Dylan is a planet to be explored
March 20, 2005 8:36 AM   Subscribe

Tom Waits on his twenty most cherished albums of all time. Also Looking for Clues: the fan's verdict on Tom's choices. "There is plenty to suggest that Waits's iPod in shuffle mode would keep you on your toes."
posted by marxchivist (44 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
It says this is first in a series, I'm anxious to see who else they get to do this. I only have a few of the things on this list, but the ones I have are some of my favorite albums, so I better explore some of this other stuff. [to give credit where credit is due, thanks ed]
posted by marxchivist at 8:40 AM on March 20, 2005


On John Lurie's Lounge Lizards:

"He's very musical, works with the best musicians, but never go fishing with him. He's a great arranger and composer with an odd sense of humour."

Hahaha. One of my more cherished DVDs is Fishing With John. Highly recommended.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:49 AM on March 20, 2005


I am not surprised to find Trout Mask Replica here. I have only managed to listen to that once through. The second time, I hit Stop after six minutes. Unlistenable, yet I consider Metal Machine Music a masterpiece.

Two thumbs up on In The Wee Small Hours. I discovered this in 2002, and each time I play it, it seems like the first time. That's timeless!
posted by mischief at 9:04 AM on March 20, 2005


Great list. Elvis Costello's "The Delivery Man " is every bit as good as his early work.
posted by fixedgear at 9:21 AM on March 20, 2005


I figureed Tom had exquisite taste. Good to see that Texas Polka record on there, some great stuff on it. I also recall him saying that Dion's cover of "Heart Of Saturday Night," was his favorite cover of his own work.
posted by jonmc at 9:34 AM on March 20, 2005


It all makes sense until the last one (sorry, fixedgear); what, did he lose a bet?

(Oh, and Bob Dylan and The Band did the basement tapes, although they weren't called The Band until shortly after they left Woodstock.)
posted by docgonzo at 9:41 AM on March 20, 2005


God, I love Tom Waits. God, I love Trout Mask Replica. Nothing has affected me like that album, before or since. It's only "unlistenable" until you drop your preconceptions and prejudices about what music should be. Then it goes through your head like mental floss.
posted by Decani at 9:47 AM on March 20, 2005


On The Delivery Man by Elvis Costello:

"Grooves wide enough to put your foot in and the bass player is a gorilla of groove."


Yup. Waits' writing is about as good as his music.
posted by item at 9:55 AM on March 20, 2005


best description of Trout Mask Replica ever! If youve only given it 1 and 1/24ths of a listen thats not much of an effort on your part... it aint Sounds of Silence... Ella Guru!

Also, despite the 6 "The Band" demos on the corporate release of Basement Tapes.... the whole of the sessions themselves (as witnessed by the demigod of all bootlegs "The Genuine Basement Tapes (6cds)) were almost entirely Dylan songs... after moving from Big Red to Big Pink, Dylan was on a "song a day" schedule, would wake up early, make a batch of teeth chattering coffee, do his writing, wake up "the band" with the temptations of high octane coffee, then a joint or two, then they'd begin the days work...

they did not keep the tape rolling (it was not recorded on a handheld casette as famously rumored... they had very much professional equipment left over or 'borrowed' from the infamous electric tour) but would only record once they had a song worked out... you can hear Dylan complain "Come on we're just wasting tape" on TGBT ...

Those 6 songs ruin the official release... That guys voice is just boring... But, if you wanna learn how to write a song, listen to TGBT closely and see.

anyways, if you give the TGBT a listen, its very apparent that Dylan was (still) calling the shots here, the 6 demos that landed on the corporate release is only a show of Roberson's (and whoever else's) ego (not to mention the god awful overdubs) -- there were SO many incredible Dylan originals from these sessions that could have taken their place.... long story short: TGBT is self descriptive.
posted by Satapher at 10:00 AM on March 20, 2005


"I was there when Captain Beefheart started up his first band./ I told him, "Don't do it that way. You'll never make a dime."

Sorry, LCD quote, which has nothing to do with anything, 'cept I love the Beefheart.
posted by Quartermass at 10:02 AM on March 20, 2005


Greil Marcus's The Old Weird America (my copy is under the original title "Invisible Republic,") is a great explication of the Basement Tapes and related matters such as "Ode To Billie Joe," Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Dock Boggs and Bonie & Clyde.

Also, I love me some Beefheart and TMR, but Safe As Milk has some terrific shit on it as well.

Abba Zabba Zoom!
posted by jonmc at 10:06 AM on March 20, 2005


whoah I didnt know that book was released under a different name, I found a copy at a second hand store.
posted by Satapher at 10:15 AM on March 20, 2005


I know, satapher. I almost bought "The Old Weird America," until I realized I already owned it. Marcus occasionally wanders off into the ether (as is his wont) but it's quite a read nonetheless.
posted by jonmc at 10:17 AM on March 20, 2005


I have another pretty sweet Dylan book called "Bob Dylan: The Recording Sessions" by Clinton Heyton... very detailed and meticulous information gathering here (although the author does sneak some opinions in there... he apparently was disgusted with Roberson etal in relation to the Basement tapes... made a funny snide remark about how fitting it was that Dylan's house contained the "Red Room" in comparison to "Big Pink" -- he also lambasted Roberson etal for trying to give the illusion that they and Dylan were just peas in the same songwriting pod... both full of the same caliber of ideas... as if Dylan had met his match)
posted by Satapher at 10:37 AM on March 20, 2005


Awesome: 15 Rant in E Minor by Bill Hicks (Rykodisc) 1997

Bill Hicks, blowtorch, excavator, truthsayer and brain specialist, like a reverend waving a gun around. Pay attention to Rant in E Minor, it is a major work, as important as Lenny Bruce's. He will correct your vision. His life was cut short by cancer, though he did leave his tools here. Others will drive on the road he built. Long may his records rant even though he can't.

posted by psmealey at 10:41 AM on March 20, 2005


Les Claypool? Oh for cryin' out loud.
posted by drinkcoffee at 10:47 AM on March 20, 2005


9 I'm Your Man by Leonard Cohen (Columbia) 1988

Euro, klezmer, chansons, apocalyptic, revelations, with that mellifluous voice. A shipwrecked Aznovar, washed up on shore. Important songs, meditative, authoritative, and Leonard is a poet, an Extra Large one.

Perhaps he meant Aznavour? Anyway, I am happy to see that Waits falls prey to the same insider hype on Beefheart's TMR. Popularly acclaimed as his best, it suffers from bouts of sheer unmusicality, though there are gems mixed within. I've had the Captain in heavy rotation for coming up on 40 years and TMR is the one I listen to the least. Same for FZ's _Yellow Shark_. I would have thought, that as cool as Waits is, he could have opted for less predictable choices regarding these two. I know, I know, who am I to talk? But I find Waits's choices interesting, though I quibble with which selections he makes on a few. Monk's _Brilliant Corners_ would be my choice over Solo Monk, and given Waits's entire ouevre, I am not sure how Miles Davis's KoB didn't make the cut. Still, a list worth checking out.
posted by beelzbubba at 10:50 AM on March 20, 2005


Do not dis the mighty Primus, drinkcoffee. Sure, he's engaged in some wankery. But at his best, Claypool was a load of fun. And he and Waits have recorded together.

My name is mud.m-m-m-mud.
posted by jonmc at 10:52 AM on March 20, 2005


Sinatra: Somebody asked me what his best album is. I said that was impossible, that you had to have at least 10 or 15. But, when pressed, I said I guess it would have to be "In the Wee Small Hours."

I own about 140 or more Sinatra albums, mostly on vinyl. "In the Wee Small Hours" is the most phenomenally conceived and executed piece of popular music I've ever encountered.

What, no Coltrane?

Interesting list.
posted by 1016 at 11:40 AM on March 20, 2005


jonmc, every time I'm about to listen to something you say about music, you go and pick the most inane musical example to make your point. WTF?
posted by speicus at 11:44 AM on March 20, 2005


One man's inane is another man's brilliance, speicus. Would you have listend closer if I'd quoted "John the Fisherman," or "Wynonna's Big Brown Beaver?"
posted by jonmc at 12:15 PM on March 20, 2005


I have about 15 of these albums and it does not surprise me that They are infulential to Waits.

Sure, you know what we all would have a different list, but... BFD. This is not a list of "The Best Albums of all Time", rather what Waits likes. To quibble over which Beefheart, or Zappa album.... meh, you can't argue against the list, it is subjective.
posted by edgeways at 12:21 PM on March 20, 2005


This is really weird:

15 Rant in E Minor by Bill Hicks (Rykodisc) 1997

Bill Hicks, blowtorch, excavator, truthsayer and brain specialist, like a reverend waving a gun around. Pay attention to Rant in E Minor, it is a major work, as important as Lenny Bruce's. He will correct your vision. His life was cut short by cancer, though he did leave his tools here. Others will drive on the road he built. Long may his records rant even though he can't.


I'm positive that I've seen Tom Waits quoted thus before: "Others will drive on the road he built," but it was in reference to Bukowski. It's possible that Tom just used the same expression twice, I guess. But I could swear that the "he will correct your vision" sounds dead-on as well. Anyone else getting a ringing bell there?
posted by scarabic at 12:22 PM on March 20, 2005


Or to put it another way: we might just have diffrent values about what's good in music. and that's fine. But I wouldn't consider either "Abba Zabba," or "My Name Is Mud," to be inane. Whimsical, fun, goofy, exuberant, catchy, yes, but inane, never.
posted by jonmc at 12:22 PM on March 20, 2005


I've never really liked Tom Waits, but I find that lists like this are always populated with interesting choices. Thanks, hope we can see some more of these..
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:39 PM on March 20, 2005


Good post, Maxarchivist - this is an interesting selection that has me curious about a few choices I will now have to explore. I look forward to future lists from other musicians, too.

Oh, and fixedgear, I am so with you on the recent Costello - I am loving that!
posted by madamjujujive at 12:45 PM on March 20, 2005


"What, no Coltrane?"

I thought the same thing myself.

As for 'preconceived notions' of music, back in '72 at the age of 14, I was recording water drops, wood lathes and bricks dropped on sidewalks, and then running them through homemade filters. I still say, Beefheart is unlistenable, and moreso, a fraud. Van Vliet's fellow label mate, Alice Cooper, had tons more talent.
posted by mischief at 1:20 PM on March 20, 2005


Cooper is underrated, no doubt. His best stuff still holds up, and he was one of the original (Screamin' Jay Hawkins would be the original) shock rockers.
posted by jonmc at 1:24 PM on March 20, 2005


I couldn't be happier to see The Wee Small Hours as number one. Just an amazing album. Every song essential and in the right place.
posted by justgary at 1:33 PM on March 20, 2005


On The Sinking of the Titanic by Gavin Bryars: "It also has 'Jesus Blood' on it. I did a version of that with Gavin Bryars."

Yes he did. As an exercise in pissing all over what made the original great it was a huge success.

Still, I love the man and to see how many of his choices I also own and like makes me feel happy.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 1:47 PM on March 20, 2005


Thanks, Marx! Got my DC++ queue flowing for some test-listens...
posted by NickDouglas at 2:13 PM on March 20, 2005


As an exercise in pissing all over what made the original great it was a huge success.

Hear, hear, thatwhichfalls--I am so glad I still own it on vinyl. I only wish the original could be released on CD.

Waits, however, acquitted himself quite well when he sang What Keeps Mankind Alive? on Hal Willner's Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill--which is, in my opinion, the Greatest.Tribute.Album.Ever.

True story: My friend Neal's daughter Sylvia was roommates with Tom Waits's daughter in her freshman year of college and, as a consequence, at one point he met the Waits's and had coffee with them.

So, when he mentioned this to me, I asked, Well does he...

--Sound just like that when he talks? Yup!
was the reply.
posted by y2karl at 2:25 PM on March 20, 2005


y2karl - "I am so glad I still own it on vinyl"

Sometimes I think that the only valid way to own that track is on a beat-up, third generation C60 copy.
Waits is great though. He makes mistakes, then lives with them.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 2:48 PM on March 20, 2005


mischief: I think you are well-named.

I'm sorry you don't get Beefheart. It's your loss.

I loved Alice Cooper, up until Billion Dollar Babies. They were great fun.
posted by Decani at 5:50 PM on March 20, 2005


I loved Alice Cooper, up until Billion Dollar Babies. They were great fun.

And without them there'd be no New York Dolls, Kiss, Twisted Sister, Marilyn Manson, or...The Sex Pistols.

Jonny Rotten auditioned for McLaren by singing "Eighteen." He's copped to being a huge Alice fan. It's almost enough to make me forgive Alice for supporting Bush.

Almost.
posted by jonmc at 5:55 PM on March 20, 2005


beelzbubba, in short, you dont like it

dont give us your 'unmusicality' bullshit. wtf does that mean?
posted by Satapher at 7:29 PM on March 20, 2005


you also should keep in mind the idea of a "poets poet" or an "artists artist"
posted by Satapher at 7:30 PM on March 20, 2005


God, I love Tom Waits. God, I love Trout Mask Replica...

Amen to all of that, Decani.

And EB is right: the Waits episode of Fishing with John --with all apologies to quonsar -- has the best fish in the pants gag you'll ever witness, and I love the Willem Dafoe episode almost as much. And this list, even the records I wouldn't have chosen, by its mere description does nothing but seal my permanent, searing mind and body crush on darling Tom forever. I don't know who'll they'll ask next in the series, but I feel sorry for the person; the man's a terrible act to have to follow.

Thanks so much for the post, Marxchivist!
posted by melissa may at 8:49 PM on March 20, 2005



beelzbubba, in short, you dont like it

dont give us your 'unmusicality' bullshit. wtf does that mean?


It means that some people, Don Van Vliet and Patti Smith to name two, should be advised by trusted friends that they should not go anywhere near reed instruments.

Satapher, you know nothing of me or my background. Why would you leap to assume that I don't like TMR? I just don't think it is his/their best overall work and I think that it is one of those "critics' darlings" that people say they listen to/read/watch, but are cited for their perceived "coolness" factor.
posted by beelzbubba at 9:51 PM on March 20, 2005


scarabic: "It's possible that Tom just used the same expression twice, I guess."

He *does* do that a lot. I figger it this way. Most of us repeat ourselves all the time, only our language is so prosaic that it slips under the radar. Waits has an ability to create vernacular on the fly, as it were. You notice the repetitions, primarily because the language is so memorable.

Either that or he is getting old and his mind is going.
posted by tim_in_oz at 10:55 PM on March 20, 2005


Yeah, it's definitely possible. I'd be a little shocked if he'd said "He will correct your vision. Others will drive on the road he made" about two seperate people, but it is possible. It's also possible that he was misquoted at some point during the Bukowski: Born Into This media flurry. That happens too.

But more likely is that my brain is just going. Incidentally I think I have a divx copy of the Fishing with John episode here somewhere. I'm not sure what's a good way to get it to anyone who wants it, but contact me if interested.
posted by scarabic at 12:35 AM on March 21, 2005


I read the Beefheart bio last year and decided to give him another listen.

Nup - as artless and grim as I'd remembered.
posted by emf at 2:24 AM on March 21, 2005


Scarabic, Waits repeats himself a lot. The same turns of phrase and anecdotes regularly crop up in his interviews. Whatever, he's great.
posted by kenko at 7:54 AM on March 21, 2005


More Tom Waits musical influences here where he mentions both Bukowski and Bill Hicks. He uses the exact same quote to describe Bill Hicks as he does in the article, back in 1999.
posted by sophist at 1:08 PM on March 21, 2005


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