#768: 1983, Tom Waits, Frank’s Wild Years

by George_East on September 29, 2013

Charlie East-West’s birthday posting of Bruce Springsteen’s New York Serenade  led to a brief conversation about artists who had never released a bad album. Of course the longer the career the harder this is to achieve, even if we stick to the criteria as never releasing a bad album, rather than always releasing outstanding albums.

Indeed if you are going to take Springsteen as the benchmark, the test is artists who have been releasing records for over 30 years.  That is a seriously tall order.   In my comment I said that the only two artists I could think of who could equal (or exceed) Springsteen were Leonard Cohen (recording since 1967) and the great Tom Waits.    Commenters also suggested Richard Thompson and Roy Harper.

I also noted that we hadn’t posted anything by Tom Waits so far.  So my song today is to put that right – a track from one of Waits’ out and out masterpieces Swordfishtrombones, one of the greatest albums of the 1980s.   It is under 2 minutes long, spoken word (thereby breaking one of my cardinal rules) over a Hammond organ, with a bit of bass and drums.  It is also one of the most evocative pieces ever to be committed to vinyl.  Lyrically is up there with the best of Raymond Carver’s short stories or a twisted Hollywood film noir from the 1950s.   Like Carver, there is genius in the detail here, but it is also in that raspy 80-a-day delivery.

Frank settled down out in the valley

He hung his wild years on the nail he drove through his wife’s forehead.’


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