Friday, February 22, 2008

Why Tom Waits Should be Our Resident Fiance

if anyone wants to write or read poetry well, they should listen to Tom Waits and get all blood-hot and lovely-lonely. formerly drunk and chain-smoker tom.

even the best poets cannot contend with the stylistically diverse range of Waits's oeuvre.

the same guy who writes:

"even fell just like a star,
left a trail behind, you spit it, you slammed out the door
...please call me baby...
we do crazy things when we're wounded,
everyone's a bit insane,
i don't want you catching your death of cold
out walking in the rain."

and the guy who writes:

"Well I hope that I don't fall in love with you
...I turn around to look at you light a cigarette,
wish i had the guts to bum one but we've never met
...I can see that you are lonesome just like me,
and feel you'd like some company
...now it's closing time, the music fading out,
last call for drinks, I'll have another stout...
I turn around to look at you
but you're nowhere to be found,
guess I'll have another round
...And i think that I just fell in love with you."

other lyrics:

"it's got to be more than flesh and bone.
all that you love is all you own.
in a land there's a town
and in that town there's a house
and in that house there's a woman.
and in that woman there's a heart i love.
i'm going to take it with me when i go."

and besides his penchant for romance, how about his last more experimental ten years:
"Clap Hands"

Sane, sane, theyre all insane,
Fireman's blind, the conductor is lame
A Cincinnati jacket and a sad-luck dame
Hanging out the window with a bottle full of rain
Clap hands, clap hands, clap hands, clap hands

Said roar, roar, the thunder and the roar
Son of a bitch is never coming back here no more
The moon in the window and a bird on the pole
We can always find a millionaire to shovel all the coal
Clap hands, clap hands, clap hands, clap hands

Said steam, steam, a hundred bad dreams
Going up to Harlem with a pistol in his jeans
A fifty-dollar bill inside a palladin's hat
And nobody's sure where Mr. Knickerbockers at

Roar, roar, the thunder and the roar
Son of a bitch is never coming back here no more
Moon in the window and a bird on the pole
Can always find a millionaire to shovel all the coal
Clap hands, clap hands, clap hands, clap hands

Shine, shine, a Roosevelt dime
All the way to baltimore and running out of time
Salvation army seemed to wind up in the hole
They all went to heaven in a little row boat.

Waits is an artist concerning himself with words first. Dark words. Evocative and provocative words. Some of them don't always align themselves to the easiest of our understanding. But they do, afterall, match up in the end. His voice and lyrics are like the sugar and acid of alcohol fermenting. Deer god, give us taste!

as a finale, for the very concerns we're dealing with, consider this last song, one of Waits's earliest and most under-appreciated in the last century:
"The Piano has been Drinking (not me)"

The piano has been drinking, my necktie is asleep
And the combo went back to New York, the jukebox has to take a leak
And the carpet needs a haircut, and the spotlight looks like a prison break
And the telephone's out of cigarettes, and the balcony is on the make
And the piano has been drinking, the piano has been drinking...

And the menus are all freezing, and the light man's blind in one eye
And he can't see out of the other
And the piano-tuner's got a hearing aid, and he showed up with his mother
And the piano has been drinking, the piano has been drinking
As the bouncer is a Sumo wrestler cream-puff casper milktoast
And the owner is a mental midget with the I.Q. of a fence post
'Cause the piano has been drinking, the piano has been drinking...

And you can't find your waitress with a Geiger counter
And she hates you and your friends and you just can't get served without her
And the box-office is drooling, and the bar stools are on fire
And the newspapers were fooling, and the ash-trays have retired
'Cause the piano has been drinking, the piano has been drinking
The piano has been drinking, not me, not me, not me, not me, not me.

Sounds like Ginsberg, Kerouac--and, more presently, Dean Young right? But impressive without the thicket. Fuck twirling around for twirling's sake. You can be dynamic without being double-jointed in verse and fancy. Fuck being young Young Jung. Give me the strong rot-gut of liver-piercing alcohol during the roaring twenties speakeasy. I might die tonight drinking what I've drunk. Give me the real hard stuff.

1 comment:

t. said...

'Deer god' is my favorite part of this post, which is saying a lot since i'm a huge Tom Waits fan, particularly The Piano Has Been Drinking.