I don't remember exactly when I was first introduced to Tom Waits, but I've heard about him since high school. As far as actually hearing his material, that's still a new thing for me. Come to think of it, I probably know him better as an actor than a musician. I've seen Down By Law, Short Cuts and Coffee and Cigarettes but I've never sat down and listened to Rain Dogs, Swordfishtrombones or Closing Time. I still can't wrap my head around his stark, jazzy and percussive musings with squirmy vocals. As sacrilegious as it sounds but some of the stuff I've heard is some of most cacophonic stuff I've ever heard. Because of hearing bits and pieces over the years, I always pegged him as doing only that kind of music. Well, this changed after I heard Bob cover Waits' beautiful, "Take It With Me."
"Take It With Me" is a tender piano ballad featured towards the end of Mule Variations. Bob transposed it to guitar and it was as striking as the original. I was amazed that the same guy that has made some of the most unlistenable stuff could also make some of the prettiest stuff too.
Following the night that I heard "Take It With Me," Nick and Aaron played for me "Tom Traubert's Blues" from Small Change and "Ol' 55" from Closing Time. I was even more blown away by what I heard. These were some of the most melodically lush songs I've ever heard in my life, right next to R.E.M.'s "Nightswimming" and Jeff Buckley's version of "Hallelujah." I had to check more stuff out.
I don't know anything about Waits' story other than he's the guy that wrote "Downtown Train," put out a bunch of records on Asylum and Island and has acted in quite a few movies. I'm sure there's some biography out there that could help me out. There are a couple CD anthologies out there (including Used Songs) that I plan on at least trying out. Track suggestions? Feel free and leave a comment below.