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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] [2011-2013] [2014-2017] [future & now]
1990 - 1992
* Davitt Sigerson, Eric Rosse, and Tori Amos begin production of Tori's first solo album, Little Earthquakes.
* Tori writes and records Upsidedown, Berlin Wall and Somebody Leave the Light On for her Little Earthquakes album. Berlin Wall does not make the album, and the title of Somebody Leave the Light On is changed to Mother, which does make the album.
* Tori finishes writing and recording the following songs for Little Earthquakes:
(This is the track listing as it appeared on a cassette that Tori submitted for copyright.)
2. Silent All These Years
5. Somebody Leave the Light On
7. Sweet Dreams
10. Happy Phantom
11. Flying Dutchman
August 22, 1990
* Tori turns 27.
* Tori turns in a 10-track demo tape of Little Earthquakes. Atlantic Records rejects this initial version of the album.
1. Russia (aka Take to the Sky)
4. Happy Phantom
7. Sweet Dreams
8. Song for Eric
9. Learn to Fly
10. Flying Dutchman
* Tori records a few more songs for the album - Girl, Precious Things, Tear In Your Hand and Little Earthquakes. Some of the songs originally intended to be on Little Earthquakes get kicked off and are eventually used as B-sides on the singles from the album. Two songs, Berlin Wall and Learn to Fly, are never released. With the new track listing, Atlantic Records finally decides the album is marketable.
"At first the boss of my American record company hated Little Earthquakes. Half of the staff hoped I'd be a white Neneh Cherry, the other half wanted to make me into a female Elton John. It took a long time before they wanted to accept who I was, and realize I could make them money that way." [Nieuwe Revu - February 1994]
"I'm the captain of my own ship, so to speak. I turn in the work I want to and they deal with it. It's not about 'do they agree?' I give them what I want done... Little Earthquakes was rejected, but that was that. After Y Kant Tori Read, I realized that I have to look myself in the mirror every morning. I decided that I needed to battle for what I believed in. If I needed to have a battle with the president of Warner Brothers, then so be it. I was prepared to do that." [Vox online - November 2001]
Tori drew herself up to her full five feet three inches and pulled her American Indian blanket (worn for "protection and clarity") tight around her shoulders and intimated that there was another company interested in her. It was a bluff, of course, but Amos did not blink. The tracks were released in their original form, and Amos shipped out to London to re-launch her career, slogging away at the bottom of meaningless bills in shabby little venues. [Rolling Stone - June 25, 1998]
* Tori moves to England.
"I'd tried to do a dance thing, I tried to do the rock thing, and at a certain point you go, 'Well, what is my thing?'" says Amos. "'Who am I? What am I all about?' And out of that searching and agony came Little Earthquakes."
"We're stretching boundaries with her," says Doug Morris, CEO of Atlantic Records. "These songs are very provocative. She's on her journey."
It was Doug Morris who weathered Amos's disastrous, formulaic debut album and who encouraged her to be as intense and personal as she needed to be in her future songwriting. Still, Morris admits, "I was shocked when I heard Little Earthquakes because it was such a departure."
Morris sensed it might be difficult to promote and market the album because it was so eclectic. How then to get people to hear what Amos had to say in a huge country with a fragmented music scene, rigid radio formats and, perhaps, memories of her ill-fated first album?
Morris decided to send Amos to England, "where there's one major radio station and where the press blankets the entire country. Since Tori could really captivate people, she could work in small clubs, people would create a buzz and she would have a better chance of being accepted."
"I needed a change," Amos admitted a few hours before her New York performance. "Even though I'd written the record, I was emotionally drained after living in Los Angeles for so long. I needed a new perspective on things, new sights, new sounds. And I needed to get that thing in your belly that says 'I want to play now.'"
The label arranged for a West London flat five minutes from its offices - and close enough to ferry critics there for private performances.
"The music press there has a lot of power," says Amos. "They can see something in London and in a couple of days everybody in the country knows about it."
And embrace Amos they did, painting her as "an American eccentric who writes confessional songs undercut with a species of shock tactics that seem reassuringly British in inspiration," according to Q magazine.
In a West-London flat, Tori performed a private candlelight set to Eastwest executive Max Hole, a devoted Kate Bush fan. He signed her on the spot.
London also put some distance between the future and Amos's L.A. past, which included an album of dance tracks recorded with Narada Michael Walden (never released) and steady work in classy hotel lounges ("paying the rent, playing something for the martini drinkers to make deals over").
There also was a band - it included drummer Matt Sorum, now with Guns N'Roses - but, says Amos, "it didn't make a whole lot of appearances. We spent most of our time making demo tapes." But Amos was not focusing on her strengths. Songs were co-written and overproduced, her vocals often overwhelmed. She didn't even play the piano; instead, she would "tickle the synth."
"Billboard called me a bimbo," Amos recalls in her soft but intense voice. "They didn't mean to be mean about it. They were actually quite accurate. That's the look I was sporting in those days and I was in better shape - I was pumping then. There was a part of me that really wanted to be a rock chick ... and I failed at it.
"And that's a bit hard, to go from prodigy to bimbo ... though it saved me a lot of hair spray bills. But I had to crack before I was willing to strip. ... I could not have written Little Earthquakes without skinning my knees."
When Y Kant Tori Read stiffed, Amos went back to the lounges but stopped writing. "If I had to whore around, why did I do it with this, the thing that I have so treasured?" Amos asked herself. She didn't even keep a piano where she lived. "And then one night I went to a friend's house-she had a piano-and as she sat away in the dark, I played for hours. ... There was a feeling of 'Who am I without you? Am I anything without you?' And then it was like?" She unlooses a radiant smile.
That experience reawakened a sense of disciplined craft that was both disconcerting and liberating, as evidenced on Little Earthquakes.
"Everything is there because it wants to be," Amos says, pointing out that on her first album, "I wasn't talking about the 'Me and a Gun' experience, I wasn't talking about my religious views, I wasn't talking about how I felt about myself much at all.
"On the first album, I was trying to defend myself, trying to make myself not so vulnerable," she adds. "And what happened? I got completely ripped to bits. So then you think, 'What can happen to me? Get off on something for once in your life. You used to get off when you were four...' [The Washington Post, March 22, 1992]
"Every place you land in life has a reason and a lesson. I think that period of time was, partially, a means of dealing with sexual repression I experienced when I was growing up. I have also come to believe that my insides were strengthened so that I would eventually be able to give birth to these newer songs." [Billboard - March 28, 1992]
* Tori meets writer Neil Gaiman.
"In 1990 I had this friend, Rantz, and when he went to Parsons Art School in LA he crashed at my apartment for a while. It was this tiny single behind the Methodist Church on Highland Avenue. Rantz left a copy of Neil's book The Doll's House lying around. I picked it up, and found myself drawn to it over the next couple of weeks. Then I wrote this song called Tear In Your Hand, which made reference to Neil, although it wasn't about him. I get inspired by different writers.
"In January 1991, I split to London, but Rantz had a tape of what I'd been doing, and he took it to a comic convention in San Diego to pass to Neil. He'd put my number on the tape. I had no idea, so when Neil called I was shocked. He said, "Are you thinking of doing this as something other than a hobby, because it's pretty good?" I said, "That's a relief, because Little Earthquakes is being released in a couple of weeks."
"We met when Neil came to one of my early gigs at the Canal Brasserie in London. My first impression was that his Dream King character was an extension of himself, but even Neil's female characters are like extensions of himself with good silicon. We met at a time when celebrity hadn't made us guarded about people. Also, there was never any confusion that it was going to be a romance, and there's a sacredness to having a male friendship where that doesn't come into it. You can have a creative affair, though, and that can be tricky." [Independent (UK) - October 10, 1999]
"Rantz, during Little Earthquakes, was crashing at my pad, which was behind a church in Hollywood, for like three months, and he kept bringing me all the Sandman stuff. He was going to that San Diego convention, and he had a...not a demo, but a finished version of the albulm, which Atlantic records kinda said forget it to. And he took it to the convention, and passed it to Neil [Gaiman]. It said nothing on it... not "Atlantic Records." Nothing. Just this tape. With my number on it. Somehow, Neil got my flat number in London, I can't remember how he got it-'cause then I moved to London a couple of months later-and he called me up, and he goes, "I got this tape from somebody, and I don't think it's half bad. (laughter) Are you planning on doing something with your life?"(laughter) And I said, "Actually, I'm here trying to play live dates." We started meeting up for lunch and talking about stuff, and he'd come to my gigs. And that's how I met him." [Magian Line - October 1993]
* Read stories from Tori and Neil about how they met.
* Tori and a friend are stopped by the authorities at the border...
"In the early 90s a friend and I were stopped at the border at Aachen, Germany. She had cannabis on her, so the sniffer dogs came to the car, the police searched us, and they wanted to pump our stomachs for drugs. Thankfully, they changed their minds." [She (UK) - May 1998]
April 24, 1991
* Tori plays the piano for Al Stewart on the song Year of the Cat during his concert in London at the Royal Festival Hall. [Click here for the whole story, pictures, and an mp3.]
* Tori begins performing at the Mean Fiddler and other small venues in London.
"I've been doing this since I came to London. I started playing at the Mean Fiddler in June last year and it's just been a constant battle. People would be actually leaning on the piano and yakking, having a conversation. I can tell you what one girl bought at the stores that day! I had to stop in the middle of my song just to say, 'hey, it's you or me because I can't even remember what I'm doing.'" [Keyboard Review - February 1992]
"I'd take the Tube and walk the rest. I didn't know where the hell I was. But there was a rosier side to non-success. There's romance involved when people are discovering you. But then they begin to see your faults." [The Independent - October 13, 2008]
July 3, 1991
* Tori performs at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, at the Casino.
the setlist: Silent All These Years, Precious Things, China, Crucify, Song For Eric, Leather, Upside Down, Happy Phantom, Winter, Thank You.
July 12, 1991
* In the UK, a 4-song sampler from Little Earthquakes is released to the press. The tracks are: Winter, Crucify, Silent All These Years and Leather.
* Tori sees the film Thelma and Louise in a London suburb, and writes the song Me and a Gun in her head on the way to a gig, riding the underground [subway]. She performs the song a capella that night, and always (up until a rare performance in 2007 with her band).
* Read quotes about Me and a Gun.
"I don't talk about the details because I can't, but it's freeing to sing that song. I have to go in a trance to sing it. ... It gets exhausting singing it. But there's so much going on that nobody talks about, and I just found that out with myself after so many years of not talking." [The Washington Post - March 22, 1992]
"My father loves this song - although my parents are very Victorian and very religious. My father found it was simply necessary to say what rape means. It's a frontal assault - not only on your body, but on your soul." [Keyboard - June 1992]
August 22, 1991
* Tori turns 28.
* Tori Amos is the opening act for Grammy-winner Marc Cohn. Cohn says to an interviewer asking about undiscovered talent, "Listen to Tori Amos, she's unbelievable!"
* The promotional plan for the Little Earthquakes album is launched. Val Azzoli, senior Vice President/GM of Atlantic Records, sets up a street-oriented project for mainstream radio and to promote sales. The plan is to get Tori known in the U.K. first.
"The idea was to season the project with European buzz before bringing it here," Azzoli says. "Since this is music that doesn't fit one particular format, we went directly to fans of unusual music, and created an interest from the bottom up. What we've discovered is that this album hits a nerve with people; the reaction is consistently strong and passionate." [Billboard - March 28, 1992]
November 22, 1991
* Tori Amos makes her first major television appearance on the Jonathan Ross Show in England. She performs Silent All These Years.
"You were my first television show, like for real."
I know that was a long time ago wasn't it?
"Yeah, and I was so scared that day. On the TV, right? I was going, "Oh my God, will that girl keep singing if I stop playing?" And so I don't know if you remember, but I stopped for three seconds and Neil Gaiman was there and said, "Oh my God, when you stopped I thought it was over," and then I saw that the girl stopped too, and I went, "Oh no, she stops, I better keep going." [Jonathan Ross radio show (UK) - December 8, 2001]
* Ian Thorpe, a London native, begins working the mixing board at Tori's shows. Thorpe says, "I didn't know what to expect... I've worked with Tori now since December, and I wouldn't have believed how much fun it is to be on the road with her. She really knocks the people out, everybody loves her. It probably has something to do with the fact that everyone notices how much she loves what she does herself, especially when she plays in Europe. In America they mostly put a Yamaha CP-80 out on stage, but here they have real grand pianos, Steinways and that sort of thing. She blossoms when she has one of those classical instruments in front of her, and you can see how she makes love to them." [Keyboards - June 1992]
January 13, 1992
* Little Earthquakes is released in the UK and goes to number one on the charts. Americans get the album a month later.
January 29, 1992
* Little Earthquakes Tour begins in London, England, at Shaw Theatre. [tour details]
* The music video for Tori's first US single, Silent All These Years, is in heavy rotation on MTV and VH-1.
April 23, 1992
* Tori appears on The Late Show with David Letterman (in New York City) for the first time. She performs Crucify accompanied by the Late Show band. [click for photos]
* Tori goes to Australia for the first time, on a promotional tour. She signs copies of Little Earthquakes and the Winter EP at a record store in Sydney and performs a one-off show at Sydney Hotel. At the record store she performs four songs before the signing session begins. The Sydney Hotel show is mainly for press, though a lot of paying fans manage to get in amongst the crowd of about 500 people.
July 7, 1992
* The Crucify EP is released, featuring 3 cover songs: Tori's infamous rendition of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit, The Rolling Stones' Angie, and Led Zeppelin's Thank You. These are Tori's first recordings on a Bösendorfer piano.
August 22, 1992
* Tori turns 29.
* Tori and her parents attend the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards. Tori is nominated for Best New Artist, but the award goes to Annie Lennox.
"For the next record, I want to work with this instrument exclusively, not synths with it, but the acoustic piano alone. It could be percussive, or it could be orchestral, maybe it could have effects. There might be solos. I'm out of the way to respect the fact that you're not the only one who's finally claiming that this is my instrument. Because I can hear what it is saying to me, I have a responsibility to listen to what it's saying to me. And now it says, "I have some really good ideas and you're a human, and you could take them down for me - if you can get your own stuff got ideas." I've really become very close to it now." [Keyboard - September 1992]
"On the next record we will use an effected piano side by side with the acoustic one, so that we will be able to play riffs and to connect the piano to a Marshall Amp. I want to develop myself." And with a laugh, "On the next tour I will have two pianos and roll to and fro with the piano chair." [Visions - September 1992]
* Before a concert in Richmond, Virginia, Tori gets sick from food poisoning [bad seafood] and is visited by the ghost of Anastasia Romanov. The experience is the birth of the song Yes, Anastasia.
"I was feeling so sick that I wanted to be put out of my misery. And then I get this presence. It's like a light, a blueish-greyish light... The message was, 'You need to learn something out of writing my story.'" [The London Indepentend - January 16, 1994]
* Tori meets her idol, Robert Plant, for the first time at the Q Magazine Awards in England.
November 30, 1992
* The Little Earthquakes Tour ends in Auckland, New Zealand, at Town Hall.
* Tori visits the Bösendorfer piano company in Vienna, Austria. She gets an endorsement from Bösendorfer and is given a piano for the studio and one for touring.
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