Monday, November 9, 2009

New Wave for the New Week #37

[All throughout the month of November, all NW4NW entries will be based on requests made by you, dear readers. Because of the amount of requests coming in, there will often be more than one entry per week during this month - I recommend signing up for email alerts on the left-hand side of the screen so that you don't miss any of the fun! If you wish to make a request, you may do so either in the comments section of this post, or on Twitter by tweeting your request to @berutt. Don't be shy - tell me what band you want to see featured!]

Next up on the list for NW4NW All Request Month is a request that takes us a little bit outside the boundaries of what you might normally think of when you think Punk and New Wave, although this artist certainly has had influence on many bands who fall under the wide umbrella of the genre. Over on Facebook, when I put the call out for requests, Bruce Laudenberger piped up with this:

I think I caught Bruce a bit by surprise when I replied that I not only knew the song well, but was a fan of Tom Waits and would be more than happy to add him to the request list. But should it be so surprising?

Since 1973's Closing Time LP, Waits has been staking out his own musical ground. The evolution of his acid jazz casualty persona from the gentle singer/songwriter sound of that debut to the crazed, maniacal rantings of his work over the past decade or two has made him an icon to both his admirers and his peers. I won't go into a detailed biography or discography here - there's far too much to cover in both areas, and a few minutes with Google will bring you plenty of information.

What surprises most people, I think, is how familiar they are with Tom Waits songs even if they've never heard Waits himself. "Jersey Girl" was hit for Bruce Springsteen; "Downtown Train" charted for both Rod Stewart and Patty Smyth. More in the vein of the artists considered in this series, his songs have been covered by The Violent Femmes ("Step Right Up"), The Ramones ("I Don't Wanna Grow Up"), Lydia Lunch ("Heart Attack and Vine"), and Elvis Costello ("Innocent When You Dream" and "More Than Rain") among others. Perhaps most stunningly, the actress Scarlett Johansson recorded an entire album of Tom Waits songs with members of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV On The Radio, and even David Bowie helping out!

Waits' signature sound can be found not far off a straight line drawn from Captain Beefheart to Sonic Youth. Swampy blues and whiskey-soaked jazz and folky sensibilities are filtered through a raspy voice harshed by too many unfiltered cigarettes; the eccentrics and oddballs Waits introduces us too in his lyrics and the stories he tells about them are cut from the same cloth as Nick Cave's later character studies. Beginning with 1992's Bone Machine LP, he released a string of jaw-droppingly incredible albums, all of which are highly recommended: The Black Rider in 1993, Mule Variations in 1999, Alice and Blood Money in 2002, and 2004's Real Gone (which includes what be my personal favorite Tom Waits song, "Dead And Lovely"). Waits even appears on Primus' Sailing The Seas Of Cheese LP, supplying the vocals for the title character on the cut "Tommy The Cat."

So, Bruce, I don't think it too far afield to include Tom Waits in this series, and I thank you for your request! In an effort to stay within the spirit of the series, I've chosen a clip of Waits doing a cover of The Ramones song "The Return Of Jackie And Judy." And, since you named a particular song in your request, I've included a clip of Waits performing his classic "Pasties And A G-String" on German television back in 1977. Enjoy!

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