1. Win a Broadcaster or one of 3 Teles! The annual Supporting Member Giveaway is on. To enter Click Here. To see all the prizes and full details Click Here. To view the thread about the giveaway Click Here.

Tom Waits - WTF happened to his voice?

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by sir humphrey, Feb 26, 2014.

  1. sir humphrey

    sir humphrey Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    3,613
    Joined:
    May 3, 2011
    Location:
    Bristol
    I've been a big Tom Waits fan for years and always conscious of the big difference between his asylum years stuff and the later albums.

    But tonight I've been listening to Closing Time and Swordfish Trombones and wondering just WTF did he do to change his voice from bar room crooner to gargled gravel?

    Is it affectation? Too much whisky? Nodules? Can't think of another singer who has so fundamentally changed the style of their vocals.
     
  2. Daddy Hojo

    Daddy Hojo Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    2,178
    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2011
    Location:
    Kentucky
    He can turn it off. I think his wife Kathleen definitely bent him toward the experimental theatrical side that we now know. In one of his interviews (mostly funny lies) he claims he was imitating his uncle whose rough voice was the result of a botched surgery. At the dinner table one night, he claims his uncle went into a coughing fit and actually spit the surgeons utensils out that were left in his throat.
     
  3. thegoatking

    thegoatking Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    200
    Joined:
    May 16, 2013
    Location:
    Buckeye AZ
    bourbon and theatrics. tom waits is my hero.
     
  4. william tele

    william tele Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    19,214
    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2009
    Location:
    Kansas City, MO
    So, is the chain smoking theatrical as well? This is a serious question...maybe his voice isn't as tar and nicotine damaged as it sounds but...it really does sound that way now.

    I never was a fan of his voice. I like the songs...just never loved him like some do.
     
  5. getbent

    getbent Telefied Silver Supporter

    Posts:
    41,005
    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2006
    Location:
    San Benito County, California
    it is affected. He made up the whole persona. What is awesome about it is that it made him more 'authentic' to people...

    Geffen got the Eagles to do Ol 55 in part to keep Tom afloat... for awhile, he spit the bit on being anywhere near the eagles and then embraced it... hell, mojo nixon sang with don henley and henley ended up helping ol mojo out...

    What we think is going on and what is going on are frequently not close friends...

    but Tom is a good ol suburban boy who loves that kind of 50's hipster thing... and I love that act... I saw him in the 70's and like grandpa jones, we thought he was old... heck, he was putting us all on...
     
  6. william tele

    william tele Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    19,214
    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2009
    Location:
    Kansas City, MO
    That's good to know. I just heard him earlier this year and thought he was on the verge of career ending throat condition...
     
  7. J-man

    J-man Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    16,921
    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2004
    Location:
    North Wales
    Admin Post
    He puts it on, but I think his voice may have been damaged by years of his vocal style/lifestyle.

    I wish he played in the UK more..
     
  8. czgibson

    czgibson Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,186
    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2012
    Location:
    UK
    I'm sure listening to Captain Beefheart had a big impact on Tom's voice.

    I like the way he has a number of different voices that he uses. There's the deep, gruff voice on things like 'Underground', all the way to the high voice on tunes like 'Temptation', and several other voices in between.
     
  9. Mike Eskimo

    Mike Eskimo Telefied Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    22,416
    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2008
    Location:
    Detroit

    Yeah - it's not like he does all of his material in one voice after a certain point in time.

    Saw him about 6 years ago w/ Robillard (not Ribot :() and he was all over the map vocally.

    Son's a good drummer too.
     
  10. urizen

    urizen Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,843
    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2006
    Location:
    SoCal
    Yeah, his voice can be (and always was) chosen for the song, and even in it's "roughness" it can reflect great tenderness and intimacy (as in Take it With Me When I Go, Alice, Picture in A Frame, Soldier's Things, I'm Still Here, for example):







    and then, there's Temptation:





    BTW, you know he's a James Brown fan from WAAaaaay back ('60s & '70s), yeah?---The Godfather was an influence in the mixmaster mind of ol' Tom too
     
  11. bender66

    bender66 Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    7,330
    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2010
    Location:
    on my bike
    Ran into him (actually it was Kathleen first) while I was nursing a beer watching the local team in the WS. She passed by the window/door with Tom in tow the 2nd time, & he asked what the score was. I was the only one that recognized him, & like a lost puppy, got up the nerve to ask him to kindly sign something as we walked up the sidewalk. It's strange feeling looking at someone in the flesh, & see them as a real live human bean. If he was putting on a different voice, you coulda fooled me. I've seen him live a few times too.

    I ain't complaining. It's a great memory for me.
    Tom Waits - "Day After Tomorrow" video on Vimeo
     
  12. guitarboy57

    guitarboy57 Tele-Meister

    Age:
    63
    Posts:
    102
    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2008
    Location:
    Way Out West
    Cool story Bender66...thx for posting!

    The authenticity thing is an interesting thing to think about...

    I enjoy Waits because his songs--his imagination--almost always takes me someplace...

    Aren't any of us--or our heroes, acting/playing a part to some degree, the second we hit the stage?

    I can't remember where I heard or read that Waits about ruined his voice and his overall health with cigarettes and booze.

    I'm glad he came out the other side.

    When his voice started getting gruff and gravelly, I figured he was trying to channel Louis Armstrong. (but what do I know?)

    I'll admit I preferred his voice on records like Closing Time and Looking for the Heart of Saturday Night...But Mule Variations has got to be one of my favorite records of all time.

    YMMV...but I love the guy!
     
  13. studebaker hawk

    studebaker hawk Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    714
    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2006
    Closing Time was the first record of his I bought, I could not get into it. I love Frank's Wild Years, Blue Valentines, and Bone Machine (amongst others)!
     
  14. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Posts:
    16,790
    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2006
    Location:
    Iowa City, IA
    I emphasize with my classical composition students that they can use the concept of a persona to help them zero in on specifics and form. I do it in blues all the time. When I feel that I am stuck in a rut some night, I sort conjure up T-Bone Walker, Otis Rush, SRV, and whoever. It's a heck of a lot of fun. That said, I have never like Waits's persona, as it just seemed way beyond beyond the way what a person of his age would act. Similarly, Kiss, make-up wearing and, hair bands were just stupid.

    Slight change in subject. There's a YouTube clip out there of John Mayer and his blues-based trio. He takes a few minutes between songs to discuss the blues and the different styles of notable players. I was deeply impressed by his imitation of Albert King, which did not focus on wide bends, which King is noted for. But he also got into the phrasing and the fundamental techniques. For example, he played some notes in a two-in-a-row fashion, like E D D C E. He also plays a lot of intervals that are descending 4ths, especially at the end of phrases. To me, this is where a player's DNA is found, not in the overly obvious gimmicky stuff (gimmicks in the hands of guys who can't stand on their own two feet and project from the inside out.
     
  15. jhundt

    jhundt Doctor of Teleocity

    Age:
    66
    Posts:
    12,784
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2003
    Location:
    Netherlands
    I'd like to see that clip, Larry. Can you remember any more about it that might help me identify it among all the numerous J Mayer films on Youtube?
     
  16. urizen

    urizen Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,843
    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2006
    Location:
    SoCal
    Here's one you might've missed:



    I got a kick out of the revelation that he has "... cleaned up dog poop wearing a Patek."
     
  17. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Posts:
    16,790
    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2006
    Location:
    Iowa City, IA
    Ah, this is the John Mayer that I like. He, sometimes, has a very interesting take on things, and seems to think well on his feet. I like his blues playing a lot, too. He is one of those players that plays stuff that I can understand and follow. Admittedly, he would be way down on my list of good blues players, mostly because he has some other talents that he spends time on. Usually, someone as good at playing blues as Meyer, doesn't have too many other professional interests. But when he plays, he does so with understanding, awareness, and commitment (but not to the exclusion of his other interests). But when he had that sort of personal melt-down, it was painful to see.

    I'm going to look around for the clip I was talking about. If others want to join in the search, here's what I remember. It was a live concert, populated with his younger pop fans, he was with his trio of Steve Jordan and Pino Palladino. The clip begins with him talking about the blues, which is very much addressed to his younger crowd. In doing this, he would demonstrate by playing in some particular style. But he wasn't using a broad base of examples (no acoustic blues, no jump, for example). It was as if his entire frame of reference was the electric blues solo styles of the greats. I remember Albert King, more than anything else, because of the way he got deeper into King's style than the usual wide bend stuff.
     
  18. howlin

    howlin Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,338
    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2007
    Location:
    Who wants to know?
    Howlin' Wolf. Waits is imitating Howlin' Wolf. And if you're caught singing any where near like Wolf/Waits you'll hear from his lawyers. Happened to a friend of mine...
     
  19. simonsp

    simonsp Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    4,995
    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2013
    Location:
    England
    I'd like to see that one in court! "Defendant was seen vocalising two octaves below mid C while drunk in charge of vocal nodules" :lol:
     
  20. J-man

    J-man Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    16,921
    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2004
    Location:
    North Wales
    Admin Post
    On a related note, this is always worth a watch:

     
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.