Can someone explain Tom Waits to me? - U2 Feedback

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Old 04-03-2002, 11:33 AM   #1
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Can someone explain Tom Waits to me?

Er, this dude has an average singing voice at best... really gruff sounding. I'd bet he's some scary guy living in an alley and making his music on the trash cans in which he lives-- 'cause that's what this SWORDFISHTROMBONES album sounds like!!

Oh jaysus, why did i buy it, why did i buy it?

*falls over and dies*
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Old 04-03-2002, 11:38 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally posted by pub crawler:
Er, this dude has an average singing voice at best... really gruff sounding. I'd bet he's some scary guy living in an alley and making his music on the trash cans in which he lives-- 'cause that's what this SWORDFISHTROMBONES album sounds like!!

Oh jaysus, why did i buy it, why did i buy it?

*falls over and dies*



'Ah Jaysus, he doesn't like me, the dude doesn't like me, my career is over!!! wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!'

*jumps*
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Old 04-03-2002, 11:41 AM   #3
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I've heard he's big in Japan

[This message has been edited by wannabe (edited 04-03-2002).]
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Old 04-03-2002, 11:42 AM   #4
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Methinks Pub Crawler needs a good spankin'!!!

Try Mule Variations
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Old 04-03-2002, 11:59 AM   #5
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I own Swordfishtrombones
great album

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Old 04-03-2002, 12:14 PM   #6
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I think you started with a tough Tom Waits record. I like Swordfish, but methinks it's a bit of an acquired taste. Try some earlier Tom Waits, like "Closing Time" (very mellow first record and his voice is good) "Heart of a Saturday Night," or my personal favorite, "Heart Attack and Vine."

He can't sing but he's got soul and he's a great poet, songwriter and musician. I saw him in concert many years ago when he did a week in a Broadway theatre--absolutely fantastic. He's funny and weird and I totally love him!
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Old 04-03-2002, 12:28 PM   #7
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hahaha... I knew it! He's a monkey man singin' from the trees!
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Old 04-03-2002, 10:30 PM   #8
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Tom's actually a got great voice - most of the stuff from Swordfishtrombones and subsequent albums are just heavily distorted. As mentioned, his early stuff is much softer - it's basically jazz/trubadour, with the odd beat poetry track thrown in. Of course, even today it really isn't any more gruff than Satchmo's was. Sure, it's not all smooth and processed sounding, and he's far from being "diva" material, but it's got a hell of a lot of character, and is absolutely perfect for the stuff he writes - I'd direct you to 'Come on up to the house', 'Kentucky Avenue' and 'Ruby's Arms'. It's absolutely not for the kind of person who's into mass music, though, since it's not really designed to be as accessible as your average rock album.

His voice changed after several years of whiskey, and boozing his way around Europe. Closing Time was a fairly big smash, but eventually he was no longer the darling of the music biz and his label treated him poorly, so Tom sort of went "anti-pop". The stuff since Swordfishtrombones has been about as un-commercial as it gets, really, particularly Bone Machine and The Black Rider.

So why's he 'popular'? Because he DOES his own thing, and does it well, even though it isn't really all that commercially viable. He's a musician's musician (look him up at AMG and check out the lists of artists that have covered him - the Eagles, Springsteen and Rod Stewart all had huge hits with Waits' songs), and the kind of artist critics dig - just listen to Swordfishtrombones and realize it came out in 1983. It was contemporary with Duran Duran and Flock of Seagulls! You'll also hear his stuff VERY regularly, as background music in non-Hollywood film. He also keeps reinventing himself, very successfully, something that isn't easy to do. And probably most importantly, he ranks right up there with Dylan and Cohen as great lyricists. His songs embody what he's writing about - like you said, he sounds like a guy living in an alley making music on trash cans. That can also make his work sort of unaccessable to most people, though. Especially first time listeners.

For better albums to start out with... Closing Time is damn good, and will give you an idea of his style from '72 - '82. The Asylum Years would also be a good choice, since it's sort of a Best Of from that period. For the later stuff, Beautiful Maladies is good in that it includes tracks from his albums from '83 - '93, but it isn't very cohesive as an album. Still, it's a decent overview of the later stuff, so if you hate it, there's not much need to get the albums. Mule Variations is a pretty good introduction to his later stuff, too. It's got a lot of the harshness of Bone Machine and Black Rider, but there's a couple of fairly "rock-ey" tracks, plus a few softer, more emotional ballads. He's also got a pair of albums coming out on April 9th (hoorah!). From what I've heard about them, you'll want to try something else first.

Oh, and speaking of Waits' bum character, for the other Waits fans here, pick up Gavin Bryars' "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me" - it's an evolving instrumental piece with Waits "duetting" with looped snippet of a homeless man that was recorded for a BBC documentary. Very, very good, though it's really not for everybody.
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Old 04-03-2002, 11:27 PM   #9
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oh, Pubbie, I wish I had saved a particular email from a friend a couple years back. She was as nuts over Tom Waits as the Pleba girls are over U2. She waxed poetic in a long, rambling, Bono-esque post about her love for TW, it was quite amazing....I'm sure reading it might have made you appreciate the man a bit more! Apparently, TW's 'gift' is creating great mental pictures with his songs...if you can handle his voice, that is....
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Old 04-03-2002, 11:45 PM   #10
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Iron Chef - Thanks. Well articulated and very informative comments.

Disco - Oh, don't worry, I'll give Waits a chance. I have to, I bought his album...lol. Seriously, I intend to give this album many listens. P.S. I don't imagine even the most ardent fans of Waits can hold a candle to the PLEBA chicks' zealotry.
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Old 04-03-2002, 11:47 PM   #11
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Quote:
I'd bet he's some scary guy living in an alley and making his music on the trash cans in which he lives
That's what makes him so cool.

I think this is just such a matter of taste. A lot of people can't stand Dylan's voice either. I think they both have voices of character. Waits can paint a picture like few others. And I love his musical skills beyond that.

If you don't like him, whatever, I'll take the cd off your hands.
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Old 04-04-2002, 07:28 AM   #12
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Tom Waits is righteous.
Ask Mr. Deep.

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Old 04-04-2002, 01:30 PM   #13
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Tom Waits=excellentness.

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