Mystery Music March in April

Losing My Religion – Tori Amos

Tori Amos gave the best interview I ever saw anyone give on any television channel related to sell their new product.

When Richard & Judy were still presenting This Morning from The Albert Dock in Liverpool, Tori’s agent thought it was the perfect place to publicise her new album, the not at all mainstream (at least in those days) Boys For Pele. I’d been waiting for the whole of what’d been a pretty dull show for her appearance and she’d been dropped in with ten minutes to go. Don’t forget this was in the days when R&J were still the housewives choice, despite the odd foray into goolly fondling. Possibly.

In the five minutes she has before playing her new single through the credits which would scroll all too quickly across the bottom of the screen, she eloquently talked about how she seemed to have found personal harmony and a new inner strength within herself, and how her music has reached an equilibrium she is pleased with and how she’d ridden a horse for the first time a few days before and how great it had made her feel. Except Judy had only asked her one question: ‘How are you?’ As you can imagine they were both a bit stunned by the reply. Tori just bats her eyelids as though to say ‘What, you guys had questions?’

I’ve always been impressed with singers who make it their policy to do the unexpected which is probably why I was so disappointed when Nelly Furtado produced the oh-so mainstream Loose or Alanis Morissette marked the tenth anniversary of her rock debut by turning out an acoustic version for sale in Starbucks. Tori Amos has never been like that and although I haven’t been a huge fan of her most recent work (which has perhaps been a ‘concept’ too far, for me at least) the publicity interviews are always fun. Journalists hardly ever know what to make of her, especially when does things like calling her songs her children.

The most unruly of said children are the cover versions. Right from the beginning, rather than simply stocking up the b-sides to her singles with other album tracks or for that matter failed album tracks, in what amounts to musical auterism, Tori would record cover versions of well known tracks and not so well known tracks in her own style, more often than not one girl and her piano, Nirvana, Hendrix, Springsteen even Chas and Dave all torchsonged. It’s a tradition she’s continued to this day and legends speak of even more eclectic juxtapositions live, with a haunting bootleg of Kylie’s Can’t Get You Out Of My Head still doing the rounds.

Losing My Religion is a prime example. Recorded for the film soundtrack to the little known (but worth seeing) Higher Learning, Tori tosses out everything but the lyrics, reducing the pace, with to be honest only her vocal suggesting the originally melody. Like the covers only album Strange Little Girls, the song gains a completely different resonance from the female voice; the words are about obsession and being at the end of your tether and whereas Michael Stipes vocal suggests that he’s about the blow his top, Amos is far more reflective, as though she’s looking back at the dark moment. Tori essentially makes it her own and like the best cover versions proves that a great song, is indeed a great song, no matter who’s singing it.

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