Independent as a hog on ice
The first six tracks on Rain Dogs have more character to them than most other albums. Also, Cemetery Polka and Big Black Mariah are hilarious.
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.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."
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.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.
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.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.
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.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 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...I honestly think we should move this whole shebang to a discussion thread.
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.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.