Tori Amos. Miami, Floria. October 23, 1996

Tori

Tori Amos appeared in my life back in 2010. In six years, she’s become so much ingrained in who I am musically, both as a listener and a musician myself, that her musical journey has become an inextricable part of mine. As I grow older (though still not particularly that much older, because I am now the same age Tori was when Little Earthquakes was released), I find myself understanding more of the songs I didn’t understand before. Tori’s music is filled with so many layers that people could probably spend lifetimes digging through the songs (numerous as they are, there are literally hundreds) and still glean new meaning as time goes on.

My first Tori album was her retrospective collection Tales Of A Librarian, which even now as a big fan I still don’t particularly like, both because the songs selected don’t really sound right to me when they’re paired together (for instance, Jackie’s Strength, Tear In Your Hand, Baker Baker, Bliss and Spark all sound completely out of place paired with Mary, Sweet Dreams, Angels and Snow Cherries From France), and because the new mixes weren’t remasters as much as they were so-called “reconditioned” versions of the songs, switching backing vocals with lead vocals, moving some instruments to the back and others forward, etc. On the whole album, I really only enjoyed three or four songs, and two of the songs I liked were a minute long each. I almost gave up, but I decided to keep trying and got American Doll Posse and Boys For Pele at roughly the same time. I chose these two because American Doll Posse was supposed to be a “new era,” and I thought that her new music might be more accessible than her old music, and because Boys For Pele was considered to be her most out-there album and I had a feeling I’d like it. American Doll Posse literally hurt my ears the first time I listened to it, and I don’t mean that statement as anything other than a reflection of what actually happened: the music had so much going on, so many layers of production, so many changes in genre from song to song without ever really changing, that it felt like one onslaught of sound that had no downtime and I couldn’t process it. The music all blended together and I couldn’t really grab a hook or a melody to remember from each song, and it made my head hurt.

Boys For Pele was another story, however. I still remember the day I got it, and that memory means something to me. I was agoraphobic at the time, or at least I was developing agoraphobia. I was home alone, which was the way I preferred it, and I was standing on the back deck of the house I lived in. That house was the nicest place I’ve ever lived, with a full back deck with a space for a (non-functional) hot tub, and an in ground pool. I always wanted to go swimming naked in that pool early in the morning when no one was home, but I don’t think I ever did (I did sometimes slip my shorts off and swim around naked when I was at home by myself, but usually came back to put them on after a few minutes of excitement. So, I was standing on the back deck opening a package that came from eBay. At first I was annoyed because when I pulled my copy of Boys For Pele from the package, though it was still factory sealed, the booklet inside had a big crease in it. This couldn’t technically have been the seller’s fault if my memory that the album was still plastic-sealed is correct, but it aggravated me. I pulled the booklet out and looked through the photos, the beautiful image of Tori suckling a piglet (the meaning of which, as far as Tori’s attempts at motherhood, was probably lost on me at the time, but I must have enjoyed some symbolism in it because I do remember thinking she looked like some Pagan goddess, and was reminded of the Fairy Goddess Lurline suckling an animal in her arm in the novel Wicked), a piano burning in the rain, and the words to the songs arranged vertically. The lyrics all seemed like strange gibberish to me, and I had sampled some bits of the album (I was terrified to listen to the song Father Lucifer, because I was just beginning to shake of the fear of the devil Christianity had instilled in me. I didn’t know it would later become one of my all time favorite songs), but I really didn’t know how big of an impact the album would have on me.

I put it in the CD player was sitting on the kitchen counter. My piano, whose maker was Marcellus, a piano maker based in New York circa the early nineteen-hundreds, sat in the living room. I still miss that piano. It was quiet and I was alone and the house was mine. I put the CD in and I seem to remember almost forgetting it, because Beauty Queen came on and it was so quiet, not much was happening, and I was walking around the room doing other things.

But then Horses started.

The piano began to sound like drops of rain, as Tori quietly sang “I got me some horses, to ride on, to ride on…” I fell in love with that song right there. And so it went on, I continued to listen to more Tori, to be completely spellbound by some songs and bored or confused by others, but even after six years I’ve only really managed to suggest maybe half of her catalog, and then there’s probably an infinite amount of reflection to be done on those hundreds of songs.

I discovered Tori bootlegs a little later, but not too much. The first one I ever heard was a live performance from 1996 and the Purple Rose in Berlin, with Tori playing American Pie and Smells Like Teen Spirit. It also had an interesting improv in Doughtnut Song I hadn’t heard before and Not The Red Baron, which would later become one of my favorites. Of the Tori shows that exist online (and mostly all of them exist in some form), my favorites are the 1996 Dew Drop Inn tour.

It’s hard to describe exactly how I feel when I listen to shows from that tour. But there is one in particular, Miami Florida, October 23, 1996. This was a night when Tori got sick on stage and ran off stage crying. She came back a bit later saying that she could either go to the hospital or finish the show, and she decided to finish the show. She took some of the pressure off of herself by not sticking to a set list for the majority of the rest of the show, and just playing what came to mind. What happened at that show, that night, is a part of who I am. It’s on my heart. It’s a part of me. That recording of that show has had an incredible impact on me.

She played so honestly on that tour, she was bleeding all over the stage (I say that as a metaphor, though one person online who says they were there that night claimed they could see Tori drooling on the piano because she was so sick), she was dying in front of everyone. I don’t know if it’s wrong, or cannablistic, or sadistic to ENJOY those performances, but I do. It’s not as simple as just hearing something that makes me cry, in fact I’m not sure that I ever really cry during Tori’s music. But it moves me on some very deep level, in something inexpressible, a dark place that I don’t have perfect access to, a place inside me that touches something, maybe magick, maybe other lives, maybe cosmic fabric. I don’t know. But Tori’s performances from that tour have stayed with me, and I’m still horrified (in a beautiful and very, very good way) and entranced, unable to leave those performances.

What I want. What I want is something that I don’t know if I can ever have. The way I feel listening to that Miami 1996 performance, it’s something I’ve never felt anywhere else. And what I wouldn’t give to be able to BE there. I don’t know what it was like there. In my mind, the concert was outside, Tori was up on stage and it was raining and overcast. It might not have looked like that at all. But I can just imagine what it might be like to stand there in that space, where someone whose connection to the divine, whose magickal power is so strong, to feel her aura, her sadness and her strength and her anger and her emptiness and her loneliness, swallowing me up, to be a part of that sound she created, that wave of fulfillment emanating from the piano and from the speakers and from the chamber of her own body, to hear it, to truly be there. To close my eyes as she sang and LISTEN, really listen. That’s what I want. That’s what I would like to experience. Tori still tours, and I hope to see her some day. But I don’t know that it could ever be like that.

I want to experience really being there. The best I have is one recording, the same bootleg that seems to have made it’s way around the internet. I would give so much just to have a perfect high quality recording of the show (and I don’t know if there’s any truth to it but I’ve heard that Tori records her shows, so maybe there IS a high quality recording of the show somewhere in the world). I keep hoping that when Tori’s promised remaster of Boys For Pele arrives, it will have some performances from that show, particularly Girl, or if I had my way, also Father Lucifer from the night before.

When I leave Tori behind and find other musical obsessions, she somehow finds her way back into my life. And you know, I don’t mean to sound like a person obsessed with Tori the PERSON, because I’m not. I love knowing the back story on the songs and how they affected her and where they came from and how her experiences made their way into the songs. And I would love to MEET Tori the person. But it’s Tori’s music itself that has such a strong presence for me. And that, I think, is an important distinction. It makes me a listener and not a stalker. I’m not obsessed with Tori the person, but I am infinitely fascinated, comforted, and inspired by Tori’s music. She made me believe that I was a musician, without ever speaking a word to me. She doesn’t even have a song in particular that feels like it bears a message that I can be a musician (although I suppose many of her songs, Silent All These Years probably being one, would come across with that message among their multitudes of messages, thoughts and concepts). It’s the music itself. It moves me so much that I HAVE to play music. I HAVE to sing and play piano. And it isn’t contrived or thought out or anything, it just happens. And that’s how I know it’s what I’m truly most passionate about. I don’t really have to think too much about it. It just happens naturally.

I never really thought I’d be a musician, or that it was in me. But it’s there.

 

Rain in Ireland

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I Got Me Some Horses, To Ride On… To Ride On…

So, you of course know my most recent obsession, Tori Amos. I almost feel like I’ve kind of missed the train here, because I’m discovering Tori here in 2010, after she’s released 11 albums, but I have honestly found that my favorites have been her earlier albums. I like many of the songs on her debut album, Little Earthquakes, which has a lot of dramatic songs on it, and dramatic songs are my favorite. I discovered Tori when I first heard a live performance of Precious Things, and I was under the impression that a lot of her material would be like this, but I was surprised that I really had to hunt for more precious things, as it were.

Precious Things appeals both to my love of dramatic songs, and it’s in my key. No, I don’t claim to have a monopoly over any key, nor do I want only to play songs in that key, nor do I want to continue making new songs in this key right now. As it happens, however, two of the songs I’ve written have been in this key, and various other favorites of mine from a few points in my life (Hollow Bastion, Hello) have been in this key. I’d tell you what key it is, except that I don’t know because I haven’t quite figured out how to tell what key something is in. I can look at a piece of music and see that F and C are sharp, but I can’t tell you what key that is. That’s the key in question, by the way. Any idea what key that is?

I feel my key-talking has become boring, and the last thing I want is to bore you, because this is what I am referring to in my mind as an “entertainment” blog post, and I’ll save the ranting for a personal one. I’ve been meaning to talk about the things I’ve bought recently! Oddly enough, some of them seem to tie together, as fate would have it.

So, I got to take a trip to the bookstore last week, and I shamelessly managed to bargain my way into getting two new books by claiming they were overdue Birthday presents. Don’t hate me because I’m resourceful. The first thing I got my hands on was Inuyasha. For those of you familiar with the anime that’s become popular in America, you may have seen the show, which has been running on Adult Swim for at least seven or eight years now.

I got Volume 1 of the BigViz editions, containing the first three volumes. Whose more menacing, the demon or the all-too-Japanese schoolgirl?

Inuyasha is a manga series by mangaka (that’s the Japanese word for a comic artist, add it to your ever-growing list of mental trivia you’ve possibly obtained here) Rumiko Takahashi, centering around a girl from modern-day finding herself transported to the Sengoku period of Japan (that would be the Warring States period. I’m not pretentious, I just enjoy that I actually have some knowledge on the subject, be it from Samurai Warriors and Wikipedia articles or not). She does not, as you might think, find herself permanently trapped there: she arrives by way of an ancient well housed in her family’s shrine-home, and can return to the present at any time by travelling back through the well, with certain conditions.

The girl, Kagome, meets a young man, part human, part dog-demon, named Inuyasha (which literally means Dog Demon). Though there are about a billion plot points in Inuyasha, and it’s hard to make out which is truly the central plotline thanks to a million sideplots, the central story revolves around Kagome’s quest to recover the fragments of a sacred jewel that gives infinite power to anyone who posesses it. Where did this jewel come from, you might ask? Well I can’t give away the whole plot of the first issue, then you won’t want to buy it and find out for yourself!

I probably only wanted Inuyasha for nostalgic reasons; my brother who’s about six or seven years older than myself moved in with us when I was about thirteen, and he introduced me to the series. Nontheless, it’s an entertaining read, if for no other reason than that it’s a visual read, there are pictures and visual action and I don’t have to imagine the action. Besides, I think reading from right to left is cool, that doesn’t make me a poser, it means I like things that are different. Right to left actually feels more natural to me anyway, probably because I’m left-handed. You know who else is left-handed? Imogen Heap. Haven’t heard about her from me in a while, have you?

That’s because I haven’t really been very interested in her lately. If I were to go and watch some of her video blogs, I’d probably enjoy them, but I think I enjoy Imogen Heap most when I combine her music with her personality; her music alone doesn’t really satisfy me. I’m not much of an electronic person, and I think that her work is inventive, but probably not exactly my style. I have bought just about everything she has available in the US iTunes store, though. I think she’s a very good pianist, but that’s just it: it’s the piano I love, and the piano shows up very little in Imogen Heap’s music (except perhaps for her first album). I’ve never heard a song from her as good as Hide and Seek, and I even burned myself out on that one after listening to it (and a lot of covers of it) often enough.

Hide and Seek still was an important song in my life though. I view the day I heard Hide and Seek as the day that my life started to change. It seemed to set everything in motion. I began to finally feel creative again, I felt raw and emotional, but also uplifted. Admittedly, I let my priorities get seriously rearranged, I dismissed my boyfriend and unfortunately drew back from him, but I came back, and he both was and still is there for me. We may have had our problems, everyone does, but he’s always shown me that he wants to be with me.

So, yes, Hide and Seek is an autobiographical song for me, not because it necessarily tells the story of my life or anything, but because it sparked something in me, it inspired me. And besides, it’s got a lot of great harmony.

Let’s get back on track, shall we? Otherwise I’ll never be able to find the right pictures to pepper in between the paragraphs and keep you reading. While Inuyasha didn’t necessarily tie in with my recent Tori Amos endeavors, the next book I tricked my mother into buying for me does.

I was browsing through the manga section, and I saw a huge book called “The Art of Vampire Hunter D.” It didn’t seem too interesting to me, but I picked up a copy of one of the Vampire Hunter D novels below it and immediately recognized the art style from the cover as Yoshitaka Amano.

An example of Amano's character design in the Final Fantasy series. I picked this one both because of it's colorful and flamboyant nature, and because everyone loves Vivi.

Yoshitaka Amano is the character designer for the Final Fantasy series; if you’re a Final Fantasy fan and you’ve ever seen any of the concept art, he’s the one who drew it. He has this very odd way of drawing characters, I believe they’re all in watercolor, and their skin is completely one hue, for instance characters with white skin literally have perfectly white skin in his illustrations.

I especially like the pretty cursive chapter titles.

So back to my story, I looked to see who was credited as the illustrator, and of course there he was, Yoshitaka Amano. I found the first novel in the series and was so intrigued by Amano’s cover art and the beautiful formatting of the cover as well as the book, that I decided I wanted it. I still have not read it, I have virtually no idea what it’s about except that vampires and werewolves are involved (and this time, let’s hope they’re respectable vampires. You know, the kind that burst into flame in sunlight, rather than sparkling). I still didn’t recognize the cover art of that Art of Vampire Hunter D book as the Amano I’m used to, but that’s probably because it was referring to the art of the anime and manga, not the novel illustrations.

I’ve also noticed that within the book art some illustrations, but they’re all in very hard to see black ink, like those packets of paper stapled together that your high school English teacher would photocopy from the workbook. It makes me wonder if perhaps there’s an edition of the book with full color illustrations, or at least one that can be easily seen. But perhaps they’re just drawn that way. I’d guess not, but I can’t say I’m sure either way.

This ties in to Tori-related activities because I learned today from visiting Neil Gaiman’s website that he and Amano are friends. But Jesse, how does that have to do with Tori Amos? Clearly, since she’s your current obsession, we want to hear all about her. Right you are, nonexistant fans. Neil Gaiman is an author, many of whom’s books have been made into films: Stardust, Coraline, Mirrormask. He’s also a close friend of Tori’s. See? It all ties together.

You may have read an earlier blog post where I mentioned that I got a copy of Tori’s third album, Boys For Pele. One of my favorite tracks on the album is Horses. The song grabbed me immediately, I was hooked from the moment it began, which is actually about a minute and fifty seconds into the first track, because it’s introduced by a song called Beauty Queen. I can’t say that I really know what Horses is about, or that I know what most Tori songs are about, or especially songs from Boys For Pele (which is considered to be her most poetically obscure album), but I know that I like it, and the pretty words all sound nice together. I hope I’m not making it seem as though I dislike the album, in fact I think I’m going through a Boys For Pele phase right now, the album is wonderful. I’ve been imagining myself performing the album in it’s entirety along with my nonexistant band (sometimes, in my fantasies, I have a band. They may be my touring band, or I may just be a part of the band myself) to a sold out secret show of both Toriphiles and my fans (many of whom are both).

But that’s fantasy. Here in reality, Boys For Pele has been around since 1996. I’ve often thought to myself that I don’t think I could musically survive if I’d been my age in the nineties, I like so much current music that I wasn’t so sure nineties music could do it for me, but since discovering Tori I think I would have been having a great time, especially since my favorite Tori albums so far are the first three: Little Earthquakes, Under the Pink, and Boys For Pele.

Didn’t I have a point I was trying to get to a few paragraphs ago, before I lost myself in lengthy asides? The albums first song, Horses, has a line in it:

“And if there is a way to find you, I will find you
But will you find me here,
When Neil makes me a tree?”

As it happens, Tori at one point lent Neil her house, in which he wrote the first chapter of his novel Stardust. She asked that in exchange, Neil make Tori into a tree in his book, and so there is a character of a tree in the novel who is directly based on Tori. Neat, huh? I so envy that conversation, I just see these two masterminds talking to one another, she asking to be made into a character in his novel, and when he asks what kind of character, Tori with a whimsical, yet devilish smile, saying “Oh Neil, I want to be a tree!”

Apparently these two often inspire and reference one another in their respective works. Tori has mentioned Neil’s name in several songs from various albums, written a song based on his Sandman character, and probably been inspired by Neil a million times. Neil, similarly, has written stories for the tour books of Boys For Pele and Scarlet’s Walk, a letter for the American Doll Posse tour book, and a poem for Tori’s daughter Tash, before she was born, called Blueberry Girl, which was turned into a children’s book by illustrator Charles Vess, who also illustrated several of Neil Gaiman’s works.

Only Tori would inspire cover art like that.

Neil also wrote the introduction for another Tori-related book, which I saw on the shelf across from manga in the same aisle, and lunged for, called Comic Book Tatoo. This book is a massive collection of comics inspired by Tori Amos songs. And when I say massive, I’m not referring simply to the amount of comics contained in the volume, but the sheer size of it. It’s gigantic. I believe it was between twenty and thirty dollars, which I found very reasonable considering the size of the book, which was so big that I had to sit on the floor to turn the pages.

And there you have it, today’s issue of me advertising things I find interesting. I’d like to think that this blog is educational on the subjects I enjoy, and that if you read it, you can take away knowledge on a particular artist that will serve you at least as a fun fact. This is how I operate. I find my artist, and I study. It’s surprising to me that though I’m not in school, I find myself educating myself on the things I’m interested in. And the funny thing is, the majority of my information comes from Wikipedia, which I think gets a really bad rep that it doesn’t deserve as being unreliable. Yes, anyone can edit the pages, but the pages are also moderated. Every change someone makes it catalogued, and “meticulously edited” or deleted altogether if proven to be untrue. There are also sources listed for a lot of the information, and just about nothing I’ve ever learned from Wikipedia has been disproven to me. If you don’t trust their information, it amounts to, at the very least, rumors. And rumors can have some truth to them. If nothing else, it’s a way to familiarize yourself with a topic, and if your information is incorrect, then let it be disproven and you can learn the truth, but sometimes, learning something is better than nothing.

Besides, in my case, information on artists and albums tends to be, from what I can tell, true for the most part. What reason would someone have to blatantly lie about something like, “This single was released in 1996, containing three B-sides from the album and one alternate mix of this track.” Perhaps a misinformed person could publish their misinformation, but I still don’t think it’s enough reason to avoid reading Wikipedia altogether. I find it funny that I never could quite figure out how properly to use library research tools, but I literally read Wikipedia for entertainment.

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself,and maybe learned a few things here. Have a great day, and remember that love is both divine and eternal. No one should should choose anything but love when given the oppurtunity. Let someone know that you love them, I certainly intend to, and I for one am infinitely grateful to have love in my life. Peace, confidence, and happiness to you.

 

The elusive glasses in question

Oh, one more thing! Earlier this year, I was kicking myself for not buying a pair of sunglasses from Hot Topic that were Lady Gaga replicas, because they weren’t on sale in Gaga’s online store or Hot Topic’s anymore, and were pretty much impossible to find anywhere on the internet. Ot at least I thought they were, upon further reflection I might not have been observant enough. I thought that since the lenses shown seemed to be tinted purple, they couldn’t be the same glasses. I might have either mistaken the lense color of the glasses I found, or I might not have factored in that sunglasses look different depending on how the light’s hitting them.

These are the mystery glasses, whose origins I can't quite ascertain.

(UPDATE! Turns out that the glasses in question, which she’s been seen wearing around town, are fact Vintage Versace #676, and only about ten pairs were made.  Damn, Lady Gaga has expensive tastes. Luckily, I’ll be getting a ten dollar plastic replica from Hot Topic, which as it turns out gets the point across for much less cost. Some people are saying that the glasses she wore in the videos for Just Dance and Bad Romance, are Pucci, hand made in France, model number 89850, and that they were given to her by British model of America’s Next Top Model judging fame, Twiggie. However, my own deduction on the matter is that the glasses from the Just Dance and Bad Romance videos are a different pair altogether, they have traits of both the Pucci’s and Versace’s, but they don’t seem to be either. My replica, however, is of Versace 676. There are currently a pair of animal-print replicas in Gaga’s official webstore, but I’d go for Hot Topic, they have black and white framed glasses, and the black-framed look more like the originals.)

At any rate, I ordered the sunglasses, along with a copy of the Telephone remix EP. Also, the Alejandro remix EP is available for pre-order now, and it’ll be released the 28th of June if I remember correctly.

Just PICK one Tori! We know you're a piano goddess, but that doesn't mean you can't play one at a time!

That reminds me, Tori has a new DVD coming out! It’s a Barnes and Noble exclusive available for pre-order now called Live From The Artists Den, featuring songs spanning her entire career, a twenty minute interview, and here’s my favorite part: a thirty-four page hardbound booklet in the packaging. I’m shivering with excitement at that bit of information. I know it’s going to be great, and as of right now you can pre-order it for twenty dollars, which I intend to do very soon. It’s going to be available July 13, 2010.

Bottoms up, Mama Griffin

Also available for pre-order is an autobiography by Kathy Griffin’s mother, Maggie Griffin, called Tip It! The World According To Maggie. And this is cute, the cover is a box of wine with Maggie and Kathy on it, next to a glass of wine, and if you know Kathy’s routine, you know that she’s made her mother famous with her bit about Maggie loving boxes of wine. Here’s another thing I think is cute: up at the top it says The Star of Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List. Kathy always makes jokes about her mother being more famous than she is and she herself being the sidekick on her own show. Altogether, it looks like a cute read, and if you’re a fan of Kathy’s or have read her autobiography I’m sure this will be as appealing to you as it is to me.

I actually found a paperback copy of Kathy Griffin’s autobiography in the bookstore the other day, and I think it’s so silly how when a new book comes out, there’s always an extra chapter tacked on in the paperback release. This is frustrating because in the grand scheme of things, harback is suppossed to be superior to paperback, and more valuable, and now I have to sit here figeting because I want the harback because it’s so much more regal, but the paperback has more content that I won’t find in the harback! Of course, I see the marketing ploy here, but still, it’s annoying.

Well anyway, there’s my news for today. I’m heading off to the beach tomorrow with family, we’ll see how that goes, since I don’t like my family and don’t particularly want to spend five days in a hotel room with them, sleeping in a room with my mother and her boyfriend. I do have my own bed though, but I think I’m going to try and negotiate myself into a seperate room, or at least try and convince my mother to take the seperate room and let the kids share the larger room with two beds. Altogether, I’m looking forward to some quiet time for reflecting in front of the ocean; maybe I’ll bring the laptop out and do a blog, maybe some writing, describe the sound and atmosphere of the ocean. I’ll probably try and do some reading, and maybe a little drawing. But I’ve got to get packed because we’re leaving in the morning, and it’s almost 3:00 now and I still haven’t taken a shower, so I’m going to leave you with that. If nothing else, you can always say you get ideas of things to buy from me. Unless of course you’re not interested in anything I’m saying, in which case, I applaud you for hanging around for the last 3,296 words.

Goodnight everyone, or good morning, but have a great day nontheless!