Round 17 - vote for your LEAST favorites

  • Underground

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Singapore

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Clap Hands

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Cemetery Polka

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Jockey Full of Bourbon

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Time

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Hang on St. Christopher

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Temptation

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Innocent When You Dream

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I'll Be Gone

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Yesterday Is Here

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Franks Theme

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • More Than Rain

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Way Down in the Hole

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Telephone Call from Istanbul

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Cold Cold Ground

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    2

MrKnickerbocker

clap hands
yi1wT33.png
ELIMINATED in Round 16:
16 Shells from a Thirty-Ought-Six
Tango Till They're Sore
Gun Street Girl
Walking Spanish

Franks Wild Years (1987)

Franks Wild Years.jpg

Tom Waits moved into a fully dramatized musical category with his next album instead of attempting to replicate the masterpiece of Rain Dogs. The script for the play that this album is based on was actually written around the same time as Rain Dogs, though a full production did not see the light of day until summer 1986 in Chicago. Tom and Kathleen collaborated on the script and music based off of a track from the
Swordfishtrombones album. The show is about following your dreams, or as Tom himself puts it:

Tom Waits (1985): "This is the tale of an unfortunate American psychopath who leaves a small town called Rainville to seek his fame and fortune, ends up in Las Vegas. It's got lots of laughs and songs, something for the whole family, opening soon at a theatre near you."

Tom Waits (1985): "It actually starts out with Frank at the end of his rope, despondent, penniless, on a park bench in East St. Louis in a snowstorm, having a going-out-of-business sale on the whole last ten years of his life. Like the guys around here on Houston Street with a little towel on the sidewalk, some books, some silverware, a radio that doesn't work, maybe a Julie London album. Then he falls asleep and dreams his way back home. I've been saying that it's a cross between "Eraserhead" and "It's a Wonderful Life".

Tom Waits (1987): "It's really, simply enough, the story of a guy from a small town who goes out to seek his fame and fortune; a standard odyssey. Eventually, what happens is that the story opens on a park bench in East St. Louis. Frank is despondent, penniless, and he dreams his way back home to the saloon where he began. He's thinking he's only moments from freezing, then wakes up, to his surprise, in the saloon. He's given um...a ticket home, and there he tells the story of his success. But he stops in the middle of it, and tells the real story. He's no hero, he is no champion; wasn't what he says he was. He was really a guy who stepped on every bucket on the road. His friends kind of pull him out of it, and tell him he's got plenty to live for. In the end, he wakes up on the bench, ready to start again."

Tom Waits (1987): "It's the story of a guy from a small town who goes out to seek fame and fortune, but he steps on every bucket in the road. Frank's no champion. We start him off on a park bench in East St. Louis - despondent, penniless, freezing - but he dreams his way back to the saloon where he began.' As he explains, his hands move in carny's misterioso. Any straight explanation presents problems to the Waits persona. It's like watching some knock-nutty pug still indelibly inked as The Kid trying to pick up some chump-change from the canvas in six-ounce Everlast gloves. 'Well, uh, all of Frank's shortcomings rise up before him, right in the middle of him bragging in the bar."

Tom Waits (1985): "It's a story about failed dreams, about an accordian player from a small California town called Rainville who goes off to seek fame and fortune and ends up hoist on his own petard, as they say."... I would describe it as a cross between Eraserhead and It's A Wonderful Life. It's bent and misshapen and tawdry and warm and... something for all the family... Frank goes to Las Vegas and becomes the spokesman for an all-night clothing store. He wins a talent contest and some money on the crap tables, but then he gets rolled by a cigarette girl, and - despondent and penniless - he finds an accordian in a trashcan, and one thing leads to another, and before you know it he's onstage. "Y'see, when he was a kid, Frank's parents ran a funeral parlour, and while his mother did hair and makeup for passengers, Frank played accordian. So he'd already started a career in showbiz as a child."
Tom had hoped to produce the play with Robert Wilson in New York City, but plans fell through and a run began with the Steppenwolf Theatre Company at the Briar Street Theatre in Chicago. Waits and his family moved to Chicago for the 6-week rehearsal and 2-month run. By all accounts, the production was rife with last minute changes. Each show was sold out but the piece received mixed reviews at best.

In 1987, Tom entered the studio and recorded the songs for his next album (making some slight changes here and there). He released Franks Wild Years and then toured on the back of it, bringing many of the play's production elements to his stage show. This resulted in a live album and video called Big Time.


Down in the Hole podcast, Franks Wild Years
Song by Song podcast, Franks Wild Years playlist

NOTES:
- Both versions of Straight to the Top/Innocent When You Dream are combined for the sake of numbers.
- "Falling Down" (a new studio track featured on Big Time) is included.
 

JudasMyGuide

The Boomer Snowflake
Now, I would say that FWY is a very unfortunate album to succumb to any kind of a Survivor... mainly because the songs are way too consistent.
Indeed, when I first heard it, my reaction was that it was all good, but I had a hard time picking out the highlights.
I reallly, really love Hang on St. Christopher, Innocent When You Dream (both versions), Straight to the Top, Yesterday Is Here, Way Down in the Hole, Telephone Call from Istanbul, Train Song and... that's pretty much it. I really like all the other songs, but they do not stand out. That's probably my main problem with the album. Survivor-wise, that is. Otherwise, I actually been listening to this one the most out of all the 80's output. Weird but true.
 

MrKnickerbocker

clap hands
Now, I would say that FWY is a very unfortunate album to succumb to any kind of a Survivor... mainly because the songs are way too consistent.
Indeed, when I first heard it, my reaction was that it was all good, but I had a hard time picking out the highlights.
I reallly, really love Hang on St. Christopher, Innocent When You Dream (both versions), Straight to the Top, Yesterday Is Here, Way Down in the Hole, Telephone Call from Istanbul, Train Song and... that's pretty much it. I really like all the other songs, but they do not stand out. That's probably my main problem with the album. Survivor-wise, that is. Otherwise, I actually been listening to this one the most out of all the 80's output. Weird but true.
I agree, I think it's an overall pretty consistent album but the standouts are truly great. FWY has a lot of staying power for me, too, perhaps because I never listened to it as much as the previous two. There's an air of earnestness and emotion to a lot of these songs that I find lacking on some of the Swordfish/RD songs, no doubt it comes from Tom spending a lot more time with these tunes and narrative.
 

JudasMyGuide

The Boomer Snowflake
Also, I have been visiting the forum somewhat sporadically lately and my contributions leave something to be desired and this Survivor suffered from that too... but honestly, it's also because of the nature of the pre-Dogs material. Let me stress that despite my criticism, Tom is one of the best singer-songwriters I know and I love him very much, but that doesn't mean I know what to say and how to vote, especially if these songs and these albums are pit to square off against one another.

The Heart of Saturday Night feels way too much like a rehash of the debut to me and most of what's new is not really something I'd appreciate (Diamonds) and he kinda gets way too drowned in shlock - don't get me wrong, I love San Diego and Shiver Me Timbers, but.... yeah... yeah.

Nighthawks I can appreciate, but as I have already written, it's mostly Tom as a Beat artist and if there is one approach of his I could live without, it's that one. Even more than what I've written above, I don't know what to do with the album and I'm not even sure what to write about it.

Small Change is possibly still my favourite pre-Vine album, but I agree that sometimes it feels he kinda overdid it with the drunkenness and the "midnight atmosphere" and I surely can see how this one might not be everyone's cup of tea.

Foreign Affairs is mostly boring apart from Burma Shave and Barber Shop - it feels he was kinda running that old jazzy approach into the ground.

I always liked Blue Valentine, but I really don't know what to write about it or how to compare it to the other stuff. It's right there in the opening - Somewhere is so bizarre, yet actually cool at the same time, but I really don't know whether I like it more or less than Rosie or Jersey Girl or The Piano's Been Drinking... you know what I mean. Oh, and $29.00 is overlong as fuck. I mean... seriously, it's almost as long as Paradise by the Dashboard Light. Worst thing is, I even like it... for the first three minutes, that is.

And SWT is his first completely "crazy" album, but I agree with Shadow on this one - at times this still sounds like a prototype. Shore Leave is atmospheric and whatever, but it's over four minutes and I get kinda fed up with the hoarse whisper throughout. And I don't get why did Frank's Wild Years (the song) held on so long as it did here - it's really not that funny.

You might notice I skipped Heartattack and Vine, which I find very consistent and very hard to break down - I really don't know how would I vote with that one. An awesome album, indeed.

I'd also wanted to mention One from the Heart, but then I noticed Knick already did. I don't know if it's as bad as he says, but inessential, indeed. I took a liking to Broken Bicycles - those sound very ... well, broken and tender and nice.

Also, let me be the contrarian dick for once and let me say that IMHO even Rain Dogs could be improved upon, compared with some of the latter albums. There's way too many songs for starters and I find myself often losing attention in the second half. Might be also odd sequencing - I can't help but think that he kinda put the more specific songs in the beginning so the second half sounds a bit too samey in comparison, even if it really isn't. Also, the tone-deaf tortured elephants in agony chasing after James Bond in Midtown could have been left alone, really.
That doesn't change the fact the album's awesome as fuck in general. Cemetary Polka's actually a polka and Tango Til They're Sore is a tango! :bigsmile: The out of tune piano on the second one is a nice touch. And the "Uncle Vernon, independent as a hog on ice" line actually brought me to tears with laughter when I heard it for the first time. Also, the surf rock of Jockey Full of Bourbon is great, especially the guitar solo.
Downtown Train and Hang Down Your Head should have been covered by Springsteen, just like Jersey Girl was! :D
And I feel Starostin might have been right about the title track - there's something about the way he sings "FOR I AM A RAAAAAAIN DOG TOO!" that might capture his whole essence in a nutshell. A very optimistic and catchy song. The pinnacle of the album for me.
 

MrKnickerbocker

clap hands
Tom Waits songs are not easy. They are not easy to hear, they are not easy to love, and, I imagine, they are not easy to create. I completely understand how difficult it might be to vote here at times because the songs can often become more or less than the sum of their parts. It's not always easy to vote on creations. Sure, at the end of the day they're just songs, but it's still a difficult task because so many of them (and there are so many of them) evoke similar feelings or conflicting feelings.

But, I urge you to vote, Judas, as your opinions, criticisms, and input here are thought out and appreciated! Also, we need the numbers and I love having these chats about the material (even if they're brief). If you can't decide what to vote for: just vote on the songs you instinctually like less.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who dislikes Tom's beatnik jazz era, as I find it to be his weakest material overall. Nighthawks through FA is some of the most difficult material for me. Some of those songs are harder for me to get into than his later stuff that's just weird noises and barking.

The biggest issue with Rain Dogs is simply the sheer number of songs. If Tom had cut 3-4 tracks, I think it could be a perfect album. I definitely agree that the title track is a perfect statement to sum up the whole album, though personally I find the emotional climax to be the final song. His gut-wrenching performance on "Anywhere I Lay My Head" juxtaposed with the sheer party atmosphere of the outro is the best way for me to understand Tom Waits. Soul, heart, beauty, and lots and lots of pain, wrapped in a funeral parade.
 

Whooten

Ancient Mariner
Maybe we should have just started with a TW album survivor. Hindsight is 20/20. I agree with you guys that most of the 70's run is a tough go. I like the first two and not until Blue Valentine and especially Heart Attack and Vine do I like full albums again. To prove this point, I bought none of the re-issues as they have come out on vinyl this year. I find that the Used Songs collection covers just must (but certainly not all) of that era. That said, it would be great to get some momentum going again, since the rest of TW's run is brilliant.
 

JudasMyGuide

The Boomer Snowflake
Just so you know - I'm taking this seriously so among the myriads of book I'm currently reading I've started with the Baney Hoskyns' biography of Tom. I'm only about 40 pages in, but I must say it's really interesting. Especially the introduction was. Anyway, allegedly, Cemetery Polka was ispired by Tom's real family (he really had an uncle Vernon) and the idea they all got together while attending a funeral and all the talk and gossip there in. And now you know. :D
 

MrKnickerbocker

clap hands
Just so you know - I'm taking this seriously so among the myriads of book I'm currently reading I've started with the Baney Hoskyns' biography of Tom. I'm only about 40 pages in, but I must say it's really interesting. Especially the introduction was. Anyway, allegedly, Cemetery Polka was ispired by Tom's real family (he really had an uncle Vernon) and the idea they all got together while attending a funeral and all the talk and gossip there in. And now you know. :D
Definitely a nice book to read alongside the survivor! I've got a magazine that follows his career via record reviews and interviews over the years, it's a real nice companion.

Maybe we should have just started with a TW album survivor. Hindsight is 20/20. I agree with you guys that most of the 70's run is a tough go. I like the first two and not until Blue Valentine and especially Heart Attack and Vine do I like full albums again. To prove this point, I bought none of the re-issues as they have come out on vinyl this year. I find that the Used Songs collection covers just must (but certainly not all) of that era. That said, it would be great to get some momentum going again, since the rest of TW's run is brilliant.
I can see how that might have been easier, but I'm determined to play this out and I love hearing other people's input! I fully expect the 70s material to drop very quickly in the finals and the album survivor.
 

JudasMyGuide

The Boomer Snowflake
So... I voted. But wait just a little bit more and this round will have been opened for a year, which must be some kind of a record. :D

Also, FranksWildYears might just be my favourite Tom album overall. It might be because I overplayed Bone Machine to the point of numbness... but it also might be because it's not so dishearteningly bleak. Alice and Blood Money are Tom's Damnation and Deliverance of sorts, none feeling that good to me without the other, Rain Dogs are a tad overlong... so it's FWY or Mule Variations and I'm feeling "wintery" currently.
 
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Whooten

Ancient Mariner
The eight album run from Swordfishtrombones through Alice/Blood Money is just amazing from a quality and diversity perspective. I can't think of another band that was that consistently great while being so unique. Even crazier when you consider it was done over a twenty year period and most of he did over that run and didn't even have a lot in common with what he had on his first 6* albums.

You have that amazing trilogy from the 80s, followed by Bone Machine, and then the 3 operas book-ending Mule Variations. Too bad we've lost momentum just when the getting was good.

On a side note, I saw Woyzek (i.e., Blood Money) when it was performed at Brooklyn Academy of Music and it was my favorite performance of anything ever (even better than Legacy of the Beast). It was so good the uppity Manhattan couple next to me left at intermission.

* Six proper albums plus Nighthawks and One From the Heart.
 

MrKnickerbocker

clap hands
I've been debating getting this going again (maybe in a couple months for the one year anniversary!), but I honestly think we should move this whole shebang to a discussion thread. I honestly don't have time to update this survivor with as much content as I had previously and it seems silly to be voting with only 3 of us. Thoughts?

I would love to dive back into the discography, as I agree with the both of you that this is where things really get interesting (some for far better and some for worse).
 

JudasMyGuide

The Boomer Snowflake
I honestly think we should move this whole shebang to a discussion thread.
I second that. I've already said that I have quite the trouble voting in this particular Survivor in general and I don't even feel very "Survivor-y" - I think I burnt out and ended the Dream Theater Survivor right after BC&SL - don't even recall whether I managed to comment on ADTOE (which is one of my favourite DT albums to boot!), the Steven Wilson Survivor managed to burn me out before the first album was over...
To be honest, I still kinda hope there will be an another (last?) Opeth Survivor when the new album drops, because the Opeth Survivor was something special (and it made me to collect the contributions in that single document) and I would like to participate this time - I might even be very quick at that, 'cause in the meantime I think I half-memorised most of the songs by heart, but other than that... no, I don't think I want to participate in any Survivors in the foreseeable future.
Which doesn't mean I don't want to discuss discographies - in fact that's something I always wanted to do. So I'd propose turning this misbegotten abortion of a game (sorry, but you know it's true) into a passionate discography-discussing thread and leave it at that.

If anybody else feels differently, I'll try to continue anyway, but I think it's kinda useless. If 3-4 other people suddenly joined it that might have shaken it up a bit, but methinks it's very unlikely.
 

JudasMyGuide

The Boomer Snowflake
Anyway, for now I think we continue here. I just wanted to say that FWY indeed is my favourite Tom record now - it's just beautiful from start to finish. Well... except for I'll Take New York. I mean, WHAT THE FUCK? I can take Tom in his various incarnations and I certainly have a tolerance for his weirdness - Telephone Call from Istanbul that comes up right after is weird as fuck as well... but ITNY is just terrible and serves really no purpose at all (and is the third longest track on here to boot!).
It's a fucking shitstain on a nearly perfect record, that's what it is. Sorry if anyone likes it, but I'm currently relistening to the album and I just had to get this out of my system. Otherwise I absolutely love this record. Even with ITNY it's very possibly a 10/10 album for me. I envy Knick's avatar now.
 

MrKnickerbocker

clap hands
Anyway, for now I think we continue here. I just wanted to say that FWY indeed is my favourite Tom record now - it's just beautiful from start to finish. Well... except for I'll Take New York. I mean, WHAT THE FUCK? I can take Tom in his various incarnations and I certainly have a tolerance for his weirdness - Telephone Call from Istanbul that comes up right after is weird as fuck as well... but ITNY is just terrible and serves really no purpose at all (and is the third longest track on here to boot!).
It's a fucking shitstain on a nearly perfect record, that's what it is. Sorry if anyone likes it, but I'm currently relistening to the album and I just had to get this out of my system. Otherwise I absolutely love this record. Even with ITNY it's very possibly a 10/10 album for me. I envy Knick's avatar now.
ITNY feels very much like a set piece from the FWY play that simply doesn't translate. I wish I was old enough to follow Waits during the height of his 80s adventures so I could have seen these plays and stage shows. He was clearly very obsessed with the theatrical aspect of it all during the 80s.
 
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