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Music / Franks Wild Years

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Roll out the carpet. Strike up the band. Break into the best. Champagne when I land.

Franks Wild Years — not to be confused with "Frank's Wild Years" from Swordfishtrombones (1983) — is the tenth studio album by Tom Waits. Released in 1987 through Island Records, it marks the final part in his Frank O' Brien trilogy, which started with Swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs (1986).

The album features songs from a play of the same title Waits wrote with his wife Kathleen Brennan. The record is best remembered for the fan favorites "Way Down In The Hole", "Temptation" and "Innocent When You Dream".


Act I
  1. "Hang on St. Christopher" (2:46)
  2. "Straight to the Top (Rhumba)" (2:30)
  3. "Blow Wind Blow" (3:35)
  4. "Temptation" (3:53)
  5. "Innocent When You Dream (Barroom)" (4:15)
  6. "I'll Be Gone" (3:12)
  7. "Yesterday Is Here" (2:29)
  8. "Please Wake Me Up" (3:36)
  9. "Frank's Theme" (1:49)

Act II

  1. "More Than Rain" (3:52)
  2. "Way Down In The Hole" (3:30)
  3. "Straight To The Top (Vegas)" (3:26)
  4. "I'll Take New York" (3:58)
  5. "Telephone Call From Istanbul" (3:12)
  6. "Cold, Cold Ground" (4:07)
  7. "Train Song" (3:20)
  8. "Innocent When You Dream" (3:08)

Way Down In The Tropes

  • Alliterative Title: "Cold Cold Ground" and "Blow Wind Blow".
  • As the Good Book Says...: "Way Down In The Hole"
    At his command
    Well you don't have to worry
    If you hold on to Jesus hand
    We'll all be safe from Satan when the thunder rolls
    Just gotta help me keep the devil way down in the hole
  • Beautiful Dreamer: "Innocent When You Dream"
    It's such a sad old feeling
    The fields are soft and green
    It's memories that I'm stealing
    But you're innocent when you dream
  • Big Applesauce: "I'll Take New York"
    I want the moon and stars
    But I'll take NY
    I'll make it happen
    Blow out the candles
    Tear off the wrappin'
    And I know someday they'll have to name a street after me
    Right next door to old Franklin D.
  • Break-Up Song: "Innocent When You Dream"
    I made a golden promise that we would never part
    I gave my love a locket and then I broke her heart
    And then I broke her heart
  • Call-Back and Continuity Nod: The album title provides a Call-Back to the track "Frank's Wild Years" from Swordfishtrombones. It also carries on the tale about Frank O'Brien. The track "Straight to the Top (Rhumba)" and "Straight to the Top (Vegas)", as well as "Innocent When You Dream (Barroom)" and "Innocent When You Dream (78)" are both Siamese Twin Songs.
  • Face on the Cover: Waits playing accordion.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: "More Than Rain" starts off with bell sounds.
  • Important Haircut: "Telephone Call From Istanbul"
    Will you sell me one of those if I shave my head?
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: While the LP labels feature the standard "side one" and "side two," the back cover differentiates them as "Act I" and "Act II," tying in with the album's billing as "Un Operachi Romantico in Two Acts."
  • Inherited Illiteracy Title: It's hard to prevent people from mis-mispelling the album title. It doesn't help that Waits previously had a track called "Frank's Wild Years" on Swordfishtrombones, with the correct punctuation.
  • "I Want" Song: Most of "Franks Wild Years", especially "Innocent When You Dream", except that whenever Frank tries to sing it, someone interrupts him. He doesn't get to sing the whole song until the end, at which point he is just as unfulfilled as he was at the beginning.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: "Temptation"
    Oh, temptation, temptation, I can't resist
    I know that she is made of smoke but I've lost my way
    She knows that I am broke
    So that I must play
  • Non-Appearing Title: However, a track with the name "Frank's Wild Years" appeared on Swordfishtrombones (1983).
  • One-Word Title: "Temptation".
  • Pep-Talk Song: "Straight To The Top (Rhumba)"
    I'm going straight to the top
    Oh yeah, up where the air is fresh and clean
  • Rock Opera: It was actually staged as a musical play.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Way Down in the Hole" was used as the theme music of The Wire.
    • "Temptation" and "Cold, Cold Ground" were used in "Léolo" (1992).
    • "I'll Take New York" references Franklin D. Roosevelt Street in New York.
    And I know someday they'll have to name a street after me
    Right next door to old Franklin D.
    • "Temptation" was covered in ''NCIS'' by Ziva while undercover at a foreign nightclub.
  • Siamese Twin Songs: The track "Straight to the Top (Rhumba)" and "Straight to the Top (Vegas)", as well as "Innocent When You Dream (Barroom)" and "Innocent When You Dream (78)" are both Siamese Twin Songs.
  • Stock Sound Effects: "I'll Be Gone" has sound effects of a rooster crowing mixed in.
  • Train Song: "Train Song"
    It was a train that took me away from here
    but a train can't bring me home
    What made my dreams so hollow was standing at the depot
    With a steeple full of swallows that could never ring the bell
    And I come ten thousand miles away with not one thing to show