Article In Request Magazine
The August 1996 Summer Concert Issue of Request magazine, which was available both on the newsstands and for free at Musicland/Sam Goody record stores, had an interesting article called Little Web Quakes: Tori Amos Makes A Dent In The Web Universe on page 41 written by Robert Levine. The illustration you see below that accompanied the article was done by Paul Watson. There is a caption underneath the illustration that says, "It would probably take longer to page through all the Tori Amos web sites than it would to listen to all four of her albums." For reference purposes I have included a small image of the magazine's cover that month, which featured A Tribe Called Quest. They also printed with the article a few dates of Tori's Dew Drop Inn tour schedule that covered July 11-August 26, 1996. In a few cases, I updated the URLs that appear in the article so that they are current. Some web pages mentioned in the article are no longer with us :(
The most comprehensive source for news about Tori Amos isn't a newspaper or radio station but an elaborate World Wide Web site run by Michael Whitehead in his spare time. Updated almost every day, "A Dent in the Tori Amos Net Universe" (http://www.aye.net/~mikewhy/index.html) contains an astounding amount of information about the singer/songwriter, including set lists from concerts, reports on recent television appearances, and even an index of her between-song remarks during performances.
On the off chance that Whitehead misses something--and don't count on that happening--the "Tori Amos Setlist Summary" (http://acc.jc.edu/~serstad/toriset.html) tracks how many times the artist has played each of her songs during her current tour. If that's not enough to sate one's hunger for Amos information, there are about 70 other Web sites dedicated to the subject. According to the somewhat inexact Internet search engine Yahoo, that's more than twice the number of sites fans have built for Led Zeppelin, and about five times the number they've built for the hyperpopular Hootie & the Blowfish. On the Web, Tori Amos is right up there with Pink Floyd and Nirvana when it comes to fan worship.
Almost anyone with Internet access and a few hours to spare can create a simple Web page with a photo and a few lines of text, but many of these fan-built Amos sites are complex labors of love for their creators. The "Y Kant Tori Read FAQ" (http://www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Alley/4370/yktrfaq.html) lists everything anyone would ever want to know about the singer's late-'80s heavy-metal project, and the "Tori Online Research Institute" (http://www.webville.com/~tori/) contains about 20 printed-pages worth of information about her life and albums. The sheer amount of data is mind-boggling. It would probably take longer to page through all the Tori Amos Web sites than it would to listen to all four of her albums.
Why all this online ardor for an artist who's just now becoming a household name? The easy answer would be that Amos' music especially appeals to computer geeks and college students who have free Net access and plenty of free time. But judging by the sites themselves, her online popularity has more to do with the way her music strikes emotional chords in listeners of all ages. "A lot of people just relate to what she's saying," says Julian Dunn, a 17-year-old high school student whose site refers to Amos as a "faerie goddess." "It has to do with emotional baggage, I think."
That sort of emotional response to Amos' lyrics seems to inspire many of these fan sites. "People say, here's an artist who thinks what I'm thinking," says Greg Burrell, the 27-year-old computer programmer who runs the "Tori Online Research Institute" as a hobby. "She's touched [the people who run the sites] so much that they want to have some involvement."
For Burrell, "some involvement" translates into eight to 10 hours a week spent searching for information and pictures. For Charles Knight, who runs a page dedicated to Amos and Sarah McLachlan, it meant taking a week off from work to catch the first four shows of Amos' current tour.
University of Delaware graduate student Daniel Lau thinks the singer's followers have a tendency to be fanatical, but he can't understand where some of his fellow site-builders get the time to do things like track down a 1984 Washington Post review of a piano-bar performance by young Ellen Amos. "I can't imagine what this person was doing looking through old newspapers," he says, slightly bemused by the effort. Of course, he's planning to visit that bar the next time he goes to D.C.
Neither that fan loyalty nor its online expression is anything new for the artist, according to Vicky Germaise, a senior vice president at Atlantic Records, Amos' label. Soon after the 1991 release of Little Earthquakes, label executives saw fans discussing the then little-known artist on the Prodigy online service. "People were taking the songs apart line by line," Germaise says. "They were really moved by them."
Atlantic recently capitalized on Amos' Internet popularity by making the single "Caught a Lite Sneeze" available on its Internet site in RealAudio before the album Boys for Pele was released earlier this year. The downloadable track drove up the Atlantic site's popularity, and the company's Amos page (http://www.tori.com) has become one of the label's most popular. The only other Atlantic act discussed nearly as much on the Internet is Rush, according to Germaise. "Both of those acts attract intelligent fans," she says.
Amos' music also tends to attract social outsiders, according to Burrell, who says he's very active in the online fan community. "They're not the popular kids in school," he says. The Yahoo description for one home page that mentions Amos reads, "This is my Life: R.E.M., Star Trek, Tori Amos, Simon and Garfunkel, They Might Be Giants, Mystery Science Theater 3000"--interests that most members of the average high school football team probably don't share. The younger fans especially latch onto Amos. "For a lot of them, she's sort of taken on this savior role," Burrell says.
Indeed, the reverence reserved for the singer is downright spooky. Several sites and postings refer to Amos as a goddess or healer, and tell how her music unlocked previously repressed emotions. "She has helped me through rough times and with my personal journey to claim myself," Whitehead's site attests, a more common claim than one might think. One letter posted on the Pieces of Me Internet fanzine (http://www.infobahnos.com/~eleventh) credits Amos' music with helping its writer explore his own emotions, while another simply credits the singer with saving the Letter writer's Life. Perhaps within this group of online pilgrims visiting virtual-reality shrines, such catharsis is a given; the top of the fanzine's letters page reads in part, "Tell us how she changed your life."
If the home pages people create for themselves on the Web are at all windows into their souls, a better question for some might be, is she becoming your life? "It's somewhat of a running joke in my graduate department that there's nothing about me on my [Web] home page," Lau says. "I like that identity. Everyone knows me as the Tori fan."
Please give me feedback, comments, or suggestions about my site. Email me (Michael Whitehead) at firstname.lastname@example.org