Doesn't take much to rip us into pieces
February 11, 2018 3:51 PM   Subscribe

Tori Amos turned the narrative upside down when her 1992 sophomore album Little Earthquakes [~1h] became a mammoth hit. Cassette Side A: Crucify [video] , Girl, Silent All These Years [video], Precious Things, Winter [video], Happy Phantom posted by hippybear (101 comments total) 77 users marked this as a favorite
I'm going to editorialize here for a bit. Because I decided to make a post about this album and then it turned into an entire emotional quagmire for me. For me this turned into an entire "screaming about male abuse 25+ years ago but nobody was listening" experience and while I will never not love this music, making this post involved more crying today than I've done in the past six months because of this whole #MeToo moment. And how did I ever listen to this over and over as a pop music album? I haven't listened to this for a few years, but putting together this post it is utterly emotionally shredding.

My husbear says "well, everyone grows and changes." Yeah, I guess.
posted by hippybear at 3:52 PM on February 11, 2018 [50 favorites]

Oh fuck man it's 10 years since my dad died and there's snow on the ground and yes, I *did* just click on the link to "Winter" because apparently no I do *not* wish to be functional for the next few days.

Thanks for this, hippybear
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 4:07 PM on February 11, 2018 [15 favorites]

I'm having such complicated feelings aboutt and I think that might be the hallmark of brilliant music levels beyond what anyone imagined
posted by hippybear at 4:11 PM on February 11, 2018

Omg omg omg A Tori hippybear post. I live for this stuff. Thank you!! I can’t wait to cry a lot. Although I listen to these songs a lot, I haven’t listened to the album start to finish in a long time.
posted by greermahoney at 4:15 PM on February 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

I started college in 1992, and I listened to this album alllooooot that year. At the time, I didn't have the self-awareness to understand that what I'd been through in high school was constant sexual assault, humiliation and abuse. The anger Little Earthquakes helped me express wasn't even conscious to me. I hadn't yet connected my very personal experiences with the broader idea of patriarchal oppression, I just knew that something in me was picking up what Tori was putting down.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:19 PM on February 11, 2018 [16 favorites]

I love this abum. It’s every bit as powerful today as it was back then. I had the great fortune to see her in concert several times back then and they were fantastic shows.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:21 PM on February 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh, yeah, Thorzdad! I saw her solo with a piano in a smallish venue in New Orleans, and I just sat there after the last note faded, listening to people gathering their stuff and making plans to go out drinking, thinking, "How can you just hop up and leave? Aren't you stunned??" It was my favorite of all the live shows I've seen.
posted by thebrokedown at 4:31 PM on February 11, 2018 [6 favorites]

I have the t-shirt from her Little Earthquakes tour! It was her and a piano and she was amazing.
posted by hippybear at 4:38 PM on February 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

This album defined so much of my teenage years trying to into into words my crazy childhood.
posted by AlexiaSky at 4:40 PM on February 11, 2018

This album looms so large in my personal history that it's almost impossible for me to listen to it anymore.
posted by merriment at 4:40 PM on February 11, 2018 [20 favorites]

First album I ever bought.
posted by kyrademon at 4:54 PM on February 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

One of the albums that defined my uni experience, followed by Under the Pink. So many amazing memories associated with these songs, mostly good though some not so much; also a lot, I mean A LOT of bittersweet. Mostly when I think about the past I am so glad that it is not possible to go back in time and relive it, but there is part of me that aches to be 19 again and discovering so much about the world, singing Tori Amos and drawing a portrait of Death (Sandman Death) on the back of my ratty jean jacket, striding around campus like I would live forever.

If you need me, me and Neil'll be hanging out with the Dream King. (Neil says hi by the way.)
posted by Athanassiel at 5:08 PM on February 11, 2018 [25 favorites]

"screaming about male abuse 25+ years ago but nobody was listening"

On a related note, a lot of folks owe Sinead O'Connor an apology.
posted by schmod at 5:10 PM on February 11, 2018 [66 favorites]

This album looms so large in my personal history that it's almost impossible for me to listen to it anymore.

Same here. I often wonder at the ripe old age of 42, does it have the same resonance for people listening to it for the first time now? Was it a time and a place and an age that made this so important to me, or is there something innate in the music that chimes regardless of how you first hear it? Especially because although I followed her work for long afterwards, no other album of hers (except maybe Boys for Pele) grafted so permanently into my psyche.

This I find pertinent because for years and years and years I was entirely ignorant of Joni Mitchell - I just vaguely knew of Clouds and Big Yellow Taxi and wrote her off as some random sentimental hippy-type from days of yore, then last year I heard Free Man in Paris for the first time in my life and it set my down a vortex of lacerating wonder and recognition that I can't quite believe passed me by previously. I settled on Hejira and Court and Spark because both albums speak to me now the way Little Earthquakes did then - but as evocations of stages of my twenties and thirties, which I'm now beyond.

I didn't identify with the narrative of LE then the way I do with Joni's lyrics now, but it definitely hit me full in the feelings of late, misfit adolescent intensity. And it was the only, wholey *female* music I knew.

I just have no idea what I'd make of LE if I heard it for the first time now. But, oh, I'm so, so glad I heard it then.
posted by freya_lamb at 5:23 PM on February 11, 2018 [10 favorites]

Goddamn. Throwin' me down the track. I woke with "God" in my head this morning. Thanks for the post.
posted by Token Meme at 5:24 PM on February 11, 2018

Sometime during the elections there was some Twitter hashtag that was about "[somenumber] of years ago" where you talked about what you were doing then and I think the thing I said was "I was listening to Paula Cole and Tori Amos and considering going to Lilith Fair" or something, and Tori Amos actually favorited that Tweet and I lived off that for like a week and a half.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:01 PM on February 11, 2018 [36 favorites]

Yeah, this gives me flashbacks to my modern dance days.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:19 PM on February 11, 2018

I woke with "God" in my head this morning.

Under The Pink is a post might make in another 6 months or so. These two albums, jeebus. They're worthy of a dozen doctoral theses.
posted by hippybear at 6:27 PM on February 11, 2018 [9 favorites]

This album looms so large in my personal history that it's almost impossible for me to listen to it anymore.

Same. I got about 90 seconds into "Winter" and had to stop it before I fell apart sobbing.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 6:37 PM on February 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

So, I saw one of the first showings of the Silent All These Years video on MTV and I immediately got in my car and went to the record store and bought this album and after listening to it I did something I'd never done before: I called my 5 closest music buddy friends and told them to all go buy this album and if they didn't like it I'd by it from them: a money-back guarantee.

I didn't have to buy any of their copies from them.
posted by hippybear at 6:43 PM on February 11, 2018 [9 favorites]

This is an album that I didn't understand when it came out (graduated HS 1990, damn near target demo), and only over the years - in dozens of iterations - has become understood to me as the absolute beast it is. If I dared go put it on right this minute I'm sure I'd have yet another epiphany.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:46 PM on February 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

If I dared go put it on right this minute

Oh, I dare you!
posted by hippybear at 6:52 PM on February 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

Amos was part of the background culture for me for years -- I heard the same radio singles everyone did and had many friends who were fans -- but I didn't tune in and pay attention for a long time, even after I ended up being bequeathed a copy of Little Earthquakes by an acquaintances. It might have been only 10 years ago that I really listened to the whole thing and the songs resonated, even across gaps in experience.
posted by wildblueyonder at 6:55 PM on February 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

I got my first Tori Amos CD the summer of 1996, right before I started 7th grade, right before I got my first period. It was Boys for Pele. My khaki-clad summer camp counselor, who was from Tennessee and in a sorority, played it most days during "quiet time" after lunch. It was the first music I'd heard where a woman sounded weird and uncomfortable, but also like a badass who DGAF. She wasn't like Sarah McLachlan, or Jewel, or even Alanis. She seemed (and still does) more complex, dirtier, less apologetic. By the end of middle school, I was deep into Under the Pink and Little Earthquakes without really feeling it for what it was--I took it as permission to be an angry weird girl figuring out some sexuality stuff against a churchy milieu, but (blessedly) I didn't get the full breadth of what she had gone through until much later.

Little Earthquakes pulls together all the early shame of my formative discomfort with the later shame of various abuses and wounds from adulthood. It's an amazing experience, listening to this in 2018. Thank you for posting this.
posted by witchen at 7:02 PM on February 11, 2018 [5 favorites]

One of the most transcendent experiences I've ever had was Tori performing "Silent All These Years" live with an audience of probably 10,000 people. She sang the chorus, we sang the descant.

And when she sang "Me and A Gun", the stadium was silent. Utterly silent except for her voice.

I'm getting emotional just thinking about it, and this had to be twenty years ago.
posted by misslucyjane at 7:28 PM on February 11, 2018 [13 favorites]

Me and a Gun, live (slyt)
posted by otherchaz at 7:35 PM on February 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

You're just an empty cage, girl, if you kill the bird.
posted by unknowncommand at 7:36 PM on February 11, 2018 [11 favorites]

Yeah, this gives me flashbacks to my modern dance days.

I actually first encountered Amos and Little Earthquakes via a modern dance performance in college. Decades later I don't know whether the dance was as stunning and powerful as I remember it, or just clunky college stuff with a wonderful sound track that completely overwhelmed me on first hearing. But I don't think I was alone -- those songs spoke to every woman on the dance floor in different ways, each personal experience both vividly expressed and mutely private in that combination dance is so good at.
posted by chortly at 7:38 PM on February 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

One of maybe four albums I have encountered in my life where I cannot find a track I don't like. In the old days of cassettes (we wore the Walkmans next to the onions on our belts, dontcha know), this is the sort of album where you would rewind t get to the beginning of the song but overshoot into the previous song, think,"Oh yeah, I love this one, too," and so on until you were back at "Crucify" or "China."

BTW, the link for "Leather" goes to "China" a second time. Here is a correct link.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:41 PM on February 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

[Fixed link. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:45 PM on February 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

This album was so important to me when I was in college, learning who I wanted to be as a person, as a feminist, as a woman, reconciling past me with future me. There was a line in "Silent All These Years" and I don't know what the actual punctuation is, but to me it was always this: "Yes, I know what you think of me: 'You never shut up.'" There always seemed to me to be people who just wanted me to shut the fuck up and I never wanted to and I felt like Tori gave me permission to keep talking, to keep yelling. Also, it's a great fucking album.
posted by Aquifer at 7:50 PM on February 11, 2018 [6 favorites]

I bought this CD, along with Faith No More’s Angel Dust, in the same record store trip. Even though they are completely different, I cannot separate them in my head.

After all these years, Tori still holds a place in my heart, enough for me to still catch her on tour.

Also: can we talk about the B-sides? “Take to the Sky”? “Upside down”? Sooooo good.
posted by snortasprocket at 8:03 PM on February 11, 2018 [6 favorites]

Also, can I point out how entirely peculiar the instrumental arrangements for this album are? Like, they aren't a pop album at all. They're more closely related to classical music than anything that would ever be on MTV or the pop charts. And yet, this is a thing that happened.
posted by hippybear at 8:06 PM on February 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh jeebus I just started listening to the album again (I get a bit musically fixated at times) but if you want to get into the B-Sides, I'll do that as soon as this is done. Soooo good doesn't even begin to approach it.
posted by hippybear at 8:09 PM on February 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

I love this album, and I especially love Crucify. I love how it's still raw and awful and wonderful this many years later, when most songs I would consider equally visceral have lost their punch from overfamiliarity.

But my favorite Tori live performance is still the first time I heard Caught a Lite Sneeze, on SNL. I still remember sitting bolt upright yelping "choir boys?!!!"
posted by Mchelly at 8:11 PM on February 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

This album has aged incredibly well. Also I still know all the words. When I saw her live it was in the same auditorium where we had previously seen Ani Difranco. I was in high school and angry about so many things that I didn't even fully understand. All the women I knew were strong beyond their years in part thanks to this music.
posted by mai at 8:19 PM on February 11, 2018 [9 favorites]

Oh yeah, the B-sides. Wow. "Here. In My Head" which will just reduce me to pure feeling every time. For years I always used to put on "Take to the Sky" when dyeing my hair (not necessarily red). And that cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit".

I've been re-listening, watching the videos - she looks so impossibly young and beautiful in those videos. I remember puzzling over the lyrics to "Silent All These Years" and how it gradually dawned on me that at least part of it was about having an abortion. I remember mentioning how blown I was away by the album to my brother, whose taste in music shaped and influenced mine, and his dismissive comment about not wanting to listen to angry women. (I love my brother, but really, MASSIVE EYE-ROLL.)

I swear, listening to it again, this album is 100% as relevant today as it was back in 1992. Which is both amazing and fucking depressing.

Finally, for your delectation, a mash-up of Tori, PJ Harvey, Bjork and Massive Attack that is just awesome.
posted by Athanassiel at 8:23 PM on February 11, 2018 [12 favorites]

I haven't thought of this album in easily a decade or more, but I clicked Winter almost automatically, and I made it a good three or four bars in before I started to cry.
posted by mishafletch at 8:42 PM on February 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

For some reason Pandora started tossing up Amos tracks the last couple of months. I hadn't listened to the early albums in years, and after hearing them again I wondered why. They really stand up and sound as fresh and unique now as they did at the time.
posted by tavella at 8:52 PM on February 11, 2018

I got into Tori Amos in kind of a weird way where I just somehow acquired the CD single of Spark from like out of the ether or something, no idea how I got it as I had never even considered listening to Tori Amos and really didn't listen to anything even remotely like Tori Amos at the time and pretty much never bought CD singles from even my favorite bands, but after it sat around as an unheard curiosity in my possession for a while I gave it a shot and Purple People just floored me, it's a perfect song. It's one of those songs you immediately replay after it's done over and over even years down the line when you know every bit of it but it still hooks you so bad. And then I thought, ok, this is just a b-side that didn't even make the album, I've got to hear the rest of her music. And that was probably the one song that got me on a path out of Angsty Teenage Boy music and into the wider world where you realize how silly and forced and deeply toothless all that oh-so-serious Angsty Teenage Boy music is.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:56 PM on February 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

Winter is the song that hardcore professional wrestling legend and all-around good guy Mick Foley uses to get ready for a big match. Imagine this 300 pound man, right ear torn off, four front teeth missing, body crisscrossed with burns and barbed wire scars, singing when you gonna love you as much as I do to prepare himself to be dropped on a bunch of thumbtacks. Foley went on to become a spokesperson and major fundraiser for RAINN after meeting Amos.

I grew up in a very conservative Christian household, and aside from one Johnny Cash album and one Cat Stevens album we didn't have any non-Christian recorded music. I didn't have a radio, and so my only real exposure to secular music was mixtapes that my friends would make for me, which meant that my taste in music was a hodgepodge of things that other people thought were cool, leaving me with serious gaps in my understanding of contemporary culture. So when I tell you that the first time I heard Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit and I thought that they were covering a Tori Amos song, I hope that you won't judge me too harshly.

If I could ask MetaFilter's advice on something... Tori Amos falls into a category that my partner and I refer to as "music for weird high school theater nerds in the process of figuring out their sexuality". That sounds more pejorative than it is; we were those kids and we like/d that style quite a bit. Female vocals, suggestive tone, lyrics that can be both nonsensical and deeply emotionally evocative at the same time. So who is doing that for the kids now? I can follow the path from Kate Bush to Tori Amos to Dresden Dolls/Amanda Palmer to Florence and the Machine, but I lose the trail after that. I get a bit of it from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but it doesn't feel quite right. Or maybe I'm just an older and different person now. But I'd be interested in hearing who MeFi thinks is carrying the torch for awkward kids with big imaginations today.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 9:26 PM on February 11, 2018 [13 favorites]

> I don't know what the actual punctuation is, but to me it was always this: "Yes, I know what you think of me: 'You never shut up.'"

Huh. This never occurred to me. I always took it as "Yes, I know what you think of me; you never shut up [on the subject of what you think of me]." I suppose both versions work in context?
posted by Spathe Cadet at 9:38 PM on February 11, 2018 [12 favorites]

Metafilter: Weird high school theater nerds in the process of figuring out their sexuality

Or, um, I'm feeling personally called out.

I was in my late-20s when Under the Pink came out, which was the first album of Amos' that I heard. But I was definitely a weird high-school theater nerd in high school, and I'm not sure the process of figuring out my sexuality has ended quite yet, even though I'm 50. Which is fine.

Most of the men I've known who are fans of Tori Amos fall somewhere in the LGBTQ+ spectrum, including me. Maybe it's just selection bias? Is there any scientific polling on this?

Anyhoo, great post hippybear!
posted by Cookiebastard at 10:01 PM on February 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

"music for weird high school theater nerds in the process of figuring out their sexuality"

I think Amanda Palmer (and her various side projects) and Florence & The Machine probably still do it for the kids now. And Tori, for that matter. Otherwise maybe Laura Marling? Or Daughter? Kimbra seems to capture some of that vibe but not really lyrically. And, though not female, Sufjan Stevens is definitely music for weird high school theatre nerds in the process of figuring out their sexuality.

Disclaimer: I am not a Kid These Days.

Possibly of interest: The Music Map.
posted by Athanassiel at 10:26 PM on February 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Also one more B-side: Mary.
posted by Athanassiel at 10:32 PM on February 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

Tori Amos was the soundtrack to college for me. I got my first computer, got on the Internet for the first time, and somehow read about this Tori Amos person. I'm not even sure if I'd heard Cornflake Girl when I bought Under the Pink at the campus bookstore. I was hooked from there. I kind of stopped following her an album or two after Choirgirl Hotel, but I sometimes wonder how I'd have turned out if I hadn't gotten that CD 20-*mumblemumble* years ago.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:58 PM on February 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

My wife has dragged me to a few Tori Amos shows and leaning forward and looking down the row and seeing nothing but tear streaked cheeks all the way down is not a sight I'll forget in a while.
posted by PenDevil at 1:57 AM on February 12, 2018 [5 favorites]

Little Earthquakes and Under the Pink were on heavy rotation during my senior year of high school and first few years of college. Then I moved to early Ani. Those albums are always just a blast of nostalgia whenever they pop up on random play. Thanks for this post!
posted by snwod at 4:36 AM on February 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Oh man I have a lot of shit to do today and I can't dissolve into a puddle of tears at 7:45 am, so I'm not clicking any of these links. But echoing others who as teens found a voice and anger they didn't know they had through this album.
posted by jeoc at 4:57 AM on February 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Is there any scientific polling on this?

Not that I’m aware (huge Amos fan, nothing but straight relationships in my personal history). I do think Little Earthquakes requires you to empathise with a woman telling you her story & if that’s “too hard” then you’re never going to be a fan.
posted by pharm at 5:11 AM on February 12, 2018 [14 favorites]

Thanks for this post. I was 11 when this album came out and I truly discovered it a few years later as a teen. And then Under the Pink, and then Boys for Pele, and then From the Choirgirl Hotel...she was one of the first concerts I saw live, and one of the first times I understood that a live music experience could feel sacred and transcendent. Playing Tori Amos and playing Dungeons & Dragons pretty much define my intense, emotionally turbulent queer adolescence. And I think they both probably saved my life in some ways. Given the large amount of queer fans she has always had, it seems this is true for many others. And I still wear my 1998 Tori Amos Choirgirl concert t-shirt to bed sometimes.

I listen to Tori all the time and try to catch her in concert whenever she happens be in town, and it still amazes me how she can make a crowded theater experience those quiet, incredibly powerful transcendent moments—and how she can bring everyone to their feet in her ferocious moments. People forget that she can be straight up metal.

Tori Amos's place in the pop cultural canon is interesting to me. Rockists and misogynists have always treated her like a punchline, a Kate Bush knockoff, and a manic pixie dream girl who basically sings from her diary and is therefore worthy of contempt. Despite her genius as a lyricist, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist (not to mention her ardent fan following, she is often dismissed. I read two great essays about the misogyny underpinning this dismissal but I can only find this one from Bitch Media right now. If anyone has a link to the other, which was about the ways in which Tori Amos gets compared to Kate Bush, and the archetype of the ethereal feminine singer songwriter, I'd sure like to read it again.
posted by lieber hair at 5:31 AM on February 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

Amos and Etheridge were the two tapes I had in my car when I spent a summer off from college driving hundred-mile laps after an abusive relationship collapsed. Unfortunately, they're largely unlistenable for me as a result with the current state of post-traumatic anger disorder. Amos in concert with just herself and that piano was one of my peak concert experiences.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 5:38 AM on February 12, 2018

> This album looms so large in my personal history that it's almost impossible for me to listen to it anymore.

My wife is the same way; we kept all of our CDs, and she has more by Tori Amos than probably any other artist except maybe PJ Harvey (who she still listens to all the time). A little while ago I commented that I never hear her listening to Amos and it she told me that while she still has tremendous affection and respect for Amos, her music just doesn't resonate with her the same way it did when she was in her teens and early '20s for whatever reason (and not because it's juvenilia she feels like she's outgrown or anything like that).
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:20 AM on February 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

lyrics that can be both nonsensical and deeply emotionally evocative at the same time.

That's what poetry *is*!

My first experience of Little Earthquakes was a mishmash of all the weird threads of my senior year in high school. A month after getting dumped by my first real girlfriend, one of my high school acquaintances (whose desired life path, at that point, was "a prosecutor like Harvey Dent, without the Two-Face part") suggested we go see Unforgiven in the theater. On the way out of the movie house, he popped the LE tape into the deck of my Pontiac 6000. We drove around, then got chased on the interstate by some hoodlums waving baseball bats out their car window. Once we lost 'em, I dropped Tom off, he told me to keep the tape til Monday at school, and I drove to work at the warehouse. Since I wasn't due to start my shift for four hours, I listened to LE on repeat (Auto-repeat deck!). Little Rush Limbaugh-listener me, decoding exactly what Tori was getting at in those songs.

Thanks for dredging up a series of memories that represent one of my first moves toward who i am now...
posted by notsnot at 6:28 AM on February 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

I remember when this album came out and I saw the video for "Crucify" on Muchmusic (Canada's MTV). It wasn't the kind of music I was into at the time but I was still really into it. That's a great song. Amazing lyrics. Killer hook. So many great lines. "Got enough guilt to start my own religion." "Looking for a savior in these dirty streets. Looking for a savior underneath these dirty sheets..." I recommended her to my older sister who was really into Sarah McLachlan, and she bought the CD, which meant I didn't have to.

Anyway when I went to college, every girl I dated or tried to date loved Tori Amos, and I listened to her music a lot, and I enjoyed it, and have always had a crush on her, and just been in awe of her musicianship. But I think I found her a little intimidating as well, and I understood when male friends would write her off as just another one of those whiny Lilith Fair girls.

Looking back at some live clips on YouTube, I'm struck by what a powerful presence she is. It's just her at a piano and she owns it so completely. She is incredibly sexy. The way she straddles the piano bench. The way her head turns to the microphone. The sound of her voice. The way she sways and moves as she plays. But it's not a studied, packaged type of sexy. It's not Madonna-sexy. It's something so much more complex and adult. She displays her sexuality as just one facet of herself, one of many, that she is completely comfortable with and she expects us to accept it or fuck right off. She's not "being sexy" to attract anyone or to sell records. She just IS sexy and makes no apologies for it. Maybe there's something "Male Gaze-y" about my focusing on her sexuality but I can't help it. It's right there. It's part of the whole Tori Amos package, along with her classically-influenced virtuoso piano technique, her expressive voice and her deeply relatable and evocative poetic lyrics.
posted by wabbittwax at 6:36 AM on February 12, 2018 [7 favorites]

In early 1994 I dumped a guy with whom I'd been living for a year and change; it was someone I'd started dating in college, and kept dating him for a couple years after. It was a bad, volatile relationship, and by the end I was supporting us both on a secretary's salary while he "tried to launch a freelance desktop publishing business (read: he farted around at home on the computer) and I finally kicked him out. I stayed out the lease on the apartment we shared for the next couple months (why not, I was already covering all the rent anyway) then moved into a two-bedroom with a friend I met during that couple months.

That roommate was the guy who introduced me not only to Tori Amos, but to Paula Cole, Sandman, and even Cerebus The Aardvark. The Under The Pink album loomed a bit larger at that time, but that was a really heady mix of post-breakup fallout and early-20s angst combining with Tori and Neil Gaiman and Dave Sim all at the same time and I was profoundly different one year later.

That dude eventually moved in with his girlfriend after two years, following her around the country as she got masters' and doctorate degrees, and recently just followed her to Hawaii where she got a job. He was giving away some of his stuff while they were packing, and I laid claim to the Cerebus books; I tried to also get my hands on the Sandman and the Tori Amos, but he said "hell no, I'm keeping those".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:42 AM on February 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I took singing lessons for many years, and basically all my repertoire was either musical theatre or Italian arias. (That was my voice teacher's thing; all of her students had to spend a certain amount of time on classical stuff, but I grew to love it.)

Mostly she picked out the songs for me and it was fine and I loved them and did not feel any need to choose my own songs, but the first time I heard "Winter," I marched into her house for my next lesson and promptly demanded that we take that up as our next song to work on together, immediately. I never performed it outside of our lessons and I have no idea what she thought of my sudden desperate need to sing that song*, but she went along with it and I was so grateful. That album was and is lodged in my bones.

*the actual need was like 50% holy shit that song and 50% that song was introduced to me by a cute girl but since I didn't yet realize that my feelings about cute girls were what they were, I couldn't explain that to myself, much less my vocal coach.
posted by Stacey at 6:46 AM on February 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

just another one of those whiny Lilith Fair girls

I would like to light this clause on fire.

(Also, Tori Amos never played Lilith Fair.)
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:48 AM on February 12, 2018 [8 favorites]

That's a fair point, but it makes it sound like there was something wrong with Lilith Fair in the first place, and there wasn't. It got put down and dismissed because it was a "thing for women."
posted by wabbittwax at 6:54 AM on February 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Put on Silent All These Years. Thought: 'Surely it's been long enough since hearing this that I won't be basket-cased by it.'

Basket-cased at 10am on a Monday is a new one for me.
posted by Lizard at 7:07 AM on February 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

Plate o'shrimp; I just pulled out LE and gave it a listen for the first time in at least a decade last week. It holds up really, really well, which is remarkable. (Not for nothing, but it's also really, really well engineered -- it sounds fanTAStic.) My friend C hipped me to her soon after LE came out, back in college, and we all became huge fans for years. Somehow in middle age, I stopped buying so much music, and so I've missed her last few, but maybe I should fix that.
On a related note, a lot of folks owe Sinead O'Connor an apology.
Oh, this, so much. You have to assume that her apparent troubles lately would've manifested differently, or been supported differently and better, if she hadn't been so ostracized. We failed her.
posted by uberchet at 7:18 AM on February 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

The other thing worth remembering from early-era Tori is that the CD single for "Crucify" contained some really amazing and really surprising covers, including Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," the Stones' "Angie," and Zeppelin's "Thank You."
posted by uberchet at 7:34 AM on February 12, 2018

"Silent All These Years" was more thought-provoking for me today. That and a number of other "I'm not being heard" songs have been my jam when I'm in a bit of A Mood. One of my nightmare themes also involves being in some kind of danger, but when I go to call for help, either I'm not loud enough or can't speak.

But just today it hit me that I've always had and used my voice; my problem has been more about finding people who will actually listen to me rather than ignoring me. But that was one hell of a paradigm shift in my head: I actually haven't been silent, I've just been talking to total jerks.

Thanks, Tori.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:38 AM on February 12, 2018 [9 favorites]

"Tear in Your Hand" remains one of my all time favorite songs -- it was a "right place, right time" song for me, in the words and feel of the song, which mirrored the yearning I was feeling for someone, and also for the line about her and Neil hanging out with the dream king -- a cultural reference so specific that it felt it could have been written directly to me, admiring as I was of the Sandman comics at the time, and of Neil Gaiman. I wanted to hang out with Neil and the dream king, too, and was envious she got to. Many years later I found out that in fact she'd not yet met Neil when she wrote the lyric, which actually endeared the song to me even more. Right around that same time, as a journalist, I wrote a story about graphic novels just to have an excuse to interview him. We both were in our way calling out to someone we admired deeply, and hoping to hear back.

Otherwise Little Earthquakes is a cornerstone album for me, in that it came out when I was in my first year out of college and learning how to adult, and in many ways it felt like the album was Amos learning how to adult as well. Needless to say, her way of doing it was different than mine, and with vastly different circumstances. But to me it felt like many ways we were in the same place and finding our own way, and it was good for me to hear that someone else was working on it as much as I was.
posted by jscalzi at 7:42 AM on February 12, 2018 [7 favorites]

Hippybear, thank you so much for making this post. I love that we're having this discussion about how much Tori meant to us, and Little Earthquakes in particular, while she's still alive, and not as part of an obituary post filled with periods.

This album loomed so large in my musical and emotional education as well (jscalzi, I also practically jumped when I heard the 'hanging out with the dream king' line since I was an enormous Sandman fan at the time and was also extremely jealous of anyone who got to hang out with Neil), and yet I haven't listened to it in many years. This is a reminder to dust it off, and I'm really appreciative of that. I would love more posts like this.
posted by widdershins at 8:10 AM on February 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

Hey guys, I had a thought, since apparently we know that Tori looked at my Twitter feed at least once -

May I link Tori to this post?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:25 AM on February 12, 2018 [7 favorites]

lyrics that can be both nonsensical and deeply emotionally evocative at the same time.

Indeed. I listened to the album all the way through recently for the first time in who knows how long. I had listened to it constantly in 1992 but rarely since then and it was remarkable to see how much of this had sunk into the sediment at the floor of my consciousness.

I thought for sure I could not recall the lyrics to any given song but surprisingly I still knew them all, word for word... except that the line in “Girl” about “in their coats and in their dos.” Twenty-six years ago I initially mondegreened that as “in the court of images,” which line I blame on reading a lot of Sandman at the time. I still like my misinterpretation.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:52 AM on February 12, 2018

.....I've not had anyone say "yes" or "no", but dammit I'm going to send Tori a link to this post.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:01 AM on February 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

Looking back at some live clips on YouTube, I'm struck by what a powerful presence she is. It's just her at a piano and she owns it so completely. She is incredibly sexy. The way she straddles the piano bench. The way her head turns to the microphone. The sound of her voice. The way she sways and moves as she plays. But it's not a studied, packaged type of sexy.

I didn't see Great Balls of Fire until many years after it was released, and I remember watching the way they showed Jerry Lee Lewis riding his piano bench and thinking he could learn a thing or two from Tori Amos.

Since we're giving extra tracks, I still love Siren, from the Great Expectations soundtrack.
posted by Mchelly at 9:18 AM on February 12, 2018

"Tear in Your Hand" remains one of my all time favorite songs -- it was a "right place, right time" song for me, in the words and feel of the song

Same here. This whole album was a big deal for me, but one specific line in "Tear in Your Hand" had a profound effect on how I viewed my marriage. "Maybe she's just pieces of me you've never seen." That line hits me like a ton of bricks every time I think on it. Reminds me to be mindful that there's always something new to discover in your relationships, no matter how long and how well you think you know people. And in yourself. It was true for me then, and remains true to this day. Thanks, Tori (and thanks, hippybear).
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:54 AM on February 12, 2018 [6 favorites]

Little Earthquakes blew me away when I first heard it. I was a teenage, piano-playing boy struggling with all kinds of teenage things. It was the piano that hooked me first...

She plays like no one else. I heard these thundering left-hand progressions in the lower register that were so powerful and I wanted to play like her so badly...

And then I paid attention to the songs. The lyrics. The anger.

Yeah. The piano hooked me but Little Earthquakes gave 17 year old me a real, visceral-feeling sense of what misogyny might look like as much as was possible for me to understand then and there...

The feeling itself wasn't pleasant. But I'm grateful for it.
posted by Thistledown at 10:00 AM on February 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

May I link Tori to this post?

MetaFilter is entirely public facing and yes of course you can link her to this post.
posted by hippybear at 10:21 AM on February 12, 2018

Also, this thread is so much more than I imagined it would be when I posted it. Thank you, all of you!
posted by hippybear at 10:31 AM on February 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

hugs, hippybear and thanks for this post. I never really stopped listening to this over the years, so the gut-punch of emotions doesn't take me by surprise, but it does take me. such raw honesty, such anger, such beauty. guess what I'm going to listen to today?
posted by supermedusa at 10:36 AM on February 12, 2018

I remember the alt-rock station in Atlanta would play "God" like _a lot_. I think though that my first exposure to her may have been the premier of "Caught A Light Sneeze" on 120 Minutes. I got "Boys for Pele" and "Under The Pink" (don't remember which one first) but I listened to the latter over and over and yet somehow (probably because I was an idiotic teenage boy) their underlying messages never really hit me.

And then "Choirgirl" came out and I became obsessed with that album. I'd sit at my boom box for fifteen minutes carefully programming it to play the CD in the order the lyrics were printed in the liner notes (which has the album open with "Pandora's Aquarium" and closing with "Playboy Mommy"). I remember reading about her miscarriage and diving into the lyrics and just getting in my feelings over the record. I still have that one in my phone.

I'm not sure I listened to LE all the way through until my college girlfriend (now wife) got it. Seeing this thread, I was like "oh cool, I'll listen to 'Crucify.'"

Then immediately pulled up Spotify and listened half the album on my lunch break. Then sent a weeping "I love you" text message to my wife.

So thanks for that MetaFilter!
posted by Maaik at 10:47 AM on February 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

Several of these songs popped up randomly while I was working in my shop this weekend, so this was kind of already on my mind. I have my old mp3 player hooked up to a set of decent speakers in my garage. I haven't updated the songs on it in years, so it has maybe half of my music collection on it, but that's still thousands of songs, most of which I don't seek out regularly anymore. But I like to set it on shuffle in my shop. I don't always pay attention to what's playing (and often can't hear the music if I'm running power tools), but for some reason this weekend I found myself really listening to Tori again. Synchronicity, I guess. [insert Police joke here]
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:53 AM on February 12, 2018

And then "Choirgirl" came out and I became obsessed with that album.

I'd seen Tori on two different tours before Choirgirl came out and went to that tour mostly because the boyfriend of a boyfriend (it's complicated) wanted to see the show. And that was the first tour she did with a full rock band, and it was stunning. I remember specifically The Waitress and how the lighting went from yellow to red and back depending on the intensity of the emotion of the song, and how this basically entirely static music performance was being given poetic depth through the light show.

I mean, that's not why I was there, and Tori totally rocked the shit out of that arena that night, but I was very struck by that one moment.

Also, The Waitress.... I believe in peace, bitch!
posted by hippybear at 10:54 AM on February 12, 2018 [5 favorites]

Synchronicity, I guess.

Wessonality, I think is more likely.
posted by hippybear at 10:55 AM on February 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

It's kind of funny to see Little Earthquakes described as a "sophomore album", but as an unapologetic fan of Y Kant Tori Read, I like it!

This post got me browsing through my collection of Tori live recordings, and reminded me that I'd never managed to track down the bootleg of the one time I was able to see her live in 1994 on the Under the Pink tour (after freezing my butt off in line all night to get tickets for an auditorium that only held ~2000 people.) Thankfully, some wonderful soul recorded it, and some other wonderful souls are still out there maintaining bootleg archives.

It's a pretty magical feeling listening for the first time to a recording of a show you attended almost 25 years ago and thinking about how much life has changed since you were in that room. I just got goosebumps at the first few notes of "I'm on Fire", and I can still picture myself sitting there as a college freshman, so unsure of where my life would take me, but absolutely spellbound by the singular talent pouring her heart and soul out on that stage. I've changed a lot as a person since then, but her music has always been there.

LE is definitely the "purest" Tori album, with just enough percussion and accompaniment (sometimes none) to fit the mood of each song. I find that as she went on and added more layers to the studio recordings, the songs sometimes got more interesting musically, but usually lost some of the emotional power that's found on basically every track of LE. These days I find I have to be in the right mood to listen to it, but it would definitely make my desert island 10 on its therapeutic value alone.

Thanks for posting, hippybear.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:52 AM on February 12, 2018 [6 favorites]

OMG tonycpsu thank you for posting that link! I had the radio set she did for 99X in '96 on tape for years but I haven't heard it since high school.
posted by Maaik at 12:09 PM on February 12, 2018

tonycspsu: that was.... amazing. Now *wipes eyes* get a dusting cloth
posted by hippybear at 12:14 PM on February 12, 2018

Oh hippybear, thank you for this. She is one of the only artists who's music makes me vibrate just thinking about it.

I had a similar introduction to her. Saw the Silent All These Years video on MTV, was absolutely mesmerized, pestered my mom for the car, drove straight to Newbury Comics, bought the CD (in a longbox no less), and then listened to it on repeat until Under the Pink came out.

She just did SOMETHING for my 16yr old self that I'm still not sure I understand.

That particular version of "I need a big loan from the girl zone" at the 3:27 mark of the SNL video Michelly posted still haunts me.

I've also always been deeply in love with Blue Skies a collaboration w/ BT. Never fails to make me smile.
posted by Constant Reader at 12:47 PM on February 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

(in a longbox no less)

Jinx! Pinch poke, you owe me a coke!
posted by hippybear at 12:50 PM on February 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Just a 42yr old woman sitting at work, should have left by now, listening to Song for Eric and still losing my breath at its beauty.
posted by Constant Reader at 12:55 PM on February 12, 2018

Tori Amos was responsible in a kind of second-level way for helping me learn not to put up with crap in relationships. Back in 1993 or so, my then-boyfriend and I were on the way to a concert (not Tori, someone else) and I put the Little Earthquakes tape in as I drove. Over the next 20 minutes that it took us to get to the venue and find parking, my boyfriend got increasingly sullen and increasingly pissy. The concert was not fun; he was silently fuming next to me the entire night.

Later, I asked "okay, what the hell was that?" It turned out that his previous ex wouldn't tell him when she was angry at him, she'd just blast Tori Amos for hours, so when I'd put the tape on in the car, he'd interpreted it as me being angry.

"So you're stacking your crappy communication skills on top of your ex's obnoxious passive-aggressive communication style and making me suffer for a message I wasn't actually sending? No. This needs not to happen again. If I'm mad at you, I'll tell you. And if you pull this 'I'm assuming you're mad at me but not saying anything about' thing, I'll get mad at you and tell you. Cut this crap out."

So thanks, Tori, for having helped me internalize the idea that taking crap for somebody else's issues wasn't something I needed to put up with.
posted by Lexica at 1:11 PM on February 12, 2018 [13 favorites]

But I'd be interested in hearing who MeFi thinks is carrying the torch for awkward kids with big imaginations today.

Lorde? She’s def got the awkward nerd girl vibe going.
posted by greermahoney at 3:29 PM on February 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'm an outlier: I've been a Tori fan since I first heard Cornflake Girl in '94 or so, and I own almost all her albums. But I'm also one of those doesn't-really-listen-to-the-lyrics people... I just love her voice and her piano playing.
posted by nnethercote at 5:24 PM on February 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Even us boring, straight white male types were moved by this album. It's always been one of my top ten everythings, and it's aged really well: just as powerful and lucid as it ever was. Even today I can start listening to it, get lost, and absolutely drop out of time. Suddenly it's 45 minutes later, just like that.

I've seen her tiny mightiness about nine times live, and she never, ever fails to work her ass off in concert, either. You get your money's worth, and then some, every time.
posted by rokusan at 6:02 PM on February 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

This is an album that I didn't understand when it came out (graduated HS 1990, damn near target demo), and only over the years - in dozens of iterations - has become understood to me as the absolute beast it is.

You and I graduated HS in the same year. I had the album in college, good little fetal feminist that I was, but I tell you, it was not until I was 25 that I got the album as an album, an entire body of work that had a dramatic arc and catharsis. It happened because I would put it on repeat in my Performa's CD player -- boy, that's dating myself -- and let it go, over and over, while I wrote my first book. And at one point, I remember noting how the jibbering monkey in the back of my mind (the one that required music in the first place) seemed to be wrung out by the end of "Little Earthquakes," and then it all fell together.

For me, Little Earthquakes required falling in love, breaking my heart, learning how to fail, learning how to start over, and getting a tiny degree of self-awareness before I could even begin to understand it. My God, it's such a soundtrack to an interior life. I love it.
posted by sobell at 9:06 PM on February 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

I was in an two male acoustic coffeehouse guitar performance group which did Little Earthquakes (the song)...

That is a really intense bit of music and emotion to perform. And this was not now, this was back then before all the years of baggage could be added to it.

It's an amazing song. I dare anyone to perform it. It requires A LOT from you. It's not just A Song, it's A FUCKING SONG.
posted by hippybear at 9:15 PM on February 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thank you hippybear! You've been knocking it out of the park with your posts lately, but with this you've fully secured a place in the Pope's rubber robe. I'm awed that Tori's butterfly songs continue to affect so many of us so profoundly these many years later, and am so grateful to know that I'm not alone in mining ever more meaning and solace from this album. Even as so many of our contemporary pixies insist upon putting the damage on, this post--and all of your comments--inspire me to stay a little warm in my heart, and to cherish the gold dust we still have in our hands. Again, thank you.
posted by riverlife at 12:14 AM on February 13, 2018

I bought Little Earthquakes when I was 20 (some years after it came out, I was late discovering Tori). I was in my 2nd year at university, living in a house share for the first time and for various reasons it was an emotionally charged household, 6 women and almost always someone in a major crisis state. I was often described by my housemates as "the practical one" (for a period of about 6 weeks the only person who had enough of her shit together to manage to buy bread or milk). Ani DiFranco was our house patron (in particular "Untouchable Face" was our anthem). My course was tough and I was struggling to keep up. My parents were (in retrospect) at the start of the path that would lead to their highly acrimonious divorce 4 years later and I was getting regular phone calls from my dad asking me to call my mum as "she needed cheering up".

I brought it home, played immediately and when Winter came on I was just in floods of tears, sobbing like a baby. It took feelings I hadn't even known I was feeling about being lost, scared and alone, wanting to be loved and looked after and laid them right out in front of me.

The album as a whole is truly great, thanks for the reminder.
posted by *becca* at 2:22 AM on February 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

LE and UTP through high school, Pele and Choirgirl in uni. The notion of what a strong female was, was truly part of modern music culture in the 90s. It seems to have been lost by the wayside, and pop culture is lesser for it. I still cite Tori as my favourite artist, even though my music playlist leans more Kendrick Lamar these days.

I remember the wonderful online communities that sprung up in the late 90s too, to celebrate her music, that became genuine, supportive families. and the mailing list really deep thoughts got me through a lot... and I met so many people from that mailing list the first time I travelled around the US. I also remember the sheer amount of bootlegs that people would record and trade for free, and I remember how powerful the Pele tour was - but only through the bootlegs! It never toured Australia. I have a massive mp3 archive of wonderful one-off covers that I still dig through.

I’ve recently got back into playing the piano after about 20 years of abandonment, and the first thing I did was dust off my old Tori scores. Time to get reacquainted with Horses, one of my favourites to play.
posted by chronic sublime at 3:25 AM on February 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

Huh. I'd completely forgotten that I liked Tori. And how I've seen her in concert at least twice (with one of those being a terrible, terrible show that is, like, number two on my worst ever list. Number one goes to Bob Dylan. Thanks, Bob.)

And how I kept that shit in my mopey repeat rotation after all of my Major Teenage Heartbreaks™. I pushed play on Purple People and blammo--20 and drunk and dumped, depressed and drowning in black velvet again.

Thank you hippybear!
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 4:32 PM on February 14, 2018

This has been an utterly facinating thread to read, and hearing everyone telling their stories of discovering Tori at such young ages. I was a comparatively ancient 34 when LE came out, and, on the face of it, utterly not the intended audience. But, I was absolutely the audience that really, really, really needed to hear this music. It was my first experience with sitting down and hearing a woman speak. So real. So raw. So powerful. So beautiful. So humbling. It changed my life in a very personal way, and very much for the better.

Thanks for the post, hippybear! I believe LE will be filling the house tomorrow.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:31 PM on February 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

One of my first internet communities was the Precious Things mailing list, back when it was still not quite as large as RDT. That was 1996. The previous summer, at age 14, I saw the Caught a Lite Sneeze videi on MTV and that was all it took really, I was hooked. I could not begin to imagine back then, in fact it is hard to fathom even today, how much abuse and misogyny was just a fact of life back then and there, in school, my family of origin, just Culture. If I hadn't listened to Tori I am pretty sure I would've internalized all that to a much higher degree. I can't say I really appreciated much of her work post-BfP, but her first three albums, as well as my engagement in the Tori online fan community, were the logic and support that kept me slightly detached, critical, and much less of a victim than I could've been. I was a pretty clueless teen, but less so thanks to that.
posted by ipsative at 11:15 PM on February 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've had this album on repeat all week and it is amazing how different it is for 39 year old me as compared to 15 year old me. Like the first time listening to Silent All These Years and when she sings "Boy you best hope that I bleed real soon, how's that thought for you?" it finally and instantly clicked what bleed means.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:51 AM on February 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

My plan for this week is to put Under the Pink on repeat. That was always my favourite album of hers and I've been looking forward to the re-listen all week. And maybe I'll just continue with one album a week and see how far I go.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:55 AM on February 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

So, I had to wait til today to put LE on and, dammit, I’m holding back tears only because I need to get some bread going. What an amazing album.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:28 AM on February 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

This last week has been Boys for Pele and I just have to say that Caught a Lite Sneeze is a perfect song.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:18 AM on March 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

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