Profiles In Glory: Tom Waits

If you have ever been a fan of Jim Jarmusch, you will more than likely have an idea who Tom Waits is. Remember the scene in Coffee & Cigarettes where Iggy Pop sits down with that tired and worm looking guy with the steel-wool voice. That’s Tom Waits.

A legend of underground music, Thomas is indeed one of the most original and genuine artists working today. He has released 21 albums since his 1973 debut Closing Time, and since then he has consistently refined and explored his sound, while never straying away from his core dirty blues influences.

His albums sound like funeral marches for homeless drunks, mingling the reckless abandon of experience with the bitterness of pain and loss into liver-beating anthems of beatitude. He has won two Grammy Awards, worked with legends of film and literature such as Francis Ford Coppola and William S. Burroughs as well as musical pioneers Primus and Kronos Quartet, even dipping his finger into the hip-hop pie, providing the beatbox on underground hip-hop heavyweight Atmosphere’s track Waitress.

Thomas is one of those figures in the music industry who has persevered through the shifting tastes and fads, staying true to their musical vision and never compromising what they do to suit the expectations of record labels or consumers. He is a legend and a glorious one at that.

Rain Dogs (1985)

Tom Waits

Tom Waits - Rain Dogs

Rain Dogs is the penultimate Tom Waits album. Drunkenly crafting dissonant jazz-blues classics, Waits and guitarists Robert Quine and Marc Ribot deliver the sort of sort of music you’d expect to hear in the seedy dives and backwater saloons of the American South.

Being released in the mid-80s, when a lot of musicians were relying on synthesisers and drum machines, Rain Dogs wall lauded by critics for it’s organic sound. “If I want a sound, I usually feel better if I’ve chased it and killed it, skinned it and cooked it. I would rather go in the bathroom and hit the door with a piece of two-by-four very hard,” said Waits.

First track Singapore, is a plodding dirty-blues number, with a jaunty sea-shanty feel to it, which gives the album its perfect launching point. Clap Your Hands is a slow and jangly dirge while Rain Dogs, coming in the exact middle of the album, is Waits at his best singing “inside a broken clock, splashing the wine with all the rain dogs,” as Quine and Ribot add that swampy guitar dissonance that perfectly complements the breezy accordion and marimba.

If you love down and out, beat blues you can’t go past this album, it is a classic.

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