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Music / Heartattack and Vine

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The morning light has washed your face, and everything is turning blue now.

Heartattack and Vine is a 1980 album by Tom Waits. It's best remembered for the fan favorites "Jersey Girl", "Ruby's Arms" and the title track. At the time it was his best-selling album up to that point.

It would be his final album for the label Asylum and symbolically end the first period of his career, where his music mostly evoked a "drunk pianist in a jazzy nightclub atmosphere". After this album Waits moved to another label, while his music changed into a style more akin to Avant Garde Music / Alternative Rock with the New Sound Album Swordfishtrombones (1983).



Side One

  1. "Heartattack and Vine" (4:50)
  2. "In Shades" (4:25)
  3. "Saving All My Love for You" (3:41)
  4. "Downtown" (4:45)
  5. "Jersey Girl" (5:11)

Side Two

  1. "Til the Money Runs Out" (4:25)
  2. "On the Nickel" (6:19)
  3. "Mr. Siegal" (5:14)
  4. "Ruby's Arms" (5:34)

Ruby's Tropes

  • Break Up Song: "Saving All My Love For You"
    I'd come home, but I'm afraid that you won't take me back, but I'd trade off everything just to have you near.
  • Continuity Nod: "Heartattack And Vine" makes mention of a "little jersey girl in the see-through top, with the peddle pushers sucking on a soda pop". The track "Jersey Girl" is also about such a girl.
  • Devil, but No God and God Is Flawed: "Heartattack and Vine"
    Don't you know there is no devil, there is just God when he's drunk
  • Face on the Cover: Waits is seen on the album cover as a newspaper picture.
  • Advertisement:
  • Instrumental: "In Shades".
  • In the Style of...: The album cover is designed in the style of a newspaper cover. The headlines of the articles are the names of the songs.
  • Ironic Nursery Rhyme: "On The Nickel" , a pseudo lullaby about little boys who don't do what they should and grow up to be skid row homeless.
  • Joisey: "Jersey Girl", of course.
  • Lampshade Hanging: In hindsight, the opening line of "Saving All My Love For You" serves as a shockingly self-aware analysis of where the album falls in his discography, coming between his "bluesy barfly" first period and carnival-barker sound of the second period.
    It's too early for the circus; it's too late for the bars...
  • Morality Ballad: "On the Nickel" is actually a parody of such. Waits wrote it from the point of view of a father telling his son that he'll end up like the men on Skid Row if he doesn't do as he's told.
  • Not Staying for Breakfast: "Ruby's Arms".
    As I say goodbye to Ruby's arms, you'll find another soldier, and I swear to God to Christmas, there'll be someone else to hold you
  • One-Man Song: "Mr. Siegal".
  • One-Woman Song: "Jersey Girl", "Ruby's Arms".
  • One-Word Title: "Downtown".
  • Packaged as Other Medium: The album cover is designed to look like a newspaper article.
  • Perpetual Poverty: Not too surprisingly, "Til the Money Runs Out"
    Can't you hear the thunder someone stole my watch
    I sold a quart of blood and bought a half a pint of scotch.
  • The Power of Love: "Jersey Girl"
    You know she thrills me with all her charms
    When i'm wrapped up in my baby's arms
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Waits wrote "Jersey Girl" for his wife and frequent collaborator Kathleen Brennan.
  • Scatting: "Jersey Girl" has Waits scatting "sha la la la", which surprised even him
    ''I never thought I would catchy myself saying "sha la la la" in a song.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Heartattack And Vine" is heard in Hellboy (2004) during the first scene where the adult Hellboy appears.
    • Bruce Springsteen covered "Jersey Girl" and includes it in most of his live shows, though his versions has a few lyrical differences. note  "Heartattack And Vine" was covered by Screamin' Jay Hawkins.
    • "Jersey Girl" was used on the soundtrack of Jersey Girl, albeit in Bruce Springsteen's version.
    • Homicide: Life on the Street: The episode "Bad Medicine" opens with "Til the Money Runs Out"
    • "Ruby's Arms" is used on the soundtrack of Prénom Carmen by Jean-Luc Godard.
  • Stock Sound Effects: Church bells are heard during "Saving All My Love For You".
  • Stop and Go: "Til the Money Runs Out" has an instrumental intro, followed by a sudden break and a few seconds of silence. Then Waits and the instruments come in.
  • Title Track: "Heartattack And Vine"
    You'll probably see someone you know on heartattack and vine


Example of: