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Context Music / TomWaits

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1[[quoteright:320:]]²²->''"We all hear our own stories in our favorite songs (that is why Tom Waits sings in werewolf language--you can pretend it is about anything you want!)."''²-->-- '''John Hodgman''', ''Literature/MoreInformationThanYouRequire''²²->''"This is a man who writes songs for the angels and sings them in the voice of Beelzebub. The Carny, the Sideshow, the circus freak show is a world I've always wanted to be in, and that's exactly where Tom Waits is."''²-->-- '''Creator/TerryGilliam'''²²[[DescribeTopicHere Describe Tom Waits here]].²²Okay... but how?²²Well, everyone seems to use the [[ReviewerStockPhrases cliched phrases like "whiskey-soaked", "gravelly-voiced", "barfly", "hobo", "raconteur", and "troubadour".]]²²With that out of the way, Thomas Alan Waits (born December 7, 1949) is an innovative musician, generally classified as [[AlternativeRock Alternative]], but borrowing heavily from European and American folk music, gospel, lounge music, pop, the blues, cabaret, and occasionally country and even rap (he beatboxes on the 2004 album ''Real Gone'' and Atmosphere's ''When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold'', and he appears on N.A.S.A's "Spacious Thoughts").²²His work can be divided into two distinct eras: his jazzy, lounge singer period, lasting from the '70s to the early '80s, and the reinvented, experimental sound of 1983's ''Music/{{Swordfishtrombones}}'' album on, and his shift to a mysterious, Carnival-and-Sinister-Junkman persona. This shift was caused by his abandonment by Asylum Records, his breakup with Rickie Lee Jones and his marriage to his co-songwriter and muse Kathleen Brennan. Brennan introduced him to the music of Music/CaptainBeefheart, whose influence can be seen in "Swordfishtrombone" and later albums.²²He is known for his theatricality, dark and dense lyrical style, and a charming sense of humor - he's one of the few musicians that tend to get long interview sessions on late night talk shows, occasionally getting more laughs than the host. He wrote the scores of four musicals: "Franks Wild Years" [sic], written with Kathleen, and his collaborations with Robert Wilson, "The Black Rider", "Alice," "Theatre/{{Woyzeck}}" (the last being released as ''Blood Money'').²²He has also acted in several films, notably ''Film/CoffeeAndCigarettes'' as himself, ''Film/DownByLaw'' as a radio DJ who gets framed, ''Film/MysteryMen'' as a MadScientist, ''Film/BramStokersDracula'' as [[TheRenfield Renfield]], and ''Film/WristcuttersALoveStory'' as Kneller, whose dog is missing. He plays Mr. Nick (the Devil) in ''Film/TheImaginariumOfDoctorParnassus'', which also happens to be Creator/HeathLedger's last film, and he was a bird named Virgil in Rosto A.D.'s ''MonsterOfNix''. He also played one of the eponymous ''Film/SevenPsychopaths''.²²He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.²²References to Waits were a RunningGag on ''Series/MysteryScienceTheater3000''.²²Also, for some reason, he's the curator of ''Radio/TheMuseumOfEverything''.²²Vote for your favourite Tom Waits album by heading over to the [[ Best Album crowner]]!²----²!!Albums with their own pages:²²* ''Music/ClosingTime'' (1973)²* ''Music/TheHeartOfSaturdayNight'' (1974)²* ''Music/NighthawksAtTheDiner'' (1975)²* ''Music/SmallChange'' (1976)²* ''Music/ForeignAffairs'' (1977)²* ''Music/BlueValentine'' (1978)²* ''Music/HeartattackAndVine'' (1980)²* ''Music/{{Swordfishtrombones}}'' (1983)²* ''Music/RainDogs'' (1985)²* ''Music/FranksWildYears'' (1987)²* ''Music/BoneMachine'' (1992)²* ''Music/TheBlackRider'' (1993)²* ''Music/MuleVariations'' (1999)²* ''Music/{{Alice}}'' (2002)²* ''Music/BloodMoney'' (2002)²* ''Music/RealGone'' (2004)²* ''Music/OrphansBrawlersBawlersAndBastards'' (2006)²* ''Music/BadAsMe'' (2011)²----²!!Selected filmography:²²* ''Film/DownByLaw'' as Zack²* ''Film/QueensLogic'' as Monty.²* ''Film/CoffeeAndCigarettes'' as Tom²* ''Film/MysteryMen'' as Doc Heller²* ''Film/TheImaginariumOfDoctorParnassus'' as Mr Nick²* ''Film/TheBookOfEli'' as Engineer²* ''Film/SevenPsychopaths'' as Zachariah²* ''Film/WristcuttersALoveStory'' as Kneller²* ''The Old Man and the Gun'' as Waller²* ''Film/TheBalladOfBusterScruggs'' as Prospector²----²!!He provides examples of:²²²* AlbumTitleDrop: From ''Music/{{Closing Time}}'' "Now it's closing time/the music's fading out." Which comes from "I Hope I don't Fall In Love With You" and not "Closing Time," the song, also on the ''Closing Time'' album.²* AntiLoveSong: Several examples.²** Especially notable that he didn't really start writing actual love songs until his sixth album, ''Music/HeartAttackAndVine''.²* ArsonMurderAndJaywalking: From "God's Away On Business":²--> "Who are the ones that we kept in charge? Killers, thieves, [[AmoralAttorney lawyers!]]"²* AuthorAppeal: His musical world is full of drunken and dejected vagabonds, murder, creepy carnival imagery, and the just plain ''weird''. Lyrics about barking dogs, the moon, shipwrecks, and spoons are common across albums.²* BadassBoast: "Goin' Out West" from ''Music/BoneMachine'' is all about his character boasting about his looks and how badass he is, specifically saying he knows karate and voodoo and can handle himself in a high speed chase. He's got the scars and chest hair to prove it.²* BandToon: While not a straight example, he was featured in an early music video featuring a rotoscoped version of himself and a stripper. It was called "Tom Waits For No One," and was unreleased until published on Website/YouTube. It's the only Oscar-winning music video of all time.²* BeneathTheEarth: He often uses subterranean imagery, such as his songs "Underground" from ''Music/{{Swordfishtrombones}}'' "Dirt in the Ground" from ''Music/BoneMachine'' and "Way Down in the Hole" from ''Music/FranksWildYears''. "Underground" is supposedly about Tom Waits' dream of a colony of dwarves living under a city.²* BigApplesauce: ''Music/RainDogs'' was written during a point where Tom was living in New York. It shows.²* BigScrewedUpFamily: "Cemetery Polka" from ''Music/RainDogs''.²* BornInTheWrongCentury: He started recording in the 1970s and still releases new albums as of this day, but his music is more reminscent of old 1930s, 1940s, 1950s {{Jazz}}, {{Blues}}, FolkRock and CountryMusic than of music of this day. He uses a lot of traditional instruments and his lyrics refer more to topics from that era than late 20th and early 21st century imagery. Interestingly enough, it does make his work more timeless. ²* CarefulWithThatAxe: Near the end of "Swordfishtrombone," a song where most of the vocals are somewhat quiet, Tom Waits lets out a loud scream.²* Literature/{{Child Ballad|s}}: He has his own version of Ballad #10, "[[ The Twa Sisters]]," from his album "Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards." [[ Take a listen]].²* CircusOfFear: His songs are soaked to the bone in the imagery of the carnival, and the Devil Pegleg in ''The Black Rider'' is the leader of a twisted carnival of lost souls.²* ClusterFBomb: "Hell Broke Luce" has a couple of F-bombs in it.²* CollectorOfTheStrange: In real life, Waits collects exotic instruments and strange bits of Americana, such as a mouse trap activated by the mouse chewing through a string (as seen in his 2012 appearance on Letterman's show).²* CoolOldGuy: Oh, definitely.²* CoolShades: "In Shades"²* CosmicPlaything: The main character of ''Music/BloodMoney,'' Woyzeck, is definitely one of these.²* TheCoverChangesTheMeaning: His version of "[[Disney/SnowWhiteAndTheSevenDwarfs Heigh Ho]]" has been described as "the theme tune for midget slave labor." [[ Take a listen and see if you don't agree.]]²** Legend has it that Disney were on the phone when they heard about it, but not for the reason you'd think. His version is so weird that, supposedly, not even Disney recognized it as their own song.²** A very strange example. ''Army Ants'' is taken from a book about insects, but the way he reads it, sounds like the ramblings of a ConspiracyTheorist. You know how some people can make reading the phone book sexy? Tom Waits can make reading the biology textbook sound like the diary of a deranged serial killer.²* CoveredUp: Waits' records have never made the top 40, but Music/RodStewart's version of "Downtown Train" made it to #3 in 1989.²** "Jersey Girl" was recorded by Music/BruceSpringsteen and initially released in 1984 as the B-side of the single, "Cover Me". It wound up getting a lot of radio airplay and was later re-released on Bruce's live box set. The song is more associated with him than it ever was to Waits--probably because of Bruce's deep identification with New Jersey, which the Californian Waits couldn't match (and the generous Tom wouldn't want to, as long as he got his writer's credit).²** Everyone recognizes "Way Down in the Hole" as one of his, but also regards the Blind Boys of Alabama's cover as a superior version.²** Know Music/TheEagles' song "Ol' 55"? ... not so fast. Waits is not exactly a fan of the Eagles' take on it, which he regards as "fairly antiseptic".²* CrapsackWorld: "Town with No Cheer", "9th and Hennepin", "Potter's Field", and "Children's Story" (which he didn't write). A lot of the settings he has used are this.²* CreepyJazzMusic: He is an interesting case: he started off as a straight-up jazz crooner/pianist who just happened to have a [[GutturalGrowler husky voice]]. Then, in the early eighties, he married Kathleen Brennan, who introduced him to Beefheart. Once he heard that, he decided to adapt those musical ideas to his existing sound, leading to such classics like "[[Music/TheBlackRider Oily Night]]", "[[Music/{{Swordfishtrombones}} Dave the Butcher]]", "[[Music/BadAsMe Hell Broke Luce]]", and "[[Music/MuleVariations What's He Building in There?]]", among others. However, some of his ''creepiest'' songs eschew the jazz elements entirely. ²* DanceSensation: Parodied with "The Metropolitan Glide", which - from the instructions given in the lyrics - is utterly undanceable.²* TheDanza: Will occasionally sing from the POV of characters named Tom, e.g., Tom Traubert, Tom Frost from "Martha".²* DarkerAndEdgier: ''Music/BoneMachine''.²* ADateWithRosiePalms: From ''Music/NighthawksAtTheDiner'':²--> "Well usually about 2.30 in the morning you've ended up taking advantage of yourself. There ain't no way around that you know. Yeah, making a scene with a magazine, there ain't no way around. "²* DeadpanSnarker: Plenty of interviews show that he is one. His habit of telling tall tales at live shows also qualifies.²* DevilButNoGod: a common theme in his lyrics is to play with this trope in some way, such as ''God's away on business'', or "Heartattack And Vine" from ''Music/HeartattackAndVine 's'' "There ain't no Devil, there's just God when he's drunk."²* DoubleMeaning: At the end of "16 Shells from a 30.6," the narrator finally catches the crow he was hunting at the start of the song. The last line of the final verse is "I strum it loud just to rattle his cage." Earlier he mentions he trapped the crow in a "Washburn jail," Washburn being a guitar manufacturer. So if one kept a crow in the soundhole of an acoustic guitar, it would not only "rattle his cage" in the idiomatic sense (i.e.: annoy/anger him), but the vibration produced from strumming the guitar would literally rattle his cage as well.²* DreamTeam: "N.A.S.A. featuring Music/KoolKeith and Tom Waits". Only one song ("Spacious Thoughts") unfortunately.²* EarlyInstallmentWeirdness: Some people who were introduced to him during his Creator/IslandRecords[=/=]ANTI-Records years find his stuff from the '70s through the early '80s to be this. The early stuff is actually mostly ''less'' weird.²* TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt: "The Earth Died Screaming".²* EitherOrTitle: Most of the songs on ''Music/SmallChange'' are titled this way - for instance, "Tom Traubert's Blues (Four Sheets To The Wind In Copenhagen)".²* EverythingSoundsSexierInFrench: Two of Tom Waits' musicals-turned-albums - ''Alice'' and ''The Black Rider'' - use frequent German words and fake accents to creepy effect. This reaches its logical conclusion with "Kommieneszuspadt" (sung by the White Rabbit), whose lack of any real meaning cleverly allows the listener to imagine something far nastier than anyone could ever write.²* EvilSoundsDeep: Inverted. When Tom sings in a deep pitch, the song is usually more idealistic - such as "All the World is Green" or "Hold On". It's when he sings in a higher register that things turn dark - consider "In the Colosseum" or "Murder in the Red Barn".²* FlowerMotifs: "The Briar and the Rose" most prominently, but really, this is all over ''The Black Rider''.²* GagDub: {{Inverted}} in [[ this video]], which overlays "God's Away On Business" with video clips that make it appear to be sung by [[Series/SesameStreet Cookie Monster]].²** And, even more disturbingly, Cookie Monster performing [[ Hell Broke Luce]].²* GallowsHumor: Common, with ''Frank's Wild Years'' being the most obvious example.²* GenreBusting: At least one third of his catalog falls into this category.²* GermansLoveDavidHasselhoff: InUniverse in "Big in Japan", which is a send-up of such an individual — though Tom Waits is slightly more popular in Europe than he is in America.²* GrotesqueGallery: Invoked with the line "My friends think I'm ugly / I've got a masculine face", from "Goin' Out West". On top of that, Waits - despite actually being a fairly handsome guy, given his age - makes a lot of really weird faces. Plus the numerous songs about circus/carnival freaks.²* GrowingUpSucks: "[[ I Don't Wanna Grow Up]]", obviously.²* GutturalGrowler: One of the most famous examples. Lampshaded at least once during an interview.²--> '''Interviewer''': How does a guy with a voice like that decide to be a singer and succeed?\²'''Waits''': It was either that or [[DeadpanSnarker a career in air conditioning and refreshment.]]²* HarshVocals: Ditto.²* HaveAGayOldTime: Often done deliberately, since Tom loves resurrecting old slang expressions. "I Can't Wait To Get Off Work And See My Baby" is one of the more egregious examples, using "jerk off" to mean "slack off". ²* HellHotel: the music video for "God's Away on Business" looks like a hotel, but it was actually filmed ''at his house.'' By the son of Music/BobDylan. While it is entirely plausible that the emus were added for the video shoot, it is equally possible that Tom Waits just lets live emus wander around his house.²* HollywoodToneDeaf: For "The Piano Has Been Drinking", Waits lapses into this with both his vocals and the instruments (including numerous missed piano cues), all done intentionally to give the idea that the singer is drunk.²* HookerWithAHeartOfGold: The narrator from "Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis" is definitely one.²* IncrediblyLamePun: The stories he tells during his concerts are often littered with these, as shown on the second disc of "Glitter And Doom Live:"²--> "I've never known a lobster to donate anything to charity. You wanna know why? They're shellfish!"²--> ([[CollectiveGroan Audience groans]])²* IronicNurseryTune: "Midnight Lullaby" riffs on "Song of Sixpence", "Jockey Full of Bourbon" features "Ladybird, Ladybird," and "Clap Hands" features "3,6,9, the Goose Drank Wine," but without any sinister intent. But a better example of this trope is his use of lullaby-like sounds on ''Alice'' and ''Blood Money'', in "Everything You Can Think Of Is True" and "Misery Is the River of the World." Also found on ''Blood Money'' is the track "Lullaby," an original lullaby with sinister, depressing lyrics.²** [[ Here's]] the most disturbing cover of [[Disney/SnowWhite a Disney song]] ever recorded. Appropriately, the album's called ''Stay Awake''.²* Music/KeithRichards: On ''Music/RainDogs,'' offers guitar and backing vocals in "Union Square," "Big Black Mariah" and "Blind Love."²** And on ''Music/BoneMachine'', he and Tom do a Gravel And Gravel duet on "That Feel".²** Richards makes a collaborative comeback on ''Music/BadAsMe'', providing guitar parts for the songs "Chicago", "Satisfied", "Last Leaf" (in which he also sings backup), and "Hell Broke Luce". He's even name-dropped along with Music/MickJagger in "[[ShoutOut Satisfied]]".²--> ''Now Mr. Jagger and Mr. Richards/I will scratch where I've been itching''.²* KnifeThrowingAct: "Circus" from his 2004 album ''Music/RealGone'' features a knife throwing act as part of the eponymous travelling show.²--> ''Only once, in Sheboygan, did he miss. And he took off a miniscule portion of her ear''.²* ILied: Before playing "Innocent When You Dream", "This is a song my dad taught me when I was a kid. That’s a lie. This is a song I learned from kids I met in a back alley. That’s also a lie. This is a song I learned from Creator/GregoryPeck. That too is a lie. They’re all lies. The whole song is a lie. No it’s not. I learned this song from Pavarotti."²* ImproperlyParanoid: The narrator of the poem "What's He Building In There?" is paranoid of his neighbor, with increasingly weird ([[ThroughTheEyesOfMadness maybe imagined,]] maybe not) factoids that present the neighbor as evil such as never waving as he passes, never watering his lawn, sending a lot of packages, supposedly working before in Indonesia, [[BreadEggsMilkSquick and the narrator swearing he heard someone moaning inside the house]]. The poem ends with the narrator saying "we have a right to know", meaning he's about to barge into the neighbor's house and get answers (whichever they are, of course, remains a RiddleForTheAges).²* JobSong: "I Can't Wait to Get Off Work (and See My Baby on Montgomery Avenue)" is sung from the perspective of a man who does odd jobs about how he wishes he was at home with the woman he misses.²* LaughingMad: After Frank of the song "Frank's Wild Years" has murdered his wife and doused his house in gasoline, he parks across the street and watches it burn, laughing.²* LipstickMark²* LyricalColdOpen: "Walking Spanish", "Flower's Grave", "Alice" and others.²* LyricalDissonance: "[[ Frank's Wild Years]]". The song on ''Swordfishtrombones'' specifically, not the album. Generally, that voice makes touching love ballads sound like funeral songs.²* LyricalTic: Often interjects his more percussive songs with a guttural "Hah!"²* {{Metaphorgotten}}: When teasing ''Bad As Me'', [[ he calls out people who leaked the album before its release]] by using metaphors. [[SurrealHumor Being Tom Waits,]] these metaphors somehow segue into "would it be safe to jump rope with a live electrical wire."²* {{Mockumentary}}: Several of his performance arts pieces and interviews are in this style.²* NeoclassicalPunkZydecoRockabilly: [[UpToEleven Great Scott.]] The genres can change at the drop of a hat, often within the same album.²* NewSoundAlbum: Waits' wife and collaborator Kathleen Brennan, whom he met in the early 80s, influenced a radical change of direction. ''Swordfishtrombones'' (1983) was the point at which stock descriptors such as "barfly" gave way to allusions to carnival freaks and the Devil.²* NightmareFace: The album cover of ''Music/BoneMachine''.²* NightmareFuelStationAttendant: Just ''look'' at him. There's a reason Creator/TerryGilliam cast (typecast?) him as TheDevil.²* NosyNeighbor: "What's He Building In There?", described by Waits as "a story of the neighbor we all become."²* NotChristianRock: References to God, the Devil, Jesus, and other religious motifs are fairly common in his lyrics (notably "Way Down in the Hole," which was even covered by the Gospel group The Blind Boys of Alabama), but whether that's a statement of faith or just the influence of Gospel/Americana style is [[EveryoneIsJesusInPurgatory anybody's guess]]. After all, this is the same man who once opined: "...there ain't no Devil/There's just God when he's drunk."²* OlderThanTheyLook: Tom's never looked young, and yet shows no signs of looking old.²* OdeToSobriety: "The Piano Has Been Drinking" is a type 1.²* OpeningChorus: "Theatre/{{Woyzeck}}" features "Misery's the River of the World." Notably, only the opener on the album, and not in the musical.²* ProtestSong: "The Day After Tomorrow", an anti-war song, "Road to Peace," about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and "Hell Broke Luce", about the suicide of Iraq War veteran Jeff Lucey.²* RealSongThemeTune[=/=]ThematicThemeTune: ''Series/TheWire'' uses "Way Down In The Hole". Each season with a different version - season 1 by The Blind Boys of Alabama, season 2 was Waits's original, season 3 was by The Neville Brothers, Season 4 was an R&B version by [=DoMaJe=],[[note]]A specially constructed group of UsefulNotes/{{Baltimore}} middle school boys--fitting, since Season 4 focused heavily on a group of eighth graders on Baltimore's West Side.[[/note]] and season 5's version is by Music/SteveEarle.)²* Main/{{Reconstruction}}: His music since ''Music/{{Swordfishtrombones}}'' revives outdated Vocal Jazz of the likes of Music/LouisArmstrong, but with a strong influence from rock and even industrial music.²* RockOpera: ''The Black Rider'',[[labelnote:*]]Was also a musical, with Waits' music and all.[[/labelnote]] ''Blood Money'', ''Alice'', and the [[Music/{{Swordfishtrombones}} Frank's]] [[Music/RainDogs Wild]] [[Music/FranksWildYears Years]] trilogy are the most obvious examples, but he dabbles in it a lot from time to time.²* ScrewTheMoneyIHaveRules: Waits has turned down numerous offers to use his songs in commercials, even going so far as to sue companies to prevent it, the one exception being for a charity.²** Though Waits is generally considered an UnreliableNarrator, both he and others have repeatedly stressed that were it not for said lawsuits he never would have been able to pursue his career as long as he did. He wound up making far more from refusing to allow his music be used in adverts than he ever did from his modest-at-best album sales.²* SelfBackingVocalist: Waits tends to be the only guy doing vocals on most of his albums - exceptions include ''Music/RainDogs'' and ''Music/BoneMachine'' (Music/KeithRichards), the ''Film/OneFromTheHeart'' soundtrack (Crystal Gayle) and Music/BetteMidler on ''I Never Talk to Strangers'' from the album ''Music/ForeignAffairs'.²* ShapedLikeItself: In the song "New Year's Eve," "what sounded like fireworks turned out to be just what it was."²* ShoutOut: To Edward Hopper's painting "The Nighthawks" in ''Music/NighthawksAtTheDiner''.²** ''Film/AFistfulOfDollars'' can't change the fact that ''Music/SmallChange'' got rained on with his own .38.²* SignsOfTheEndTimes: "Earth Died Screaming" deals with this.²* SlidingScaleOfComedyAndHorror: Usually his music is more on the horror side, with the odd exception. If he's on a talk show or in between songs at a concert, however, he'll leap over to the comedy side with his surreal and sarcastic sense of humor.²* SloganYellingMegaphoneGuy: Part of his stage persona.²* SnakeOilSalesman: He plays one in "Step Right Up," cramming as many AdvertisingTropes as possible into hawking a product. ²* SopranoAndGravel: Pretty much any time he performs a duet, probably most notably with Music/BetteMidler and Crystal Gayle.²** Spectacularly averted in his duets with Music/KeithRichards, though.²* SoundtrackDissonance: A meta example. À la Music/PinkFloyd and ''Film/TheWizardOfOz'', a fan synced Waits' albums ''Foreign Affair'' and ''Blood Money'' with, unbelievably... Disney's ''Disney/{{Pinocchio}}.'' The scariest part? It works ''[[ perfectly.]]''²* {{Spoonerism}}: Occurs in several quotes attributed to Waits, such as "I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy" and "Champagne for my real friends, and real pain for my sham friends."²* StalkerWithACrush: The album ''Alice'' is all about this. Some of the songs are tragic odes to a love that can never be, while others are more sinister. Reaches probably its most uncomfortable point with "Watch Her Disappear." ²* StarCrossedLovers: [[ExaggeratedTrope Exaggerated]] in his song [[ "Fish and Bird"]], off of the above ''Alice''. It still manages to be a TearJerker.²* AStormIsComing: "Earth Died Screaming" and "Strange Weather."²* StylisticSuck: "The Piano Has Been Drinking" and "I'll Take New York".²* SuicideBySea: SubvertedTrope in "The Ocean", where a man wants to drown himself but the ocean "doesn't want [him] today" implying he's unsuccessful.²* SunglassesAtNight: "Burma Shave". Complete with RealityEnsues.²--> ''And when they pulled her from the wreck, you know, she still had on her shades...''²* SuperFunHappyThingOfDoom: The trope name is invoked almost literally as the title of the concert album ''Glitter and Doom.''²* SurrealHumor: One of his ''other'' specialties, especially during talk show appearances or when teasing his new albums.²* SuspiciouslySpecificDenial: At the end of "The Piano's Been Drinking", the ''entire song'' is revealed to be one.²* TalkyBookends: In the video for "Downtown Train."²* TechnologyMarchesOn: Those of the cellphone generation may be confused by references to asking an operator for a phone number and a fee for a long distance call from 1973's "Martha."²* TeenageDeathSongs: "Burma Shave".²* ThreeChordsAndTheTruth: He uses a collection of vintage equipment (including a calliope!), instruments salvaged from junkyards, and has recorded album tracks outside or in barns.²* VillainSong: ²** "Just the Right Bullets" and "Flash Pan Hunter" from ''The Black Rider'' are from the Devil's POV.²** "Everything Goes to Hell" and "God's Away on Business" from his version of ''Woyzeck'' and its soundtrack album, ''Blood Money''.²* VocalEvolution: His trademark harsh style wasn't exactly what he started with, but he quickly began to adopt it after his first two albums in '73 and '74.²* WarIsHell: "Hell Broke Luce", which is pretty much a long [[ClusterFBomb profanity laced]] rant from an OldSoldier in Iraq. "[[PunctuatedForEmphasis WHAT.]] [[DespairEventHorizon IS.]] [[TemptingFate NEXT?!]]" Also, the much more somber "Day After Tomorrow."²** That title isn't a typo, "Hell Broke Luce" is about a real soldier that committed suicide - [[ Jeff Lucey]], who was DrivenToSuicide by posttraumatic stress and hanged himself in 2004. ²* WeirdMoon: Mention of the moon, usually in a peculiar epithet like [[Music/ClosingTime "grapefruit"]] or [[Music/TheHeartOfSaturdayNight "blood-soaked"]], is something of a {{motif}} throughout his work. ²* YoungerThanTheyLook: Tom Waits is one of those people who's looked like he was about forty for most of his life, so at the beginning of his career (especially combined with the "[[GutturalGrowler I've been smoking since Atlantis sunk]]" voice) this trope was definitely in effect. Nowadays, [[OlderThanTheyLook it's the opposite.]]²* WordSaladLyrics: "The Piano Has Been Drinking." Justified in that the singer is schnockered out of his mind.²** "Step Right Up" is a cross between this and PatterSong. The words and even most of the sentences are not exactly nonsense ''per se'', but it's very clear that the narrator of the song is just stringing words together as rapidly as possible to keep your attention. For example, "We need your business, we're going out of business, we'll give you the business, get on the business end of our going-out-of-business sale"²----


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