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Music / Nighthawks at the Diner

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An inebriated good evening to you all!

Nighthawks at the Diner is the third studio album by Tom Waits, released through Asylum Records in 1975. Combining traditional studio practices with those of a Live Album, it was recorded at the Record Plant in Los Angeles in front of a small audience who got an invitation to the event. Contrary to most live albums Waits didn't play songs from the previous two studio albums he had released at that point note  but performed all new material. Another unusual trait was the fact that this was a Distinct Double Album.

Nighthawks at the Diner has been praised for the wonderful jazz nightclub atmosphere and Waits' amusing delivery and jokes he tells during his performance.


LP One

Side One
  1. "(Intro)" (2:58)
  2. "Emotional Weather Report" (3:47)
  3. "(Intro)" (2:16)
  4. "On a Foggy Night" (3:48)
  5. "(Intro)" (1:53)
  6. "Eggs and Sausage (In A Cadillac with Susan Michelson)" (4:19)

Side Two

  1. "Intro" (3:02)
  2. "Better Off Without a Wife" (3:59)
  3. "Nighthawk Postcards (From Easy Street)" (11:30)

LP Two

Side Three
  1. "Intro" (0:55)
  2. "Warm Beer and Cold Women" (5:21)
  3. "Intro" (0:47)
  4. "Putnam County" (7:35)
  5. "Spare Parts I (A Nocturnal Emission)" (6:25)

Side Four

  1. "Nobody" (2:51)
  2. "Intro" (0:40)
  3. "Big Joe and Phantom 309" (6:29)
  4. "Spare Parts II and Closing" (5:13)

CD releases are across one disc.


  • Tom Waits: vocals, piano, guitar
  • Pete Christlieb: tenor sax
  • Bill Goodwin: drums
  • Jim Hughart: upright bass
  • Mike Melvoin: piano, guitar, electric piano

Emotional Troper Report:

  • Album Title Drop: "Eggs And Sausage (In A Cadillac with Susan Michelson)"
    Nighthawks at the diner of Emma's Forty-Niner
  • The Alcoholic: "Nighthawks Postcards (From Easy Street)"
    You've been drinking cleaning products all night
  • Beware of Hitchhiking Ghosts: "Big Joe And Phantom 309" has Waits encounter a truck driver named Big Joe, one night, who turns out to be a ghost who appears every night At the Crossroads. Apparently he died 10 years ago in a bus accident, where he gave his life to prevent a group of children dying in the process.
  • Book Ends: Two songs have the title "Spare Parts".
  • Break-Up Song:
    • "Emotional Weather Report"
    And a weak pressure ridge extending from my eyes down to my cheeks cause since you left me baby
    And put the vice grips on my mental health
    Well the extended outlook for an indefinite period of time until you come back to me baby is high tonight
    Low tomorrow, and precipitation is expected
    • "Spare Parts I"
    Yeah, well, I don't need you baby
    It's a well known fact
    I'm 4 sheets to the wind
    I'm glad you're gone
    I'm glad you're gone
    I'm finally alone
    Glad you're gone, but I
    Wish you'd come home
  • Cover Version: "Phantom 309" by Tommy Faile, released a single in 1967 by Red Sovine. Waits version has slighty different lyrics, though.
  • Cradle of Loneliness: "Better Off Without A Wife"
    Well, they say I'm kinda selfish about my privacy
    Now as long as I can be with me
    We get along so well I can't even believe it
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The album cover is shot by Cal Schenkel and inspired by Edward Hopper's painting "Nighthawks".
  • Distinct Double Album: The album was released as a double LP at the time.
  • A Dog Ate My Homework: "Putnam County"
    Where the hell are my goddamn sandals?
    What do you mean the dog chewed up my left foot
  • Epic Rocking: If the intros are considered as part of the tracks they lead into, nearly every song. Apart from "Nobody" and "Spare Parts II", all songs, when combined with their intros, are at least six minutes long. The longest is "Nighthawk Postcards", though, at eleven and a half minutes.
  • Face on the Cover: Tom Waits is featured on the album cover, sitting in a diner restaurant.
  • Hurricane of Puns: "Eggs And Sausage"
    Coffee just wasn't strong enough to defend itself.
  • Improv: The intro to "On A Foggy Night"
    Well, I think it's about time I took you on an improvisitional adventure into the bowels of the metropolitan region
  • Insult Backfire: "Better Off Without A Wife": during the intro Waits says he often calls himself up and asks himself up. Some people in the audience laugh with this, but then he retreats:
    Oh yeah, you call yourself up too, huh?
  • Live Album: Waits' first.
  • Misogyny Song: "Better Off Without A Wife".
    Hey, I've got this girl I know, man, and I just...
    She been married several times and I...
    I don't wanna end up like her
    I mean, she been married so many times
    She got rice marks all over her face and
    Yeah, you know the kind
  • Mundane Made Awesome: "Eggs And Sausage", where Waits orders eggs and sausage in a diner restaurant.
  • "Nighthawks" Shot: The album is a shout-out to Edward Hopper's painting "Nighthawks".
  • Ominous Fog: "On A Foggy Night"
    I'm stranded, all upon a foggy night
  • One-Word Title: "Nobody".
  • The Power of Love: "Nobody"
    Nobody, nobody, will ever love you the way I could love you
    Cause nobody's that strong
  • Product Placement: "Putnam County"
    Driving in Subarus, Pintos, Malibus, Oldsmobiles
    (...)And you climb into the helm of a 1958 monkey shit brown Buick Super and you're on your way home
    (...) Light up an Old Gold, save the coupon
    And they'd suck on Coca Colas and be spittin' Days work
    (...) and the Stratocasters slung over the Burgermeister beer guts
    Wearing Prince Matchabelli, Estée Lauder
    And the Gmc' s and the Straight 8 Fords were coughing and wheezing and they perculated as they tossed the gravel
    • "Spare Parts I"
    And the sky turned the color of Pepto-Bismol
    (...) Jacked up my pegs, wiped my Stacy Adams
    Was that a Malibu?
    • "Big Joe and Phantom 309"
    I smoked up all his Viceroys as we rolled along
  • Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: During "Spare Parts I" Waits imitates a car passing by after the line Was that a Malibu?
  • Scatting: Waits scats near the end of "Spare Parts I".
  • Self-Deprecation: "Better Off Without A Wife"
    But I've always kinda been partial to calling myself up on the phone and asking myself out, you know? (...) Yeah, well one thing about it: you're always around.
  • Shout-Out:
    For everybody who ever whistled this song... or maybe you whistled it, but you lost the sheet music
    • "Nighthawks Postcards" namedrops sideshow entertainer PT Barnum and references the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland.
    Or they give you the old PT Barnum bit: "There's a sucker born every minute."
    (...) Looking for some kind of Cheshire billboard grin
    • "Nighthawks Postcards" also namedrops "Wine, Wine, Wine" (1963) by the Nightcaps. Waits confuses this band with Chuck E. Weiss' 1975 band "The Night Caps". Another song referenced is "High Blood Pressure" by George Perkins and several lines from Frank Sinatra's "That's Life". To top it all off legendary jazz drummer Gene Krupa is also mentioned.
    I was lookin' for maybe 'Wine, Wine, Wine' by the Nightcaps
    Starring Chuck E. Weiss or maybe...
    Maybe a little something called 'High Blood Pressure'
    By George 'cryin' in the streets' Perkins, no dice
    "Cause that's life," that's what all the people say
    Your riding high in April, seriously shot down in May
    But I know I'm gonna change that tune
    When I'm standing underneath a buttery moon That's all melted off to one side
    (...) And it sounded like the ghost of Gene Krupa.
    • The intro to "Warm Beer And Cold Women" makes reference to a bar called The Three Little Pigs. The song itself namedrops Tammy Wynette and Johnnie Barnett.
    And the band's playin' something by Tammy Wynette
    (...) And the band's playin' something by Johnnie Barnett
    • "Putnam Country" namedrops the Hank Williams Song Book and singer Charlie Rich.
    I elbowed up at the counter with mixed feelings over mixed drinks and Bubba and the Roadmasters moaned in pool hall concentration as they knit their brows to cover the entire Hank Williams Song Book
    As the radio spittin' out Charlie Rich, man, and he sure can sing that son of a bitch
    Liz Taylor and Montgomery Clift, coming on to the broads with the same ol' riff. Hey, baby, why don't you come up to my place, we'll listen to some smooth music on the stereo, no thank you, she said. Got any Stan Getz records? No, man, I got Smothers Brothers
  • Spoken Word in Music: Many songs have Waits talking, while the band plays in the background.
  • A Storm Is Coming: "Emotional Weather Report".
    And a line of thunderstorms was developing in the early morning
  • Talks Like a Simile: "Spare Parts"
    Yeah baby, you put me on hold and I'm out in the wind
    And it's getting mighty cold