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Daily Press (US)
July 22, 1994


By Sam McDonald, Daily Press

Ah, if only Jesse Helms and Tori Amos could spend some quality time together.

They could meet on neutral territory -- maybe a K&W Cafeteria -- and, over cups of coffee, discuss just exactly why they tick each other off.

Of course Uncle Jesse doesn't hang with rock stars - even attractive, piano-playing North Carolina natives such as Amos. And on the other hand, Amos takes much too much pleasure in tweaking the religious right to submit to any cease fire.

In a quick telephone conversation recently, Amos said she's ecstatic that "God," the first single from her new album Under the Pink, became a smash on alternative radio -- ruffling the feathers of more than a few fundamentalists. "It's wonderful," she said. "It exposed a lot of kids to my work ... And it's good shaking things up." The tune depicts a casual -- almost erotic -- relationship with the Almighty. "I just felt like God needed some help, and I wasn't busy that weekend," Amos said.

Naturally, the song's themes won't be tackled in many Sunday school classes.

Amos, 30, was born in North Carolina and spent time there with her grandparents, who lived near Hickory. But she was insulated from the conservative religious fervor of the region. "My experience there was incredibly liberal," Amos said. Her grandparents, of Cherokee descent, gave her a different set of values. "My poppa tried to get me to see the spirit in all things," she said. And that perspective runs through her songwriting. She said that she regrets that her grandfather died when she was 9, before she reached puberty. Her Methodist minister father and his family, meanwhile, saddled her with a legacy of sexual guilt, she said.

The fact that MTV embraced her video for "God," early on, is wonderful, she said. "They reach such an audience, you want them to expose your work -- it's the most powerful station in America.

"And the video is really important, it taps into that goddess energy," she said.

Amos' songs are at once emotional, personal and spiritual. On Under the Pink, she continues probing her own experience, and exploring the dark corridors of her imagination. Like Kate Bush, whose work seems a foundation for Amos', she describes complex inner scenarios in a dream-like, stream-of-consciousness style.

Amos was a child prodigy, able to play piano before her third birthday. Between the ages of 5 and 11, she trained at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. She left abruptly, refusing to give up playing by ear. Years later, she worked performing standards in Washington and Baltimore hotel lounges.

After moving to Los Angeles in the 1980s, she recorded an album, Y Kant Tori Read, with a heavy metal band. It flopped.

After a period of harsh self-evaluation, she started writing songs that became 1992's Little Earthquakes, her first solo album. That record brought her a mountain of acclaim and set the stage for her current success.

Little Earthquakes, also helped Amos exorcise some demons. "Me and a Gun," a brutally vivid account of a rape, was an important step. She has since become a founding member of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. That group has created a nationwide 24-hour toll-free hotline for victims. The hotline's number will be announced this Sunday.

Amos said a new album won't come before 1996. But she said she's not creatively tired. On the contrary, she seems to be soaring emotionally. "You know those red shoes from The Wizard of Oz? I think I've found them now, so I can go anywhere I want."

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