Tom Waits tonight. A classic concert from Germany, recorded in 1977 by Radio Bremen. Waits during this early period (I ran a Troubadour show from 1975 here a couple years ago) has always been a favorite of mine. Clearly, there was no one else doing anything remotely like this, and his word imagery and stage persona were without equal. Strange that, in later years the tattooed, chain-smoking, porkpie hat wearing inebriant would become the archetype for the Hipster ethos prevalent in various enclaves around the world. But that just gives evidence of how much influence he had, consciously or unconsciously, with audiences.
According to the notes via Radio Bremen, this concert sparked a goodly degree of outrage among the audience at the time. Hard to tell from the response which, although it wasn’t wildly enthusiastic wasn’t hostile either. Perhaps one of my German colleagues might be able to shed some light on this claim. Some people may have objected to the boozy presentation, but that doesn’t seem likely. During my tenure at The Troubadour as sound mixer, an appearance by Tom Waits was no different than one of the many poetry reading appearances by Charles Bukowski around the same time, whose onstage mini-fridge stocked with Heinekens was less a prop than it was a fact-of-life. Nobody really seemed to mind – but then, we were all loaded at the time.
But Waits’ mixture of cool Jazz and Twilight Imagery was wildly appealing, and his gift as a writer of potent and evocative songs made him a household name all through the 70s and well beyond.
Aside from the excellent sound of this concert, it captures Tom Waits at a formative period of his career. Later, he would branch out to more experimentation in his music – as well as branching his own career out into film. And even though his style evolved over the years, it’s this phase of his career that has always held the most fascination for me.
Crank it up and enjoy.