Tori Amos (born Myra Ellen Amos on August 22, 1963) is an American singer/songwriter and vocalist known for her unique and proficient style of piano playing, as well as for her intimate brand of songwriting. Amos has released many studio albums and numerous B-sides to date, and has gathered a notoriously devoted following due to her eccentric personality and intense live shows.
- 1 Career
- 2 from the choirgirl hotel through Scarlet's Walk
- 3 The Beekeeper through the present
- 4 Connection to NIN
- 5 Body Of Work
- 6 Lyrics to "Past the Mission"
- 7 External Links
Amos was born the youngest of three children to a Methodist minister father and homemaker mother. Her strict Christian upbringing—and its subsequent effects on her attitude towards sexual freedom, among other major issues—would later figure largely into her work. Her religious beliefs were also affected by her maternal grandfather, who was of Cherokee decent, and taught the young Ellen about Native American philosophies until he passed away when she was nine years old.
Amos first began to play the piano when she was two and a half years old, and at five was the youngest person ever to be accepted into the prestigious Peabody Conservatory of Music. By the time she turned eleven, she had made it clear that she was more interested in classic rock than classical music, and her scholarship was discontinued. Amos would later cite Led Zeppelin as a favorite of hers when she was a child.
By thirteen she had begun playing gay bars in Washington, D.C., chaperoned by her father. At seventeen she won a contest involving a song she and her brother had written about the Baltimore Orioles, titled "Baltimore." This was her first single, pressed for friends and family, and released with another original track as a B-side entitled "Walking With You."
After seven years of unsuccessfully sending her demos to record labels, Amos (now being call Tori, having been given the name by a friend's boyfriend) moved to Los Angeles to further her career. At some point while living there Amos was assaulted by a regular at the bar she played at weekly. This event would also later find its way into her work.
Y Kant Tori Read through Boys For Pele
As Amos was consistently told "the girl and a piano thing was dead," she began co-writing her first album, Y Kant Tori Read, under a band moniker of the same name, released in 1988 on Atlantic Records. Featuring contributions from Steve Caton and Matt Sorum of later Guns 'N' Roses fame, the album contained some hints of her future artistry, but was generally percieved as influenced by the popular hair metal of the decade. Amos has stated that at the time the record was made, she wasn't ready to face the personal demons she would confront later. The album was a flop critically and commercially, and when Amos talks about the project she often pokes good natured fun at it. She has occasionally performed a few songs from the album, and original copies of the LP are considered extreme collectibles to hardcore Amos fans.
After recovering from the mess of that first album, Amos later recalled that what turned her music around was rediscovering the piano, an instrument she had nearly abandoned. She then realized that she could never separate from it again, and that she should just do what she wants to, whether it's accepted or not. This reversal in thought brought about her debut solo album Little Earthquakes, centered around her piano and exploring themes like religious guilt, relationships, and, perhaps most famously, her own rape, released in 1992. This album shot Amos into the public's critically-favorable awareness, and began building her fanbase. Amos has described this album as her diary, and fans often find it as one of the most straightforward and accessible.
In 1994, Amos released her second album Under the Pink, which she described as an impressionist painting. This description revealed itself in the LP's more metaphorical lyrics, orchestral instrumentation, and references to literature and history. It's title refers to the idea of going beneath the stereotypes of femininity, and many songs deal with women's relationships with each other, particularly those related to betrayal. It is generally considered Amos's most classically influenced record. Near the end of the tour promoting it, Amos parted ways with her boyfriend of seven years, who had also served as producer for her first two albums. This, and other relationships with what Amos referred to as "baby demons," greatly changed her, as well as her next album.
Boys For Pele was released in 1996, and was an extreme departure from her previous works, featuring her Bosendorfer piano, a harpsichord, gospel choirs, church bells, brass, a Leslie Cabinet, and many other miscellaneous instruments. The lyrics were also much more metaphorical, associative, and complex, either being praised for their brilliance or dismissed as self-indulgent. Amos has described the album as a novel. This was also the first time Amos had ever self-produced. She would later state that she wouldn't know who she'd be today if she hadn't made the record, as it was about her "finding her own flame," and had greatly expanded and strengthened her voice. The subsequent tour was famously intense, and the album itself is generally the favorite of many fans, or thought of as the most "perfect."
from the choirgirl hotel through Scarlet's Walk
Amos's fourth album, from the choirgirl hotel, was released in 1998 after much change in the singer's life. Since her previous album she had married her sound engineer and experienced some traumatic events in her personal life, each of which was addressed on the album. This also marked the first time Amos performed alongside a traditional full band set-up, instead of tracking vocals and piano first and then adding other elements. Obviously then, the album had a very different sound than her previous records, as it also contained electronic elements. Most fans think of it as fairly accessible, and is also a major favorite.
Her next album of new material, To Venus and Back, was released in 1999 (conversationally on the same day as Nine Inch Nails' album The Fragile), although it wasn't planned that way. Amos had originally wanted to release a collection of B-sides and a live disc, but new material began to unexpectedly come to her. The final project resulted in a double album of one disc new material and one disc live tracks from the following tour. The first disc has a decidedly electronic feel, and was once described by Amos's good friend writer Neil Gaiman as "a collection of greatest hits from outer space." This is because there is no direct tie between all songs besides their atmospheric similarities and scientifically flavored language.
Between this and her next album Strange Little Girls, released in 2001, Amos' gave birth to her first child, a daughter, in 2000. Songwriting for the album began when Amos was nursing her daughter while watching all of the hateful music being praised on TV and radio. She decided to make an album of covers of songs written by men, told from the female perspective, to shed some light on what was really being said. She brought in guitarist Adrian Belew on some tracks, and generally produced an eclectic sounding LP, ranging from more acoustic vibes to metal-tinged sounds. Each song was told from the perspective of an individual female, with corresponding artwork. Most fans list it near the bottom of their favorite albums of hers, if only for the fact that it wasn't original, Amos-penned material.
Her 2003 album Scarlet's Walk was also a concept album, written from the point of view of Scarlet, who is a woman traveling across America. Each song is about her encounter with someone/something, and moves throughout the states. It is a generally more acoustic and mellow work, spanning 18 tracks, and also a fan favorite. It was Amos' first album on Epic Records.
The Beekeeper through the present
Amos' 2005 release entitled The Beekeeper was a return to more autobiographical material. It's major theme according to the singer was that of betrayal in a relationship, and also revolved around the idea of beekeeping and gardens. It contained a slightly more organic sound featuring gospel choirs, a Hammond Organ, and other elements. It is usually most fans least favorite album, although some love it. The former usually object to the production quality, certain lyrics, or the changes in her voice while the latter enjoy an album where no research into lyrical references is needed, and where there's more of an upbeat ambience.
For many though, much was riding on Amos' ninth album American Doll Posse, released on May 1, 2007. This album was also based around a concept—Amos believed that too many American woman were pushed into boring or simple stereotypes (such as the "knickerless flirt" or the "career bitch"), and so wanted to create "new ones" where the women were much more interesting or empowered and so forth. Thus five women sing the 23 tracks on the album, based on the Greek pantheon: Santa/Aphrodite who is very sensual, Pip/Athena who is brutally confrontational, Isabel/Artemis who is an unbiased chronicler, Clyde/Persephone who is introspectively compassionate, and Tori/Demeter/Dionysus who was viewed as a stylized version of the artist herself. The record was greatly influenced lyrically and musically by the rock gods of the seventies, and many fans thought it was a return to edge for Amos, as did critics, praising it as one of her most accessible and fun LP's. This was her last record for Epic.
On May 30, 2008, the online Amos community discovered that the singer was no longer listed on Epic's official site. A user's question regarding this was officially addressed on Billboard's website, stating that Amos was now independent and planning on exploring the subsequent opportunities. A message from Amos regarding this was later posted on her official site, with hints at coming news in the future. Comic Book Tattoo, a nearly 500 page book containing over 50 comics by over 80 artists, each based on one of her songs, was released later in 2008. A DVD for the American Doll Posse tour, entitled The Road Chronicles, is slated for a late 2009 release.
Amos's tenth studio album, Abnormally Attracted To Sin, will be released May 19, 2009.
Amos is known for her extensive B-side and singles collection, as well as her numerous covers, duets, and soundtrack songs. Perhaps her most famous cover was that of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" in 1992, which Kurt Cobain greatly liked and was flattered by. She is known to rework a cover in a way that reveals another layer to it, rather than flat-out copy it. As for soundtrack songs, she has contributed to several films including Mission Impossible: II, Mona Lisa Smile, and Twister. Her duets have included Robert Plant, Michael Stipe, and Damien Rice, among others. Every album has been accompanied by somewhere between 5 and 12 B-sides.
In 2003, Amos also released a greatest-hits entitled Tales of a Librarian, which featured two new tracks and reworked older songs. In 2004 she released a DVD from the Scarlet's Walk tour called Welcome to Sunny Florida featuring "Scarlet's Hidden Treasures:" six unreleased songs from the aforementioned album. In 2005 she commissioned "official bootlegs" of The Beekeper tour and released a video collection called Fade to Red. She also released her book entitled Piece by Piece, co-written by Anne Powers, which made the New York Times Bestseller List. In 2006 she released A Piano: The Collection, a five disc set containing numerous album tracks, remastered tracks, remixed tracks, demos, B-sides, and unreleased songs. In 2007, in conjunction with the American Doll Posse tour, she made Legs & Boots—bootlegs of the U.S. leg of the tour—available on her official site, mere hours after the shows were over, in MP3 format.
In 1994, influenced by events in her past and by people she has met over the years, Amos also co-founded RAINN—Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network—the only 24/7, toll-free hotline in America, geared towards helping victims and survivors of abuse. She performed a benefit concert for the organization in 1997, at which her friend Maynard James Keenan of Tool performed, and has since donated to it repeatedly.
Amos was voted the fifth best live act by Rolling Stone in 2003, as she is known for her intense live shows and productive touring habits. Her setlists vary every single night, and since she began touring with her band—Matt Chamberlain, Jon Evans, Steve Caton (1988-1999), and Dan Phelps (2007)—in 1998, she usually has a solo set in the middle of each show. Since 1991, she has performed over 1,000 official shows.
Amos is also known for her devoted fans, dubbed as "Ears With Feet" or Toriphiles. When the internet was just becoming popular, she was noted to have the most websites dedicated to her, and those still around today are extremely extensive in all areas of her career, and also have very active forums. As such she often makes use of her online fans: in 1996, her song "Caught A Lite Sneeze" was the first MP3 ever to be available for free download on the internet. She's also utilized such methods for Legs & Boots and other distributing systems.
Amos is often misconstrued as either "kooky" or too serious. She has admitted to "playing kooky for the British," as that's the pigeonhole they put her in, which she finds amusing. She's also stated that her sense of humor was "more like a butter knife" than a butcher knife. She also loves red wine (and turned Keenan onto it.) She and Neil Gaiman, author of The Sandman, regularly name-check each other in interviews and reference each other in their art, such as the song "Tear in Your Hand" and his character Delirium.
Connection to NIN
Trent Reznor and Amos originally met in mutual admiration for each other's respective debut albums, sometime in the early nineties. They recognized similar approaches in emotional expression, despite vastly different musical styles. Both artists influenced the other's work in some way; Reznor even admitted that he would listen to Little Earthquakes every day while recording The Downward Spiral.   From there a collaboration formed: Reznor contributed vocals to Amos's single "Past The Mission" for her 1994 album Under The Pink. His vocals on the track were uncharacteristically, and somewhat unrecognizably, soft and pleasant, low in the mix of the song's choruses. The song was about finding hope in a relationship after trauma, as well as the supposed relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus.
Amos has also performed the first two lines of "Hurt" in concert—mainly between 1994 and 1999—and has made allusions to Nine Inch Nails in her solo work, most notably in "Precious Things" from Little Earthquakes and "Caught a Lite Sneeze" from Boys for Pele.
The two were obviously once close friends, and several interviews from the mid nineties detail random encounters between the two, such as the "cursed chicken" story.  Some mutual fans of the artists speculate their friendship once reached beyond that into romantic territory, based on these and other interviews, various NIN and Amos lyrics, and other similarities in work. Their relationship is currently undetermined, though it is viewed as broken, based on the same aforementioned things.
Body Of Work
- Y Kant Tori Read (as Y Kant Tori Read) (1988)
- Little Earthquakes (1992)
- Under the Pink (1994)
- Boys For Pele (1996)
- From the Choirgirl Hotel (1998)
- To Venus and Back (1999)
- Strange Little Girls (2001)
- Scarlet's Walk (2002)
- The Beekeeper (2005)
- American Doll Posse (2007)
- Abnormally Attracted To Sin (2009)
- Midwinter Graces (2009)
- Night of Hunters (2011)
- Gold Dust (2012)
- Unrepentant Geraldines (2014)
- Native Invader (2017)
- Ocean to Ocean (2021)
- Me and a Gun (1991)
- Silent All These Years (1992)
- Crucify (1992)
- Winter (1992)
- China (1992)
- God (1993)
- Cornflake Girl (1994)
- Pretty Good Year (1994)
- Past the Mission (1994)
- Caught a Lite Sneeze (1996)
- Talula (1996)
- Professional Widow (1996)
- Hey Jupiter (1996)
- In the Springtime of His Voodoo (1996)
- Spark (1998)
- Jackie's Strength (1998)
- Cruel / Raspberry Swirl (1998)
- Jackie's Strength Remixes (1999)
- Bliss (1999)
- 1,000 Oceans (1999)
- Glory of the 80s (1999)
- Concertina (2000)
- Strange Little Girl (2001)
- Don't Make Me Come to Vegas (2003)
- Scarlet's Hidden Treasures (2004)
- Little Earthquakes VHS (1992)
- Live in NY VHS (1997)
- Tales of a Librarian CD/DVD (2003)
- Welcome to Sunny Florida/Scarlet's Hidden Treasures DVD/CD (2004)
- Piece by Piece Autobiography (2005)
- Official Bootlegs MP3s (2005)
- Fade to Red DVD (2005)
- A Piano: The Collection (2006)
- Legs & Boots MP3s (2007)
- Comic Book Tattoo Anthology (2008)
Lyrics to "Past the Mission"
I don't believe I went too far I said I was willing, willing, willing She said she knew what my books did not I thought she knew what's up Past the mission, behind the prison tower Past the mission, I once knew a hot girl Past the mission, they're closing every hour Past the mission and I smell the roses She said they all think they know him well She knew him better, better, better Everyone wanted something from him Well I did too, but I shut my mouth And he just gave me a smile Past the mission, behind the prison tower Past the mission, I once knew a hot girl Past the mission, they're closing every hour Past the mission and I smell the roses Past the mission and I smell the roses Hey, they found a body Not sure it was his, still they're using his name And she gave him shelter And somewhere I know she knows Somewhere I know she knows Somethings only she knows Past the mission, behind the prison tower Past the mission, I once knew a hot girl Past the mission, they're closing every hour Past the mission and I smell the roses Past the mission, behind the prison tower Past the mission, I once knew a hot girl Past the mission, they're closing every hour Past the mission and I smell the roses Past the mission and I smell the roses Past the mission and I smell the roses