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Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
Friday, May 6, 2005
What's the delay here?
by Katrina Lobley
Tori Amos had to go through Eminem, Slayer and Joe Jackson to get to her own work.
Tori Amos, the original piano princess, must be doing something right. After all, it's more than a decade since she was last in town. One might have thought the height of her popularity was back then, as she played three nights at the State Theatre. She was touring a hit second album, Under the Pink, and a hit single, Cornflake Girl, that somehow seemed to define Amos herself.
Amos, the daughter of a preacher, had burst onto the scene in 1992 with her stark, confessional, piano-driven debut Little Earthquakes. In it, she sang of religion of relationships. The songs included the haunting Me and a Gun, which described her experience being raped at knifepoint by a man she'd given a ride to after playing piano in a Los Angeles bar.
In the years since then, Australian fans have waited - and waited - for the Cornflake Girl to return. But Amos was busy getting on with life. She got married, suffered a series of miscarriages and moved from her native US to England with her British sound engineer husband Mark Hawley. They had a daughter, Natashya, in 2000.
Amos says her young daughter was the reason she couldn't travel as far as Australia. Australian fans were so fed up with waiting for her to tour Down Under that they started an online petition. More than 600 signatures later, Amos, who saw the petition when it was thrown onstage at one of her US shows, is finally coming.
Some may think the 41-year-old has long had her day, having been replaced by younger tinklers of the ivories such as Delta Goodrem and Missy Higgins but Amos has sold out three shows at the Sydney Opera House, with tickets going for $99 to $110.
It's not bad going at all, especially for someone who breezily admits that her third disc, Boys for Pele, didn't have a single on it. But Amos has clocked up some enviable statistics during her career: 12 million albums sold and eight Grammy nominations. In the early 1990s, her music broke new ground.
"My first record was rejected," Amos says from her Cornwall home. "They (Atlantic Records) wanted to take all the pianos off and put guitars on - what a brilliant idea, huh! So for Little Earthquakes I had to fight for its survival, for it to be what you hear, because girls playing pianos were not happening in those days on any kind of level that was thought of as successful.
"That was the first fight. Then to become my own producer? Are you kidding me? They wanted to bring in the big guns after Little Earthquakes and I demanded that (producer) Eric Rosse and I hold that position.
"So every step of the way I had to retain what I thought was the integrity of the music.
"As soon as a record company tastes success, the biggest mistake they usually make is they try and chase after it. You can't make the same kind of record and think the public will respond in the same way.
"They responded to Little Earthquakes because it came from an honest place. So you cannot contrive another honest place."
It wasn't long before Amos was fighting to escape her eight-album deal with Atlantic. She couldn't break her contract, so her kiss-off to Atlantic was 2001's Strange Little Girls, an album in which she gave a female perspective to songs such as Eminem's '97 Bonnie and Clyde, Slayer's Raining Blood and Joe Jackson's Real Men.
"I wasn't going to give any more full albums of my own material because I felt like (Atlantic) were the hand that rocks the cradle," Amos says.
"And I saw my songs very much as my girls. I had to come up with projects I felt had musical integrity and that was very tricky at the time. I was walking a tightrope."
On her latest album, The Beekeeper, Amos's "girls" are as strange as ever.
Her duet with Irish troubadour Damien Rice, The Power of Orange Knickers, turns out to be about terrorism.
"The word 'terrorist' needed to be undressed because, let's face it, if you're having the picture (the authorities) want you to have, then you're either going to have a picture of a guy with a turban or a guy in an army uniform.
"I don't like being manipulated."
Sydney Opera House Concert Hall
Tomorrow, Sunday and May 14. All the shows are sold out.
The Beekeeper is out now through Sony BMG
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