Sunday, October 12, 2008

Grifters, Drifters, Midnight Shifters- The Music of Tom Wait


Mule Variations, Tom Waits

If, as I do, every once in a while from a distance you need to hear about boozers, losers, dopesters, hipsters, fallen sisters, grifters, drifters, the driftless, small-time grafters, hobos, bums, tramps, the fallen, those who want to fall, Spanish Johnnies, stale cigarette butts, whiskey-soaked barroom floors, loners, the lonely, sad sacks, the sad and others at the margins of society then this is your stop. Tom Waits gives voice in song to the characters that peopled Nelson Algren’s novels (The Last Carousel, Neon Wilderness, Walk on the Wild Side, and The Man with the Golden Arm). In short, these are the people who do not make revolutions, far from it, but they surely desperately could use one. If, additionally, you need a primordial voice and occasional dissonant instrumentation to round out the picture go no further. Finally, if you need someone who, with far more justification that ex-President Bill Clinton could possibly muster, “feels your pain” for his characters you are home. And that, my friends, is definitely a political statement.


  1. Here are the lyrics to Tom Waits's Hold On. How about that line "with charcoal eyes and Monroe hips". Nice, right?


    They hung a sign up in out town
    "if you live it up, you won't
    live it down"
    So, she left Monte Rio, son
    Just like a bullet leaves a gun
    With charcoal eyes and Monroe hips
    She went and took that California trip
    Well, the moon was gold, her
    Hair like wind
    She said don't look back just
    Come on Jim
    Oh you got to
    Hold on, Hold on
    You got to hold on
    Take my hand, I'm standing right here
    You gotta hold on

    Well, he gave her a dimestore watch
    And a ring made from a spoon
    Everyone is looking for someone to blame
    But you share my bed, you share my name
    Well, go ahead and call the cops
    You don't meet nice girls in coffee shops
    She said baby, I still love you
    Sometimes there's nothin left to do

    Oh you got to
    Hold on, hold on
    You got to hold on
    Take my hand, I'm standing right here, you got to
    Just hold on.

    Well, God bless your crooked little heart St. Louis got the best of me
    I miss your broken-china voice
    How I wish you were still here with me

    Well, you build it up, you wreck it down
    You burn your mansion to the ground
    When there's nothing left to keep you here, when
    You're falling behind in this
    Big blue world

    Oh you go to
    Hold on, hold on
    You got to hold on
    Take my hand, I'm standing right here
    You got to hold on

    Down by the Riverside motel,
    It's 10 below and falling
    By a 99 cent store she closed her eyes
    And started swaying
    But it's so hard to dance that way
    When it's cold and there's no music
    Well your old hometown is so far away
    But, inside your head there's a record
    That's playing, a song called

    Hold on, hold on
    You really got to hold on
    Take my hand, I'm standing right here
    And just hold on.

  2. Here are the lyrics to Pony. How about that line " I lived on nuthin but dreams and train smoke". In one line that sums up all the experiences that Woody Guthrie and Utah Phillips sang about in endless songs of hoboing and riding the rails. Thanks, Tom.


    I've seen it all boys
    I've been all over
    Been everywhere in the
    Whole wide world
    I rode the high line
    With old blind Darby
    I danced real slow
    With Ida Jane

    I was full of wonder
    When I left Murfreesboro
    Now I am full of hollow
    On Maxwell street...
    And I hope my Pony
    I hope my Pony
    I hope my Pony
    Knows the way back home

    I walked from Natcher
    To Hushpukena
    I built a fire by the side
    Of the road
    I worked for nothin in a
    Belzoni saw mill. I caught a
    Blind out on the B and O
    Talullah's friendly Belzoni ain't so
    A 44'll get you 99

    And I hope my Pony
    I hope my Pony
    I hope my Pony
    Knows the way back home

    I run my race with burnt face Jake
    Gave him a Manzanita cross
    I lived on nothin
    But dreams and train smoke
    Somehow my watch and chain
    Got lost.
    I wish I was home in Evelyn's Kitchen
    With old Gyp curled around my feet