stations across the country. her personality and the very unfashionability of her purgative songs fascinated the music press and she found an unlikely supporter in Jonathan Ross. who has featured her twice on his show. ‘They‘re into live music.‘ she says. explaining away the Ross appearances. ‘When you do that a lot, you get called, because not a whole lot of people do live music. Some people do. but. come on, for a lot of people who have records out, it‘s not the thing they feel most comfortable with. I feel more comfortable doing that than really anything.‘
When Tori Amos says that. you’d best believe it. A prodigy who played piano practically before she could talk. she has vivid memories of being isolated by her talent, a ‘nerd‘ who only ever got invited to parties on the condition that she did a turn on the keyboard. A stint at Baltimore‘s
prestigious Peabody Institute. where she studied classical piano. ended with Tori being thrown out at the age ofeleven for ‘mutual incompatibility‘.
That experience. combined with her North Carolina preacher‘sdaughter background and a God-fearing grandmother supervising her moral upbringing. set the stage for her later emergence as a headstrong songwriter, a character described by one writer as '100 per cent mad‘. Which may be putting it a little strongly.
She has said that the rejection by the Peabody Institute, after a life geared to producing a concert pianist, was crushing, and she seems to have lost her way in her teens, playing songs by Gershwin and others in gay bars, chaperoned by her father. In a barren period, she gave up on songwriting.
‘To make a living. I was playing,‘
she says, ‘but I wasn’t writing. I pushed the piano away from me, and it just became that I was doing piano to pay my rent.‘
Eventually, in her early 20$ (she‘s 28 now), she started writing and singing for a band called Why Can‘t Tori Read?. That combo was quickly swallowed up by the quicksand of history, but its eponymous singer put four years ofwork into a solo album that dismayed her record company bosses when they heard the finished product. Stumped, they decided to do the honourable thing and ‘give it to the English’ in the hope that the peculiar land which gave the world Dr Who. Monty Python and Kate Bush might find something in it they‘d missed.
Little Earthquakes, if you haven‘t heard it already, is not easy listening. Not for Tori some meek whimper of dissatisfaction; rather an apocalyptic eruption that sounds a little Bush-like at first, but goes to far more personal extremes. Now that the initial impact has passed, I‘m not sure that I like Little Earthquakes as much as all that. but I still find the songs magnetic. compelling listening.
But don‘t our tastes run to the wry, the detached. the ironic? Like Laughin‘ Lou casting a jaundiced. craftsmanlike eye over the city with eight million stories. or Laughin‘ Lenny blowing out two lungfuls of smoke before dropping the latest wry couplet about his fading sexual prowess? No. apparently we do not. As the attention paid to Tori Amos shows. we still want tofeel. ‘I put them in story form. because somebody talking about their feelings can be a bit ofa bore ifit’s not presented right.‘ she says. no doubt well aware of the problem of knowing whether people are paying attention out ofempathy or ghoulish fascination. Perversely, ‘Me And A Gun‘. a chilling. unaccompanied song about a sexual assault, was her first British release.
‘There are moments of real vulnerability. and there are moments when a different perspective happens, maybe,‘ she continues, trying to pin down the ‘edge‘ that‘s remarked upon in her songs. ‘It‘s almost as ifyour head snaps back as a storyteller and you’re commenting on the last thing you said, and it‘s almost thinking out loud and exploring all sides. It‘s like, for instance, your face. When you look straight forward, your face looks a certain way. and then when you turn to the right side it‘s different. All angles make your face look different. and that‘s the same with any situation. So I try to find the most interesting way for me to explore it.‘
But whether I or anyone else likes it or not, she‘s driven to do it. When asked what she might have done if she hadn’t stuck with music, her answer says a lot:
'Circus. maybe. Putting your head in a lion‘s mouth. The same sensation as getting on stage? Absolutely.‘ Tori Amos plays King Tut’s, Glasgow on Thurs l3 and The Music Box, Edinburgh on Fri 14.
l Billy Mackenzie has recorded a whole album with Yello. which will be in the shops shortly. Included on it is the track ‘Baby'. which was originally intended to go on the last Yello album as the title track. Obviously. Mackenzie‘s version was just too good . . .
I Contrary to what we told you last time. we‘ve been informed that Hue & Cry are still talking to Sony. who have still to decide about the demos the band have made.
l The Charlatans. please note. are doing two dates at King Tut‘s a mere month before their Barrowland show on 5 April. An unusual move. to be sure, but the dates 29 Feb and 1 March are apparently conﬁrmed.
I Kindred Spirit from Hamilton. just back from a tour ofthc Highlands and lined up to do a gig at Fixx Ii on 23 Feb. will be facing a considerably larger audience in May. when their month in Spain culminates in a festival in the Spanish provincial capital of Salamanca. An old university town. Salamanca has a large student population and a suitable square for holding such events. The band expect 10,000 people to be watching. a bit ofa leap from Fixx ll . ..
The List 31 January- 13 February 1992‘27