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Alterkaker Hot 3

Time Waits For Tom Waits

Time waits for Tom Waits because Tom Waits is timeless, his music so unique that it never sounds dated. He’s recorded so many damn songs over the decades, and covered so wide a range of musical genres, that it’s tough to select just a few favorites to include. We’ll start with Jockey Full of Bourbon, the opening song on 1985’s Rain Dogs, and featured in the Jim Jarmusch film Down By Law (in which Waits also stars). The album focuses on "the urban dispossessed" of New York City, and was recorded in a basement room at the corner of Washington and Horatio Streets in lower Manhattan. 

Black Wings features Waits at his most sinister, both vocally and lyrically:

Some say he once killed a man with a guitar string
He's been seen at the table with kings
He once saved a baby from drowning
There are those who say beneath his coat there are wings

The song comes from Bone Machine, released in 1992 and winner of a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album. How else can you categorize it? Maybe “rough, stripped-down, percussion-heavy blues rock,” as one critic put it. Rolling Stone calls it “a singularly idiosyncratic American style."

Downtown Train, also from Rain Dogs, shot to the top of the charts, a bona fide smash hit – for Rod Stewart. Patti Smyth and Bob Seger are among others who’ve recorded it. Love the opening line:

Outside another yellow moon 
has punched a hole in the nighttime 

The video, God’s Away On Business, is from the 2002 album Blood Money -- it's very emblematic of Waits’ dystopian visions. How bleak are the lyrics? The opening line: "I'd sell your heart to the junkman baby for a buck."


God's Away On Business, by Tom Waits