Tom Waits


I remember vividly the first time I saw and heard Tom Waits. It was on the Don Lane show in the late 70’s and he sang “Tom Traubert’s Blues”, hunched over the piano, smoking and swigging from a whiskey bottle every now and then. I’d never seen or heard anything like it and I hated him. I hated the song, especially as it includes the chorus of “Walzing Matilda” and although it’s far from a favourite of mine, it is an Australian icon and in my mind he had just shat all over it. He looked drunk and for those who have never heard Tom sing before, and I mean the full gravel treatment, it’s a very big shock. Not only that someone could possibly sound like that but that supposedly there must be a bunch of people out there that actually liked listening to it. Time passed as it does and I’d forgotten all about old Tom until a good friend of mine, whose car I used to spend a lot of time in, started playing “The Heart of Saturday Night” in his car stereo relentlessly. After initial resistance, (it was the antithesis of everything I was into at the time) I got to know the songs, began to appreciate his voice, his stories and his songs. It was probably a week or so, and then I loved him. I saw this comment on a YouTube video of Tom – “All these years….I just never understood..the appeal…I was so very wrong. This is genius, this is torture, this is soul. This is just so incredible and personal, I almost feel like a voyeur.” I think to really appreciate Tom Waits, you need to be a certain age, an age where you’ve become fully aware of humanity. My favourite Waits songs – “Invitation to the Blues”, “Kentucky Avenue” and about a hundred others.