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Tom Waits - WTF happened to his voice?

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

  1. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    Just listened to Picture in a Frame, above. He's good and everything about it is musical. Even the particular way the piano was out of tune.

    But, I don't know about the voice. It still seems mannered to me, as if it was something that he invented for his professional career. The phrase "Sunday best," which he repeats several times is definitely a throwback to earlier times and places in Americana history. Do many people here on the forum use this term in a non-satirical, non-mocking, anachronistic way? I'm willing to be that I've never known anyone personally use that term. It just seems fake to me, just like Minnie Pearl's hat with a $1.98 price tag hanging off the side. I'm not putting Minnie Pearl down, as she was highly successful in creating that role for herself. Is this what Tom Waits has done, created a role for himself. Is doing something like that more common than what we might believe, or want to believe? Is he following in Leon Redbone's footsteps? I remember seeing him on SNL, Midnight Special, and other 70s shows. When I saw that he was going to appear on one of those shows back then, there was no doubt about what he would sound like (and look like). Isn't that sort of a vaudeville point of view?
     
  2. getbent

    getbent Telefied Silver Supporter

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    Some stuff gets frozen in time... I remember going to see waits around the nighthawks at the diner record... and seeing him on fernwood tonight and absolutely falling in love with the whole thing.. the schtick the rap the whole thing....

    and you gotta love bones howe and the guys he was working with back then too...

    I still play that record for people when we talk about LA in a certain period of time and the outgrowth or one lineage of all that... from the folk stuff... one direction headed out from jackson browne from taj majal, another from ry cooder (with Dave lindley as the connection between Bonnie, lowell, zappa etc) and the waits type stuff which spawned, ricki lee jones and then later the gathering that became Sheryl Crow's first record... you can hear the ricki lee thru waits "All I wanna do" type stuff...

    A whole other branch of all that was the baked potato/dontes crowd of fusion--> laboriel, ritenour, carlton, but the even cooler stuff from bill labounty and then when bill champlin moved down from sacramento...

    It is kind of fun to see all those influences play out... some are 'cool' and some are considered 'lame'... I was soooo lucky to be able to roam the southland as a kid and see all these acts without knowing how they'd be perceived by popular culture....

     
  3. Edgar Allan Presley

    Edgar Allan Presley Friend of Leo's

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    Yes, Waits's personas are inventions. I say "personas" because he has many. Sometimes he even sings in a bad German accent ("Black Rider"). Sometimes he's singing like a carnival barker (on "Franks Wild Years") or a salesman ("Step Right Up") or a preacher ("Jesus Gonna Be Here"). The vaudevillian character of it is attractive to me. It is rarely acknowledged that rock and rollers are putting on an act. Joey Ramone sang in a weird Liverpool accent even though he was from Queens. Mick Jagger somehow finds a southern drawl when he needs one. Many white performers borrow locutions and pronunciations from black dialects. And nearly every pop performer wears costumes (even frumpy Neil Young with his black jeans and baggy flannel). Rock and roll is founded on a paradox: it worships authenticity, but it performs that authenticity in highly artificial ways. It's show business, and Tom Waits is uncommonly good at it.
     
  4. getbent

    getbent Telefied Silver Supporter

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    awesome post!

    Springsteen has his 'voices'.. personas.. not all pop artists do it, but many do...
     
  5. Robert.V

    Robert.V Tele-Meister

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    Gotta love Tom Waits.

    I always have at least one of his cd's in the car.

    Depends on my mood what I listen to.

    At the moment its : cold ground,
    falling down, train song.

    guess my mood indicates I need a drink.

    :)
     
  6. Fenderflame

    Fenderflame Tele-Holic

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    Have a search on YouTube for 'Tom waits papa's got a brand new bag'

    EPIC...
     
  7. Edgar Allan Presley

    Edgar Allan Presley Friend of Leo's

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    Here it is:
     
  8. Telemarkman

    Telemarkman Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    And that's the gospel truth!:cool:
     
  9. Edgar Allan Presley

    Edgar Allan Presley Friend of Leo's

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    Thanks, y'all!
     
  10. urizen

    urizen Tele-Afflicted

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    DAMN---I would've liked to have been at that venue! Thanx for pulling that up.
     
  11. urizen

    urizen Tele-Afflicted

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    I dunno...let's step away from how we share our discourse hereon (since forumites' threads are often mannered and filtered through playful---or otherwise---personae); I'm your age, and my stock were Okies, Texans, and Kansans (most from Tennessee originally) who wound up rolling to the Left Coast between the Dust Bowl era and WW II---and my Grandmas said "Land's Sakes", "Land o' Goshen", and "I swan" pretty regularly, and my Grandpas and parents and uncles and aunts used "Sunday best" enough that I don't think of it as ironic at all, just seems homely (in the original sense) and sincere, albeit of/from an earlier and slower time---and Waits has addressed his own nostalgia as an influence and inspiration, and I think there's ample evidence that he writes w/ heart and sometimes from the heart. Listen to Take It With Me --- he's spoken of all the personal significance in that song, and "We fell asleep on Beulah's porch" is purely an autobiographical detail, memory as a refuge (along with being an awfully tender love song to Kathleen, the woman who saved him, partly by encouraging him to go out further on the ledge to find himself as well as getting him to give up on the monumental binge):




    But of course, he's also a consummate professional, with a pro's sidelong glance to evaluate the audience (and sometimes a carny's cynicism about what brings the chumps to the tents), as well as someone with a very wide-ranging and sophisticated knowledge of music (certainly a musicologist in his own right), from Kern and Robbins to Partch and Byers to Gershwin and Leadbelly to Brecht/Weill to...

    What would you do with and/or think of this in terms of songwriting "sincerity":




    There's a place I know where the train goes slow
    Where the sinner can be washed in the blood of the lamb
    There's a river by the trestle down by sinner's grove
    Down where the willow and the dogwood grows
    Down there by the train
    Down there by the train
    Down there by the train
    Down there where the train goes slow

    You can hear the whistle, you can hear the bell
    From the halls of heaven to the gates of hell
    And there's room for the forsaken if you're there on time
    You'll be washed of all your sins and all of your crimes
    If you're down there by the train
    Down there by the train
    Down there by the train
    Down there by the train
    Down there where the train goes slow

    There's a golden moon that shines up through the mist
    And I know that your name can be on that list
    There's no eye for an eye, there's no tooth for a tooth
    I saw Judas Iscariot carrying John Wilkes Booth
    Down there by the train
    Down there by the train
    Down there by the train
    Down there by the train
    Down there where the train goes slow

    If you've lost all your hope, if you've lost all your faith
    I know you can be cared for and I know you can be safe
    And all the shamefuls and all of the whores
    And even the soldier who pierced the side of the Lord
    Is down there by the train
    Down there by the train
    Down there by the train
    Down there by the train
    Down there where the train goes slow

    Well, I've never asked forgiveness and I've never said a prayer
    Never given of myself, never truly cared
    I've left the ones who loved me and I'm still raising Cain
    I've taken the low road and if you've done the same
    Meet me down there by the train
    Down there by the train
    Down there by the train
    Down there by the train
    Down there where the train goes slow

    Meet me down there by the train
    Down there by the train
    Down there by the train
    Down there by the train
    Down there where the train goes slow
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2014
  12. bender66

    bender66 Poster Extraordinaire

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    I wish I had the forethought to ask him about songs during the mention above, but I was so caught off guard.

    Johnsburg IL., "up near 'ol Rockford town" in the song above. All midwestern places I grew up near/in.

    I think I wouldn't have gotten a straight answer though, not that I would have expected one. ;)
     
  13. Edgar Allan Presley

    Edgar Allan Presley Friend of Leo's

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    That song is a great example of how stepping out of autobiography or personal belief can make for a deeper song. Instead of the usual songs about personal redemption, Waits writes this one about the redemption available not to folks like the songwriter, but folks like "Charlie Whitman" (the University of Texas mass shooter). It becomes a much more troubling song, and maybe more beautiful, absurd, or both, depending on your views. An "authentic" songwriter wouldn't have written it because writing about serial killers and Cain-raisers makes you a poseur if you're not yourself a serial killer or Cain raiser. Waits doesn't worry about that.
     
  14. rideit

    rideit Tele-Holic

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    Holy crap, that 'Press Conference' was awesome.
     
  15. doc w

    doc w Tele-Afflicted

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    His voice always sucked. Now it just sucks more. What's the problem?
     
  16. urizen

    urizen Tele-Afflicted

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    I dunno, I'd call it distinctive, and perhaps sometimes colorful---It's sure not a choirboy's, nor a divo's...
     
  17. fraser

    fraser Tele-Afflicted

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    i love tom-
    franks wild years and rain dogs are favorites, but i like all his stuff.
    his voice doesnt bother me, i think it suits his style and music wonderfully.
    but, both my ex wives hated his voice. they couldnt understand why anybody would listen to it. and they refused to do so.
    so for years, i could only listen to tom when they werent around.
     
  18. Telepathist

    Telepathist Tele-Afflicted

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    I'm not super crazy about Scarlett's voice but she does Tom better than Tom:)

     
  19. urizen

    urizen Tele-Afflicted

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    No, no, no, oh no and yet no again----

    as a completist, I usu. suss out covers of Waits material for quality---Los Lobos did a great Jockey Full of Bourbon, for example which was on the same pretty great trib compilation as this:


    But I bought the SJ on a dare (and, it contributed to his royalties--- which he gave as his reason for appreciating her attempt), but I tossed it after listening to it twice while trying to decide whether its release was a sad commentary on the power of celebrity (to get such an abomination out on the shelves) and/or evidence that Ms. J, for all of her professed admiration of ol' Tom, just really didn't get how badly she served him with her efforts.

    Now, while I respect Norah more than I enjoy her full ouevre, she "gets" it in her own style :



    and Ms. Krall doesn't do so badly either:



    But nothin' can match the man himself:



    (that was from 3 decades ago, and still fresh as anything in The (alternate) Great American Songbook.
     
  20. Telepathist

    Telepathist Tele-Afflicted

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    Yes, Scarlett's not for everybody. Nonetheless, I really like the album she did with Pete Yorn.
     
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