It was not without some shock that I randomly realized this afternoon that this year, since I am 28, I have officially been listening to Tori Amos for half my life–1999’s To Venus and Back was my first album, when I was 14. My sister and I bought the No Boundaries compilation album from the rickety Unicentro CD store in Cali, since it contained a lot of artists that it seemed like we should know about (people like Neil Young and Pearl Jam and Tori, people whose CDs would never be sold in Colombia!). One of the songs was “Merman,” and so that year one of the albums we asked for a b-day gift was Tori’s TVAB (along with Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile, purchased in the States on one of my parents’ many business trips). I also have memories of seeing the “Spark” music video air on MTV around that time and feeling somewhat traumatized (“Spark” also has the honor of being the first song I ever illegally downloaded on the Internet via Napster, bless its soul).
Moving to England has been boutiful for me in terms of being a Tori Amos fan–I saw her live at the Royal Albert Hall with a full orchestra last year, saw a performance of “The Light Princess” a few months ago and recently made yet another contribution to her daughter’s college fund by purchasing a 2014 concert ticket. So why wouldn’t this time be as good as any to not make a Tori Amos tribute post?
Space Dog (Under the Pink and Venus live album)
My favorite Tori song and one of the earliest ones I ever listened to, off the To Venus and Back live album. Why do I like this song so much? Why do I feel so moved by it? Do I just like the piano, the enigmatic lyrics? What the heck is it about? Feminism? The inevitability of growing up; the loss of innocence? Alien abduction? I have no idea. To me, this song is the epitome of what great art can do, of the effect it can have on you–it’s indescribable, unexplainable. Something magical that cannot be described in words.
Curtain Call and Fast Horse (Abnormally Attracted to Sin)
Two good songs for a perfectionist with a highly vacillating sense of self-esteem to listen to. By the time you’re 25 they will say you’ve gone and blown it. “Fast Horse” especially is filled with plenty of juicy self-help mantras–Tori, be my therapist! Or tell me who yours is, ha.
Flying Dutchman (Little Earthquakes b-side)
I cried my eyes out during this performance. Fuck, I was an emotional wreck the whole night. To hear one of my favorite Tori Amos songs of all time performed live by a full orchestra was, like, seriously one of the best things that have ever happened to me. This is such a good song for a CTY kid. I especially love the last minute, when the strings really kick into Epic mode.
Pretty Good Year (Under the Pink)
Another candidate for my favorite Tori song. I tend to like her songs that are about childhood & growing up, I’ve noticed. Or being too hard on yourself: They say you were something in those formative years…
Putting the Damage On and Hey Jupiter (Boys For Pele)
Ufffff, what good break-up songs. Almost painful to listen to, at times. “Doughnut Song,” also muy fuerte. Can I just say here really fast that I am currently obsessed with the versions of “Hey Jupiter” with strings?
Father Lucifer (Boys For Pele)
Aww, love this one, especially the live versions, like this one (1996), this one (1998), the one posted above (1999, my favorite), and this one (2003). I also loved seeing it performed live in 2011, with strings. This song really cemented for me what an amazing, brilliant live performer Tori is, a complete and utter consummate professional. I remember a story my friend told me once of going to see a Manu Chao concert two nights in a row, and how disappointed she was that they were both exactly the same–even the stage banter. That would NEVER happen at a Tori concert.
Another Girl’s Paradise (Scarlet’s Walk)
This one is kind of an underdog. I myself am sort of surprised by me including it here. I like the Fleetwood Mac production, the backup vocals and guitars. I like what the lyrics say about jealousy and desire. Mainly I find listening to this song very centering. There’s not many other artists that I listen to that have this effect on me–the moral and ethical effect of, “okay, I have a better idea now of what my priorities are in life and what I need to be focused on.” Like Bolaño and Kafka, Tori is an artist whose work I feel has taught me how to live my life in a more morally centering and mindful way.
Roosterspur Bridge (American Doll Posse)
Just a great, classic ballad. Probably the Tori song I’ve listened to the most, if my little ipod shuffle kept track of song counts. Clyde is probably my favorite American Doll Posse alter-ego, haha (can’t believe how nerdy I sound saying that…).
I could keep going, obviously, but it’s probably better to stop there, at the convenient number of 10. Writing this post has made me realize what a HUGE difference youtube has made. Gone are the days of right-clicking on the links on here-in-my-head.com or yessaid, waiting for the little mp3 to download, desperately eager to hear to live versions of songs on tours I myself would never get to experience until I finally moved to the States in 2004. Ah, Tori fandom. Would this version of “Sweet Dreams” contain the George Bush improv? How did “Sister Janet” sound on the organ? “Talulah” with the band?
I also can’t help thinking how strange it is that I’ve spent so much time in my life thinking about and listening to someone who has no idea I exist, or what an enormous, powerfully formative effect they’ve had on the way I think about myself, the way to carry myself through the word, and my own pitiful attempts at making art. You know?