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.