An outpouring of Tori

I can’t remember how old I was when I discovered Tori Amos, but it must be around the time I was attending middle school. It feels as if my whole existence, everything I am today, was shaped during those three years. Anyway, I stumbled upon her Strange Little Girl music video on VH1 and I liked her instantly. I can see now why I liked her. The song was good, the song title appealed to me, it was a woman singing, she had an oddly pretty name and I had never heard of her.

So I looked her up on the internet and started buying her albums. I liked her music but unlike now, I didn’t fall in love with it at that time. I was (and am still not) never a fan of the piano. Strings > Piano. Always. Period. But something about her music, her fiery red hair, her not-so-pretty face, that ever-mocking expression on her face told me that I would like this woman. Very much.

But it was really hard for me to achieve that at that time. Me, a teenage girl from Turkey who spoke intermediate English, had very little in common with Tori. And I am a person who finds comfort in familiarity. She was singing from the bottom of her heart, I could feel that, but I understood nothing from her lyrics (I still don’t most of the time).

Around that time, I had tried to read Tori Amos: All These Years: The Authorized Biography by Kalen Rogers. I finally read it last year and realized why Tori had seemed so distant to me even when she was put into words by others. Here’s one example:

…Dr. Amos recalls, “the first time I told Tori the Christmas story, she asked me what would have happened if Joseph had emerged from the manger shouting ‘Wow! It’s a girl!'”

There is no way, I could have understood this reference at that time.

On top of all this, I was shocked when I found out that she was a rape survivor. Another huge gap. The idea made me very uncomfortable, scared and curious at the same time. I remember being kind of like a nun at that time. I had a very strict no-swearing policy. And I had resented a lot when I had heard her swear in some of her songs. For some some weird reason, I had thought that she should certainly not swear using sexual slurs because she had gone through something so horrible. Silly me…

But I think I must have liked her enough to go to her concert in Istanbul in 2005. It was just around the time The Beekeeper was released. My mom had accompanied me. She was no fan but neither were any of my friends and it was obvious that I wasn’t going alone. I remember being very excited because, for the first time in my life, I was going to a concert because I wanted to. I wasn’t accompanying anyone and it was my music that was going to be played.

So naturally, I cried when she appeared on stage. It was a rather short concert because towards the end, something happened to Tori and she rushed backstage. I think she got an electric shock from one of the devices there. She came back a few minutes later and played Silent All These Years as the final song. No encore. Later I queued behind the people trying to get backstage. I remember two girls holding her CDs and begging the bodyguards to let them in because they had come all the way from Greece. Of course they didn’t allow any of us backstage and I was too shy to try to sneak inside unnoticed. I know I could do it and my mom was urging me on from afar. After seeing at least three Turkish celebrities pass by me to the backstage, I started shouting “Tori! Tori! Tori!” and was astonished when the crowd of fans surrounding me joined in. But we could not go in.

After that I stopped listening to Tori. I’m not sure why. I guess I was embarrassed by the way I acted during the concert. I remember thinking to myself that I should have known my place and not tried to go backstage. I thought it was only right that a fan would want to see her idol and I was touched that all the other fans started started cheering along with me but I felt guilty over the whole thing. This incident is a perfect example of how awkward I was as during my teens. I was overflowing with feeling over the things I loved and, at the same time, constantly trying to contain myself. And when I couldn’t I felt ashamed. So I must have felt rejected by this whole experience and given that I could in no way relate to Tori let alone understand any of the things she was singing about, I gave up.

Wow… I think this is the first time I put these feelings into words. Weird how liberating a blog can be.

So yeah, Tori was a fascination, an enigma that everybody except me could understand. Yet no matter how unapproachable she seemed she was very… female. I think I sensed and was struck by the feminine in her at that time.

And today? I think it is safe to say that she is one of my favorite musicians. I still don’t understand her lyrics (I don’t even understand her interviews sometimes), we are still worlds apart but she’s somehow closer to me than she was before. Close enough that I can say that she is part of my world, she is one of the things that I would use to identify myself like The Rose of Versailles or the Harry Potter books. Having started listening to her again last year after such a long time, I also discovered how she has shaped my taste in music. For example, I like it when the music starts calmly and gradually builds up and climaxes as the whole orchestra starts playing. Sound familiar in let’s say Yes, Anastasia, Pretty Good Year and Precious Things?

So yes, I can say that I love everything about Tori. Needless to say, this blog is named after one of her songs. But okay, maybe I’m no fan of her earlier music videos that much, but I love her looks, her image, her dreamy and distant expression, what she represents, the way she gives lengthy explanations during her interviews with long pauses in-between, the way she rolls out the word “girl” and the way Code Red starts so dramatically after Programmable Soda.

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Here’s my Tori collection. Strangely, Strange Little Girls, the cover album which includes the song of the same that introduced me to Tori, isn’t here. I’m yet to find it. I had found it in Kızılay Dost about a year ago, but at that time I was so nervous that I thought I was gonna die because I was summoned at the last minute for interpretation. So naturally, Tori slipped out of my mind.

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