Follow TV Tropes


Music / Foreign Affairs

Go To
Stop meeee...if you HEARD THIS ONE...

Foreign Affairs is the fourth album in Tom Waits catalogue, released in 1977. It is best remembered for his duet with Bette Midler: "I Never Talk to Strangers" and other audience favorites like "Potter's Field" and "Burma-Shave".


Side One
  1. "Cinny's Waltz" (2:17)
  2. "Muriel" (3:33)
  3. "I Never Talk to Strangers" (3:38)
  4. "Medley: Jack & Neal/California, Here I Come" (5:01)
  5. "A Sight for Sore Eyes" (4:40)

Side Two

  1. "Potter's Field" (8:40)
  2. "Burma-Shave" (6:34)
  3. "Barber Shop" (3:54)
  4. "Foreign Affair" (3:46)


I Never Trope To Strangers

  • Album Title Drop: "Foreign Affair".
    And the cargo that they're carrying is you
    a foreign affair juxtaposed with a stateside
    and domestically approved romantic fancy
    is mysteriously attractive due to circumstances knowing
    it will only be parlayed into a memory
  • Alliterative Title: "A Sight for Sore Eyes".
  • Burma-Shave: "Burma-Shave", telling the tale of two urban runaways searching for someplace to escape to. The verses are set up to always end on name the titular product, as if tracking their progress down the lonely highways. It doesn't turn out well.
  • Completely Different Title:
    • The Japanese translation of "A Sight for Sore Eyes" -> 想い出に乾杯 (Toast to Memory)
  • Cover Version: "California Here I Come", popularized by Al Jolson.
  • Crapsack World: "Potter's Field", where Waits plays a man giving information about the criminal underworld in exchange for some booze.
  • Advertisement:
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The album cover is in black-and-white with a lot of shadows. This was done when the producer Bones Howe listened to the demos and said: "It's like a black-and-white movie." The mood of the songs fit a Film Noir, so the cover reflects this.
  • Epic Rocking: "Potter's Field" is between eight and nine minutes.
  • Face Framed in Shadow: Waits and the woman on the album cover.
  • Face on the Cover: Waits in the presence of a Native American woman named Marsheila Cockrell.
  • Gratuitous French: "Foreign Affair"
    Without fear of contradiction bon voyage is always hollered
  • Instrumental: "Cinny's Waltz".
  • Let's Duet and Soprano and Gravel: "I Never Talk To Strangers", a duet between the gravely voiced Waits and the lighter Bette Midler.
  • Medley: "Jack & Neal/California Here I Come".
  • Mooning: From "Medley...":
    Just then Florence Nightingale dropped her drawers and
    Stuck her fat ass half way out the window with a
    Wilson Pickett tune.
  • One-Woman Song: "Muriel".
  • Shout-Out:
    • "A Sight for Sore Eyes" quotes "Auld Lang Syne" in the opening theme.
    • "Barber Shop" namedrops the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.
    • The "Jack and Neal" in "Medley" are implied to be Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady.
  • Siamese Twin Songs: "Burma-Shave" and "Barber Shop" are strategically placed behind each other, which fits their shared theme.
  • Small Town Boredom: A small town girl runs off with a handsome motorist in "Burma Shave". Their story doesn't end well.
  • Smoking Is Not Cool: "Barber Shop"
    Now if your mama saw you smokin why she'd kick your ass
    Put it out you little juvenile and put it out fast
  • Sunglasses at Night: Waits wears them in "Burma Shave", which turns out to be a bad idea.
  • Teenage Death Songs: "Burma Shave" is about two young teenagers who crash their car trying to make their way to the titular town.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: