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Saturday, June 24, 2006

You are innocent when you dream

The Tom Waits fandom continues. Waits' '88 concert film, Big Time, has never been available commercially on DVD. Since I had never seen it and don't know anybody who has a copy, I jumped at the chance to see it as a part of the midnight movie series at the Inwood Theatre.

Until last night, there was one movie synonymous with the midnight movie moniker for me: The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I'm talking the audience participation with singing along, chanting lines, responding to lines and dressing like characters in the film. After seeing Big Time with a room full of Waits fans, I can safely say that the screening was not like seeing a Rocky Horror screening.

Instead of the usual baffle of "Who the hell is this guy?", I thought it was cool to be with people that really enjoy Waits' incomparable mix of junkyard blues, avant garde jazz, throaty singing, and gut-wrenching ballads. Like watching a Monty Python film in a room filled with people that know all of the jokes and quotes, this was my experience with Big Time. As a result, I'm more compelled to check out more of Waits' back catalog.

Looking at the separate parts on the outside, songs found on albums like Swordfishtrombones and Frank's Wild Years would not work with other artists. Somehow, they do with Tom Waits' world. Yes, they sound weird and off-the-wall to people, but songs like "Clap Hands" and "16 Shells from a 30.6" work for me in this alternate view of music. I don't have to be in a particular mood to get into this stuff, especially the ballads like "Time," "Johnsburg, Illinois" and "Train Song." Definitely the soundtrack for any mood for me.

Believe you me, if Waits' back catalog was reissued today, I'd probably end up picking up almost every one of his records. Only his Used Songs and Beautiful Maladies compilations feature remastered tracks, while awesome albums like Small Change and Rain Dogs currently sound flat and tinny on CD. Along with Neil Young's back catalog, these classic records need the reissue treatment. This gives new life to the albums and they deserve to perserved.

I don't know why Big Time is out of print on VHS and has never been issued on DVD. However, I'm glad that the Inwood had a print to show on the big screen. This legacy deserves something more.

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