Viewing posts tagged boys in their dresses

The Things We Do For Attention (Heart Attack at 23)

Heart Attack at 23 (1988)

Generally speaking, Y Kant Tori Read is not nearly as bad an album as its reputation would suggest. Misjudged in its presentation, dated, and a poor use of Amos’s talents, yes, and certainly not an album anyone would still care about thirty-two years later were it not for Amos’s future career, but not the cringing embarrassment that Amos’s disavowals (highlights include “Madonna and Kate Bush in a headlong collision after eating bad mushrooms”) and decision to leave it out of print until 2017 would suggest. For the most part it is a competent minor 1980s album—not something you’d single out as a hidden gem, but not something on its own terms that is mockable or embarrassing.

“Heart Attack at 23” serves as the biggest exception to this. Most of Y Kant Tori Read has been at least partially reclaimed by Amos, worked into concerts as a winking extra for fans die-hard enough to recognize it. “Heart Attack at 23,” however, is one of two songs on the album that Amos has never performed live. Good-natured reclamation of your juvenilia has its limits; here we find Amos’s.

It’s not hard to see why. “Heart Attack ...

Lollipop Girls Pave the Street (Fayth)

Fayth (1988)

Faith/Fayth (live, 2014)

Way Down/When Doves Cry/Fayth (live, 2017)

Flash forward seven years.

Our protagonist has spent all of them working towards becoming a pop star.  Her first serious effort in 1983, a recording session with Narada Michael Walden, who would go on to produce Whitney Houston on the soundtrack for The Bodyguard, produces neither anything of value nor anything that has made it into the public sphere, although lyrics including the chorus “give me the go/ and let me / rub you down /I'm in your power, when you're / takin' me down / I'll just lay low until / you come around / good to go / rub down / good to go /rub down” suggest we’re not missing out. In 1984, she moved to LA, at first doing basically the same sorts of bar gigs she’d been doing in DC. In 1985, she cut a commercial for Kellogg’s short-lived Just Right cereal, where she’s cast as “the piano player who isn’t obviously supposed to look like Elton John.” That year, things finally began to coalesce. She met Steve Caton, a guitarist who will end up sticking with her through To Venus and Back, and ...

The Brotherhood of Baltimore (Baltimore)

Baltimore (unreleased 1978 recording).

Baltimore (1980 single).

Like most pop artists, Tori Amos’s career has a vaguely embarrassing starting point. Fame comes slowly, and rarely on the first try, and most artists have some embarrassing recordings from their early efforts at success that are just waiting to be slapped up on YouTube or, in the case of “Baltimore,” tossed into VH1’s Before They Were Stars, a series dedicated to exactly this. The five minute segment in which this was publicly unearthed sticks mostly to a simplistic biography in which Amos’s piano bench gyrations in the “Crucify” video are juxtaposed with her upbringing as the daughter of a minister. The complexity of the story is acknowledged, but the underlying point is unequivocally rooted in teasing Amos for the naive innocence of her upbringing. “Baltimore” is introduced in a veering segue as the segment goes from the infamous image of Amos breastfeeding a pig in the Boys for Pele liner notes to her parents talking with rueful amusement about her love of shocking them, at which point the voiceover interrupts them to say “if you think that’s shocking…” as a leadup to Amos performing “Baltimore” on local television.

It’s cynical, more ...

Recent Posts

Archive

Tags

Authors

Feeds

RSS / Atom