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Democrat & Chronicle (US)
Rochester, New York, newspaper
Thursday, August 29, 1996

Not of This World: With her faeries and talk about God, Tori Amos is worshipped

As might be expected from any goddess, Tori Amos has a cult following. Her last missive from the fiery mount, Boys for Pele, includes enough cryptic lyricism to stop an acid-dropping Joycean scholar, pouring more fuel on her smoldering followers.

Virtually every song on Boys for Pele asks the listener to leap spectacular gorges of metephor. She opens In the Springtime of His Voodoo with "Standing in a Corner of Winslow, Arizona," but unlike the Eagles, Amos never takes it easy: before the song is through, she is singing about Star Trek's Mr. Sulu. "The weasel squeaks faster than a seven-day week," she says on Marianne. "I need a big loan from the girl zone," she pleads on Caught a Lite Sneeze.

Actually, Amos sounds if she's on loan from The Twilight Zone, but in an interview, she makes a plea for obscure thoughts.

"If your work is really linear, that's not much to talk about," says Amos, calling to discuss Boys for Pele, Italian men, religion and her show tonight (Thursday) at Finger Lakes Performing Arts Center. "There's a lot of mythology in the work that I do" That's Tori mythology, by the way, not Ancient Greek. "I'm referring to different characters. So, if you're aboard, there are different layers to look at. And I think a lot of kids have very busy minds."

And busy computers. Torimania appears in many forms--including the fanzine Really Deep Thoughts--but the true measure of Amos' cult is the Internet. A recent search of the World Wide Web shows more than 70 home pages devoted to her.

"I keep a distant eye," she says of what people are chatting about on their computer screens. "I read their letters. You know, obviously, they like to talk about stuff."

Some of that stuff could include the faeries she thanks on all of her albums. It could be her work as a spokeswoman for sexual attacks, or her own chilling account as described in hers ong Me and a Gun, of being raped in the back seat of a car. Or her take on troubled relationships: Pele draws much of its fire from her breakup with a longtime boyfriend.

But religion is today's Tori Topic. Stand aside and let Amos go.

"I get a lot of response from the religion people," she says. "They ask me, 'Why don't you like Jesus?' And I say to them, 'Now how do you get the impression I don't like Jesus? Maybe I have margaritas every Tuesday night with him. I was just writing down my thoughts about him this morning."

She disappears from the telephone for a second to collect her thoughts.

"The whole idea about religion is it's an institution that makes you feel like a group, but actually fosters separateness and hierarchy," she says a moment later. "So that if you're not part of this, then you don't have anything. America does that. British football does that. Being an Italian male. Being Islamic. So many people have a belief.

"Almost every culture, every group--quote, unquote--has a way it wants to perceive things. And when I write songs, the Christians feel that because I'm not speaking the way they would like me to, that I don't believe in God, that I'm not part of the Christian formula. But being a minister's daughter, I know it very well."

(Incedentelly, Amos delivered those last two paragraphs in what sounded like a single sentence. We merely punctuated for clarity.)

Amos takes a breath. "I find it very interesting that every time I turn around, someone wants to save my soul. Isn't that arrogant?"

So many of Amos's songs seems to be about religion that it seems to be all that's on her mind. On her song God, from her 1994 album Under the Pink, she wonders, "God sometimes you just don't come through/Do you need a woman to look after you?"

Is Amos that woman?

"If you're brought up with parents who are painters, you probably see everything in light and shade," she says. "I can smell a rat real quick when someone tries to tell me their way is the way. And see, I don't think my way is the way for everybody."

Maybe not even for her generation. Amos' audience that is a young one that she's drifting away from chronologically, if not spiritually.

"They're not entrenched in trying to feed the babies, make ends meet," says Amos. "I'm turning 33 next week" -- curiously, that was a tough age for Jesus Christ -- "and a lot of my friends don't question things now. They're so busy with the day-to-day functionalism of every day life.

"I refuse to be domesticated, I refuse to become lethargic," she says, describing how she looks at life through "jaguar eyes, panther eyes."

"I'm letting you know that I get far more interesting letters from 19-year-olds. Isn't that kind of sad that the people who are running the world aren't coming up with interesting questions?"


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the World of Tori Amos
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