On Tori Amos.

posted in: Art, Paean, Poetry 8
Tori, from a series of photographs taken for the 1998 album "From the Choirgirl Hotel." The art was created by artist Katarina Webb, who puts her subjects on huge photocopiers.
From a series of photographs taken for Tori’s 1998 album, “From the Choirgirl Hotel.” The art was created by artist Katarina Webb; she places her subjects on photocopiers.

I need to talk about Tori Amos.

Those who were listening to music coined as “alternative” in the 1990s are likely familiar with Tori Amos. I was in high school when her first album, Little Earthquakes, was released. With the first notes of “Silent All These Years,” I fell deeply in love with her piano-based music: a blend of superb melodies and straight-up rock n’ roll. Her cryptic lyrics allowed for endless interpretation, which meant I could insert my angsty high-school self into every song and claim them all as unique expressions of my complex and yearning soul. (Oh, how complex and yearning I was!) Most Tori Amos fans do this, which is a testament to Tori’s music: good writers make you feel like they’re speaking directly to you and no one else. Perhaps this is why Tori fans call her by her first name. We really do feel close enough to be on a first-name basis.

If that sounds a little creepy, buckle up.

My Tori fandom wasn’t a mild case. I amassed mountains of Tori memorabilia in high school, spending the majority of the money I made as a waitress at the local Pizza Hut (help) on such merchandise as 7” UK vinyl pressings of singles not released in the states. Note: I did not own a record player. Terrible bootleg CDs of her concerts fetched $30 bucks at the record store in Des Moines but I happily forked it over to hear the same songs I had already; but as Tori is a master improvisor, you never knew what she’d do within the songs, so you had to have it all. It was a treasure hunt and a pastime I lived for. I clipped articles. I bought t-shirts, and in what was perhaps the geekiest, most cringe-inducing moment of my adolescence, I created a Tori Amos board game for me and my friends, who were as nuts about her as I was.

A board game. With pieces and question cards.

For years, my pie-in-the-sky dream was to open for Tori as a poet. I thought a 20-minute set of killer spoken word would be a perfect compliment to her show, and I’d be happy just being the opener to the opener. I never sent my materials to her management company, which is lame but understandable. I was broke. The prospect of creating a dazzling media/audition kit that would get past the garbage can of her management company was beyond my abilities. I was 22, barely making ends meet, and too busy drinking vodka cranberries with my poet friends. But maybe I’ll do it now becauseI still think it’s a good idea. Tori, if this post should come over the transom, do think about it. You will like my poems. Your audience will, too. It could be perfect. And fear not: the board game is long, long gone.

I made an extensive playlist for a friend who was going on a long drive in California. Halfway through putting it together, I got caught on my collection of Tori. For several hours, while sewing patchwork, I sank into each track, remembering my old interpretation and forging a new one.

Good music should grow with you.


8 Responses

  1. Carol
    | Reply

    Hey MF…well now I don’t feel quite so odd…whenever I talk about you to my partner (I am always reading your blog to her…or showing her a Quilty video) I always refer to you as “ya know my good friend Mary Fons? Well today she said…”…..to which she just rolls her eyes and listens.

    • Mary Fons
      | Reply

      I love it! Tee hee. We ARE friends, Carol.

  2. Rob
    | Reply

    You were actually the one who got me into Tori, way back in 1997. And once I was a fan, you made me a mix tape of all those rare live recordings and B-sides. I played that cassette until it was so worn down it sounded like mush (and I think I still have it, complete with your custom cassette label and hand-drawn “Tori!” logos and stars all over it). Once I was in the land of professional journalism and landed my first interview with Tori, you were of course the first one I told. And many years later, when I finally met Tori in person while living in NYC, one thought went across my mind — “Mary Fons would be soooooo jealous right about now.” Thank you for introducing me to an artist who quickly became — and remains — one of my favorites of all time.

  3. carla
    | Reply

    Mary, (or is it Ms. Fons? I hope Mary is ok!)

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and watching you on Love of Quilting almost as long as I’ve been quilting – so just over a year. I wanted to tell you how inspiring and humbling I find you. Your writing always so touching and I always learn something from you, either about life or about quilting. Your entry a while back about loving yourself and doing something nice for yourself really hit home. Thank you for that reminder. I went out and bought flowers for myself that very day. Today, I sewed curves for the first time and I channeled everything you and your mom had to say about sewing curves back in the episode with the baby quilt that had the curved binding. Anyway, I know this sounds scattered, but I wanted you to know how influential you’ve been in my life. Thank you for writing and thank you for doing your series. You are amazing. I’m sure Tori Amos would love you if she ever met you or read your work.



    • Mary Fons
      | Reply


      I’m a bit shy, your compliment(s) were so soul-affirming. I feel grateful. Thank you. I’m writing the blog for you, actually, and anyone else who gets something from it. Including me, in fact! 🙂

      Have a day to remember,

  4. Lauren
    | Reply

    And this is another piece that I love! My “Tori fandom” was eerily similar to yours. I had the singles and bootlegs, biographies and VHS versions of concerts. Not to mention ticket stubs. You have me on the board game, I confess. (I love the idea!)

    I started quilting not quite two years ago, and Quilty was the first mag I purchased off the newsstand. It’s perfect. I love Spooly and your sense of humor. I read every single word. At least twice. And I’ve made two (maybe three) quilts, but have many more bookmarked and set aside, fabric piles and all. Now to gain more than 24 hours in a day – that is my next task.

    Okay, I’m verging on being creepy now, I know, but you wrote, “good writers make you feel like they’re speaking directly to you and no one else,” and it’s how I feel when I read PaperGirl. Swear.

    P.S. I’m also a huge fan of The Pendennis Observer.

    • Mary Fons
      | Reply

      Lauren… Not creepy. Totally received and valued. Thank you for hanging around the ol’ PG and YOU HAVE MY WORD: when the Pendennis Observer becomes a frivolous coffee table book, you will receive a signed copy. Signed by the monkey, obviously, but also by me. xoxo, Mar

  5. Gay Barrett
    | Reply

    Stevie Nicks is my life’s version of Tori. I revered Stevie when I was younger, and wished to be her.

    As I am in full blown middle age, I have placed Stevie in proper context. She is important to me, but not because I want to assimilate myself into Stevie 2.0. I don’t have this burning desire to tell her how much I admire/respect her. I simply want to sit across the table from her and chat.

    I respect Stevie as an artist, and as a kindred soul. She speaks my heart before I realize what my heart is struggling to understand. Along comes Stevie with that all knowing smile on her lips and a song in her heart. And my heart, in response, slows its pace and whispers, “She’s always right.”

    And Mary-I think you are stuck with many of us who watch you on television, or read Quilty. Because you are already part of our family. But, don’t get heady–I don’t think you are always right. That belongs to Stevie. 😉 J’adore you

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