Fairy Tales: Tori Biography

Tori Amos: A Woman on a Mission
Originated by Shulamis Rosenblat, (6/94)
updated by Irena Pereira (1/96)
updated by Jason Watts (1/97)

Myra Ellen Amos was born on August 22nd, 1963 in Newton, North Carolina. Her father is Edison Amos, who is a Methodist minister, (and was also in the Navy) and her mother is Mary Ellen Amos, who is part Cherokee Indian and was a English Literature major. Her mother worked at a record store before she married Mr. Amos, and kept many of her records. Tori has said these records helped expose her to great music (i.e., The Beatles) at a young age. She has a brother named Mike who is ten years older than her. Tori calls her brother "a big influence in the music area" because he would bring home records, which gave Tori a contemporary influence. Her brother also played guitar. Tori has an older sister named Marie... (Mike, Marie, and Myra... think they had a thing for M names?) Marie is six years older than Tori, whom she calls "the intelligence of the family", who became a doctor. Her parents and relatives referred to her as "Ellen" and some still do. She didn't live in North Carolina long because her father's ministry moved to a Baltimore/Washington DC suburb. But she still visited her father's parents house in the summer.

Tori started playing piano as early as 2 years old, and at five she auditioned for a musical scholarship at the Peabody Conservatory, part of Baltimore's John Hopkins University, to study classical piano. She was granted the scholarship and attended the Peabody until 11 when she was kicked out for playing by ear and 'improvising'. Basically, she played an original song for an exam was labeled a heretic for not conforming to Conservatory policy. Then at 13 she re- auditioned but she was not accepted for re-admittance. There went the idea of becoming a classical pianist, which probably wasn't all that disappointing considering Tori enjoyed playing Beatles or Rolling Stones more than classical.

Tori has been writing songs for almost as long as she's been playing. Tori said, "You write different stuff when you're thirteen than when you're twenty-eight. But I'll tell you, I was more on at thirteen than I sometimes was at twenty-one!" Around 13, Tori started playing in gay bars and hotel lounges around the Washington DC area with her father accompanying her. Tori played the clubs at night and attended school during the day. "I think I really got afraid of it," Tori said, "afraid of playing, afraid of showing my guts. I just kind of went somewhere else for awhile." But don't think Tori's social life was completely on-hold because of these night time performances, she was actually voted Homecoming Queen. In 1980, she and her brother Mike put together a song called "Baltimore" to enter in a theme-song contest for the Baltimore Orioles. The refrain, "I've got Oriole baseball on my mind.." must have been an inspiration to Debbie Gibson and Tiffany, for they emulated Tori's earlier style almost to a T. The b-side, "Walking With You," shines purely of the roots of the Myra Ellen Amos of today.

When she was twenty-one, "Myra Ellen" changed her name to Tori. Tori moved to LA to expand her musical and personal horizons, or to "become a rock star," as her father puts it. When asked why she changed her name, she tends to give varied answers, everything from she named herself after a tree to her sister's boyfriend thinking she looked more like a Tori than an Ellen.

In 1988, she recorded Y Kan't Tori Read under the Atlantic label and it was a commercial disaster. The band consisted of various members that included Matt Sorum of Guns n' Roses, and previously of the Cult, and Eric Williamson and Steve Canton, who still work with Tori. It was around this time that Tori was kidnapped and sexually attacked, which with the help of the movie Thelma and Louise, caused Tori to write the traumatic song "Me And A Gun".

These stressful experiences seemed to be too much for Tori and she suffered a sort of nervous break-down where she stopped playing piano completely. She said she was laying on her kitchen floor for 6 months, moping and depressed. But after awhile she decided to be honest with herself and with her music and started releasing her pain by writing the songs that make up Little Earthquakes. This album was four years in the making.

"I got myself off of my kitchen floor and went to a friend's house. My friend had this old, old black upright piano and I asked `Can I play your piano for a while?' I played for about four or five hours, and when it was over, she said, `Tori, this instrument is crying without you, and you're a mess without it. This is what you are. It's not about [the fact that] no body thinks it's cool. You've done everything else, and look what they think of that.'"

Tori currently resides in Nottinghill Gate in England, while her now ex-boyfriend, Eric Rosse who did synthesizing and co-produced parts of live performances, lives in between New Mexico and Los Angeles. They had been together for about 8 years. Though not in a relationship, Eric and Tori still plan to do various projects together.

At around 5'3" Tori is petite but it does not take away from her powerful yet mysterious ambiance. Her dyed flaming red hair almost reflects the fire that seems to be burning inside her; the flames of anger, pain, and frustration all combining to be released in her emotionally draining songs. Most of contains songs about her own childhood, her own problems, her own tribulations. This in itself makes the listener feel special; that Tori has let them in on some sort of secret about her past. And she does. The songs openly tell about Tori's life with a honesty that some critics have said made her seem 'vulnerable.' But it seem that is just another part of the mystique of Tori, that makes this quote so true: "People don't just discover Tori Amos, they become obsessed."

Atlantic Co-CEO Doug Morris first came up with the idea to debut Tori in England instead of America. His reason behind this was the general open-mindedness of the English listeners compared to the more finicky American public. Like some other famous artists, Jimi Hendrix or Chrissie Hynde, England was the perfect place because of the abundance of clubs and such where Tori could perform live to introduce audiences to her music. So Tori moved off England in February of 1991.

"Even if I'm just observing something, I'm involved in it because I'm seeing it from my perspective," Tori explains as she states how she is able to make songs intimate and personal, even when they are not about her own experience. She was praised by many for Little Earthquakes, and misinterpreted by only a few. One columnist called it a "candid, stormy album", while in the same sentence calling Tori a "strange, strange case." Another called the songs "smart, melodic and dramatic." Many where amazed by her live on stage performances, yet one article called Tori's stage 'persona' "off-putting" until of course, she reached the soul- wrenching "Me and A Gun." There they seemed to crumble and they started to appreciate Tori for her talent, calling the performance lovely and brave.

Tori states: "It's important to me that my songs mean what they need to mean to you. They all mean something to me personally, but they might have a different meaning to you and that is just as valid, and just as important."

Tori's sophomore album, Under the Pink, was criticized by many for not being as "accessible" by the general public as her previous solo debut. She describes that venture as being a "look beyond the concept of `woman.'"

"Women can be as cruel to one another as anyone else," she explains. "But then again, they can be as kind." Many of the albums songs have filled the media and critics with perplexity.

In the song "God", Tori deals with such issues as the patriarchy and what it has done to the world. "God's up there, leanin' back, sipping his iced tea gazing at the world when he should be moving his ass! I say he isn't doing his job, like he was assigned to do. Hell, he needs a chick to look after him and hey, I'm free on Thursdays," she states.

In another song, "Icicle", Tori confronts the taboo subject of masturbation, and rebellion, intermingled with protestations toward the institutionalized church and the Bible itself.

All in all, the album attacks various subjects in a far more secretive and hidden manner than Little Earthquakes did. Topics range from betrayal by best friends, loss of faith, disillusionment, and a song inspired by Alice Walker's book, Possessing the Secret of Joy. In one song, "Past the Mission", Tori makes an unlikely pair with industrial genius Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, who sings back-up.

Ms. Myra Ellen "Tori" Amos is a hard worker. Not only does she run herself into the ground with her relentless touring, she also has endless projects in line, including a Leonard Cohen tribute album, Tower of Song, where she performs "Famous Blue Raincoat", a Led Zeppelin tribute album in which she sang a duet with her childhood love, Robert Plant ("Down by the Seaside"), an AIDS benefit album where she'll add her talents to the Beatles's "A Day in the Life", and a duet with Michael Stipe which has yet to appear commercially.

It's often said that the "third time's the charm." Well it seems to be so with Tori's newest album, Boys for Pele (no, not the soccer player, but the Hawaiian volcano goddess.) Since the break up of her 7.5 year relationship with co-producer Eric Rosse, Tori has had a lot on her mind. She explains that she was writing "everywhere" while wrapping up her tour, in reaction to that said break-up. "This album is about how I've stolen fire from the boys in my life," she tells us. Dealing with common relational tensions, Tori addresses wanting to be the `dream girl' in "Talula," and self-abuse and being the victim in a relationship in "Putting the Damage On." Her first single, "Caught a Lite Sneeze," released in the UK on January 1st, and in the US January 2nd, has already entered the British Charts at #20. Q Magazine has already awarded Boys for pele four out of five stars for excellence.

With the fantastical release of her latest album (debuting at number 2 on the billboard chart) and the end to her 7 month Dew Drop Inn tour, it can be said that she really had a great year in 1996. Currently she is heavily promoting, with the help of her record company, Calvin Klein, and the Lifetime T.V. network, R.A.I.N.N. An organization she helped found to help those suffering rape, abuse, and incest. She will be making many appearances on T.V. to promote a benefit concert she is performing to raise funds and awareness.

There have been rumors that she is not set to record another album till (at least) late 1998/early 1999. Let's all hope that it is sometime sooner :-)

Why, Why, Why...

Why would I go through all this trouble you might be asking yourself. Well, the reason is simple, Tori helped me out once and now I just want to let others know that she can help them too if they let her. My sTORI is similar to many others as you may have guessed. It involves a tragic breakup with a girlfriend, plenty of wallowing in self pity, and then the light. No, no the bright light at the end of a tunnel mind you, just that little sparkling jewel we all so affectionately refer to as Little Earthquakes.

Whenever I listened to that CD, I was able to put everything else out of my mind and think about something else. The music just had a magical effect on me. It is kinda hard to explain, but then again, I really don't have to explain it to a lot of you out there. You know that feeling. And although Under the Pink and Boys for Pele don't have quite the same effect on me, I can relax when listening to them.

Way back (a few years ago), before the release of Under the Pink I started a Tori web page. Then, there were only a couple of them. The only thing I really had to offer then was a bunch of articles I had been storing up. So that is where the name Fairy Tales (tales(stories) about a fairy(tori)) comes from. And as for the spelling of "Fairy", it wasn't as objectionable then as it is now. I could change the spelling, but why not be different. Anyways, the site slowly grew into the site you are seeing today. Quite a growth if you ask me. And I do it all because Tori once helped me. Thankyou for visiting and hope you come again. And Thankyou Tori!!!!

Random Tori Quote:
"My theory is that women were the Mona Lisas for a long time and now men are Mona Lisas with little goatees, they are our muses"   - Tori Amos

©2002 STUFF.to by JRW Except where noted. E-mail Jason. All rights reserved. This page last modified 3/12/02