Frequently Asked Questions






1. How does one get in touch with Tom Waits?

The Tom Waits Library is not affiliated with Tom Waits or his record company. The official Tom Waits site has an extensive contact page.

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2. Does Tom Waits still: drink, smoke, do drugs?

He gave it all up after he married Kathleen Brennan in 1980. Now it's herbal tea, carrot juice and maybe a little sherry before bed. Since the early 1980's Waits has continuously stated he's clean and sober. He really doesn't want to be associated with his "professional drunk" image anymore. Don't go asking for "The Piano Has Been Drinking". A guy who writes murder mysteries, doesn't have to be a murderer.

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3. What are Waits' tattoos of?

Early 1973 Waits got himself a tattoo on his right bicep of a red heart with a banner around it (Music World, June 1973). The banner had no text and one can imagine what his pick up line was in those days. Somewhere in 1975 "Nighthawk" was added underneath the heart. In 1976 an eagle/ hawk was added underneath the word "Nighthawk". In 1979 the eagle was incorporated in a larger abstract blending of all. Late 1979 Waits got himself a tattoo of a woman's head on his left bicep. Underneath the head are two red hearts. On more recent pictures (late 1980's) it seems the empty banner on the right arm is filled in with text (apparently it says: true love). One can have a good look at the tattoos in the movies: Down By Law and Short Cuts. There are also a lot of pictures showing one or both tattoos.

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4. How do Waits and his wife collaborate?

Tom Waits and his wife Kathleen Brennan have worked together since Swordfishtrombones and Kathleen is credited as co-writer and co-producer ever since. She is actively involved in writing both lyrics and music. Tom Waits: "She has a fearless imagination. She writes lyrics that are like dreams. And she puts the heart into all things. She's my true love. There's no one I trust more with music, or life. And she's got great rhythm, and finds melodies that are so intriguing and strange. Most of the significant changes I went through musically and as a person began when we met. She's the person by which I measure all others. She's who you want with you in a foxhole. She doesn't like the limelight, but she is an incandescent presence on everything we work on together."

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5. What does Tom Waits listen to?

Over the years Waits has mentioned countless favorites in interviews. You'll find most of these quotes listed at: Quotes: Influences. On a couple of occasions Waits has also given his all time favorites. Further reading: "Tom Waits artist choice, A poet's heart on Saturday night" (HearMusic.com. October 1999), "Guest Edit: Tom Waits" (Amazon.co.uk (UK). October 4, 2004), "It's Perfect Madness" (The Observer (UK). March 20, 2005).

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6. Where does Tom Waits live?

Tom Waits lives in California/ USA north of San Francisco. The exact location is not meant to go public. Waits is not in the book and all addresses on the Internet have proven to be false. Please keep in mind that Waits attaches great value to his family's privacy. They really don't want you to show up on their doorstep, and they're probably not waiting for scary packages from anonymous senders.

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7. When will Tom Waits be touring?

There seems to be no outwardly or publicly recognizable logic to Waits's tours. Upcoming shows will certainly be announced on Anti's site as well as the official Tom Waits site. However, you can be sure shows will be sold out within minutes. So it's wise to keep abreast of the news, and that seems to be most current via the Internet. A good way to stay informed about anything Tom Waits related is to join a Tom Waits discussionlist.

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8. Why can't I find the lyrics for "Waltzing Matilda"?

That's because the song is called "Tom Traubert's Blues". It's on the album Small Change (Elektra/ Asylum Records, 1976). Later released on Bounced Checks (WEA/ Asylum Records, 1981) and Asylum Years (WEA International Inc., 1986).

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9. Why did Tom Waits cover Bruce Springsteen's "Jersey Girl"?

Actually, it's the other way around. Bruce Springsteen covered Tom Waits's "Jersey Girl". It was released on Heartattack And Vine (Elektra Entertainment/ WEA Entertainment Inc., 1980) and Anthology Of Tom Waits (WEA/ Elektra, 1984). Tom Waits didn't write this song for Springsteen or with Springsteen in mind. Same goes for Rod Stewart's "Downtown Train".

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10. I bought Franks Wild Years, but where's the funny song about the Chihuahua?

The song "Franks Wild Years" is not on the album Franks Wild Years, but on the album Swordfishtrombones (Island, 1983). The song had inspired Waits to write a theatre play about Frank. And the songs for that theatre play were later released on the album Franks Wild Years (Island, 1987). You did an excellent purchase, by the way.

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11. I bought Mule Variations/ Real Gone, where to next?

Polls amongst Tom Waits fans, show that Rain Dogs (1985) is still their all time favourite. So you might want to give that one a try. Waits's work is often divided into 3 periods: The Asylum Years (1973-1982), the Island Years (1983-1989) and the Anti Years (1999->). To explore both the Asylum Years and the Island Years, you might want to go for Heartattack And Vine (1980), which is probably Waits's most accessible album. To taste more of the smoky Beat-Jazz influenced Asylum Years try: Small Change (1976) and Nighthawks At The Diner (1975). To further explore the more experimental and "demented" Island Years, go for: Swordfishtrombones (1983) and Bone Machine (1992).

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12. Did Tom Waits write the theatre play The Black Rider?

No he didn't. The Black Rider is a production by Robert Wilson. Robert Wilson directed and produced the play. William Burroughs delivered the libretto (texts) and Tom Waits delivered the musical arrangements (and lyrics). Waits's songs had to fit Wilson's ideas, directions and designs, and Buroughs' libretto. Three years after the play had premiered, Waits went into the studio and recorded a selection of the songs he had written for the play, to be released on The Black Rider (Island, 1993).

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13. Is that Tom Waits singing "Christmas Sucks"?

No it isn't. The song is called "This Holiday Season" by a group called Porn Orchard, impersonating Tom Waits and Peter Murphy. It was originally released on "The Mother of All Flagpole Christmas Albums" (Various artists. Label: Flagpole, 1992. Produced by Scott Stuckey. An Ort-Tone recording. Distributed by DB Records). It's a compilation of songs from three years of the annual Christmas album organized by Flagpole magazine of Athens, Ga. to benefit that city's charities. You might still find the album being offered on http://athensmusic.net/.

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14. When did Waits and Ginsberg record that "America" track?

They never did. This is a mix of Ginsberg reading his poem America as released on "Howls Raps & Roars" (Fantasy Records, 1993) and Waits's instrumental Closing Time as released on the studio album "Closing Time" (Asylum/ Elektra, 1973). The take was put together in 1996 by Ralph Beard from Australia. Ralph Beard (October, 2006): "I was really into spoken word back then, and a big fan of Burrough's Dead City Radio so the mix seemed a natural one. It wasn't easy, mind you, Mp3 didn't really spring into action until a couple of years later, so I had to work with the raw Wav rips, on a 100mhz computer with 1.6 gig of hard drive space and a shockingly small amount of ram. The Ginsberg bit had to be cleaned up a bit, so I used cooledit's remarkably efficient noise reduction tool to remove the excess noise (giving that slightly metallic ring to the voice.) and removing the breath sounds. I also had to fix a small error Ginsberg makes early in the piece saying "home-ver" instead of "home". The backing track was difficult as it was roughly 40 seconds shorter than the vocal, so I made a loop of a part of the back section of the song to cover the extra time. The final product was quite a surpise to me, as I hadn't expected it to match so well, even though the final section does go a little off kilter as Ginberg's rant heats up." Some 3 years later Beard sent the MP3 file to a friend who in turn put it on a P2P site, and since then it exists online. America has proven to be a very popular mix, but it is not an official release and it was not authorized by Waits.

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15. What are the origins of the "Cold Beer On A Hot Night" bootleg?

This recording was released under different titles (Cold Beer On A Hot Night, Kiss The Stone 1993; Romeo Is Bleeding, Venus Music 1994; On Broadway, Lunatic CDR, 1999; Tom Waits Blue, CDR, 1999, etc.). Sometimes the origins of the recordings and the tracks are mislabeled, so be careful to not trade/ buy this same show under different titles. It is considered to be one of the best Tom Waits bootlegs. Not only for its great recording quality but also for the great performance by Waits and his band. It starts with the famous trumpet solo by Herbert Hardesty, belting out the melody of Gershwin's Summertime. Hardesty is still performing and going strong. The origins of this recording have remained a mystery for years but Colin Hubert from Australia discovered that this is not an ordinary audience tape. It was recorded by a local radio station which was then called Double Jay (with Australian DJ Richard Kingsmill) at the State Theatre Sydney/ Australia, March 1979 (broadcast in Australia late 1979). The recording is easily identified by listening to the intro for Tom Traubert's Blues going: "I kinda borrowed your unofficial national anthem on this whole thing. I'll give it back when I'm done. I met this girl named Matilda, you know. And I had a little too much to drink that night. So this is about throwing up in a foreign country..."

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16. Is there really a Tropicana Motel?

It's no longer there. It was torn down in 1987, but Waits did indeed live there from ca. 1976 to late 1979. the Tropicana Motel was on Santa Monica Boulevard 8585 (West Hollywood). It had been a rock-and-roll landmark since the late 1960's. Waits had his piano in the kitchen and the stove was just a big cigarette lighter. There were automobile tools on the kitchen counter and in the fridge. Tom Waits: "I don't think I got any new towels for the whole like nine years I was there. But I never asked, I didn't wanna upset anybody."

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17. Is that Tom Waits in a commercial for Memorex?

No it isn't. You've been watching a parody commercial from the comedy show "SCTV Network 90" (aka. SCTV Comedy Network, or SCTV Network). It aired January 23 and March 13, 1981. It is known as "Commercial: Ella Fitzgerald for Mamorex Video Tape - Even Ella can't tell the difference." Actors are: Robin Duke as Rickie Lee Jones, Rick Moranis as Tom Waits and Tony Rosato as Ella Fitzgerald. Notice they've spelled Memorex with an "A". SCTV originally started as "Second City TV" in Toronto/ Canada. The show became "SCTV Network 90" when it was brought to NBC in the spring of 1981.

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18. Is that Tom Waits in the movie Romeo Is Bleeding?

No it isn't. While the title was taken from Waits's song of Blue Valentine (1978), Waits himself wasn't involved in this production. Jack's attorney is played by American actor Ron Perlman, who has starred in numerous movies. Some seem to mistake Perlman for Waits. To check whether it was Waits you saw in a movie, please refer to the Filmography.

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19. Who are the two people on the cover of Raindogs?

They are two regulars of Café Lehmitz (a café near the Hamburg red-light boulevard Reeperbahn). They're called Lily and Rose. The café no longer exists. The picture is by Swedish photographer Anders Petersen. Petersen found the Cafe Lehmitz in the late 1960's, and spent most of his days and nights there for over three years, photographing its clients: sailors and stokers from around the world, along with dockers, cabdrivers, prostitutes, striptease dancers and pimps and many others who revelled in the underside of German society.

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20. How does one get in touch with other Tom Waits fans?

A good way to start is to join a Tom Waits discussionlist or forum. Explore these sites to get acquainted with online Tom Waits communities: Raindogs Listserv (subscription), Tom Waits Fan forum, Blue Valentine (Italian), Tom Waits Yahoo group (subscription), Waitstock (USA), Dutchdogs Yahoo group (subscription - Dutch), The Black Rider (Russian), LiveJournal Tom Waits Community.

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21. Is the Big Time video still available?

The Big Time video (Island, 1988) is out of print. It was distributed by PolyGram Video (Island Visual Arts) and Fries Home Video (Fries Entertainment Inc.). There have been several rumours about the video being re-released on DVD, but it seems it's not going to happen (probably due to copyright complexities). Every now and then you'll find a copy being offered on one of the internet auctions. However they're being offered for ridiculous prices and in some cases it's merely a home made copy. You might want to try and get your hands on a copy through an FTP- or Torrent-site or a trading community.

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22. How does one obtain Tom Waits video/ audio bootlegs?

It is illegal to trade or sell bootlegged materials. Please keep in mind Tom Waits is very serious about the protection of his works. He has never stated to approve the trading of bootlegs. Waits is a member of the The Recording Artists' Coalition and a founding member of the MusicFIRST Coalition. Please have a look at their sites and the legislative issues they want to have addressed... ... One can download digital copies from a so-called FTP- or Torrent-site. A step further could be, trading bootlegs with other Tom Waits fans. A good way to get in touch with other traders is to join a Tom Waits discussionlist. There are also a couple of trading sites listing available bootleg recordings. Explore these sites to get acquainted with online trading and downloads: DutchDogs, Yaddfa, RhineDogs, WaitsWatcher, Leys/ Audenrode, Dimeadozen (subscription), Greg Grant.

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23. How should one spell this or that?

Is it Foreign Affair or Foreign Affairs? The album is called Foreign Affairs, the song is called Foreign Affair. Is it Blue Valentine or Blue Valentines? The album is called Blue Valentine, the song is called Blue Valentines. Is it Swordfishtrombone or Swordfishtrombones? The album is called Swordfishtrombones, the song is called Swordfishtrombone. Is it Rain Dogs or Raindogs? Both the album and song are called Rain Dogs. Online Tom Waits fans sometimes refer to themselves as Raindogs. Is it Franks Wild Years or Frank's Wild Years? Both the 1986 play and the 1983 song of Swordfishtrombones were called Frank's Wild Years, the 1987 album however was titled Franks Wild Years (probably for esthetic/ design reasons). Is it Buzz Fledderjon or Buzz Fledderjohn? On the 1999 CD single Hold On it is spelled as Fledderjon, on the 2006 album Orphans it's Fledderjohn. It seems only reasonable to adapt the latest spelling. Is it Kommienezuspadt, Kommienezuspädt, Kommeniezuspädt, Kommeniezuspät? The Alice linernotes have this as Kommienezuspadt, so that's the official title. In the 1992 play this was still an instrumental. What Waits is singing is: "Komme nie zu spät" (never be late). Is it Waits' or Waits's (possessive of proper name)? It seems the experts still disagree. Different style manuals handle this in different ways (The Associated Press Stylebook/ The Chicago Manual of Style). So basically you can have it any way you want.

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24. Could you provide me with high resolution pictures?

No I can't. Only a few pictures on this site are "copyright: Tom Waits Library". The majority is property of other copyright holders. I have put a lot of effort in tracing back the origins and credits of these pictures, and I have listed all the proper credits where possible. All pictures on the Tom Waits Library are low resolution and therefore unsuitable for high quality printing. When looking for original prints or high resolution files, please refer to the links to photographer's portfolios and contact the artists through their sites.You might also want to try the official Tom Waits site (photos, press).

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25. How come searches don't show everything that's on the Tom Waits Library?

For privacy reasons several files have been marked "no-index", meaning they won't show up in searchengine results. To see the content of such files, you'll have to read through them like in the old days.

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26. Why is there no tablature on the Tom Waits Library?

Over the years several songbooks have been released with guitar chords and arrangements for piano and voice. These books (still widely available) cover over 1/3 of the entire body of work. Amateur tabs of the remaining songs have proven to be of varying quality. I personally lack the knowledge to determine whether or not tabs are transcribed correctly, so I've decided to leave them out altogether. For now you might want to try these sites: Ramon's tab site, WaitsWatcher's tabs.

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