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Thread: Tom Waits

  1. #1

    Tom Waits

    I've recently started listening to Tom Waits after years of reading nothing but positive, glowing reviews about nearly all the material he has ever put out. I finally picked up on the fact that he was heavily inspired by Captain Beefheart, and that made me decide to finally take the plunge, and you know what? I can't say I'm a huge fan of his work.
    To me, a lot of it sounds very insincere, and while there are a few songs here and there which I do quite enjoy, the majority of his work, to me, ends up sounding like a forced Captain Beefheart impression over basic blues backing tracks. Does anybody else share this opinion?
    A vie, a mort, et apres...

  2. #2
    Listening to Waits, I never got the impression he was under the influence of Captain Beefheart. The comparisons are superficial at best. Blues influences and gruff vocals. Aside from his bland mid 70s albums, I find Beefheart's music to be much more accomplished and complex. And his lyrics are million miles away from Waits's wordly, low life character portraits.

  3. #3
    His first albums weren't 'Beefhearty' at all (I don't think he had discovered that music yet), but an attempt at stageing a ficticious 'bohemian hobo personae' influenced by the aesthetics of the beat movement and the so-called lost generation of the 20s and 30s. Heart of Saturday Night, Small Change and especially Blue Valentine are his finest efforts at this (IMO), but don't expect anything remotely 'avant-garde'.

    I still think Swordfishtrombones is a great album, though.
    "Improvisation is not an excuse for musical laziness" - Fred Frith
    "[...] things that we never dreamed of doing in Crimson or in any band that I've been in," - Tony Levin speaking of SGM

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by jazz2896 View Post
    I've recently started listening to Tom Waits after years of reading nothing but positive, glowing reviews about nearly all the material he has ever put out. I finally picked up on the fact that he was heavily inspired by Captain Beefheart, and that made me decide to finally take the plunge, and you know what? I can't say I'm a huge fan of his work.
    To me, a lot of it sounds very insincere, and while there are a few songs here and there which I do quite enjoy, the majority of his work, to me, ends up sounding like a forced Captain Beefheart impression over basic blues backing tracks. Does anybody else share this opinion?
    IMO, Tom Waits has one very good album - his first (Closing Time), After that, his music became suffused with this beatnik/hipster persona that he developed. I don't have any use for music like that - if I want to watch a show, I'll go to Broadway.

    This is not to say that there aren't songs here and there that I like from Waits, but I couldn't possibly become a fan of someone who is just putting on an act, the way that he does (and pretty one-note act, at that).

    Btw - as far as the "Beefhearty" vocals, they were something that he developed in the '80s. While I would not be surprised if he and Beefheart might have have similar inspirations from old blues-men, Waits' music itself and Beefheart's do not have much similarity, IMO.

  5. #5
    Worthy of Laudation thedunno's Avatar
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    Tom Waits is a true classic. For me swordfishtrombones, raindogs and the Black Rider are timeless masterpieces.

    I do not think Tom ever sounded like Beefheart at all nor was he ever trying to.

  6. #6
    I likes 'em. He has produced some truly experimental albums, like Alice and others. But hey, this is still classic:

    I'm not lazy. I just work so fast I'm always done.

  7. #7
    Yeah the Beefheart comparisons are superficial, they're similar in their clangy/noisy sound, but compositionally they couldn't be any more different. I've read multiple places that he made his transition from the earlier barroom type music to the early 80's Swordfishtrombone period after being heavily inspired by Beefheart's music as well. The guy has some great concepts and ideas, but more often than not the delivery ends up sounding fake and acted out instead of sincere.
    A vie, a mort, et apres...

  8. #8
    Member Jay.Dee's Avatar
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    For me his classic 70s stuff is a great and pretty unique singer-songwriter effort, while in the 80s he became a bit more... mmmm... "progressive". His live album "Big Time" (recorded in 1987, actually the soundtrack of a concert video/movie) summing up the trilogy of "Swordfishtrombones", "Rain Dogs" and "Franks Wild Years" is absolutely fantastic, backed by a great touring band (including Marc Ribot on guitar).



    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Ti...Waits_album%29


  9. #9
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    His Asylum stuff was indeed quite different. On the first album Closing Time especially he really sounds like a different vocalist.

  10. #10
    Howdy Dave (in MA)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reid View Post
    Listening to Waits, I never got the impression he was under the influence of Captain Beefheart.
    Starting with Heartattack and Vine he began to show a bit of Beefheart influence in his work but wasn't even familiar with CB prior to that despite having the same manager/label for a period of time. He's admitted as much in interviews. He also became somewhat friendly with CB and they'd talk on the phone.

    As for a "forced Captain Beefheart impression", there were those who said similar things about CB and people like Howlin' Wolf and Son House. I really don't care much for the stuff Waits did prior to Swordfishtrombones (I think that was the earliest one that I like).

  11. #11
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    The only Tom Waits record I own and have ever listened to is Blood Money. I like it a lot. I can definitely hear a strong Beefheartian influence, but would never put both in the same bag.

  12. #12
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    He also has some degree of influence from Harry Partch, the eccentric classical composer and former Depression hobo. And at one point his band included Francis Thumm, Partch's former keyboardist.
    Last edited by Baribrotzer; 02-11-2016 at 03:22 PM.

  13. #13
    Member chalkpie's Avatar
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    I Love Waits - honestly probably more so than 80% of the stuff discussed on this site. I prefer his "rebirth" at Swordfish and on, but I do appreciate and like many of his older albums like Closing Time and Small Change. If you think he is a merely a Beefheart rip-off over a blues track, then you are certainly entitled to your opinion, but as as a hardcore fan I will politely and utterly disagree with that description. He is more diverse than you can imagine and he doesn't have just one voice, but multiple voices like an actor (which he is of course). I truly love many of his albums, but gun to me head, my top five (in no order) would be:

    Swordfishtrombones
    Mule Variations
    Franks Wild Years
    The Black Rider
    Blood Money

  14. #14
    Member chalkpie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Baribrotzer View Post
    He also has some degree of influence from Harry Partch, the eccentric classical composer and former Depression hobo. And at one point his band included Francis Thumm, Partch's former keyboardist.
    Yes and yes.

  15. #15
    Howdy Dave (in MA)'s Avatar
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    Bone Machine would be my first pick.

  16. #16
    Tom Waits said himself that Beefheart was a great influence (and yes, I hear it in his music often). Of the Captain, Waits said: "Once you've heard Beefheart, it's hard to wash him out of your clothes. It stains, like coffee or blood."

    A few of my Waits favorites:

    Swordfishtrombones
    Bone Machine
    Mule Variations
    Bad As Me
    "And your little sister's immaculate virginity wings away on the bony shoulders of a young horse named George who stole surreptitiously into her geography revision."

    Occasional musical musings on https://darkelffile.blogspot.com/

  17. #17
    Member chalkpie's Avatar
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    There's a house on my block
    that's abandoned and cold
    Folks moved out of it a
    long time ago
    and they took all their things
    and they never came back
    Looks like it's haunted
    with the windows all cracked
    and everyone calls it
    the house, the house where
    nobody lives.

    Once it held laughter
    Once it held dreams
    Did they throw it away
    Did they know what it means
    Did someone's heart break
    or did someone do somebody wrong?

    Well the paint was all cracked
    It was peeled off of the wood
    Papers were stacked on the porch
    where I stood
    and the weeds had grown up
    just as high as the door
    There were birds in the chimney
    and an old chest of drawers
    Looks like no one will ever
    come back to the
    House where nobody lives

    Once it held laughter
    Once it held dreams
    Did they throw it away
    Did they know what it means
    Did someone's heart break
    or did someone do somebody wrong?
    So if you find someone
    someone to have, someone to hold
    Don't trade it for silver
    Don't trade it for gold
    I have all of life's treasures
    and they are fine and they are good
    They remind me that houses
    Are just made of wood
    What makes a house grand
    Ain't the roof or the doors
    If there's love in a house
    It's a palace for sure
    Without love
    It ain't nothin but a house
    A house where nobody lives
    Without love it ain't nothin
    But a house, A house where
    Nobody lives.

  18. #18
    Member chalkpie's Avatar
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    Falling James in the Tahoe mud
    Stick around to tell us all the tale
    He fell in love with a Gun Street girl and
    Now he's dancing in the Birmingham jail
    Dancing in the Birmingham jail

    Took a 100 dollars off a Slaughterhouse Joe
    Bought a bran' new Michigan 20 gauge
    Got all liquored up on that roadhouse corn,
    Blew a hole in the hood of a yellow corvette
    Blew a hole in the hood of a yellow corvette
    Bought a second hand Nova from a Cuban Chinese
    Dyed his hair in the bathroom of a Texaco
    With a pawnshop radio, quarter past 4
    Well he left Waukegan at the slammin' of the door
    He left Waukegan at the slammin' of the door

    I said, John, John he's long gone
    Gone to Indiana
    Ain't never coming home
    I said John, John he's long gone
    Gone to Indiana
    Ain't never coming home

    Sitting in a sycamore in St. John's Wood
    Soakin' day old bread in kerosene
    He was blue as a robin's egg brown as a hog
    Stayin' out of circulation till the dogs get tired
    Stayin' out of circulation till the dogs get tired

    Shadow fixed the toilet with an old trombone
    He never got up in the morning on a Saturday
    Sittin' by the Erie with a bull whipped dog
    Tellin' everyone he saw
    They went thatta way
    Tellin' everyone he saw
    They went thatta way

    Now the rain's like gravel on an old tin roof
    And the Burlington Northern's pullin' out of the world
    With a head full of bourbon and a dream in the straw
    And a Gun Street Girl was the cause of it all
    A Gun Street girl was the cause of it all

    Riding in the shadow by the St. Joe Ridge
    He heard the click clack tappin' of a blind man's cane
    Pullin' into Baker on a New Year's Eve
    With one eye on the pistol and the other on the door
    With one eye on the pistol and the other on the door

    Miss Charlotte took her satchel down to King Fish Row
    And she smuggled in a bran' new pair of alligator shoes
    With her fireman's raincoat and her long yellow hair, well
    They tied her to a tree with a skinny millionaire
    They tied her to a tree with a skinny millionaire

    I said, John, John he's long gone
    Gone to Indiana
    Ain't never coming home
    I said John, John he's long gone
    Gone to Indiana
    Ain't never coming home
    Bangin' on a table with an old tin cup
    Sing I'll never kiss a Gun Street Girl again
    I'll never kiss a Gun Street Girl again

    I said, John, John he's long gone
    Gone to Indiana
    Ain't never coming home
    I said John, John he's long gone
    Gone to Indiana
    Ain't never coming home

  19. #19
    Member chalkpie's Avatar
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    he whirligig beetles are wary and fast
    with an organ to detect the ripples
    the arachnid moths lay their eggs inside
    other insects along the borders of fields or roads
    in clusters of white cocoons
    the ribbed pine borer is a longhorn beetle
    their antenna's are half the length of their body
    and they feed on dead red pine
    robber flies with their immobile heads
    inject a paralyzing fluid into their prey
    that they snatch from life in mid-air
    the snow flea's mode of locomotion
    strange and odd
    with a spiny tail mechanism with hooks
    and a protracted tube from the abdomen
    to enable moisture absorption

    the female praying mantis devours the male
    while they are mating
    the male sometimes continues copulating
    even after the female has bitten off his head
    and part of his upper torso
    every night wasps bite into the stem of a plant
    lock their mandibles into position
    stretch out at right angles to the stem and
    with legs dangling they fall asleep

    if one places a minute amount of liquor
    on a scorpion
    it will instantly go mad and
    sting itself to death
    the bombardier beetle
    when disturbed
    defends itself by emitting a series of explosions
    sometimes setting off four or five reports in succession
    the noises sound like miniature popgun blasts
    and are accompanied by a cloud of
    reddish coloured vile smelling fluid
    it is commonly known that ants keep slaves
    certain species
    the so-called sanguinary ants
    in particular
    will raid the nests of other ant tribes
    and kill the queen and then kidnap many of the workers
    the workers are brought back to the captor's hive
    where they are coerced into performing menial tasks

    and as we discussed last semester
    the army ants will leave nothing but your bones
    perhaps you've encountered some of these insects
    in your communities
    displaying both their predatory and defense characteristics
    while embedded within the walls of flesh
    and passing for what is most commonly recognized
    as human

  20. #20
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    Tom is, obviously, very patient.

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by chalkpie View Post
    I Love Waits - honestly probably more so than 80% of the stuff discussed on this site. I prefer his "rebirth" at Swordfish and on, but I do appreciate and like many of his older albums like Closing Time and Small Change. If you think he is a merely a Beefheart rip-off over a blues track, then you are certainly entitled to your opinion, but as as a hardcore fan I will politely and utterly disagree with that description. He is more diverse than you can imagine and he doesn't have just one voice, but multiple voices like an actor (which he is of course). I truly love many of his albums, but gun to me head, my top five (in no order) would be:

    Swordfishtrombones
    Mule Variations
    Franks Wild Years
    The Black Rider
    Blood Money
    Well, I certainly can't argue with someone with a Cardiacs logo. Maybe I'm not looking at his music the right way then.. I went in looking for some good old avant strangeness, and I'm starting to get the feeling that that probably wasn't the correct way to approach his work.
    A vie, a mort, et apres...

  22. #22
    "Swordfishtrombones" is i.m.o. a pivotal album in his career; the place where the Beefheartian influences crept in more obviously.

    I was a Tom Waits fan in the 80s and through most of the 90s. For some reason, it is not easy for me to revert to several of his albums, except from some important (for the atmosphere he is trying to communicate) songs, scattered here and there. If I were to keep the albums I'm still revisiting, these would be:

    Rain Dogs (his best i.m.o.)
    Small Change
    Swordfishtrombones
    The Heart of Saturday Night
    and probably:
    Nighthawks at the Diner
    Last edited by spacefreak; 02-12-2016 at 02:58 AM.
    Macht das ohr auf!

    COSMIC EYE RECORDS

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Facelift View Post
    IMO, Tom Waits has one very good album - his first (Closing Time)
    This is the only album where he is not Tom Waits.
    Macht das ohr auf!

    COSMIC EYE RECORDS

  24. #24
    That's Mr. to you, Sir!! Trane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jazz2896 View Post
    I've recently started listening to Tom Waits after years of reading nothing but positive, glowing reviews about nearly all the material he has ever put out. I finally picked up on the fact that he was heavily inspired by Captain Beefheart, and that made me decide to finally take the plunge, and you know what? I can't say I'm a huge fan of his work.
    To me, a lot of it sounds very insincere, and while there are a few songs here and there which I do quite enjoy, the majority of his work, to me, ends up sounding like a forced Captain Beefheart impression over basic blues backing tracks. Does anybody else share this opinion?
    Can't say that Waits is much up my alley, though I did try a few times. I'd agree that his Beefheart sonics sound mostly like a poseur posture, and I don't hear what most Waits unconditional fans hear

    Quote Originally Posted by Reid View Post
    Listening to Waits, I never got the impression he was under the influence of Captain Beefheart. The comparisons are superficial at best. Blues influences and gruff vocals. Aside from his bland mid 70s albums, I find Beefheart's music to be much more accomplished and complex. And his lyrics are million miles away from Waits's wordly, low life character portraits.
    Well, I can understand the why of the Beefheart comparisons, and indeed the gruff vocals are part of it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scrotum Scissor View Post
    His first albums weren't 'Beefhearty' at all (I don't think he had discovered that music yet), but an attempt at stageing a ficticious 'bohemian hobo personae' influenced by the aesthetics of the beat movement and the so-called lost generation of the 20s and 30s. Heart of Saturday Night, Small Change and especially Blue Valentine are his finest efforts at this (IMO), but don't expect anything remotely 'avant-garde'.

    I still think Swordfishtrombones is a great album, though.
    Thanks for these precisions.

    I guess I'll try to revisit his music in the next weeks or so.
    my music collection increased tenfolds when I switched from heroin-addicts to crazy ones

  25. #25
    Im a big fan of Tom Waits but I cant help feeling it would better if it sounded more like Gabriel-era Genesis. You know with fairy guitars and waterfalls and shit. Now he just sounds like Tom Waits.

    // Mattias

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