Tom Waits Was Terrible/I Have All of His Albums

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Tom Waits was the worst singer I ever heard. Saturday Night Live (I believe) had him on in the 70’s to play, I don’t think he was the musical guest that night. My reaction to it was is this a comedy bit or does the man really sound that bad? He couldn’t carry a tune and he looked like he fell out of a seedy bar and landed at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. His name kept coming up over the years as a true innovator with trailblazing albums. I eventually bought one of his records only because Marc Ribot played guitar on it (Rain Dogs). I listened to most of that album and even liked some of the tracks where the vocal didn’t grind on my nerves. Then I heard a track from Mule Variations that I enjoyed so I purchased that one too. No surprise to any Waits fan that I now own all of his studio albums and I eagerly await new releases just like any loyal Rain Dog would. It’s hard to explain to someone who has not experienced the sensation but I started to love the voice I loathed so much the first time I heard it. It is distinctive but there’s so many other elements to his songs that always makes his work push his voice to the forefront where it should be because he can do so many things with it. On the older albums he could sing hearbreaking ballads but also sound like a carnival barker like in Step Right Up. Even on his later records like Bad As Me where most of the songs are performed in a voice that sounds a lot like Cookie Monster he still manages to come up with exciting uses for it even with his more limited range. I have succumbed to the mystique and old school world with modern twists that he has created and either you learn to love it or react as I did back in the Seventies. I’m more amazed that the guy who looked like a spokesperson for wayward hipsters ended up a very normal family man who has credited and included his wife and children with his music and made it work beautifully. All of that and he’s composed some of the best music I have ever heard, it makes me want to scan old episodes of SNL and see what else I’ve missed out on.    

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