Written By Braddon S. Williams

Tom Waits: Nighthawks At The Diner

Tom Waits is an American treasure. I discovered him later in life, but I sure am glad I discovered him at all, because his work is some of the most fascinating stuff I have ever heard.

His 1975 live album, Nighthawks At The Diner, was recorded at the Record Plant in front of a small audience that was brought in specifically for the recording.

Waits performed with a small group of seasoned jazz musicians and did some storytelling introductions to most of the songs, which are highly entertaining by themselves.

The songs are so full of lyrical description, and combined with Waits’ offbeat personality, come across as mini movies from some quirky film noir world.

The song titles give plenty of clues to the stories within; Warm Beer And Cold Women, Emotional Weather Report, Better Off Without A Wife, Big Joe And Phantom 309, and Eggs And Sausage (In A Cadillac With Susan Michelson).

Waits sounded like a grizzled veteran of the sleazy bars and underground turf that populates his best material even at a young age, and he has aged like a fine wine.

Tom Waits is an acquired taste, but completely worth the effort…a true musical genius!


Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

I can’t pinpoint precisely when I realized how much Tom Waits has impacted my musical taste, but Mule Variations seems like a good album to spotlight. It had respectable sales, solid reviews, and is full of amazing songs, like so many of his albums. Tom Waits is in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, but he is decidedly outside the mainstream. His music is timeless and exists in its own orbit, but quality generally always finds its audience, and Mr. Waits definitely has his cult followers, folks like me who recognize his quirky genius. There is no-one else like him, nor will there ever be another to fill his void when he finally stops creating his unique visions. Mule Variations, released in 1999, contains one of my very favorite pieces, titled “What’s He Building In There?” not so much a song as a series of observations and questions set against a backdrop of quirky sound effects and ominous noises. The album kicks off with the raucous Big In Japan, backed by Primus, and there are several gorgeous Waits ballads, like Hold On, House Where Nobody Lives, and Take It With Me. This music isn’t for everyone, but so much of my favorite stuff falls outside the lines, the territory of the genius named Tom Waits.

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind