Happy 60th, Tom!

Tom Waits turns sixty today and I think it’s fair to say that there’s life in the old dog yet. I first came across his music when I heard Bruce Springsteen’s version of Tom’s song, Jersey Girl. I liked the lyrics and the melody and it wasn’t long before I picked up a tape of his Big Time live album in a bargain bin. I must admit that I was quite flummoxed by the sounds that I heard. The instrumentation was unusual and it sounded like pots and pans were being used instead of regular percussive instruments. I was also a bit thrown back by the sound of his voice. The guttural roar that I heard sounded like a combination of someone who had been chain-smoking for years who had come down with a heavy cold after being on the lash for a few weeks. I played it a few times but I couldn’t get into it. Then, I bought a couple of his earlier albums and I was equally surprised by the comparative smoothness of his earlier singing style. The music was more conventional as well and the influence of blues, jazz and country on his earlier albums was apparent. As the years progressed, his voice became more gravelly and the music became less conventional, but it also become far more interesting. I still like some of his early songs but it’s his albums from the last few decades that I now prefer

I’ve put together a selection of songs performed by Tom, a few cover versions of his songs and a couple of tributes to the man. A live version of Going Out West from his new Glitter and Doom album is followed by a couple of songs that he performed for the Storytellers series. Shit Creek is one of his earliest songs and Tom Traubert’s Blues is one of his most powerful. Jesus’ Blood is Waits’ vocal contribution to a classical piece by Gavin Bryars. That is followed by Waits’ takes on Sea of Love and Somewhere. The next three songs feature collaborations with the Kronos Quartet, Southside Johnny and Kool Keith. The Ramones and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins kick off a half dozen covers of his songs. Both John Hammond and Scarlett Johannson have each released a whole album of Tom’s songs. Hammond’s is definitely worth checking out while Scarlett might be better advised to stick to the acting. Neko Case does a fine version of his seasonal favourite before Bruce comes in with a song he makes his own. The set concludes with a couple of tributes from the sound-a-like 4 or 5 Magicians and the Ohio band Over the Rhine. Have a nice day, Tom, and keep making the mad music

01 Going Out West (live) – Tom Waits

02 Downtown Train (live) – Tom Waits

03 ‘Ol ’55 (live) – Tom Waits

04 Looks Like I’m up Shit Creek Again – Tom Waits

05 Tom Traubert’s Blues (Four Sheets To The Wind In Copenhagen) – Tom Waits

06 Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet – Tom Waits

07 Sea Of Love (Phil Phillips cover) – Tom Waits

08 Somewhere (From ‘West Side Story’) (Bernstein/Sondheim cover) – Tom Waits

09 Healing The Divide – Diamond In Your Mind (live) – Tom Waits

10 Walk Away – Tom Waits & Southside Johnny

11 Spacious Thoughts – NASA

12 I Don’t Wanna Grow Up (Tom Waits cover)- Ramones

13 Whistlin’ Past the Graveyard (Tom Waits cover) – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

14 Buzz Fledderjohn (Tom Waits cover)- John Hammond

15 Anywhere I Lay My Head (Tom Waits cover) – Scarlett Johannson

16 Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis (Tom Waits cover) – Neko Case

17 Jersey Girl (Tom Waits cover) (live) – Bruce Springsteen

18 Tom Waits Blues – 4 or 5 Magicians

19 Don’t Wait For Tom – Over The Rhine