Last night I listened to one of Tom Waits’s early CDs recorded in 1973. The first song is Ole ’55, one of my all time favorite songs. This CD is “normal” singer-songwriter music; melodic, lyrical, sentimental, somewhat melancholy – enjoyable. As Waits became older his music became increasingly weirder. He seems to be a strange man.
I have a CD from thirty years later, Alice, recorded in 2002. The artwork on the cover of Alice makes me think of an old-fashion carnival side-show with odd, misshapen creatures. Tom is still Tom – the music from 2002 retains qualities of the music from 1973. Especially the distinctive, gravelly voice that has gotten more gravelly with age. There is less of a singer-songwriter feel and more of a rock feel, maybe a genre called weird-rock with Waits as it’s main if not only member. To give a flavor of Waits’s lyrics I’ll quote the lyrics from No One Know I’m Gone [the lack of punctuation is Tom’s]:
Hell above and heaven below All the trees are gone The rain makes such a lovely sound To those who are six feet under ground The leaves will bury every year and no one knows I’m gone Live me golden tell me dark Hide from Graveyard John But the moon is full here every night And I can bathe here in his light The leaves will bury every year And no one knows I’m gone.
Here is another song, Poor Edward:
Did you hear the news about Edward? On the back of his head He had another Face Was it a women’s face Or a young girl They said to remove it would kill him So poor Edward was doomed The face could laugh and cry It was his Devil twin And at night she spoke to him Of things heard only in Hell They were impossible to separate Chained together for life Finally the bell tolled his doom He took a suite of rooms And hung himself and her From the balcony irons Some still believe he was freed from her But I knew her too well I say she drove him to suicide And took Poor Edward to Hell.
I don’t quite know what to make of such lyrics. The seem to paint such a bleak and dreary picture. A picture of a hopeless world.
But no one puts flowers on a flower’s grave As one rose dies another blooms It’s always been that way I remember the showers But no one puts flowers on a flower’s grave
I hadn’t intended to write so much about Tom Waits. I put on his CD and started writing about him. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to the music from 1973 as I write. I’ve not decided if I get any pleasure at all from the 2002 recording.