home / timeline
Tori Amos Timeline
[before] [1963-1968] [1969-1974] [1975-1977] [1978-1983] [1984-1989] [1990-1992] [1993-1994] [1995-1996] [1997-1998] [1999-2000]  [2002-2003] [2004-2005] [2006-2008] [2009-2010]  [future & now]
1975 - 1977
* Ellen's brother Mike gets married.
August 22, 1975
* Ellen turns 12 and begins 7th grade.
* She smokes pot for the first time, at a friend's house...
"The first drug I took was pot. I was 12. I guess that seems young, but this was a different time. We're talking 1974-75. Led Zeppelin were kicking! It was a different time! When I was 12, I was smoking weed at a friend's house and my father came to pick me up early. And we'd smoked so much. I'm like reeking. I lied my ass off. I told him my friend and her brother had been doing stuff. But not me. Then we had to go out to dinner with someone from the local church and his son. Halfway through, the son, who was about 18, took me to one side and said, 'You are sooo stoned.' Still, I got away with it." [Q - May 1995]
* She takes singing lessons...
"...When I was twelve [I took singing lessons] with three different teachers from whom I learned different things. But I only looked for what I needed, I didn't want to be an opera singer. Because whether you're dealing with piano playing or singing or writing songs, technique alone isn't enough, you have to develop your own style and discover your own personality. It's easy to sing perfectly and to play perfectly and to write perfect songs. The real challenge is expressing your personality. I'm afraid teachers aren't aware of that themselves." [Keyboard - June 1992]
* Ellen's sister Marie goes off to college in Virginia.
* Ellen writes a song called More Than Just A Friend for a boy she has a crush on at school and performs it at an assembly. He threatens to beat her up if she sings it, but doesn't. However, they never speak again.
* Ellen re-auditions for the Peabody scholarship, playing I've Been Cheated for the board, but is turned down.
"At 13, my father saw me wasting away, some of my friends were getting pregnant, and he didn't want that to happen to me. So he tried to find a special interest to keep my hands busy, I guess. He said, "Your music was so much a part of your life. Why don't you go back to the Peabody?" So I actually auditioned to get back in. These girls were auditioning for the voice school, singing "Ave Maria." Me, I sang "I've Been Cheated" [laughs]. They didn't clap, and they certainly didn't let me back in. So I started playing clubs and turning in my songs." [Keyboard - September 1992]
* Patricia Springer, a Peabody professor, continues to teach Ellen privately. Ellen also begins studying voice and music at Montgomery College.
"I always did think she'd be important. I knew that she could make it in the music industry. I just didn't know how," says Pat Springer, who gave Amos private lessons after she left the conservatory. "She could play Beethoven sonatas wonderfully. One day during practice she asked if she could play her own songs, so I dragged my kids down to listen, kicking and screaming. We were all totally blown away." [Alternative Press - July 1998]
Did any particular teacher contribute a lot to your musical development?
"A lady named Patricia Springer. She's still around. She's so funny... She was at Peabody, and she was also the organist at the church where my father was. I liked her, and I like her to this day. I see her every blue moon. I'll never forget when I got kicked out of Peabody and I tried to audition again a year and a half later. I auditioned with "I've Been Cheated" by Linda Ronstadt [laughs]. I think she kind of liked my sense of humor, but she said to me, "You know, what are you doing?" I said [pulling sweater up over mouth and nose], "Umm, I dunno?" She said, "You don't want to be here. That's obvious. But you've got to find a way to teach yourself a skill, because you're not gonna get it here. You've gotten all you can get. You want to be a composer. They're not teaching you how to compose whatever you want to compose. They taught you how to go and do research, so you've got to go teach yourself." I'm sitting there, going, "I'm 12." My head was pounding, and my father wanted me to have my doctorate by the time I was 16. I'd been taking pipe organ, but my legs were too short to reach the pedals. I have really short legs and a longer torso, which helps my voice, actually." [All Music zine - October 1999]
* Ellen auditions and is hired to play piano and sing at Mr Smith's in Georgetown. She plays in the Tiffany Lounge upstairs. For a year, her parents accompany her every Friday night. Working at Mr Smith's gets Ellen a lot of attention, and she gets various jobs playing at parties, clubs, schools, and even basketball games.
Her dad, Rev. Ed Amos, says: "Do you know any Methodist ministers who would take their daughters to sing in bars? I took a lot of criticism for that. Other clergy thought I was sinning, driving my daughter into dens of iniquity." [Alternative Press - July 1998]
"It reached a point where I couldn't play piano anymore. There was a deep sense a of failure and frustration that I repressed for years. Finally, my father suggested I take my songs and play someplace. So I got a job at a local gay bar in Washington DC, playing for free. Here, I could lose myself in my own world. They were possibly one of the most appreciative audiences I've ever had. I was 13. They had no make on me. They were more interested in my dad who would stand of the back in his clerical collar." [Melody Maker - November 16, 1991]
"I started playing in bars at 13," Amos recalled, "Mr. Henry's in Georgetown, Mr. Smith's also in Georgetown for a year." By 15 she was a pro, playing songs at, said Amos, "every hotel in this city." [The Gazette - June 22, 1988]
* Ellen continues attending her dad's church every Sunday.
August 22, 1976
* Ellen turns 13 and begins 8th grade at Eastern Junior High School in Silver Spring, Maryland. At Eastern Junior High and Richard Montgomery High, she is involved in chorales and madrigal groups, and leads the children's choir at her dad's church - the Good Shepherd United Methodist church.
"When I was thirteen, I believed in fairies and other spiritual things, was sunk in my own world of imagination, believed in the unseen world, what I still do today. But over the time I started to feel like a nitwit. I mean, when you smoke dope, it might be normal, but like this? You sit in your English lesson and you are talking to a fairy. The people did not want to understand that, and when you are 13, you don't want to be faced with a pitiful smile all the time. So I began to destroy the part in me that is actually creative. Instead, I became very cynical, disguised myself to become popular, to be loved by everyone. But actually that was nothing else than a game of hide-and-seek. You can be a bigmouth without having anything to say. At that time, I definitely only had the wish to be an in-chick. Today I know that you should have your own thoughts and that you have to stick to your point of view. Today I accept that not all people like me, that's all right." [Visions - September 1992]
* Three months of hell...
"I think you will understand what it's like to be a girl if you could just imagine being thirteen years old. Just having gotten off your braces. Kind of being a nerd, but not totally a nerd, just kind of a nerd. So, in other words, I sat in the middle of the bus, not the back of the bus where all the cool people sat. And not the front of the bus where the real, real serious nerds sat. Anyway, I was in the middle of the bus, and the most popular girl in school happened to be on the bus that day because she was going home with a boy that day, that rode my bus, who was really cute and popular, too...
"So anyway, um, they took my books and uh, 'cause this one boy in the back wanted me to hang out with him. So I had to go to the back to get my books...
"Now this girl would do this to a lot of other girls. Just stuff, make them feel stupid and humiliate them in front of class, you know, 'cause she was attractive and all the boys liked her. They couldn't see the slime she was. So anyway, I went back -- she was a cornflake girl -- anyway, I went back to the back of the bus with this guy, and he was kinda burly and sweaty and gross, but tough, like a young Sylvester Stallone...
"So anyway, he's sitting there pawing me and stuff, and I get really sick of this news, so I clock him one, and I shove him in the ribs with my elbow. And I know it's near my stop, so I've gotta get off. Well, this girl has hidden my books. So, I take my books. I take her head in my hand and I take my hand, instead of marring her beautiful skin, I hit her on the top of the head. And um, I get my books and she says, "I'm gonna come after you, you little scum." So she, for the next three months of school, she made my life a living hell. Every day, it was awful, screaming outside my house to come fight her. Well, I didn't want to fight her, 'cause, you know, I had done my bit. So, one day, um, she got up from her desk and she was walking, and everybody started to laugh at her. And they laughed and laughed, and she couldn't understand why. And me and my friend Connie had had a packet of ketchup that we had taken from cafeteria. And we just happened to put it beneath her white jeans before she sat down. And it's the only thing that got me through three months of hell." [Simon Mayo Show - March 30, 1994]
* Ellen starts sending out demo tapes.
"From the time I was thirteen I sent tapes around with the songs I had written. I did that for five years, and then at eighteen I stopped... Because of the replies I got... "You may perhaps have potential. Call us back in a few years." Very encouraging! But that's the problem with the music industry, they invest hardly any money in developing talent. They don't say, He or she has potential we can develop. You know, if I wasn't doing what I'm doing now I'd gladly be on the other side, in Artist Development. I'd go out and listen to people, to find out who I could help - like what they used to do with people like Judy Garland. Because there are so many talents who have been playing only in clubs or in their living rooms, and people from the industry should care about them. They shouldn't wait until someone has the idea to look for a producer, somebody who knows how to make records and how to bring music from one medium, the piano or guitar in some living room or a club, to another, a tape or a record. I mean, you don't have to be a genius to know that the musicians are the backbone of the entire thing; without them there would be no music industry at all." [Keyboards - June 1992]
* Ellen wins $100 and the first-place trophy in the county Teen Talent Contest and is pictured in the local newspaper, the Montgomery Journal.
"I played my own song that night, something called More Than Just A Friend."
* Ellen's dad suggests she get another job playing the piano someplace. She finds one at a gay bar in Georgetown called Mr Henry's, playing for tips.
August 22, 1977
* Ellen turns 14 and begins 9th grade.
"At 14, I felt Tori was losing interest," says Ed Amos. "Music was her entire life and we wanted to help her however we could. She wanted a job and so I chose to direct her into a profession at a young age, which was not an easy decision for me to make."
"My father wanted me to get a craft," says Tori Amos. Indeed, she was soon developing it in a series of Georgetown cabarets, first at Mr. Henry's and later at Mr. Smith's Tiffany Room. Both clubs were supported by a largely gay clientele, and Pastor Amos -- clerical collar and all -- would chaperone his daughter on weekend nights until the early hours.
"You play to people, you don't judge them," he [Tori's dad] says. "You share your gift and talent." By now, Tori Amos's repertoire had grown to embrace the popular standards not only of her day, but of her parents'. She was learning the sturdy craftsmanship that allows songs to stand the test of time.
"I wouldn't give up those years for anything," Amos says, while conceding that high school was a challenge. Still, she managed to be elected homecoming queen at Richard Montgomery ("just remember Laura Palmer was also a homecoming queen"). [The Washington Post - March 22, 1992]
"My parents chaperoned. The experience was fantastic. I played standards - a little Gershwin and Cole Porter, your Billie Holiday stuff. I'd also do whatever was current - Zeppelin, Carole King, Billy Joel, Elton John. Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive was a biggie. You had to do Send In the Clowns and Feelings at least five times a night. Plus your Beatles and Stones catalog." [Philadelphia Daily News - March 24, 1994]
"I learned so much about real respectability from gay waiters. I used to play there when I was 13, wearing my sister's polyester pants and all made up to look older. I was happy. The men there were more interested in my father, who was in his clerical collar at the back." [Vox - May 1994]
Often she'd return from work after midnight, unwinding by writing songs at the basement piano. "I used to love going to sleep listening to her down there," says her mother Mary Ellen. There are cabinets full of songs and tapes in the basement. [The Washington Post - March 22, 1992]
before | after
t o r i p h o r i a
the World of Tori Amos