Tom Waits – Artist Choice

Tom Waits – Artist Choice

TomwaitsmenuWe are so pleased to feature Tom Waits in With Guitars especially with the band and artist choices he wrote; But I must point out, in the hope that one of our favourite artists may consider a totally up to date selection, this was originally written back in 2001. No doubt, there would be a few more additions to Tom’s picks, but there are so many brilliant artists and bands mentioned…













With the release of two new albums, ‘Alice’ and ‘Blood Money’ as a follow-up to 1999’s million-selling and Grammy-winning ‘Mule Variations’, Tom Waits has been named as one of the ‘Most influential artists of all time’. We decided it was the right time to find out just what influenced the extraordinary man himself…



Interesting early 1970’s footage – a feast for the eyes and ears.


RollingStones_exiton Rolling Stones – ‘Exile on Main Street’


“‘I Just Want To See His Face.’ That song had a big impact on me, particularly learning how to sing in that high falsetto, the way Jagger does. When he sings like a girl, I go crazy. I said, ‘I’ve got to learn how to do that.’ I couldn’t really do it until I stopped smoking. That’s when it started getting easier to do. ‘Shore Leave’ has that, ‘All Stripped Down’, ‘Temptation’. Nobody does it like Mick Jagger; nobody does it like Prince. But this is just a tree of life. This record is the watering hole. Keith Richards plays his ass off. This is the Checkerboard Lounge all over it. ”


As the man says…

LeonardCohen_Imyour Leonard Cohen – ‘I’m Your Man’


“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.”



Bob Dylan_basement Bob Dylan – ‘Basement Tapes’


” With Bob Dylan, so much has said about him, it’s difficult to say anything about him that hasn’t already been said, and say it better. Suffice to say, Dylan is a planet to be explored. For a songwriter, Dylan is as essential as a hammer and nails and saw are to a carpenter. I like my music with the rinds and the seeds and pulp left in, so the bootlegs I obtained in the 60’s and 70’s are what the noise and the grit of the tapes became inseparable from the music, and are essential to me. His journey as a songwriter is the stuff of myth, because he lives within the ether of the songs. Hail, hail ‘The Basement Tapes’. I heard most of these songs on bootlegs first. There is a joy and an abandon to this record, it’s also a history lesson.”


Still missed, a very funny, articulate man.


Billhicks_Rant Bill Hicks – ‘Rant In E Minor’


“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.”


This is a rare promo it seems…


SamPhillips_martinis Sam Phillips –Martinis & Bikinis’


“Peculiar, innovative, soulful, and reasonably undiscovered, with a deeply expressive voice and challenging and unusual topics for songs. Kurt Weill with a revolver. He cracked vocals and surreal lyrics make for an odd and familiar ride. She and T Bone make her face yellow and her hair red, and gives her a third eye, and together they make tough records. She’s Dusty Springfield via Marianne Faithfull with a dash of Jackie De Shannon, but very much her own woman.”


Training Missives for the ‘normals’


Harryparch_vol Harry Partch –Collection, vol.1’


“The new CDs have been reissued and the sound is excellent. These are an excellent introduction to his whole overe. He’d worked as a migrant worker and had been on the road for half his life. He was one of those rogue academics who worked outside the matrix. So they feared him and pretended to admire him. Like most innovators, he became gravel on the road that most people drive on. So he was the first one through the door and gets trampled by the crowd. But nobody has done anything like that since. The idea of designing your own instruments, playing them and then designing your own scale, your own system of music. That’s dramatic and particularly for the time that he was doing it. It was rather subversive.”



Leadbelly_last Leadbelly –Last Sessions’


“Leadbelly was a river, was a tree. His 12 string guitar rang like a piano in a church basement. The Rosetta Stone for much of what was to follow, he died in ’49. Excellent to listen to when driving across Texas, it contains all that is necessary to sustain life, a true force of nature. He died the day before I was born. I like to think I passed him in the hall and he banged into me and knocked me over.”


Just a taste, wish I could feature more


Alan_lomax_prison Alan Lomax – ‘Prison Blues Songs: Murderous Home’


“Without spirituals and the Baptist church and the whole African-American experience in the USA, I don’t know what we would consider music. I don’t know what we’d all be drinking from. It’s in the water. The impact the whole black experience continues to have on all musicians is immeasurable. Lomax recorded everything. From the sounds of the junkyard, or he would go into a market and just record the cash register, the disappointing machinery that we would no longer be hearing. You know, one thing that doesn’t change is the sound of kids getting out of school. Record that in 1921, record that in 1999, it’s the same sound.”


Not what I expected…


WinglessAngelscover Wingless Angels –Wingless Angels’


“Bless Keith for this record. The first thing you hear is crickets. You’re outside, in Jamaica. It’s July, he left all the patter in. That was a magical album. The mics were so far away, you got texture and air around everything, felt like it was recorded outside in the dirt at night. You always hear bands playing in tin shacks ten miles away, and it sounds close because they are so freaking load. You couldn’t go in the shack and listen, you have to be ten miles away. Keith went out to the meadow of this. It is pulsing music of the earth, full of joy.”



GavinByrant Gavin Bryars –Lounge Lizards’


“They used to accuse John Lurie of doing fake Jazz – a lot of posture, a lot of volume. When I first heard it, it was so loud, I wanted to go outside and listen through the door, and it was jazz. And that was an unusual thing, in New York, to go to a club and hear jazz that loud, at the same volume people were listening to punk rock. Get the first record, ‘The Lounge Lizards’. You know, John’s one of those people, if you walk into a field with him, he’ll pick up an old pipe and start to play it, and get a really good sound out of it. 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.”


Should be every late night take-away’s soundtrack


TheolniousMonk solo Thelonious Monk – ‘Solo Monk’


“Monk said: ‘There is no wrong note, it has to do with how you resolve it’. He almost sounded like a kid taking piano lessons. I could relate to that when I first started playing the piano, because he was decomposing the music while he was playing it. It was like demystifying the sound, because there is a certain veneer to jazz and to any music. After a while it gets traffic rules, and the music takes a backseat to the rules. It’s like aerial photography, telling that this is how we do it. That happens in folk music too. Try playing with a bluegrass group and introducing new ideas. Forget about it.

On ‘Solo Monk’, he appears to be composing as he plays, extending intervals, voicing chords with impossible clusters of notes. ‘I Should Care’ kills me, communication wine with a twist. Stride, church, jump rope, Bartok, melodies scratched into the plaster with a knife. A bold iconoclast. Solo Monk lets you not only see these melodies without clothes, but without skin. This is astronaut music from Bedlam.”


For now – I will do my level best to find some concert footage.


JamesBrown-Startime James Brown – ‘Star Time’


“I first saw James Brown in 1962 at an outdoor theatre in San Diego and it was indescribable…It was like putting a finger in a light socket. He did the whole thing with a cape. He did please, please. It was such a spectacle. It had all the pageantry of the Catholic Church. It was really like seeing mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral at Christmas and you couldn’t ignore the impact of it on your life. You’d been changed; your life is changed now. And everybody wanted to step down, step forward, take communion, and take sacrament. They wanted to get close to the stage and anointed with him sweat, his cold sweat.”



Frankzappa-yellow Frank Zappa –Yellow Shark’


“It is his last major work. The ensemble is awe inspiring. It is a rich pageant of texture in colour. It’s the clarity of his perfect madness, and mastery. Frank governs with Elmore James on his left and Stravinsky on his right. Frank reigns and rules with the strangest tools.”


Great song from the depths of the early 1970’s.


Captainbeefheart Trout Captain Beefheart –Trout Mask Replica’


“The roughest diamond in the mine, his musical inventions are made of bone and mud. Enter the strange matrix of his mind and lose yours. This is indispensable for the serious listener. An expedition into the centre of the earth. This is the high jump record that’ll never be beat; it’s a merlot reduction sauce. He takes da bait. Dante doing the buck and wing at a Skip James suku jump, an underground surrealist. Drink once and thirst no more.”


Strange but true, back then people did not even have T-shirts!


Raycharles sounds Ray Charles –Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music’


“I knelt at the altar of Ray Charles for years. I worked at a restaurant, and that’s all there was on the jukebox, practically, that and some Patsy Cline. ‘Crying Time’, ‘Can’t Stop Loving You’, ‘Let’s Go Get Stoned’, ‘You Are My Sunshine’, ‘What’d I Say’, ‘Hit The Road Jack’. I worked on Saturday nights and I would take my break and I’d sit by the jukebox and I’d play my Ray Charles. He would kind of Skate across country and sound like Floyd Kramer sometimes on the piano and he brought that in there with the Jelly Roll Morton and he could play like Nat King Cole. It was just amazing what he absorbed. That voice, for years it was just ‘the genius of Ray Charles’. I also love a record called ‘Listen’. He did ‘Yesterday’ on electric piano and it just killed me, to hear that voice. It was like he crossed over a bridge, because he remained in r ‘n’ b territory, yet there was something so timeless about his voice, and hearing him do a Beatles song was just indescribable.”



Hounddogcover Houndog –Houndog’


“Houndog, the David Hidalgo record ha did with Mike. Now that’s a good record to listen to when you drive through Texas. I can’t get enough of that. Anything by Latin Playboys, anything by Los Lobos. They are like a fountain. Colossal Head killed me. Those guys are so wild, and they’ve gotten so cubist. They’ve become like Picasso. They’ve gone from being purely ethnic and classical, to this strange, indescribable item that they are now. They’re worthwhile to listen to under any circumstances. But the sound he got on Houndog, on the electric violin…The whole record is a dusty road. Hidalgo plays through stabbed amps. Superb texture and reverb. Lo-fi at its highest level. Songs of depth and atmosphere.”



Ariacover Various – ‘The Ultimate Aria Collection: A Passion For Opera’


“I heard ‘Nessun Dorma’ in the kitchen at Coppolas with Raul Julia one night, and it changed my life, that particular aria. I had never heard it. He asked me if I had ever heard it, and I said no. He was like; as if I’d said I’d never had spaghetti and meatballs – ‘Oh my God, O my God!’ He grabbed me and he brought me in to the jukebox (there was a jukebox in the kitchen). He put that on and he just kind of left me there. It was like giving a cigar to a 5 year old. I turned blue, and I cried.”


One of many by the Irish band.


Pogues_rum_cover The Pogues –Rum Sodomy And The Lash’


“Sometimes when things are real flat, you want to hear something flat; other times you just want to project onto it, something more like…you might want to hear the Pogues, because they love the West, they love all those movies. The thing about Ireland, the idea that you can get into a car and point it towards California and drive it for the next five days is like Euphoria, because in Ireland you just keep going around in circles, those tiny little roads. You never get that feeling ta ta ta tum, da ta ta da ta TUM! ‘Dirty Old Town’, ‘The Old Main Drag’. Shane has the gift. I believe him. He knows how to tell a story. They are a roaring, stumbling band. These are the dead end kids for real. Shane’s voice conveys so much. They play like soldiers on leave. The songs are epic. It’s whimsical and blasphemous, seasick and sacrilegious. Wear it out and then get another one.”


Here at With Guitars, we felt we could not leave this feature without trying to pick from the many highlights from Tom Waits career thus far. Here goes…


My first introduction to Tom Waits, beautiful album, classic song.


Wish Tom Waits would tour again possibly Europe?
From hugely successful and influential ‘Mule Variations.
Yet another favourite – wish we had more space for more songs by Tom Waits!

Finally, all of us at With Guitars would like to thank Tom Waits, his artist choices has opened new avenues to explore, rock and metal writers agree with punks and indie kids, this is a universal first for us all to agree. Thank you.

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Tom Waits – Artist Choice