikaram with balls, a Tracy Chapman without frustrations and scary
political sorrows, a sexual Suzanne Vega and a spiritual child of the oeuvre of
Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush. But hose comparisons are irrelevant : Tori Amos
is, most of all, Tori Amos.
Live she's totally irresistible : she's gots loads of presence, weaves sultry
monologues in her songs, plays piano like an Amazone rides horsebacks. She
turns on and intimidates her audience with songs of which the ashamed red in
the faces of the public is at times even more fiery than her own volcano-orange
* Let's start talking about your debut: Y Kant Tori Read. A flat
hardrock-album, complete with vulgar sleevpicture of you as a pat
benatar-alike bimbo. How can the same girl make such beautiful records
like Little Earthquakes (1991) and Under The Pink ?
* Very simple, Tori says. That was not me. I was a virgin at that time, in
a manner of speaking, and I have been devirginized by the business. That
(She means her debut album, but dislikes it so much that she doesn't even
want to say the title anymore) displayed me like the record company wanted
me to be. That year was a good learning experience as far as how it's not
done goes. I had a lot of fun as a rock-chick : you haven't lived if
you've never sung bad rock with painted, sprayed hair in fake-snakeleather
and a wonderbra with make your brests look larger than they are. Besides,
it very special to sing in the church choir one year, and the next year to
learn children the ground principles of classical music in red leather
pants. Those children thought it was great, their mothers were less
thrilled about it...
I was amused, but I also felt very bad. As a child I was a more or less
classically trained prodigy, a baby pianist who was cheered everywhere; I
composed my first song when I was four, on my fifth I was sent to a music
school for highly gifted children. As a thirteen year old I performed in
hotels and gay bars, during receptions, at religious feats... When you
make a dick out of yourself with your first album on your 23rd, that's
very hard to take. I am not the only one who likes to forget the album :
Guns and Roses drummer Matt Sorum also played on it, and he doesn't
particularly brag about it either. Haha.
So... It was hard to change direction and be myself for a change. Walk
your talk, my Indian grandpa always said, and that's exactly what I wanted
to do from then on. Walk my talk : saying and doing what I believe in,
singing what I am. At first the boss of my American record company hated
Little Earthquakes. Half of the staff hoped I'd be a white Neneh Cherry,
the other half wanted to make me into a female Elton John. It took a long
time before they wanted to accept who I was, and realize I could make them
money that way.
* Are you aware of the fact that you're already considered a big sister for
all little Tori Amos-es in the world ?
* Yes, and I have mixed feelings about that. I like it a lot when girls and
young women see me and hear me, and think, Hey, what an independent,
uncomplicated, emancipated type ! That's what I want to be like : she is
it, so it can be done. I notice that in the letters and fans I meet. I
think it's fantastic when my voice helps them find their own. Their
personality is still asleep, and I feel like a princess kissing them
awake. Because it is about their voice. When you pierce your nipples or
your penis when you think it's hip, or wear a type of jeans because Lenny
Kravitz does that, okey. As long as you speak out. That's also the
strength of New Age or The new Order or whatever you want to call the new
consciousness : young people are finally searching in themselves for
values; they don't want the outside world as reference for their acts and
principles. When all young people would start listening to their own voice
instead of saying what adults say or whatever MTV dicatates, this would be
a whole different planet.
On the other hand for example the commercial world has found the Big
Sister Tori Amos concept already. They think : Aha ! Through the
Amos-woman we can reach the young, independent girls and influence them !
They want to use my music and personality - image is such a dirty word -
like the Trojan Horse with which they can reach the hearts, heads and
purses of young girls. In America they wanted to use Silent all these
years for a beer commercial. How absurd ! That can only happen in America
! It's a very sensitive song, but that's how it goes : when they can
bottle something in booze or sex, they won't leave it lying there. It
strikes me, because I, more than others, sing openly about sex. All
subtleties get lost. I can sing about the color of the skin of my lover in
the morning after I've waked him with an intimate - present, and all that
gets across in the media is... (Makes the up your ass gesture)
* Artists in other music genres quickly form groups: R.E.M. become part of
the Neil Young clan, Soundgarden are friends of Pearl Jam, Guns And Roses
tries to get chummy with the Stones... but you're from nowhere, seem an
* I kick on people, and I don't care what they do. I don't have to be a
friend with wellknown rock 'n' rollers to work myself up. I force no
contacts, and my manager doesn't have to arrange so-called spontaneous jam
sessions, or domething like that. But recently I met Bjork, and she's
exactly how I picture my best friend of the future. She's so free and full
of wild ideas and without pose or false pretences. Also, she doesn't have
this cramped rock and roll habit to wake all sorts of demons in herself.
She sees creativity wider than that. A wonderful person. I don't see her
as a musician, rather like the phenomenon Bjork.
I had the same feeling with Evan Dando of the Lemonheads. In my songs I am
open, but I am still fighting with all sorts of problems. Bjork and Evan
seem to have passed that stage. Their work is pure life's joy and childish
openness. I have thought a lot about that lately : why am I still in the
cellar groveling between the rats, whereas Bjork and Evan are upstairs
cooking ? And it smells so darn good there... I still need my songs to
cope with my double cursing of feelings of religious and sexual guilt. And
I would like by now to peek in the kitchen upstairs...
* You beam out total freedom on record and in real life; you seem to me one
of the most naturel, complexless, doubt- and posefree women i've ever met.
* Yes ! Well, the good thing about it is that I've never had to work for
it. I mean : I didn't study for it. I think that's strange: I have talked
with people who've read all books of Jung and Freud and Shere Hite, and
the Kamasutra and those things, and Discover yourself courses, and they
could all explain it thoroughly, but they didn't beam it out. It
fascinated me how some people can be so intelligent and culturally
educated, while their emotions are from the stone age. Those people can
talk about your shadow side for hours, and then finish with : I am not
violent myself, but I do think that we should shoot all violent people.
I've had to fight to win back the primitive energy I once owned. I only
had it when I played the piano; in daily life she was suppressed by all
the Christian principles of my childhood education.
My father is a minister, and the difference between love and lust was
pumped into me from really early. My grandmother is the prototype of the
a-sexual mother who has denied her hate all her life. For a while that
seemed to become my fate : grandma made God look like an inexorable,
hard-hearted judge who looked sternly upon we when touching myself. A
voyeur, sort of. But now I can't and won't live dryly, dry like my
grandmother, who sacrificed every tendency toward sexuality in her body to
the Virgin Maria. I was thinking about sex as early as since my sixth. I
looked in my record collection, had some doubts as to whom I'd sacrifice
my virginity - David Bowie or Robert Plant ? I had it all figured out.
* The openness in your lyrics may shock sometimes, it all seems a little
too openhearted, almost neurotic. Maybe because we're not used to
* Yes, in most people's songs men are always potent, women never have their
period, rapes unexistant and orgasm vaginal or faked. They're
Barbiedoll-songs, songs without pubic hair or obvious genitals; they don't
fit anatomically. My songs come rather from my womb than from the heart.
You know, there's some fucking going on in other people's songs, but
no-one ever gets into an unwanted pregnancy. I sing : Boy you best pray
that I bleed real soon (in Silent all these years). In other songs a rape
- if there's even sung about it - gets a happy ending. In America some
radio stations didn't want to play Me and a Gun because of too feministic
and too realistic. I sing : Yes, I wore a slinky red thing. Does that mean
I should spread for you ? That's the way it is, yes ? But mister judge,
she was hitch-hiking in a mini-skirt ! Bullshit !
* On one hand you're interested in things like hypnosis, meditation and
psychoanalysis, but you seem so independent that i can imagine the tables
being turned at the psychiatrist : after 10 minutes you're asking the
shrink about his problems...
* That has already happened. Haha. Well, I have a rather good radar for
ulterior motives of swindlers. So I won't search for fortune tellers in
every city. I know an older woman at home who's a medium - dependable, so
not someone who won't seek publicity or who wants your house or your
firstborn child as collateral - and I ask her for advice at times. She
immediately gets to the bottom of things.
I am fascinated by things that are beyond us, but I don't feel obliged to
call myself the new New Age Princess. But when I visited Avebury ( an
archeologic site like Stonehedge), I felt an undenible energy. Also when I
was in Idstein visiting the Witch Tower. Yes, I think I was burned as a
witch in a former life. No big deal. By the way : witches have nothing to
do with hocus-pocus: the witches were midwives, the doctors saw unfair
competition in them. Witch hunt was historically nothing more than a
* In Cornflake Girl you make a difference between cornflake girls and
raisin girls. what's the difference ?
* It's like in Possessing the secret of joy, that novel by Alice Walker :
cornflake girls are prudish, unconformistic and obedient to authority,
whereas raisin girls are original, wilful and sexual. A cornflake girl is
wonderbread, whereas a raisin girl is wholewheat bread. In an American
perspective the cornflake girl comes from a redneck-family from the
midwest and the raisin girl would be the product of a multi-racial circle
of friends from the big city. It's of course, like all previous
generalizations, a black/white picture. And the whole idea of good girls
and bad girls is of course relative. That's why I like Trading places,
with the homeless moron Eddie Murphy temporarily takes the place of a
manager. So much depends on the way you're living... i must admit, by the
way, that long ago, I played the role of a bar pianist in an add for
cornflakes. I flattered myself with the thought I was the Trojan Horse
there: a raisin girl amid cornflake girls.
* When you take the difference to popular music, you and Madonna are both
raisin girls, whereas you both have not much in common. I mean, I would
imagine your coffee table book about sex would be more original and subtle
* Haha. You know what I thought of that book ? Madonna never seemed to
enjoy herself much on any page of that book. Good sex would give you a big
happy smile on the face, wouldn't you think ? But it was all so serious
with her, so cold, so calculated. Okay, there were some daring pictures in
it, when you define daring as something with handcuffs and pierced
nipples... Haha. But I think daring would be : photo's on which you would
see lust or enjoyment, on which you can read from someone's face a
Madonna doesn't understand the dripping mango concept.
* The what ?
* The dripping mango concept, Amos repeats. She takes an orange - a mango
can't be found easily - and bites in it repeatedly, until the juice drips
over her chin and throat.
Madonna is like the shadow side of the Virgin Maria, and as such I
appreciate her. Christian breeded girls still get that totally a-sexual
picture of Maria. Okay, Maria had a child with Jozef, but it's never
mentioned that she enjoyed the deed, or if she had pleasure from whatever
form of sex. No dripping mango's in the bible. Haha. The importance of
Madonna is that she used her energy to sexualize it, that she showed her
fans they could also see themselves like that - like sexual beings. I only
fear that Madonna has gotten so addicted to the commotion she caused in
the outside world, that she has been scandalized her inner self, and has
no more pleasure out of it anymore. Only pride and power and a sort of
sense of superiority, but no pleasure. She should eat more mango's... Gee,
now I want one myself...
Go back to the Fairy Tales...
© Jason Watts (email@example.com)