I’ve met my fair share of famous musicians these past 40+ years at concerts. One of the most unique meetings I ever had was with Tom Waits. I was writing for a free music paper in the early 80’s. I made arrangements with Tom Wait’s manager to interview Tom Waits before his appearance at Toad’s Place in New Haven. I was good friends with the owner of Toad’s Place in those days. I was allowed to interview Tom Waits in the club before his sound check.
I found Tom Waits, initially to be a foreboding figure. I subsequently learned he was charming, gruff, articulate and quite a kick to hang out with. I recall he wore rumpled clothes and smoked Chesterfield filterless cigarettes. His hands, particularly his fingernails were stained brown from chain smoking. He smoked throughout the interview but the second hand smoke didn’t bother me.
The first thing he said to me when he exhaled smoke rings was, “So, you work for one of those street rags?.”
I said proudly, “Yes. I do.”
He just growled. I don’t recall the rest of our conversation, unfortunately. He had several stage props that he used for dramatic effect that night. One song, Ol 55 was set against the backdrop of a PepsiCo gas pump. Tom Waits wore a leather bomber jacket while he leaned against the gas pump, crooning . He had this cool stage trick where someone dropped green metalic flakes from above him while he twirled an umbrella under them that sent the sparks streaming through the night. Simple props but a dimensional, dramatic result.
I noticed that Tom Waits has a a brand new recording, Bad As Me. I picked up a digital edition and have just started listening to it. Once I got past that gravel voice of his I find the songs, humorous and filled with pathos.
Give Bad As Me a listen and let me know your thoughts about one of our most prolific and revered singer/songwriters.