the Bucky Four-Eyes Cotillion

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Played dirty water from a swordfishtrombone

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If you've been a reader here for more than ten minutes, you've likely seen me mention Tom Waits. I go on about him as if everybody knows who I mean, but I do realize that he's more of a fringe entertainer than a mainstream household name. So, here's a little bit of explanation for those of you who haven't been enchanted by Waits' overwhelming weirdness yet. This is not a formal bio, and I'm not gonna be all anal about his discography or filmography, but if any of you have tidbits you think are important, by all means add them to comments.

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Tom Waits - singer/songwriter/actor/eccentric. TW began his career writing and recording songs with more of a folk/ballad leaning, dipped into a lot of blues, and has become more and more experimental with his musical styles since he surprised everyone but himself with the release of Swordfishtrombones in 1983. His lyrics have always been something out of the ordinary, even when he wasn't pursuing more avant garde musical styles. I love him for writing things like:

Licorice tattoo turned a gun metal blue
scrawled across the shoulders
of a dying town
the one eyed jacks across the railroad tracks

and the scar on its belly pulled a stranger passing through
(Burma Shave)

and

And the moon's a silver slipper
It's pouring champagne stars
Broadway's like a serpent
Pulling shiny top-down cars
(Drunk on the Moon)

and
Please allow thirty days for delivery
don't be fooled by cheap imitations
You can live in it, live in it
laugh in it, love in it
Swim in it, sleep in it
Live in it, swim in it
laugh in it, love in it
Removes embarrassing stains from contour sheets
that's right
And it entertains visiting relatives
it turns a sandwich into a banquet
Tired of being the life of the party?
Change your shorts
change your life
change your life
Change into a nine-year-old Hindu boy
get rid of your wife
(Step Right Up)

Well, you get the idea. Not your ordinary "moon/june" lyricist. I discovered TW at 13, and I just ain't been right since then. Yeah. It's Tom's fault.

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TW hasn't really broken into mainstream radio play, but he has written songs which became hits for other artists, such as the Eagles' cover of Ol' 55 and Rod Stewart's version of Downtown Train. If you don't know TW as a singer or a songwriter, you might well be familiar with him as a film actor. He's appeared in a number of films, including some directed by Jim Jarmusch (Down By Law and Mystery Train), and Francis Ford Coppola, including Ironweed, Rumble Fish, The Outsiders, and perhaps his most flamboyant turn, as the bug-munching lunatic Renfield in Coppola's underappreciated Bram Stoker's Dracula:

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Raw deal, Renfield: "Mawwwwster...you said you'd make me immortal!"

This post is by no means all-inclusive regarding TW's career, and if this has piqued your interest, I urge you to go all Waits on your family and walk around muttering the lyrics to Pasties and a G-String.

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TomWaits02


21 of you felt the overwhelming need to say somethin':

Blogger Mr. Bloggerific Himself said...

I just want to say that I was here before Bone Machine. Nanny nanny boo boo!

I'll let him talk up TW and just dance around and shake my butt...'cause

I WAS HERE FIRST.

3:36 PM, December 13, 2005  
Blogger Circus Kelli said...

The only one I really don't care for that much is "Such a Scream". I'm diggin on the other ones, though... (I started from the bottom up, just because I could)

LOL "... a mouthful of porcupine quills." That's pretty good... I may have to check TW out a bit more.

Thank you!

3:41 PM, December 13, 2005  
Blogger Jim said...

Golly - I need to do this very same thing for ABBA and the Captain and Tennille.

4:04 PM, December 13, 2005  
Blogger Bone Machine said...

My initial exposure to Mr. Waits (notice how I took on a respectful tone of typing there) involved me walking into a music shop in Evansville, Indiana and hearing some kind of fucked up music that brought mental images of a drunk staggering around. As it turns out, I think it was something off of the Frank's Wild Years album. The artist was without doubt Tom Waits.

I was intrigued by it enough to want to buy it, but I didn't drop coin on it that day. I was a full-blown metalhead at the time and it would have likely been filed away due to the lack of sufficient power chords and banshee wails.

Cut to 1992.

I had an art class with an instructor that wasn't much older than myself. We became friends and we occasionally exchanged music to broaden our musical horizons. I loaned him some Henry Rollins and he loaned me a copy of Bone Machine by Tom Waits. I remember his words as he handed me the disc. "You might like it. You might not like it. But it will crawl under your skin."

I spun that disc and the only other experience that totally blew my mind in such a way was my initial exposure to Jane's Addiction. He was indeed right, because I found myself oddly drawn to that album and before I knew it, I was hooked...pardon the pun...big time.

I gradually acquired the rest of his albums and learned that Tom was a master songwriter and a musical genius. At the time, he wasn't doing a lot of touring and I figured that I probably would never get to see a live show.

I was wrong.

There were sporadic shows in the mid-90s, but most of them took place on the west coast. When he released the excellent Mule Variations album in '99, the buzz was out that the man would indeed tour with the album.

For once in my life, I actually had the good fortune of planning to be in the right place at the right time. I was going to be in the Chicago area for (Cheap) Trick Fest 3 and Tom Waits happened to be doing two shows at the Chicago Theater while I was in the area.

Without getting too far into the deranged fanboy zone, I will just say that the show was nothing less than amazing.

4:35 PM, December 13, 2005  
Blogger eclectic said...

Diggin' it.

4:38 PM, December 13, 2005  
Blogger hemlock said...

My dad and his buddy adore Tom Waits.

I like some of his stuff, but I admit, sometimes he can be a bit much for me.

I won't debate his genius, but I will choose not to listen to him all the time.

Interesting stuff!!

5:26 PM, December 13, 2005  
Blogger Memphis Steve said...

I've heard of him and I've seen him. I've just never really focused my attention on him. Maybe now I will?

6:19 PM, December 13, 2005  
Blogger Momentarily_Distracted said...

You made my day.
Thank you.
:::goes off to listen to snippets of songs:::

8:03 PM, December 13, 2005  
Blogger Bucky Four-Eyes said...

Mr. B - You get taunting rights. Taunt away!

CKelli - Glad you liked (most)! That's why I wanted to put a little variety in, because he does so many different styles.

Jim - I dare you to. You know I'd come groove on it.

Bone Machine - Nicely done, professor Bone. Still jealous you got to see the Mule tour. He puts on an incredible show; I count the two times I saw him among my top ten concerts.

Eclectic - I figgered you'd like the variety. And the weirdness.

LeafGirl - you know, as huge a fan as I am, there is some of his stuff I find unlistenable, too. Which, I guess, makes sense when you consider the range of styles he's covered during his career. I personally can't stand some of his later stuff that is from theatrical productions, like "Black Rider" and "Alice" (no offense to those who love that stuff - it just don't float my boat).

Memphis Steve - at least you have a little more context now!

8:44 PM, December 13, 2005  
Blogger Bucky Four-Eyes said...

M_D - I thought you might enjoy the subject matter. :)

8:45 PM, December 13, 2005  
Blogger Squirl said...

Okay, Blogger really did eat my comment.

What I remember saying is that I liked the first song best. I remember really liking Burma Shave.

9:05 PM, December 13, 2005  
Blogger Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Great, Bucky! (from an old folkie)

9:42 PM, December 13, 2005  
Blogger Susie said...

Well, I done lernt somthing. I thought Mary Chapin Carpenter wrote Downtown Train; she was the first person I heard perform it, and beautifully, I might add. Your mentioning Rod Stewart reminds me of a story I heard which turned me against Rod Stewart once and for all (I never liked him all that much). What I heard was that the writer of Downtown Train (whom I thought was MCC, but who is, in fact, TW), sent it to BOB SEGER, who loved it and planned to record it. Before anything was official, Seger played it for his friend, Rod Stewart. RS then swiped it and had a hit. I say Rod Stewart sucks for doing that.
That is all.

11:07 PM, December 13, 2005  
Blogger Bone Machine said...

Let's see, some of my favorite Waits lyrics.

"How do the angels get to sleep when the devil leaves his porch light on..."

"God bless your crooked little heart"

"Lookin' for someone to chop the lumber in his pants"

"I'll go in up to here. It can't possibly hurt. All they will find is my beer and my shirt."

There are just way too many for my tired brain to remember tonight.

One of the cool things about the Mule tour or maybe just the Chicago show(s). After the house lights went down, Tom walked down the aisle from the back of the theater with bullhorn in hand doing the intro to The Black Rider. The thing that sucked is that he walked down the other aisle. Of course, if he had walked down the aisle beside me, I would have left a stain on the floor that club soda couldn't remove.

It doesn't translate to the typed screen, but he had a little platform that had some kind of powder on it and every time he stomped, it made this little cloud of smoke. In the day and age of fog machines, pyro, mechanical dragons and the like, it's pretty lo-fi, but it was cool.

11:10 PM, December 13, 2005  
Blogger Bone Machine said...

Rod Stewart also covered Hang On St. Christopher and it's a pretty shitty version. I can deal with his version of Downtown Train and Tom Traubert's Blues. Bob Seger has covered 16 Shells From A Thirty-Ought Six and (I think) New Coat Of Paint. I'm not a big fan of Seger, but I rank his cover of 16 Shells down there with Rod's version of St. Christopher. Then again, I absolutely love the Ramones and I didn't think their version of I Don't Wanna Grow Up lived up to my expectations.

11:14 PM, December 13, 2005  
Blogger Susie said...

I haven't heard Tom Waits, that I know of, but some of these lyrics y'all are posting are reminiscent of some John Prine.

11:45 PM, December 13, 2005  
Blogger Bone Machine said...

John Prine kicks ass, too.

I posted a shot of the marquee and the setlist from the Chicago shows (I saw 8/27) at the bastard son of YPS!!:

http://listeningparty.blogspot.com/

11:53 PM, December 13, 2005  
Blogger Closet Metro said...

thanks for posting the songs. great stuff.

1:24 AM, December 14, 2005  
Blogger Bucky Four-Eyes said...

Squirl - I'm pretty sure he played Burma Shave the time we saw him.

SS Nick - glad you enjoyed the selection. :)

Susie - you know, I've never forgiven Rod Stewart for that. What kind of friend does that shit? I can't look at him now without thinkin', Wow, he really screwed Seger, what a prick.

Bone Machine - Waits is so very quotable. And I prefer Seger's "New Coat of Paint" to any Waits cover that Rod Stewart has done.

Susie - awww, no audio clips for you? You got screwed out of the monkey video, too! Not fair!

Bone Machine -sweeeeeeet!

Closet - glad you dug it!

2:08 AM, December 14, 2005  
Blogger Kat said...

damn work computer and no sound! I will be checking it out from home tonight. Loving the quoted lyrics!

1:23 PM, December 14, 2005  
Blogger greatwhitebear said...

"Nighthawks At The Diner" is one of my all time favorite LP's

5:02 PM, December 18, 2005  

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