Favorited ex.fm Songs

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tom Waits and how my blog got a name

I have no idea where to start discussing an artist like Tom Waits. He's one of those artists that I just absolutely love. I have almost every album of his, have read 2 books about him, and love watching interviews and performances by him. He is 61 now and doesn't tour very much, but he is at the very top of my list of artists I want to see.

Waits released his first album in 1973. Since then, he has released 21 of his own albums, guested on countless other albums, been the subject of numerous tribute albums, acted in 27 movies, and recently provided poetry for a book to raise money for homeless people in his area. While he has never quite reached a big mainstream audience, other artists seem to embrace him. He has been covered by a ridiculous number (and variety) of artists including Bette Midler, Primus, The Ataris, Johnny Cash, Rod Stewart, The Ramones, Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, and Norah Jones. He also was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this past year.

On top of his prolific work, Waits has one of the most interesting personae (hmmm... apparently personas isn't correct) of anyone around. His live recordings are littered with stories and jokes in between songs. In 2009, he released a 2-disc live album, with the second disc consisting entirely of between song banter, filled with random facts that he found interesting, terrible jokes, and anything else he felt like talking about. At times he mentions that he should stop talking and play some music and people seem to be disappointed (which is not an indictment of his music, just an indication of how captivating he can be).

When I was trying to come up with a name for my blog (which is way harder than it seems like it should be), I originally scoured various song names, brainstormed bad music puns, and tried anything else I could think of. I kept running into dead ends wherever I turned, so I started looking through some Tom Waits lyrics, knowing that he is never short on good lines. I ended up settling on one of my favorite lines from the song "Bad Liver and a Broken Heart (In Lowell)" from his 1976 album Small Change. The first line pretty well sums up the theme of the song: "Well I got a bad liver and a broken heart. Yeah, I drunk me a river since you tore me apart." Later, in the song he sings "No, the moon ain't romantic. It's intimidating as hell." I've always related to that line and it sticks out as one of my favorites of his. And now it is immortalized (or something like that) in my blog name.

Some people dislike his gruff voice, making it hard for them to listen to him. I love the way his rough voice mixes with the soft, pretty piano in this song, and many of his other early works though. Plus his songs are never short on spirit and emotion. Below is a video of him performing "Bad Liver and a Broken Heart (In Lowell)" way back in 1977.

Here is another song, "Whistlin' Past the Graveyard," that I found myself rocking out to today. Be warned, this is probably not like most other songs you've heard:

The following passage, from an article in the Dallas Observer in 1999 seems to get at why I love Tom Waits:

Everything you are about to read is a lie. Well, perhaps that is an exagggeration, much like most of what comes out of Tom Waits's mouth. It's not as though he doesn't know the truth, it's just less fun to tell it. Every interview, and he has handed out only a handful in conjunction with the release of the brand-new Mule Variations, reads as though it were granted by a stand-up trying out new material, throwing out anything with the hope that at least some of it will shtick. Ask him what took so long between the release of 1992's Bone Machine and Mule Variations, and he's likely to respond that he's been in traffic school or breaking in other people's shoes.

Often times a clever lie is more fun than the truth.

1 comment:

  1. I love this song and this man. He is always a smile waiting to happen no matter what kind of day you are having.