Author Topic: Which Waits?  (Read 4726 times)

Doomy Dwyer

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Which Waits?
« on: July 12, 2010, 10:38:01 AM »
Which Tom is your favourite? Inspired by the massive outpouring of love and tears in the Crying Ears thread for the great man I thought I'd take the liberty of staring a thread about the gravelly voiced behemoth of the ballad. Which of his numerous incarnations do you find most aurally agreeable?

Do you favour the gin soaked piano bothering beatnik of yesteryear?

The eccentric swing band supremo?

The shuckster, shyster, flimflam man and teller of tall tales?

The lunatic instrument inventor bellowing poetry through a crackly megaphone?

Or do you consider the man to be nothing short of a charlatan who has built a lengthy career out of being a second rate ersatz Beefheart or half price Honky Howlin' Wolf?

He's been many things to many people over many years, a man for all seasons, if you will. Personally I don't really think he's ever really put a foot wrong, even some of his weaker albums are better than the average bears.

This here's the place for discussion, appreciation, approbation, condemnation  and mental mastication over toothsome Tom related topics. But, please, I don't want to hear about how he's not really a tramp who drinks nothing stronger than camomile tea. That's a given. All these rockers are bullshit artists from start to finish. Except for Elton John, who really is a Rocket Man.
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Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2010, 10:43:51 AM »
Am I alone in thinking that his persona hasn't changed too much? He's always been the same eccentric pseudo-Barfly raconteur to me.

NoSleep

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Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2010, 11:17:37 AM »
I never really got the attraction of Waits; his voice sounds ugly in comparison to Beefheart or Burnett (both of whom I adore). Regarding the "The lunatic instrument inventor"; I would suggest a tour around the music of Harry Partch to see where the musical concepts of Swordfishtrombone were derived.

http://www.corporeal.com/instbro/instintr.html

Partch's music is, of course a deeper and richer vein, rooted as it is in his studies of Just Intonation & Microtonality as well as the marriage of Drama & Music.

I had to nod in approval at this piece from the Times (as I thought I was the only one):

Quote
Stewart Lee, comedian, on Tom Waits

There’s a sticker on the front of Tom Waits’s new album from a review of the acclaimed £100-a-ticket Glitter and Doom tour, reading: “ ‘The greatest entertainer on Planet Earth’ — The Guardian”. This beats even the Evening Standard’s “Russell Brand is the closest thing we have to Lenny Bruce” in the crazy quote stakes. For here Waits is just an actor pedalling a watered-down, glammed-up, version of the genuinely avant-garde artists that he’s co-opted, such as Captain Beefheart, but in a vaudevillian form that places his invented persona in inverted commas and ensures, rather than marginal cult status, commissions from arts houses and the adulation of thrill-seeking squares who’d be scared by the real thing.

And the extra disc of “Tom’s quixotic ruminations” is a load of precisely rehearsed, E-grade, fake improvised comedy riffs and prewar Catskills stand-up schtick, given the flavour of art by being underscored by piano doodles.
http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/specials/article6964184.ece

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

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Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2010, 11:33:18 AM »
Regarding the "The lunatic instrument inventor"; I would suggest a tour around the music of Harry Partch to see where the musical concepts of Swordfishtrombone were derived.

To be fair to Waits, he's always openly cited Partch as an influence, and has never claimed to have invented any instruments himself.

And as much as I like Stewart Lee, he can fuck off with that "take THAT, sacred cow!" shite.

Also, as much as I like Beefheart and Howlin Wolf's voices, neither of them ever wrote or performed anything half as good as Waits at his best. Yes, take THAT sacred cows!

Whug Baspin

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Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #4 on: July 12, 2010, 12:03:14 PM »
I think Stuart Lee is just being elitist, the bit about him being for people who can't handle the 'real thing' is just silly, first he attacks the idea of him being a great performer then puts him down as just being an actor. It's also an attack for him not being what Stuart Lee wants him to be rather than any sort of assessment of how good he is at what he does, becuase he's very good at that. Regarding Tom he comes across as very shy and evasive which I don't think always benefits him, I don;t think his attempts at comedy are great and his theatrical stuff can often seem like a barrier to the man rather than a heartfelt outpouring. It's why I find he rarely makes me very emotional when I hear him sing. Sometimes it is just by the numbers stuff that he has kind of admitted "Odd ball + guilty past + Something sea/ship related = song". I remember him saying that he couldn't fix cars very well, but if he was in one when it broke down he could write a great ballad about it, in that sense he's very workmanlike, almost like a great painter doing commisions.

Having said all of that.. he has made some of my favorite ever songs. I remember buying Raindogs and listening to it again and again till it just became this amazing thing that had transcended being another albumn and bceome this great thing that conjured up all these images in my head and felt like it had all these great stories to tell. They are like sort of audio paintings of beautifully maudeline people.

CaledonianGonzo

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Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #5 on: July 12, 2010, 12:11:15 PM »
Didn't S. Lee also review Tom Waits live when the tour was in Edinburgh and say more or less the same things?

I like him more as a writer than as a performer, and almost always prefer hearing other people do his material.  Some people would say the same for Dylan or Cohen, but for me I just can't get past that voice.  Still - anyone who's mates with Keith Richards is alright by me.

Camille O'Sullivan does a great version of 'Misery's The River Of The World'.  I even like the Rod Stewart covers <runs away>.

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

  • a hopeless vanity... a stupefyingly futile conceit
Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2010, 12:15:22 PM »
I think Stuart Lee is just being elitist, the bit about him being for people who can't handle the 'real thing' is just silly, first he attacks the idea of him being a great performer then puts him down as just being an actor. It's also an attack for him not being what Stuart Lee wants him to be rather than any sort of assessment of how good he is at what he does, becuase he's very good at that.

Exactly. Lee doesn't actually offer any intelligent analysis of what Waits does, just sneering criticism of his perceived faults. Stewart Lee sneering? Well I never. Also, as you say, the "you losers can't handle the way-out sounds that I dig" stuff is pathetic.

Regarding Tom he comes across as very shy and evasive which I don't think always benefits him, I don;t think his attempts at comedy are great and his theatrical stuff can often seem like a barrier to the man rather than a heartfelt outpouring. It's why I find he rarely makes me very emotional when I hear him sing. Sometimes it is just by the numbers stuff that he has kind of admitted "Odd ball + guilty past + Something sea/ship related = song". I remember him saying that he couldn't fix cars very well, but if he was in one when it broke down he could write a great ballad about it, in that sense he's very workmanlike, almost like a great painter doing commisions.

There is a definite layer of artifice to a lot of his work, I agree, and latterly he has tended to write almost self-parodically offbeat songs in the "Tom Waits style" which sound like things he's tossed off in five minutes. But just because he almost always writes in character doesn't make his ballads any less heartfelt or affecting. On the contrary, his best ballads are some of the most moving songs of their kind that I've heard. As you say, he has a gift for creating poetic images and a deep feeling of maudlin despair that can be really overpowering (in a good way).   


Ballad of Ballard Berkley

  • a hopeless vanity... a stupefyingly futile conceit
Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #7 on: July 12, 2010, 12:17:39 PM »
I even like the Rod Stewart covers <runs away>.

So do I. Nothing wrong with them at all.

And yeah, you're right, Lee made pretty much the same narrow point in his review of Waits' Edinburgh show.

Whug Baspin

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Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #8 on: July 12, 2010, 12:51:01 PM »
Him and Randy Newman have really helped out other peoples careers with their songs. I much prefer Waits' "Strange Weather", there's an excelent version of Tom Trauberts Blues on the old grey whistle test DVD that is very heartfelt.

Completely unrelated to that, but me and a life long friend have always talked about getting a Tom Waits tattoo of some sort, maybe a lyric or quote, but the more we talked about it the more apparent it was that every line is open to the worst interpretation,. 'Everybody row' just being an instruction to argue etc..

Also Victoria Wood chose him for oen of her Desert Island Discs which really made me smile.

Doomy Dwyer

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Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #9 on: July 12, 2010, 01:29:27 PM »
He has always been upfront about his admiration for Partch and how wonderful he thinks Beefheart is, he's always been honest about his inspirations. I don't think he makes any great claims to be an innovator, I just think he's amassed an impressive body of work over the years, to say the least. His style and persona has altered, he's gone from the Kerouac beat bum barroom raconteur of 'Closing Time' and 'Nighthawks' era, through the slightly skewed and disheveled crooner of the 'Frank' period, the Raymond Carveresque teller of small town stories and corrupted nursery rhymes, to the human beatboxing preacher that took over round about 'Bone Machine'.

Lee's citing a quote from the Guardian, admittedly used by Anti on the cover of probably his weakest album, claiming he's a better performer that Jesus or whatever. That's just your standard  marketing bullshit and I'm surprised that our Stew is surprised that a record company would stoop to use such a ploy. Nice to see that he used the opportunity to get a sly dig in at Russell Brand though, solid work there. His comments about the extra discs of “Tom's quixotic ruminations” I'll give him because it's fairly dreadful material when taken out of context. When you hear him tell his stories on 'Big Time', they make more sense because they're presented as what they are – between song banter, of a noticeably higher quality than your usual “Yeah, hello London. Here's a new one”. It's just another part of the act and reinforces the fact that it is an act. It's his Tom Waits schtick. He even keeps it up for his interviews. But Lee's “I like weirder stuff than you” is tired and tedious sixth form shit, an attitude I've always found particularly depressing, particularly when it's coming from a man in his forties with the remnants of an inappropriate indie hairstyle. There's always going to be something out there that's stranger or more obscure than whatever it is you've chosen to cling onto as some totem of your belief in individuality and personal freedom, and the sad reality is most people don't give a fuck about your collection of Foetus b-sides. I'd like to point out that I'm a big fan of Stewart Lee, but he's got my dander up here, so he can fuck off. I've seen you swanning around Stoke Newington pushing your pram Stew, like a ponce. I drag my kid around in an itchy hessian sack, is that “genuinely avant-garde" enough for you, you chunky bourgeoise git?

I'm going to stop now because I'm beginning to disgust myself. 'Rain Dogs' is probably my favourite  album of his.

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Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #10 on: July 12, 2010, 04:28:17 PM »
I have probably an equal amount of love for all of Tom's incarnations but to me he's at his best when several modes collide. All of his albums contain at least one of his Grand Weepers, and as far back as the first album he was doing the spoken word tracks and branching out into Weillian theatrics, albeit a bit more muted. On Who Are You, a much underrated track on Bone Machine, a stream of surrealism directed at some ex lover or other is delivered with as much if not more feeling behind every word than one of his weeping into your whiskey numbers (which I also love). Who Are You is one of my favourite Waits songs and is I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You after he fell in love and discovered a lot he didn't like. In a similar vein he turns Sea Of Love into a pained cry from the heart it's hard to believe he didn't write, and this came from an appearance in an Al Pacino vehicle history may well forget. However theatrical he appears at times, sometimes the mask slips the furthest when he's doing something less straightforwardly "personal". Anywhere I Lay My Head from the end of Rain Dogs is hilarious, ridiculous and heartbreaking at the same time to me when that New Orleans funeral brass section comes crashing in. I could probably spend all day listing examples of moments when the masks briefly slip as he swaps them over.

Quote
For here Waits is just an actor pedalling a watered-down, glammed-up, version of the genuinely avant-garde artists that he’s co-opted, such as Captain Beefheart, but in a vaudevillian form that places his invented persona in inverted commas and ensures, rather than marginal cult status, commissions from arts houses and the adulation of thrill-seeking squares who’d be scared by the real thing.

At the risk of turning this into a "Let's take the piss out of Stewart Lee" thread (and God only knows he does that well on his own), couldn't the watered down, glammed up version of artists he's co-opted remark just as well be levelled at Lee? It's not as if he's doing anything comedically revolutionary, and he too wears influences on his sleeves. The two aren't really that far apart. Both of them are an easier to digest blend of their influences that at times improve on them. I like Stewart Lee a lot, I hasten to add, but the live version of The Piano Has Been Drinking on Bounced Checks makes me laugh a hell of a lot more than he does.


Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #11 on: July 12, 2010, 06:48:44 PM »
Lee's citing a quote from the Guardian, admittedly used by Anti on the cover of probably his weakest album, claiming he's a better performer that Jesus or whatever. That's just your standard  marketing bullshit and I'm surprised that our Stew is surprised that a record company would stoop to use such a ploy.

It's off his live album. Which I quite enjoyed, but it's quite a conventional release for him, most of the songs are changed to have more of a standard stripped down blues backing.

I love stew lee but he's completely wrong here, and by my guessing he hasn't heard much of tom's output. He hasn't exactly stood still and pumped out the same old stuff, he's changed a hell of a lot over his career, his last few albums in particular. Stew seems to think he's just pumped out a load of howling wolf/beefheart style material, which I don't think is the case at all, and isn't scratchin the surface of his influences. The influence of them both is there, but it's hardly an impersonation. Neither of them were the first to have a gravelly voice.

I don't think beefheart is particularly the best example of being avant garde either. Waits has covered a wider range of styles, though obviously he wasn't as revolutionary. Beefheart also (generally) got more commercial sounding as he went on, a lot of his stuff is fairly tedious blues. Whereas waits has gone out of his way to experiment and change his sound as he's gone on. I don't see how the character of beefheart is any less acted than waits, nor what's wrong with 'acting' as a performer.

The fact that waits has always worn his influences on his sleeve also makes this criticism a bit misguided too.

Also, why do I care who his fans are (squares apparently..)

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

  • a hopeless vanity... a stupefyingly futile conceit
Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #12 on: July 12, 2010, 07:04:45 PM »
Stew seems to think he's just pumped out a load of howling wolf/beefheart style material, which I don't think is the case at all, and isn't scratchin the surface of his influences. The influence of them both is there, but it's hardly an impersonation. Neither of them were the first to have a gravelly voice.

Very true. Louis Armstrong is an obvious influence on his early material, as are the likes of Jack Kerouac, Lord Buckley and Hoagy Carmichael. Hardly standard rock influences! He's also openly influenced by Dylan (not that much of his music sounds like him, but lyrically perhaps) and there is also an obvious soul and R'n'B and even funk influence in there too. Toss in his love of jazz, Tin Pan Alley, Irish ballads, traditional folk, country and blues, as well as samba and Mexican Mariachi music, and you've got yourself quite a - if you will - stew. Oh, and there's even some Disney, lullabies and nursery rhymes in there too. And Brecht and Weill of course.
 

NoSleep

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Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #13 on: July 12, 2010, 07:41:46 PM »
Stewart Lee doesn't mention either Howlin' Wolf or Captain Beefheart, but I'm sure he's including Beefheart, as well as Harry Partch amongst the artists that Waits has supposedly co-opted.

I don't think beefheart is particularly the best example of being avant garde either. Waits has covered a wider range of styles, though obviously he wasn't as revolutionary. Beefheart also (generally) got more commercial sounding as he went on, a lot of his stuff is fairly tedious blues. Whereas waits has gone out of his way to experiment and change his sound as he's gone on. I don't see how the character of beefheart is any less acted than waits, nor what's wrong with 'acting' as a performer.

The fact that waits has always worn his influences on his sleeve also makes this criticism a bit misguided too.

I can't recall much "tedious blues" amongst Beefheart's output, and Trout Mask Replica is possibly THE avant garde rock album; it's truly ground-breaking and stunning from start to finish. And Captain Beefheart's songs reveal an honesty and sincerity which is self-expressive; not a character being played out. There's nowt wrong with being an actor, but Don isn't one. Beefheart forged a totally new sound of his own; not many people have done this to the extreme that he did, and I don't think it did any harm for him to explore that new sound throughout his musical career; he directly influenced the likes of Ornette Coleman (when Coleman made the move to electric instruments - he is both a friend and fan of Beefheart) & Waits.

Quote
The fact that waits has always worn his influences on his sleeve also makes this criticism a bit misguided too.

I think there is more of an argument that Waits has been placed on a pedestal by the media; making him one of those convenient figures in music (Eno's another) to reference a few avant garde artists without (horror) having to listen to the actual stuff. Waits HAS courted the "avant-garde"; having collaborated with Gavin Bryars for a(n unecessary) re-recording of "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet", although the original was released on Eno's Obscure label (so is "avant-garde-lite" to make the point). I don't mean this dismissively, but my point is that the media are lazy and they like to be seen dallying with "art" and the "avant garde" without really engaging in where that might take you (were you to let it).


At the risk of turning this into a "Let's take the piss out of Stewart Lee" thread (and God only knows he does that well on his own), couldn't the watered down, glammed up version of artists he's co-opted remark just as well be levelled at Lee? It's not as if he's doing anything comedically revolutionary, and he too wears influences on his sleeves. The two aren't really that far apart. Both of them are an easier to digest blend of their influences that at times improve on them. I like Stewart Lee a lot, I hasten to add, but the live version of The Piano Has Been Drinking on Bounced Checks makes me laugh a hell of a lot more than he does.


Stewart Lee is talking here about another art form than his own. He does at least have a little grasp on what avant-garde might mean in musical terms, as his use of trombonist Gail Brand in Comedy Vehicle, the intro music to Stand Up Comedian by Evan Parker, appearing on Celebrity Mastermind with guitarist Derek Bailey as his subject, and curating a programme of Free Jazz at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival this year (I've only just discovered the last two this second).
« Last Edit: July 12, 2010, 08:38:56 PM by NoSleep »

Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #14 on: July 13, 2010, 08:26:10 AM »
I can't recall much "tedious blues" amongst Beefheart's output, and Trout Mask Replica is possibly THE avant garde rock album; it's truly ground-breaking and stunning from start to finish. And Captain Beefheart's songs reveal an honesty and sincerity which is self-expressive; not a character being played out. There's nowt wrong with being an actor, but Don isn't one. Beefheart forged a totally new sound of his own; not many people have done this to the extreme that he did, and I don't think it did any harm for him to explore that new sound throughout his musical career; he directly influenced the likes of Ornette Coleman (when Coleman made the move to electric instruments - he is both a friend and fan of Beefheart) & Waits.

I don't see how beefheart isn't playing a character. For a start he's using a wacky stage name, I know he took a bunch of drugs but it's still a character he's playing. Not sure if I saw the influence of free jazz on his music except in terms of composed imitation of some aspects of it's sound. If I remember correctly all of trout mask replica was composed very precisely rather than improvised? Trout mask replica is indeed pretty avant garde for the time, but I don't think the rest of his output stands up in the same way. (though some of it is still very good).

CaledonianGonzo

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Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #15 on: July 13, 2010, 08:55:17 AM »
I think there is more of an argument that Waits has been placed on a pedestal by the media; making him one of those convenient figures in music (Eno's another) to reference a few avant garde artists without (horror) having to listen to the actual stuff.

Arguably, the same is true of the Cap'n.  Beefheart is quite far from an obscure, cultish concern - especially in the Trout Mask Replica period.  He was on the cover of Rolling Stone, raved over by Lester Bangs and - to this day - TMR is still a more critically-lauded 'classic' album than anything Waits has recorded.

I suppose it really depends on how much value you place on being 'avant-garde' in the first place - whether it's an aim in itself, whether it's something you just are or whether it's something that you can strive towards.

NoSleep

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Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #16 on: July 13, 2010, 08:59:25 AM »
I don't see how beefheart isn't playing a character. For a start he's using a wacky stage name, I know he took a bunch of drugs but it's still a character he's playing. Not sure if I saw the influence of free jazz on his music except in terms of composed imitation of some aspects of it's sound. If I remember correctly all of trout mask replica was composed very precisely rather than improvised? Trout mask replica is indeed pretty avant garde for the time, but I don't think the rest of his output stands up in the same way. (though some of it is still very good).

Since when does a stage name denote the content of your songs? You'll be telling me that Muddy Waters & Howlin' Wolf are "playing characters" next. I make my judgement on listening to Beefheart's lyrics. He occasionally speaks as another person (Plastic Factory, for example) or occasionally tells a story, but even there it's from his own viewpoint. As he has explained, "There's a beef in my heart".

Avant garde is always of its time; it isn't a genre. Which is why I mentioned that it was Trout Mask Replica that was ground-breaking (and not Ice Cream for Crow, for example).

I said Ornette Coleman was influenced by Beefheart not vice versa (Listen to Ornette's "Dancing In Your Head" 1976), but, while we're here; the sax (Beefheart) and bass clarinet (Mascara Snake) parts on Trout Mask were entirely improvised. Only the guitars and drums were put under the strict regime of rehearsals. Beefheart exempted himself from the rehearsals, too.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2010, 09:21:06 AM by NoSleep »

NoSleep

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Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #17 on: July 13, 2010, 09:12:46 AM »
Arguably, the same is true of the Cap'n.  Beefheart is quite far from an obscure, cultish concern - especially in the Trout Mask Replica period.  He was on the cover of Rolling Stone, raved over by Lester Bangs and - to this day - TMR is still a more critically-lauded 'classic' album than anything Waits has recorded.

I suppose it really depends on how much value you place on being 'avant-garde' in the first place - whether it's an aim in itself, whether it's something you just are or whether it's something that you can strive towards.

The remarkable thing about Trout Mask Replica is that it is a "difficult" album. It's subsequent status as a classic makes it almost unique in this respect. But what seems impenetrable at first listen turns out be a coherent musical language, and even catchy once you've got it.

From the Trout Mask Wiki:
Quote
Cartoonist and writer Matt Groening tells of listening to Trout Mask Replica at the age of 15 and thinking "that it was the worst thing I'd ever heard. I said to myself, they're not even trying! It was just a sloppy cacophony. Then I listened to it a couple more times, because I couldn't believe Frank Zappa could do this to me - and because a double album cost a lot of money. About the third time, I realised they were doing it on purpose; they meant it to sound exactly this way. About the sixth or seventh time, it clicked in, and I thought it was the greatest album I'd ever heard".

Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #18 on: July 13, 2010, 05:34:33 PM »
Since when does a stage name denote the content of your songs? You'll be telling me that Muddy Waters & Howlin' Wolf are "playing characters" next. I make my judgement on listening to Beefheart's lyrics. He occasionally speaks as another person (Plastic Factory, for example) or occasionally tells a story, but even there it's from his own viewpoint. As he has explained, "There's a beef in my heart".

Avant garde is always of its time; it isn't a genre. Which is why I mentioned that it was Trout Mask Replica that was ground-breaking (and not Ice Cream for Crow, for example).

I said Ornette Coleman was influenced by Beefheart not vice versa (Listen to Ornette's "Dancing In Your Head" 1976), but, while we're here; the sax (Beefheart) and bass clarinet (Mascara Snake) parts on Trout Mask were entirely improvised. Only the guitars and drums were put under the strict regime of rehearsals. Beefheart exempted himself from the rehearsals, too.

Howling wolf, beefheart, muddy waters, yes I'd argue they are all playing characters to the same extent as waits is, which is a bit. I don't think you are understanding me though, I don't think you have to write all your lyrics from a personal perspective to be 'authentic'.  I don't think there's anything wrong with an element of a character in a performers music. It's almost unavoidable.

Coleman influenced by beefheart? there is a bit of an influence on that track perhaps, I would've thought it was the other way first though.

Trout mask replica is always mentioned, but following that his albums generally don't live up to it and there isn't really a lot of progression in sound. Not that Beefheart isn't great.

You're right to say that there isn't really such a thing as avant garde since what it avant garde keeps changing.

I don't fault S. Lee's knowledge of avant garde music or free jazz, I just get the impression he hasn't heard a lot of waits' output and has written him off as an imitator when really he's taken a lot of risks and changed what he does over and over. Thus why his comments focus on fans of waits and his status rather than his music.

Treguard of Dunshelm

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Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #19 on: July 14, 2010, 01:28:14 PM »
All performers play a character; that's what performance is.

I think there is more of an argument that Waits has been placed on a pedestal by the media; making him one of those convenient figures in music (Eno's another) to reference a few avant garde artists without (horror) having to listen to the actual stuff.

Fair point , but that's hardly Waits' fault.

As far as avant-gardism goes, who cares? Some of Waits' songs have moved me almost to tears - Beefheart has always come across to me as a self-satisfied prick churning out shit that may well be conceptually advanced but has zero emotional content (that I can detect - maybe I'm just not sophisticated enough. But I've never had a problem with things like Bitches Brew, which I'm sure is far more out there). There's a particularly wanky Bangs interview in Mainlines & Blood Feasts (or whatever its called) where the good Captain replies to every single question with a clever-clever non-sequiteur, I wanted to reach through the page and wind the cunt.
 
Anyway, back to Waits. Rain Dogs is my fave, it's like a portal into another world. Slightly behind that is The Black Rider, which never seems to get mentioned ever. I think it's magnificent, and would have loved to have seen the stage production. Blue Valentines is my favourite "pre-weird" album of his, the title track in particular.

Has anyone ever seen him live? I'm extremely jealous of you if you have. Also, are there any female Waits fans out there as I've never met one?

Doomy Dwyer

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Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #20 on: July 14, 2010, 01:39:46 PM »
The number of recording artists who use an invented persona when performing is huge. I don't really consider it an issue. Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Doctor John, Robert Johnson, Bob Dylan, Johnny Rotten, Vanilla Ice - they all hid behind masks to a certain degree, sometimes masks that strongly resembled their own true faces. I think it's unrealistic to expect a performer not to use some artifice in their performance as I'm sure most people would agree. I'd like to re-iterate my admiration for Mr Lee, but his accusations of lack of originality are hardly original insights themselves. Similar points have been leveled at Tom Waits from the very beginning of his career. Authenticity is always an extremely contentious subject. Practically every artist is a sum of their influences and a part of themselves that makes their art unique if they are of any worth at all. Which is why the Beatles were good and Gerry and the Pacemakers were piss poor.

I don't get the proposition that it's a case of either/or. If you like Waits you're a square dilettante playing on the fringes of the avant garde, and if you like Beefheart you're a man of taste and discernment and a hep cat daddio. I'm rather fond of Waits and Beefheart myself, although if I'm honest I'm more likely to play a bit of Tom at the end of the day. The Captain can get a little fast an bulbous when I'm trying to unwind with the newspaper. I think there is probably some truth in the fact that Tom is the music presses acceptable face of the more experimental side of music, certainly. That he's portrayed as a bit of a mad uncle figure. But it is the music press who have elevated him to that position. To attack him for being a fake avant gardist, when he's never claimed to be the keeper of the flame seems to me to be an irrelevance.

For me, Tom Waits has written some of the finest, most soulful, moving songs that have been written. He's not quite one of those elemental geniuses like Bob Dylan, who pop at irregular periods of history and seem to tower above all else. But he's written some crackers, on that fact I will stake my reputation, by god.

Glebe

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Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #21 on: July 14, 2010, 02:05:33 PM »
I do love Swordfishtrombones, Rain Dogs and Frank's Wild Years, but there's obviously a lot more to Waits than that avant-garde stuff.

Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #22 on: July 14, 2010, 04:16:49 PM »
Had a bad start with Waits, when he ruined this, and I've never been able to appreciate him as a singer since. He's a fun actor though, mainly because of his image.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMZVZ5NBkpw&feature=related

Also, I hope somebody here is responsible for this:


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Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #23 on: July 14, 2010, 06:47:15 PM »
All performers play a character; that's what performance is.
That isn't true; an acting performance may be that, but many music performers play from the heart; indeed they may not even have a set list when they start the night; you get what comes. All performance isn't an artifice, but some artifice is performance.

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As far as avant-gardism goes, who cares? Some of Waits' songs have moved me almost to tears - Beefheart has always come across to me as a self-satisfied prick churning out shit that may well be conceptually advanced but has zero emotional content (that I can detect - maybe I'm just not sophisticated enough.

What are you trying to say here? Beefheart's music is intensely emotional and often very direct in its sentiment, when it isn't otherwise being playful & humorous. Trout Mask is a ray of sunshine from start to end and always ends up making me smile. I can't think of many albums that have as much humanity in every track.

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But I've never had a problem with things like Bitches Brew,

Me neither. Although I prefer Live/Evil.

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...which I'm sure is far more out there.

Out where? I'm sure Trout Mask takes many more liberties with the conventions of music than Bitches Brew does, but then Miles Davis is no liberty taker; he's extending the language of jazz from within, trying out some of these new-fangled electric instruments, stretching beyond the old limitations and forms (and I don't think he's playing a character, either). Like Beefheart he was more concerned with creating something for his own ears.

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There's a particularly wanky Bangs interview in Mainlines & Blood Feasts (or whatever its called) where the good Captain replies to every single question with a clever-clever non-sequiteur, I wanted to reach through the page and wind the cunt.

Miles treated journos much the same. Difficult artists seem to kick through the imagined walls that contain others (artistically speaking). And I bet they tend to be awkward cunts in other areas of life, too.

The number of recording artists who use an invented persona when performing is huge. I don't really consider it an issue.

But in the list of artists you give there are degrees to which that may or may not be true for each artist. You can't equate the artifice employed by Bowie with the songs of Robert Johnson (who we have no record of performing, anyway).

In the context of degree (to return to Waits & Beefheart) Beefheart comes across mostly as a directly expressive artist, not somebody playing a part in a playlet, the latter being something I have seen Waits do within the context of a performance; hell, he even takes the odd acting job.

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The Captain can get a little fast an bulbous when I'm trying to unwind with the newspaper.

Put the newspaper away, then. That is no criteria. Music should mean more than a beer or a fag.

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Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #24 on: July 14, 2010, 07:12:09 PM »

Put the newspaper away, then. That is no criteria. Music should mean more than a beer or a fag.

That's meant as a bit of flippancy on my part there. You're right, music is more important than having a beer or a fag. I'll try to remember that when I'm next listening to 'Trout' with the doors locked, curtains drawn, all extraneous visual stimuli removed from view the better to enjoy the experience.

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Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #25 on: July 14, 2010, 07:29:23 PM »
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Out where? I'm sure Trout Mask takes many more liberties with the conventions of music than Bitches Brew does, but then Miles Davis is no liberty taker; he's extending the language of jazz from within, trying out some of these new-fangled electric instruments, stretching beyond the old limitations and forms (and I don't think he's playing a character, either). Like Beefheart he was more concerned with creating something for his own ears.

This same man produced Bluejeans and Moonbeams, an album which is often brushed under the carpet by people (like Lee, for example) talking about how far "out there" he goes. There's also Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles, a beautiful love song that isn't about fire pianos or a china pig. It's a song that could fit pretty well in the back catalogue of many other 70s singer songwriters of that era and not stand out in any regard other than the quality. Which, then, is the real Beefheart, the one in the jeans or the fish mask?

NoSleep

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Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #26 on: July 14, 2010, 07:52:08 PM »
This same man produced Bluejeans and Moonbeams, an album which is often brushed under the carpet by people (like Lee, for example) talking about how far "out there" he goes. There's also Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles, a beautiful love song that isn't about fire pianos or a china pig. It's a song that could fit pretty well in the back catalogue of many other 70s singer songwriters of that era and not stand out in any regard other than the quality. Which, then, is the real Beefheart, the one in the jeans or the fish mask?

I don't get it. How does that make it the work of a different "character"? I'm not that keen on Bluejeans & Moonbeams, but the Cap's performance and poetry on there is pure Beefheart; pity he treated the Magic Band like cunts and they left him in the hands of his management and a bunch of session men, but it isn't a different performer here. It didn't last too long and, after picking up the pieces and finding the right sidemen he returned (a couple of years on) with Shiny Beast. As much as I love the subsequent albums they are made in the shadow of Trout Mask Replica; I figure some of the band are pure fanboys of the old band from those heady days.

Don't see how Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles is any less a Beefheart song than China Pig (which is just about breaking open a piggy bank). A song about love and another about lean times. Ice Cream For Crow is yet another of his odes to nature (and his beloved Mohave Desert, I would guess).

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Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #27 on: July 14, 2010, 09:25:27 PM »
Once upon a time I was in a band. And the bass player was obsessed with Primus. So I got to hearin' Tommy The Cat with Tom Waits in it. I ain't done never no how hearda them thar influences he has, no sirree. I just heard the Waits.

He's a gravelly-voiced son of a gun. I loved what he did in Jesus' Blood. I love his love ballads, his romantic side; his weird, offbeat, drunken side; he's humorous without being a comedian and just draws you into his world of leaping shadows.

Beefwhat? Never heard of the dude. Tom Waits is the master! I saw him live in Paris 10 years ago. You're innocent when you dream, when you dream, you're innocent when you dreeeeeeam... Ah, memories.

Glebe

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Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #28 on: July 14, 2010, 09:33:49 PM »
Apparently, he first ran into Les Claypool (Larry LaLonde too, I think) on the way back from a failed fishing trip.

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Re: Which Waits?
« Reply #29 on: July 14, 2010, 10:09:40 PM »
What are you trying to say here? Beefheart's music is intensely emotional and often very direct in its sentiment, when it isn't otherwise being playful & humorous. Trout Mask is a ray of sunshine from start to end and always ends up making me smile. I can't think of many albums that have as much humanity in every track.

I think he's trying to say that he likes the music.  If you respond to the emotional essence of an artist's output, then it's difficult to really care how far in front or behind the curve they are, whether they're at the very vanguard of sound itself - or of nothing at all.  A good deal of the music I like is wilfully retro and breaks as little new ground as any music ever made, but I can list many examples of albums of that type where every track, to me, practically explodes with the type of humanity that I find important.  The new Teenage Fanclub record, for example.

Being 'avant-garde', or relative to some notional vanguard, is no guarantor of humanity*, at least not in terms of content.  It's just aesthetic relativism, a label that people will place on an artist dependant entirely on the context from which they approach him (or her).


*In fact, to me it seems that there's a strong case that it's often the opposite, as it often leads to experimentation with form for the sake of it.