My Tori Story
How I Discovered Tori, Why I Love Her Music, and My Tori Encounters
Updated October 15, 1996
Small paragraph added at the end in late 1998
The photos you see below are from Tori's appearance on VH-1 Crossroads in June 1996, except for the first 2 pics which are from the Little Earthquakes time-period.
Tori Amos. Her music is such a large part of my existence that it is very difficult to remember back to the time when she was not part of my life. I discovered Tori Amos in 1992, which turned out to be a very pivotal year for me. I had just turned 25 years old, and I was going through the beginnings of a personal crisis, trying to figure out who I was and what I truly believed regarding religion and life in general. At that time it had been almost three years since I graduated from college, and the career path I had chosen turned out to be rather unfulfilling. So amidst this backdrop of personal crisis entered Tori Amos.
Before Tori, I would say my musical tastes were more mainstream. But even then I enjoyed discovering new artists, especially female artists. One day as I was browsing through a copy of Billboard magazine I came across a small ad for an album called Little Earthquakes. What really caught my eye was the picture of the artist in the ad (See photo on the left). It was not her good looks that grabbed me at first (though she is a beautiful woman), but her body language and facial expressions, especially her eyes. There was a very obvious wisdom to her appearance, a feeling that she knew a great deal, and had some really important things to say. There was also a soothing quality to her gaze, which had an almost healing effect. The photo was very striking to me, and I made a mental note to check out her music later.
A week later, I was browsing at a local record store and I found Tori's Silent All These Years cassette single. This single featured a different photo of Tori with that same knowing look (See photo on the right). I purchased it immediately, unwrapped it in the car, popped it into the cassette player, and then discovered....that I did not care for it. Keep in mind at the time I was into more mainstream material, so Tori's music was a bit of a shock. I did not hate the song, but it really did not excite me. The b-side was Upside Down, and I liked that song a little better, but still I was not impressed. I casually tossed the single into the car's back seat and went on with my life.
Many weeks later I found myself in the hospital emergency room with severe chest pain. I was placed into the area of the hospital for heart patients for a week and put through a series of tests. It was a frightening time for me, when I actually thought I had a diseased heart. During this time I really began to question all aspects of my existence. I was angry and bitter that life was dealing me this blow before I even had a chance to discover who the hell I was. One night as I lay in bed listening to a little radio that I had, a soothing voice came over the airways. There was so much beauty and power behind that voice, and it sliced through the murkiness caused by my fear and really touched me. I listened to the lyrics, "Why do we crucify ourselves.." and I felt a strong identity to the words. The voice sounded really familiar, and it made me feel calm and less afraid. After the song ended, I heard that it was the new single from Tori Amos, Crucify. I vowed to listen again to her music if I made it out of the hospital.
The hospital finally released me when they reached the conclusion that stress alone was causing my pain. During that first week out of the hospital, I finally started to appreciate the Silent All These Years/Upside Down single. I would not say I was a huge fan yet, but I never forgot how her music helped me through my hospital stay. I still did not realize at this point that soon her music would help me through a great deal more.
I was still undecided as to whether or not to buy the CD as I entered another record store one day. There was a song playing in the store that I quickly recognized this time as sung by Tori. It was Me and a Gun. The song haunted me. As I realized what the song was about I was shocked, and simultaneously amazed at her courage to sing it. What really got to me was the intense beauty of her voice contrasted with the horrible images in the song. I purchased the CD right then, and began my non-reversible journey into Tori's music.
By now it was July 1992, and I discovered in the newspaper that Tori was coming to my city, Louisville Kentucky, for a concert at a small night club called the Phoenix Hill Tavern. I almost did not go, but a little voice in my head said, "Don't miss this concert.," so I purchased my general admission ticket.
The date of the show was July 30, 1992. I arrived at the concert site and sat down in second row! Actually the room was very small and there were only about 5 or 6 rows of chairs in front of the tiny stage, and the rest of the people were sitting on bar stools around tables in the bar. I was so close to her piano that I could have touched it if I wished. I noticed that there was nothing but a piano on stage. There was not even any lighting. My skepticism grew. No band? Can a musician and her piano actually be enough to entertain an audience for 2 hours? I sat rather bored through the opening act and began to wonder if I was wasting my time.
Finally, it came time for Tori to take the stage. She entered from the right side of the stage, dressed very casually, and giving the crowd a nervous wave. She sat down at the piano, tinkered a little bit, and then began to play. I settled down in my chair and waited to see what I had gotten myself into.
By the end of that first song I was visibly shaken. My jaw was on the floor, my eyes were really wide, and I sat there amazed. Never in my life had I seem a performance like that. I had seen performers sing live before, but Tori was placing her whole body and soul into the material. She sat facing the crowd, and stared at us during the songs. She screamed and she whispered, she often rose out of her seat, she tossed her red hair about with abandon. The passion and the emotion were so raw, so in-your-face, and so intense. And the lyrics sliced right through me, "doesn't take much to rip us into pieces". That opening song was Little Earthquakes.
I immediately became a fan, a Toriphile. That never happened before, and it has never happened since. I have yet to be affected the way I was after that first song. I had to fight back tears several times (these days i just let them flow..). Her lyrics came alive for me during that concert in a way they had not during the first few times I listened to the album. There was a great deal of sadness in those songs, and joy, and self reflection. Tori was facing her true self for the first time, and so was I. I had been Silent All These Years. It was okay to acknowledge these things, and it was freeing as well. So many emotions raged through me as she played most of the songs from Little Earthquakes. For so long I never questioned anything, and I just sailed through life without really thinking about things. The dam was opened that night, and I have never been the same.
After the show I had to sit there for a while and pull myself together. The room, which was rather loud and rowdy before the show, remained quiet like it was throughout the show. I think it was the most polite audience I have seen. Finally I got up and on a whim headed behind the tavern. There was a line of about 25 people out there obviously waiting to see Tori, a large number considering how unknown she was at the time. I joined them. I wanted to tell her how much her show meant to me. After what seemed like a long time she actually emerged from the building. This was in the early days when she stayed and signed things for everyone. I was actually second to last in line. Tori looked very tired, but she stayed for all of us. I started to feel guilty for holding her up, so when she got to me, I just looked into her incredible eyes and thanked her for the best show I had ever seen in my life. She smiled at me and asked me my name. I softly replied Michael and then Tori signed an autograph for me. I then shook her hand and left feeling rather light-headed and very happy. The whole way home I could not get her music out of my mind. It was then I knew that she was my favorite artist.
Tori's position as my favorite artist was solidified after I purchased her second album, Under The Pink. This was the critical sophomore album that would prove if she could create another masterpiece. The album broke my heart and really opened my mind. Religious suppression was a large part of Catholic past, and that topic was dealt with directly in the songs God and Icicle. I had been thinking some of these things privately, but I did not really explore them because no one else was. Tori was criticizing organized religion and sexual suppression in her songs, and she was saying things in interviews that mirrored my own thought processes exactly. Here was someone who understood the guilt that religion can place on you, who realized that a purely male image for God was unbalanced. She gave me the strength to explore my thoughts and overcome religious indoctrination. It was okay to think for yourself, to be your own savior so to speak. I always knew it, but it is very reaffirming to have someone you truly admire agree with you, to say it is alright that you feel this way. You are not alone in your doubt, in your desire for truth and happiness.
So my love for Tori and her work was complete. So why do I love Tori's music? The primary reason is that her music provides me some tools I can use to strip away self-deception and the indoctrination that society tries to force on me. It allows me to go under the pink and find the true Michael with no self-censorship. The harsh light of reality can be painful, but it can also be very cleansing. Tori's music is filled with pain and sadness, but there is always hope, even in Me and a Gun. I have not been a victim of sexual violence like Tori, but the courage she shows here is inspirational beyond description. She says she is determined to avoid staying a victim. Her music stirs me to actually think, to question everything around me, and sometimes to listen to my heart instead of only listening to my intellect. She insists that we all have our own light and that we should shine independently, and not depend on others exclusively or just accept what is force-fed to us. I have been encouraged to face my demons, to invite them for tea and realize what is truly hurting me. Many people do not face these demons, and as a result they remain unhappy. Not coming to grips with your true self can lead to destructive behavior. I finally found the courage to completely renounce my strict Catholic upbringing and realize that sex is not a dirty, evil thing. I felt encouraged to explore my feelings, and never except any doctrine or idea unless it felt right to me inside. I no longer care what society thinks of me, and I am my own person. I credit Tori with the inspiration to help me achieve all this.
One thing remained for me to do. I needed to tell Tori about the effect her songs have had on me. I had my chance on August 8, 1994. I drove south to Nashville Tennessee to see her perform at the Ryman Auditorium. I purchased my tickets late, so my seat was in the last row in the balcony and I could hardly even see her. The show was still great. After the concert I walked around to the stage door and waited with a much larger crowd this time, around 100 people. I had claimed a section of ground right near the door in a little tunnel-like area between the stage door and the alley in back of the auditorium. After about 45 minutes a Limo pulled up and people in the street had to get out of the way. I remained where I was and me and about 12 other people in the tunnel passageway were cut off from the rest of the crowd by the limo.
So now Joel appeared, who has been Tori's bodyguard for several tours. He said that those of us in the tunnel could stay, as long as we did not crowd around Tori and if we gave her a clear path to the waiting limo. Finally she emerged, and then began speaking to people and hugging them on the way to the car. I was immediately struck by three things, First she was extremely beautiful, she was really short, and she was talking to the fans like they were old friends of hers! Anyway, before she got to me she hugged a friend of mine who was with me. Then she reached me. I think I had a difficult time speaking at this point, and may have stammered a bit. She gazed at me intently, giving full attention to me as I slowly got my message out, I thanked her for the songs on Under The Pink and told her how they helped me overcome some things that were making my life unfulfilling. She smiled at me and was patting me on my chest. She said "good, that is so wonderful to hear..what is your name?" I replied "Tori," and then "I mean Michael," and then she hugged me. Her hair smelled wonderful and I whispered "Thank you so much..." with tears rolling down my face. Then it was over. She may have said more but I was so excited I couldn't remember. I do remember that despite the fact that I am tall and she is short, it seemed that she was still towering above me. Her eyes are very penetrating, and very full of wisdom. They help give her a very powerful presence that even my friend who is not a Toriphile felt.
I am now honored to maintain this web site as a salute to this wonderful woman and as a way to share my Tori experiences with others who have been moved by her music. I again thank every one who has helped me with this web site, and I also thank those who have just clicked by and maybe had a laugh or smile as they read or saw something here. And most of all, thank you Tori for the inspiration.
Added September 1, 1996 - I had the pleasure of meeting Tori once again before her sound check in Indianapolis, Indiana on July 28, 1996. Read all about it in my concert review and see a photo of myself with Tori.
Added September 18, 1996 - I met Tori before her sound check in Muncie, Indiana at Ball State University on September 18, 1996. She played Killing Me Softly For Me! Read my my concert review.
Added Late 1998 - The plugged '98 tour was incredible and I had the privilege of meeting Tori several times for various reasons, both at the pre-soundcheck meet & greets and a few times backstage. It was without a doubt the most memorable tour I have experienced. At this point Tori was very aware of The Dent and she thanked me for maintaining the site. She even expressed concern for the site once at a meet & greet during a 2 week period when the site was down due to technical problems with my service provider. She helped me deal with the death of a dear friend of mine during the tour, and she wrote a special message to the readers of the Dent at the end of the tour. You can read more about my experience on this tour on my Plugged '98 Page.
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