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Los Angeles Times (US)
May 11, 1992

Tori Amos' Emotional Richter Scale

Pop Music: The singer-songwriter confronts her own sexual assault on her new 'Little Earthquakes' album.

By RICHARD CROMELIN
SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Tori Amos was "sexually and violently violated" seven years ago, but it was only last August that the singer-songwriter was able to confront the experience. It took Thelma & Louise to break her through.

"Something happened when Susan Sarandon killed [the rapist]," Amos says. "Something incredibly freeing happened. Freeing in the sense that I felt as if she were my voice. . . . I had flashes of my personal experience, and I felt like a door opened beneath my feet and I had to go there, I had to go to this place.

"Because, after it happened, I buried it. I became this is over with. I became we move on. And I don't recommend that for anybody."


Between the final credits and her show that night at a London club, Amos wrote "Me and a Gun," an unflinching account of a rape and the thoughts that spill through the victim's mind as she's held down in the back seat of a Cadillac. By singing it unaccompanied on stage and on her new album, Little Earthquakes, Amos enhances its chilling, challenging tone:

It was me and a gun and a man on my back
And I sang "holy holy" as he buttoned down his pants . . .


"I knew how I wanted to tell it," said Amos, who performs today at the Roxy.

"My way is for you to taste something," she said during a phone interview from a tour stop in Atlanta. "I want you to smell it and I want you to taste it and I want you to feel it crawling down your leg and I want you to be there . . . I want you to feel those things. I wanted people to be in that car with her."

The kind of emotional insistence and intensity has helped make Amos one of pop music's most-watched newcomers. Critical acclaim has been building for the complex, confessional pop of Little Earthquakes, and audiences are following. The album just jumped up to No. 85, and Atlantic Records is releasing a five-song EP next week.

Amos has been playing music for 26 of her 28 years -- she entered the prestigious Peabody Institute in Baltimore as a piano prodigy at age 5. In her teens, she played standards and show tunes in Washington piano bars, and after moving to Los Angeles she worked at "every lounge in town" while trying to make it in the music business. Her seven-year stay in Los Angeles took her to the artistic depths.

"What can happen in Los Angeles is you forget why you're doing what you're doing," said Amos, who moved to London last year. "There's something in the musician/actor community which I want to bring up, which is we've bought the bill of goods. What we're saying is, 'Oh, thank you, casting director, oh thank you, almighty record god, for allowing me the opportunity to play my music.' There's a real master-and-servant thing happening.

"What this has done is it has crippled both industries. You don't have the visionaries like we did before. We're so intimidated by what radio can do, what the media can do, that we're not writing from the deepest place anymore. We're writing because we want to get our song placed. Not trusting that if it's coming from us, and we know what we're doing, and we're honoring the craft, then it'll go where it needs to go."


After a disastrous rock-group called "Y Kant Tori Read," Amos regrouped creatively. "I decided that it didn't matter to me anymore. . . . I know why I'm making music, and I'd be doing it if I just did it in my living room. . . . It all comes back to, 'Do I choose to be a victim? Do I choose to buy into this trip? And I don't buy into it anymore."


[transcribed by jason/yessaid]


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