This song is based on a book by Alice Walker called Possessing The Secret Of Joy, which details the practice of female genital mutilation in areas of Africa. In an interview with NME Classic Songs, Tori recalled discussing the issue with a friend:
"We were talking about the fact that the women are betrayed, by a grandmother, a mother, or an older sister - that the women you trust the most are taking you into this butchery. And we had a term for those people, those girls that would turn on you, that wouldn't be there for you, that would maybe expose something you trusted them with, and really let you down - a complete wreckage. So those girls were called Cornflake Girls."
The cereal bowl is used as a metaphor for divisions among women. The "Cornflake Girls" are close-minded while the "Raisin Girls" are open to new ideas.
Before she became famous, Tori appeared in a commercial for Kellogg's "Just Right" cereal
, beating out Sarah Jessica Parker, who was also unknown at the time, for the part. Tori played piano in the ad. Kellogg's also makes Corn Flakes.
Tori's record company released a series of Corn Flakes boxes with her picture on them to promote this song to record companies. They are now collector's items.
Maria - Toronto, Canada
Who's the Rabbit in the song? Tori told NME: "Rabbit is someone that I knew, a fantastic, magical creature that would live in the woods, that would work maybe six months of the year with her partner, who was Fox; they were Rabbit and Fox. They would live in the woods of Oregon - I'm talking about the great woods, not just a park - and they would live out in the wilds. So Rabbit living in the wilds with Fox, I thought that was romantic."
Two music videos were made. Andy Delaney and Monty Whitebloom, known as Big TV!, directed the UK version, which is a twisted take on the Wizard of Oz. Tori directed the US version herself, along with Nancy Bennett, which follows the singer tooling around the desert with a truckload of girls.
Tori fought hard for the whistling that comes in over her piano at the beginning of the song. Everyone else - including her then-boyfriend/producer Eric Rosse - was in favor of a mandolin line that guitarist Steve Caton came up with. "Everybody really liked that," she told The Baltimore Sun in 1994. "And even in the mix studio, I was screaming at the top of my lungs that it had to be a whistle. I want the cowboys coming over the hill. Eric was laughing his head off, and the mixer, Kevin Killen, said to me, 'This whistle is naff, Tori.' And I said, 'Well, guess what, Kevin. When you make your own song, you can put your own mandolin on it. This is a whistle. F--king put it in. Put the sample in.' So I got my whistle, and I'm happy as a clam to this day."
While most of the album was written and recorded in New Mexico, this track evolved out of a piano riff Tori came up with while living across from a reggae hangout in London. On an unseasonably warm day, she heard a faraway groove coming through her open window and started jamming to it. "Within pretty much a day's time I had a piano riff for what would become 'Cornflake Girl,'" she explained in the liner notes to her 2006 compilation, A Piano. "I was just playing along, and then, when the music stopped, I found myself still playing that riff."
But the song was far from being complete. It needed help from other musicians, and even an entirely different climate, to bring it to fruition. She recalled: "About a year later, when I took the song into the studio for recording, other musicians came on and the original bass riff started to become something else. The legendary George Porter, Jr., brought his own variation of New Orleans voodoo, having been an instrumental part of The Meters. Eric had developed a loop that he said he was inspired to create after hearing me play my original riff for hours and hours. It's an interesting progression to note that 'Cornflake Girl' was inspired by a groove-loop kind of percussive rhythm. Then I wrote the piano part, and to the piano part yet another percussive part was written. Then to that new and improved loop Paulinho Da Costa came and layered the track with even yet another syncopated, percussive part that included big sleigh bells and all kinds of things.
So despite 'Cornflake''s initial quick and spontaneous creation, all the mini sections and compositional details took over a year to resolve. Sometimes you get a real burst of inspiration, and then all you have is a riff. You don't really have a completed thought. It took me going very far away from where it had started to really finish it. Taking it from the city of London to the desert of New Mexico so that it could find its own character."
The success of the single helped propel Under The Pink, Amos' sophomore solo album, to the top of the UK albums chart. The American singer began courting listeners across the pond with her previous release, Little Earthquakes. Atlantic Records rightfully predicted she'd make a better showing in the UK, where there was a greater appreciation for eccentric artists. Under The Pink, however, brought her a bit more notoriety in the US, where it peaked at #12.
This was used on the TV series Legion in the 2018 episode "Chapter 19."