Friday, March 7, 2008


Listen to YESTERDAY IS HERE and GOIN'OUT WEST by Tom Waits.

Jason dropping in.

2 songs, 1 artist.

Or perhaps I should just say: 1 artist.

Because what can you say about Tom that would even scratch the surface on what music would mean without him? Say to any music fan "Tom" and they know exactly who you are talking about.

I was in a small pool bar in Hanoi, Vietnam, in 1999. Getting sharked by the local mama, enjoying the local elixir....the night was getting long....and Tom came on the "stereo". Within what seemed only a minute, the place cleared. I looked at the barman and raised my arms in a "whadahuhwha?" gesture. He said: "that's what we put on to clear everyone out."

I looked around me and there was just one other at the bar. He said, in an Irish accent "do you like Tom?". I gave him a sort of "do I even have to answer?" roll of the eyes and asked "what are you drinking?".

"Whisky", he said. "For Tom, whisky"

And so we sat, the two of us and the barman, as Tom worked his magic.

Keeping with Corbett's theme:, here are 2 of Tom's road tunes. Similar in desire, but so different in perspective.

"Yesterday is Here" has our man dreaming of New York, where you can get "money in your pocket", "a top hat on your head", "a hot meal on your table" and "a blanket on your bed".

He then turns his attention to his woman, saying he's leaving on a train for the big city but unwilling to leave her behind because he may "come back again".

And only Tom can pull off these lines without sounding gelastic:

"If you want to go
where the rainbows end
you'll have to say goodbye
all our dreams come true
baby up ahead
and it's out where your memories lie

The road lays out before him with all of its possibilities under a shining moon as he asks her "to remember, as I disappear tonight" under the grey skies of today and the tears of tomorrow.

Compare this with "Goin' Out West". Again, chasing a dream, this time out west where "they got some money out there....they're giving it away".

This is not a man looking for his dream of the first song. This is a man chasing something altogether altered.

On the road with his Oldsmobile 88, and "the devil on a leash", driving all night on speed, he think he's a "leading man", not an extra, for fame. Erratic TV and film actor Tony Franciosa even dated his 'ma.

With his karate, his "dragstrip courage" and his voodoo, he's going to make it. Make it baby! He doesn't even need "no make up....I got real scars".

Well my friends think I'm ugly
I got a masculine face

Even his parole officer is going to be real proud of him.

Maybe he should change his name to Hannibal, "or maybe just Rex". With a hole cut in his car roof "in the shape of a heart" he's goin' out west...........where the sun "will shine down on me"........goin' out west "where they'll appreciate me".

Photo: New York City, 2004. Photo taken by Jason Bryant.



Corbett said...

Tom Waits is so cool--"Bone Machine" and "Short Cuts" in the same ~year! Awesome.

giarc said...

Tom Waits is, like, awesome!

Jason said...

giarc - ha! I know who that is