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Star Tribune (US)
Minneapolis/St Paul
Sunday, July 10, 1994

By Roger Catlin, Hartford Courant
Edition: Metro Edition Section: ENTERTAINMENT Page: 08F


The first time many people heard the voice of Tori Amos, it was in her haunting solo piano version of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Her version was notable not only for its slower pace, but because you could make out the words for the first time.

When she was told that its author, Kurt Cobain, used to play it every morning full blast, Amos was gratified.

"That means a lot to me," said Amos, who will perform two concerts Thursday at the Historic State Theatre in Minneapolis. "What a great talent," she said of Cobain. "The night after we heard he had died, I played Berlin in a church. And it's funny because I didn't know Eddie Vedder (of Pearl Jam) was doing this the same night, but we did 'American Pie.'"

She played the 1970 hit about "the day the music died" in conjunction with "Teen Spirit." "I do it sometimes on the tour now. I did it in Dublin a few weeks ago and 2,000 people were singing.

"There's just a moment sometimes when I just go, 'God, I don't know if people realize the musical mind that we lost.' I can't speak of the friend that he was, because I didn't know him on that level. But there was a respect from the music side that I had for him. And I feel like I understood what he was doing. And it would make me smile when I heard something of his. I'd say, 'Thank you! For taking me out of this boredom.' And I can't say that now."

Amos has kept "Teen Spirit" in the roster for her tour, although she has two albums of material to perform. Her latest, "Under the Pink," made its debut this spring at No. 12.

"It's a good feeling," she said of its success. "I didn't know what this record was going to do."

That's partly because she was putting divergent elements into her songs. "Like in 'Past the Mission,' I was putting three totally different structures together: the verse, chorus and the bridge belonged to different things."

When she played an early version of it to a musician friend, he said he didn't think it worked. "And, I'm like: 'That's your opinion. I mean, I was playing Chopin when you were peeing in your bed, so see ya!' I'm sorry, but sometimes you have to get a little protective. Or you put nothing out."

The album's startling "God" brought some attention to Amos, the daughter of a Southern minister. The current single, "Cornflake Girl," is climbing alternative charts.

And Amos is still getting responses to her 1992 debut, "Little Earthquakes," especially for its raw descriptions of rape on "Me and a Gun." The song earned her the 1994 Visionary Award from the DC Rape Crisis Center, along with U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders, New York Times columnist Anna Quindlen and actress Marlo Thomas. The DC Rape Crisis Center was instrumental in helping Amos establish a national rape crisis hot line, which she hopes will be in place by the fall.

"The thing that stands in the way is liability insurance," she said. "But there you go. That's this country for you."

Amos got the idea for the hot line when she received scores of letters responding to her confessional songs of having been raped. "It's been feedback from a lot of girls -- and a lot of men actually, you'd be surprised how many men have had uncle torture or whatever," she said. "Or men who've had wives, girlfriends, sisters raped and they don't know how to help them."

She admits with a laugh that "it gets a little weird" having people know so much about her personal life. "You walk into a room, and people know stuff. They don't know everything, obviously. There are things I write in certain ways that sometimes you don't know it's me. You don't know what character I am. Sometimes I'm the protagonist and you think I'm the little victim. But that doesn't really matter.

"What I try to make sure of," Amos said, "is that I don't censor myself as a writer."

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