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coverpic flag US - California - Full Moon 210 - 10/19/13

September songs, October moods
Tom Waits - an autumn soul

"I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things." (Tom Waits)

Tom Waits had a springtime debut with the release of Closing Time back in March, 1973. Well, the piano-crooning folky, jazzy Waits was probably hiding behind his piano in dark and smoke-filled clubs, anyway, and he's not the kind of artist you expect to see in broad day light. His music is made for late nights, or early mornings - way after and way before the setting and rising of the sun.

I was about to pick Swordfishtrombones last moonth for a retrospective homage - as part of our From Head to Heart series - to cherish and to hug it, and to celebrate its 30th anniversary. A fantastic record it is, yes, it's the best by Tom Waits. To my ears, and to a whole lot of pair of ears around the world. Well, I didn't do so. Write an article about the album. Then, quite Coincidentally, I noticed that almost the entire Tom Waits catalogue holds 'autumn records'. Which means albums released in September or October. Mainly in September. A few in November, and a sole record in August. Plus, of course a very few 'deviants' - if we're into the terminology used describing characters in the world of Tom Waits. I'll come back to the list of albums in a minute.

The 'Tom Waits character', the artist figure (well, I suspect the artist life of Tom Waits doesn't 'differ' a lot from the personal life of his) has been stamped as a genuine eccentric, a mad hatter, a circus director of a freak show, a vaudeville writer, a dark side of a variety show musician, a drum major of an eerie masquerade carnival parade, a strip joint speakeasy bartender or pianist (or both), an asylum janitor. The list could be very long. But, he's also a tongue-in-cheek and whip smart comedian, with a love for the bizarre and the sarcastic. He's a true joker. He's also been an actor in quite a number ('pushing thirty') of films. Among his roles on screen are (credited or uncredited, bigger or smaller parts): Drunken bar owner, Trumpet player, Petrified man at carnival, Disabled veteran, Radio DJ, Wanderer. Plus, of course, a lot of oddball characters. Some of the better films (with appearances by Tom Waits) are: Rumble Fish (dir: Francis Ford Coppola, 1983 - in fact, Waits has collaborated with Coppola in 6 films); Jim Jarmusch's Down by Law (1986), as well as his Coffee and Cigarettes films (1995-2003); Candy Mountain (Robert Frank, 1988); Short Cuts (Robert Altman, 1993); Wristcutters: A Love Story (Goran Dukic, 2006); The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Terry Gilliam, 2009). In Roberto Benigni's The Tiger and the Snow Waits appears as himself. In most of the films he's in it seems like he is himself.

coverpic So, the catalogue, then. As mentioned, Closing Time was a March release. But, mind you: 'March starts on the same day of the week as November every year' (Wikipedia). Which means: it 'could've' been a November record. Am I wrong? I'm wrong, of course, but it's a funny thought. Next up: The Heart Of Saturday Night and the live album Nighthawks At The Diner are both October releases, 1973 and 1975 respectively. Small Change was released in September 1976. Then, the next five (!) albums were September 'children' as well: Foreign Affairs (September, 1977), Blue Valentine (September, 1978), Heartattack And Vine (September, 1980), Swordfishtrombones (September, 1983), Rain Dogs (September 30, 1985). As a 'break' Frank's Wild Years ("Un Operachi Romantico in Two Acts") appeared in August (1987), before another three September albums followed: his second live album, Big Time (September, 1988), Bone Machine (September, 1992), and The Black Rider (September, 1993). But, then, Waits returned to spring time, with Mule Variations (April, 1999), plus the twin albums Alice and Blood Money (both May 7th, 2002), before he was back on the autumn track with Real Gone (October, 2004), Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards (November, 2006), his third live platter Glitter And Doom (November 2009), and his latest album, Bad as me (October, 2011). I've skipped compilations and soundtrack albums, but hey, 2001's Used Songs: 1973-1980...guess what: it was released in October, 2001.

And, while we're at this October thread: Tom Waits is joining the Bridge School Benefit [the annual charity concert held in Mountain View, California, every October, organized by Neil Young and his wife Pegi] on Sunday October 27th, to perform a full acoustic set with his band, featuring songs from his Bad As Me album. This'll be a rare occasion to see/hear the man perform live, because he hasn't toured since 2008 and has no plans to do so. But, like Waits says:
"I had every good intention to stay home and work on my JD Salinger Halloween mask, but when Neil told me yesterday he was serving burnt cow's eyes on a flat tire and it's all gluten free, I invited myself!"

The sound of Tom Waits, the sound of autumn...

'I'm the last leaf on the tree
The autumn took the rest
But they won't take me
I'm the last leaf on the tree
When the autumn wind blows
They're already gone
They flutter to the ground
Cause they can't hang on
There's nothing in the world
That I ain't seen
I greet all the new ones that are coming in green
I'm the last leaf on the tree
The autumn took the rest but they won't take me
I'm the last leaf on the tree...'

("Last Leaf", Bad As Me)

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