Tom Waits will ruin a party. I’ve known several people who have attempted to strategically place a Tom Waits song into a party playlist. It’s the same result every time: one by one, conversations dwindle, people suddenly take interest in wall hangings and others stare at their slowly shuffling feet. It’s a great song, Tom is typically singing his heart out, but you wouldn’t know it from the body language of the party patrons. As soon as the song is over, the scene plays out in reverse as everybody comes to and if there are still enough people left, the party eventually back to life.
Tom Waits’s music has it’s appropriate moments, to be sure. Getting drunk with your dad, trading stories with your best friend, ice fishing (I’ve never tried this myself, but I assume it would pair up nicely), or sitting down with a bottle of Scotch. Drinkify is a site that nobly attempts to pair up a drinking buddy with a listening buddy, and sometimes really hits the mark (Bon Iver: 1 bottle red wine, served at room temp with a twist of grapefruit), but in the case of Tom Waits I feel like there are a lot better options than “1 Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.” My suggestion for Tom Waits would be “1 Bottle Second-Shelf Scotch served in a halved, emptied can of baked beans.” But that’s just me.
The preceding two paragraphs are not exactly a screaming endorsement of Tom Waits’ music. You may even be under the impression that I do not like his music, but that impression would be entirely wrong. I would contend that Tom Waits is one of the best songwriters of all time, along with the likes of Bob Dylan, Jagger/Richards, Lennon/McCartney and Bruce Springsteen. I actually think he’s the songwriter most fans of Bruce Springsteen want Bruce Springsteen to be. I believe Tom Wait is, in fact, The Boss.
This Sunday, find a dark corner, don’t invite anybody but Tom and just appreciate his music. Start with “Swordfishtrombones.” Listen to it at least two times through. Thank me later.