http://books.simonandschuster.co.uk/Kin ... h_id/14938
TOM WAITS and GINGER
Tom Waits does not have a good voice; like Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson, he has a great voice. Not all music critics necessarily agree, of course. One said Tom's voice "sounds like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in a smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car." All that notwithstanding, I would just say that as other voices harmonize sweetly into oblivion, Tom's has all the spiritual timbre of a true voice in the wilderness, a voice that remains, in the long-ago loneliness of the horseshit and wild honey that is yesterday, yet a voice forever finding new heads and new hearts.
Waits's audiences are amazing in themselves. They are not the throngs of nostalgia-seeking lawyers; they are not the fallow youth who are there to say they've been there. They are, for the most part, young truth seekers who have found a kindred spirit. Tom can play almost any place in the world and they will come -- not driven by radio or record company promotional bullshit, but because they are some kind of weird indigo children who've been here before and know something will be delivered, and it always is. Tom Waits is a great teacher of truth that is tragic and music that is magic.
Tom and I had a lot of fun wasting time and ourselves in the Los Angeles of the seventies. That Los Angeles doesn't exist anymore, but Waits and I still do, and I believe it's because we both always remained "in character," dressing, acting, and becoming more who we were all the time, wearing sunglasses twenty-four hours a day BBB (before the Blues Brothers), and never, ever playing golf in the afternoons with record company executives.
Tom in those years famously lived at the Tropicana Hotel on Sunset Boulevard. He had a small, spartan room, the only accoutrement being a stove, which he used only to light his cigarettes. He drank cheap wine, hung out at seedy, soulful bars, and wrote great songs about the people and places most of us never get to know. I admired his bohemian lifestyle back then and, frankly, I still do. His spiritual home always seemed to be at the corner of Fifth and Vermouth.
Tom has won two Grammys, for Bone Machine and Mule Variations, been nominated for an Academy Award for his sound track on One from the Heart, and had songs recorded by many other artists, including Rod Stewart ("Downtown Train") the Eagles ("Ol' 55"), and Bruce Springsteen ("Jersey Girl)." The influence of his work upon artists, songwriters, musicians, and young people in general has been incalculable.
"Mostly I straddle reality and the imagination," he says. "My reality needs imagination like a bulb needs a socket. My imagination needs reality like a blind man needs a cane."
The reality is that Tom Waits has always walked his own road in a world that has become increasingly sanitized, homogenized, and trivialized. And why is the world like it is? "We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge," he says. "Quantity is being confused with abundance, and wealth with happiness. Leona Helmsley's dog made twelve million last year and Dean McLaine, a farmer in Ohio, made thirty thousand. It's just a gigantic version of the madness that grows in every one of our brains. We are monkeys with money and guns."
I agree with Tom about the state of the world, but I believe Leona Helmsley's dog probably earned his $12 million. Tom's dog, Ginger, is no doubt much happier just rambling down a country road listening to Tom playing the one-string violin, an archaic instrument in this modern world, perhaps, but a private concert nonetheless.
I can't remember any animal-related stories regarding Tom from the '70s, but I have difficulty remembering anything from the '70s. Thusly I have consulted our mutual friend, Chuck E. Weiss, who was the inspiration for the song "Chuck E.'s in Love" and the head honcho of the legendary L.A. band Chuck E. Weiss and the Goddamn Liars.
Chuck E. informs me that he recalls there always being a lot of stray cats (of the four-legged variety) hanging around Tom wherever he lived. This fact alone is a sign of good character, I believe. Chuck E. also claims that Tom once had a white rat as a pet, and when he died, "Tom had him stuffed like his hero Roy Rogers did with Trigger. Every once in a while he'd put him lovingly on his shoulder.
"I lived at the Tropicana, too," says Chuck E., "in a broom closet on the floor right below Tom. It was around 1977 at three o'clock in the morning when I hear loud banging and scratching noises on my door. I open the door and I see an image I will never forget. There is a Great Dane bigger than the Hound of the Baskervilles and he's dragging a drunken musician friend named Sparky by the collar, and clearly the dog is very horny and is trying to hump Sparky. Then I realize that Tom is standing there stark naked, brandishing a broom, frantically trying to beat the dog off of Sparky before he consummates the act. It is an image I will never forget as long as I live."