Posts Tagged ‘Tom Waits

08
Sep
17

Tom Waits “Nighthawks at the Diner”

This is a very early Tom Waits record, though I can’t remember exactly when I first heard it or where I got it, but it’s always been one of my favorites—of his, and favorite records period—and without a doubt my favorite live record—though it turns out—according to the internet—that it’s not really a live record after all. Apparently it was recorded at the Record Plant, in LA, in front of an invited audience used to replicate the sound and feeling of an intimate jazz club or piano bar. It’s really well done—they had me fooled. I always pictured this kind of sleazy, Sunset Strip nightclub, and throughout, he does refer to the Ivar Theatre repeatedly, and also “Rafael’s Silver Cloud Lounge,” and though I always figured he was kind of spinning tales, I still assumed this was in a legitimate club—you can almost smell the bourbon, vomit, and cigarette smoke bathed in red neon. Now, when I found out that I had been totally fooled, do you think I got angry? No. Because I have a high intellect, and I can enjoy being fooled, and I appreciate something so well executed.

His monologues before many of the songs are amazing in themselves; the one before “Eggs and Sausage” is particularly good and would make the record, even if that’s all there was. But there’s more, of course; in fact it’s a double record, and all the monologues and songs kind of blend seamlessly. Okay—now I notice—on the back of the album cover it says, right there, that it was recorded at The Record Plant. I guess I never bothered to read it. I also just noticed that there’s extensive lyrics on the inside, when you open it up—these are some long songs. I guess I never read along with the lyrics because you can pretty much make out every word—even though he’s doing a real Tom Waits-like, rough nightclub singer voice, he’s also clear as a bell. The lyrics are crucial. I can recall listening to this record in the spring of 1986, in Columbus, Ohio, while I painted my kitchen. So even to this day it feels like it’s the ideal record to listen to while painting a kitchen.

It would take me pages and pages to even kind of go over my favorite songs and excerpt my favorite lyrics. There are only two or three songs per side, but it all kind runs together, feeling like one live show, and it’s dense and extensive. Tom Waits must have been only in his mid-twenties when he recorded this, but he sounds convincing as an old-timer who’s been around forever. That’s part of the act. The cover photograph is of Tom Waits in a booth of a diner, photographed through a window—it could possibly be something an art department set up—but could also be a real diner—it would have been easy to find this diner in 1975. There’s nothing in that picture that doesn’t ring true. There are also seven people in the picture, in the diner, with him. I suppose I could scour the internet to find out if it’s known who they are—it could be the musicians, or friends, or real people in a real diner, who knows? Someone knows. It would be pretty cool to be one of those people. I just noticed, for the first time ever!—on the very bottom right of the cover, lying face-down in front of the diner window, is a person wearing a leather jacket. How did I never see that before? It’s kind of freaking me out—what else, in this lifetime—have I also not ever noticed? A lot, I’m sure.

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22
Aug
17

Tom Waits “Foreign Affairs”

This is the first Tom Waits record I ever heard in my life (though I’m sure I must have heard a song or two, here or there, somewhere, but I don’t remember). It was in the attic of 4 Costley Court, Kent, Ohio, sometime in 1983, and I put the record on but little did I know the turntable was on 45, instead of 33, and I listened to the entire first side without realizing it was on the wrong speed. So my first conscious impression of Tom Waits as a singer was that he did kind of an offensive, comic impersonation of a black, woman jazz singer. I soon realized it was the wrong speed, but even so, it took me a long time to get used this record on the correct speed. At the time I thought Tom Waits’ singing voice was among the weirdest things I’d heard on a record.

The record belonged to Tom Strange, and I bought it from him. The other thing I bought from him was his acoustic guitar, and after countless moves across and back the country, I still have and engage with them both. I’d take them both to the ends of the earth, if there was such a place. Maybe it means something, those two things. Maybe I should be dedicating my life to playing songs like these. All great songs on this record. For a long time I called it my favorite Tom Waits record, and though it no longer is my favorite, it will always have a warm place in my heart because it was the first.

The noirish black & white cover photo is TW and a mystery woman, enveloped in shadows. She’s got more rings than fingers, a cigarette, and a passport. For some reason, I realize now, I thought for years it was a bottle of Passport Scotch. I guess that just shows that my head was more into traveling via liquor than streamer ship. The back is just TW, taking over the cigarette, and in a cute pose, looking like a 25 year-old heart-breaker. The record came out in 1977, so do math if you want to. There’s a lot of really nice nightclub sounding jazz playing on this record, and Bette Midler sings on one number. The lyric sheet is typed out with no caps, and even though you can make out every word he sings, you could read the lyrics like a pulp novel if your record player was broken. “Licorice tattoo turned a gun metal blue scrawled across the shoulders of this dying town…” You get the idea. I could probably benefit by typing out the entire lyrics—it would likely be a more fruitful next few hours than the sick dreams I’ve been suffering with, through long, terrible nights. I can only hope some of this record will go into my dreams.




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