The Rolling Stone Book of Women in Rock : Trouble Girls

Added January 22, 1998

Beth Winegarner posted to the Tori mailing lists a paragraph from The Rolling Stone Book of Women in Rock : Trouble Girls, which was edited by Barbara O'Dair and published in 1997. The book has some interesting comments on Tori, which in Beth's words show that "she's making the annals of rock history already... " Here is Beth's post and the quote from the book:

    Hi all, I'm currently reading the Rolling Stone Book of Women in Rock (edited by Barbara O'Dair), which is fabulous and detailed and exhaustive, and I wanted to share with you the bit they wrote about Tori. It comes in the section called "Divas and B-Girls: From the Seventies to Today," and in an article by Ann Powers (who co-edited the amazing "Rock She Wrote" a few years ago) called "Bohemian Rhapsodies."

    The article discusses a ton of great female artists we all know and love, beginning with Stevie Nicks and Grace Slick, Heart and Lene Lovich, and going into Cyndi Lauper, Kate Bush, Madonna, Siouxsie Sioux, Kristin Hersh/Throwing Muses/Tanya Donelly, Jane Siberry, Diamanda Galas, The Roches, Sarah McLachlan and Bjork -- all leading up to this paragraph on Tori:

    "Yet if Robert Plant were in the market for a divine consort -- or adversary -- today, there'd be only one choice: Tori Amos. Not only does this one-time piano prodigy regularly riff on Led Zep's "Whole Lotta Love" in concert, she has also made it her project to recharge the feminine paradigm with a heavy dose of sexual drive and superstar charisma. This minister's daughter is a princess with a difference; instead of cultivating a separate space where her femininity can thrive, Amos mizes it up with that tomboy streak and puts it right out there. She prokects an androgyny that's far more down-to-earth than most that have graced rock's arenas, one that mixes ultragirl looks (the cascading hair, the leotards) with a physical confidence that's still too rare in most women (she sits wide-legged in ripped jeans at he piano, and growls as often as she trills). Her compositions follow the pattern of her body language. Sometimes Amos' self-importance grates, and she can be impossibly adorable, spouting verses in a lily-white whisper. But she can also turn those phrases dark or deadly with the bat of an eye. Singing about teenage clumsiness isn't risky, but singing about teenage orgasm is, and Amos does it. She's sung about the fear of pregnancy, female competitiveness and the memory of her own rape -- that song, "Me and a Gun,: was honored by the D.C. Rape Crisis Center in 1994, and inspired her to co-found RAIN (sic) (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network), a hotline for victims of abuse or violence. And on 1996's Boys for Pelem she exhibited a musical courage as striking as her lyrical intensity, blending genres ranging from classical to musical comedy, postpunk to soft rock, in songs that defy standard structure, suggesting a whole new way of approaching the role of singer-songwriter."

    Later on in the final paragraph, Powers has this to add: "Rock still favors the boyish, and women who won't or can't conform to that style and attitude still get called names (just count the number of times the word 'weird' pops up in the collected criticism of Bjork, Tori Amos, Jane Siberry and Kate Bush)."

    I thought it was a pretty good analysis of Tori's work, and although it misses some of the finer points, it's nice to see she's making the annals of rock history already...

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