Aria - A Passion for Opera

I heard "Nessun Dorma" in the kitchen at Coppolas with Raul Julia one night, and it changed my life, that particular Aria. I had never heard it. He asked me if I had ever heard it, and I said no, and he was like, as if I said I've never had spaghetti and meatballs - "Oh My God, Oh My God!" and he grabbed me and he brought me to the jukebox (there was a jukebox in the kitchen) and he put that on and he just kind of left me there. It was like giving a cigar to a 5 year old. I turned blue, and I cried.
- Tom Waits on Nessun Dorma

Exile on Main Street

"I Just Want To See His Face." That song had a big impact on me, particularly learning how to sing in that high falsetto, the way Jagger does. When he sings like a girl, I go crazy. I said, `I've got to learn how to do that.' I couldn't really do it until I stopped smoking. That's when it started getting easier to do. "Shore Leave" has that, "All Stripped Down", "Temptation." Nobody does it like Mick Jagger; nobody does it like Prince. But this is just a tree of life. This record is the watering hole. Keith Richards plays his ass off. This has the Checkerboard Lounge all over it.
- Tom Waits on The Rolling Stones


Houndog, the David Hidalgo record he did with Mike, now that's a good record to listen to when you drive through Texas. That's a great record. I can't get enough of that. Anything by Latin Playboys, anything by Los Lobos. They are like a fountain. Colossal Head killed me. Those guys are so wild, and they've gotten so cubist. They've become like Picasso. They've gone from being purely ethnic and classical, to this strange, indescribable item that they are now. They're worthwhile to listen to under any circumstances. But the sound he got on Houndog, on the electric violin.The whole record is a dusty road, Hidalgo plays through stabbed amps and Mike and he find the Brown sound. Dark and burnished and mostly unfurnished. Superb texture and reverb. Lo-fi at its highest level. Songs of depth and atmosphere.
- Tom Waits on Houndog

I'm Your Man

Euro, Klezmer, Chansons, Apocalyptic, Revelations, with that mellifluous voice. A shipwrecked Aznavour, washed up on shore. Important songs, meditative, authoritative, and Leonard is a poet, an Extra Large one.
- Tom Waits on Leonard Cohen

Lead Belly's Last Sessions

Leadbelly was a river, was a tree. His 12-string guitar rang like a piano in a church basement. The Rosetta stone for much of what was to follow, he died in '49. Excellent to listen to when driving across Texas. Contains all that is necessary to sustain life, a true force of nature. He died the day before I was born - I like to think I passed him in the hall and he banged into me and knocked me over.
- Tom Waits on Lead Belly

Martinis & Bikinis

Peculiar, innovative, soulful, and reasonably undiscovered, with a deeply expressive voice and challenging, unusual topics for songs. Kurt Weill with a revolver. Her cracked vocals and surreal lyrics make for an odd and familiar ride. She, her face yellow and her hair red. T-Bone gives her a third eye and together they make tough records. She's Dusty Springfield via Marianne Faithfull with a dash of Jackie DeShannon, but very much her own woman.
- Tom Waits on Sam Phillips

Modern Sounds in Country
and Western

I knelt at the altar of Ray Charles for years. I worked at a restaurant, and that's all there was on the jukebox, practically, that and some Patsy Cline. "Crying Time", "Can't Stop Loving You", "Let's Go Get Stoned", "You Are My Sunshine", "What'd I Say", "Hit The Road, Jack." I worked on Saturday nights and I would take my break and I'd sit by the jukebox and I'd play my Ray Charles. His piano playing. He would kind of skate across country and sound like Floyd Kramer some times on the piano and he brought that in there with the Jelly Roll Morton and he could play like Nat King Cole. It was just amazing what he absorbed and that voice, for years it was just "the Genius of Ray Charles ." I also love a record called "Listen." He did "Yesterday" on electric piano and it just killed me, to hear that voice, it was like he crossed over a bridge, because he remained in R&B territory, yet there was something so timeless about his voice, and hearing him do a Beatles song was just indescribable.
- Tom Waits on Ray Charles

Mule Variations

Writing with Kathleen is great, because with her - "the way you do anything is the way you do everything...the way you paint a fence, the way you hammer a nail, the way you drive to work, you know? So we have a good way of working together. It's telepathic and compatible, it's pugulistic, it's fascinating. She's a great collaborator.
- Tom Waits on 'Mule Variations'

Volume 2 2

Without spirituals and the baptist church and the whole African-American experience in this country, I don't know what we would consider music, I don't know what we'd all be drinking from. It's in the water. The impact the whole black experience continues to have on all musicians is immeasurable. Lomax recorded everything. From the sounds of the junkyard, or he would go into a market and just record the cash register - disappearing machinery that we would no longer be hearing. You know, one thing that doesn't change is the sound of kids getting out of school. Record that in 1921, record that in 1999, it's the same sound. The good thing about these is that they're so raw, they're recorded so raw, that it's just like listening to a landscape. It's like listening to a big open field. You hear other things in the background. You hear people talking while they are singing. It's the hair in the gate.
- Tom Waits on 'Prison Songs'

Rant in E-Minor

Bill Hicks, blowtorch, excavator, truthsayer and brain specialist, like a reverend waving a gun around. Pay attention to Rant in E Minor, it is a major work, as important as Lenny Bruce's. He will correct your vision. His life was cut short by cancer, though he did leave his tools here. Others will drive on the road he built. Long may his records rant even though he can't.
- Tom Waits on Bill Hicks

Rum, Sodomy & the Lash

Sometimes when things are real flat, you want to hear something flat, other times you just want to project onto it, something more like .. you might want to hear the Pogues. Because they love the west. They love all those old movies. The thing about Ireland, the idea that you can get into a car and point it towards California and drive it for the next five days is like Euphoria, because in Ireland you just keep going around in circles, those tiny little roads. You never get that feeling ta ta ta tum, da ta ta da ta TUM! "Dirty Old Town", "The Old Main Drag." Shane has the gift. I believe him. He knows how to tell a story. They are a roaring, stumbling band. These are the Dead End kids for real. Shane's voice conveys so much. They play like soldiers on leave. The songs are epic. It's whimsical and blasphemous, seasick and sacriligeous, wear it out and then get another one.
- Tom Waits on The Pogues

Solo Monk

Monk said "There is no wrong note, it has to do with how you resolve it." He almost sounded like a kid taking piano lessons.. I could relate to that when I first started playing the piano, because he was decomposing the music while he was playing it. It was like demystifying the sound, because there is a certain veneer to jazz and to any music, after a while it gets traffic rules, and the music takes a backseat to the rules. It's like aerial photography, telling you that this is how we do it. That happens in folk music too. Try playing with a bluegrass group and introducing new ideas. Forget about it. They look at like you're a communist. On Solo Monk, he appears to be composing as he plays, extending intervals, voicing chords with impossible clusters of notes. "I Should Care" kills me, communion wine with a twist. Stride, church, jump rope, Bartok, melodies scratched into the plaster with a knife. A bold iconoclast. Solo Monk lets you not only see these melodies without clothes, but without skin. This is astronaut music from Bedlam.
- Tom Waits on Thelonious Monk

Star Time

I first saw James Brown in 1962 at an outdoor theater in San Diego and it was indescribable. it was like putting a finger in a light socket. He did the whole thing with a cape. He did please please. It was such a spectacle. It had all the pageantry of the Catholic church. It was really like seeing mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral on Christmas and you couldn't ignore the impact of it in your life. You'd been changed, your life is changed now. And everybody wanted to step down, step forward, take communion, take sacrament, they wanted to get close to the stage and be annointed with his sweat, his cold sweat.
- Tom Waits on James Brown

The Basement Tapes

With Bob Dylan, so much has been said about him, it's difficult so say anything about him that hasn't already been said, and say it better. Suffice it to say Dylan is a planet to be explored. For a songwriter, Dylan is as essential as a hammer and nails and a saw are to a carpenter. I like my music and the rinds and the seeds and pulp left in, so the bootlegs I obtained in the '60s and '70s are where the noise and grit of the tapes became inseparable from the music, are essential to me. His journey as a songwriter is the stuff of myth, because he lives within the ether of the songs. Hail, hail The Basement Tapes. I heard most of these songs on bootlegs first. There is a joy and an abandon to this record, it's also a history lesson.
- Tom Waits on Bob Dylan

The Harry Partch
Collection, Vol. 1
The new CDs have been reissued and the sound is excellent. These are an excellent introduction to his whole oevre. Start with 'Volume One' and you're infected. He'd worked as a migrant worker and had been on the road for half his life, and he was one of those rogue academics who worked outside the matrix. So they feared him and pretended to admire him. Like most innovators, he become gravel on the road that most people drive on. So he was the first one through the door and he gets trampled by the crowd. But nobody has done anything like that since. The idea of designing your own instruments, playing them and then designing your own scale, your own system of music. That's dramatic and particularly for the time that he was doing it. It was rather subversive. It's always fascinating to hear something being played that doesn't sound polished or evolved as an instrument. It still sounds a little bit like you're hitting tractor parts or dumpster door. Or you're still in the kitchen, to an extent. The music has that extra texture to it. And then of course he's very sophisticated and well versed in mythology so it's got that other side to it.
- Tom Waits on Harry Partch

The Lounge Lizards

They used to accuse John Lurie of doing fake jazz, - a lot of posture, a lot of volume. When I first heard it, it was so loud, I wanted to go outside and listen through the door, and it was jazz. And that was an unusual thing in New York, to go to a club and hear jazz that loud, at the same volume people were listening to punk rock. Get the first record, The Lounge Lizards. You know, John's one of those people, if you walk into a field with him, he'll pick up an old pipe and start to play it, and get a really good sound out of it. He's very musical, works with the best musicians, but never go fishing with him. He's a great arranger and composer with an odd sense of humor.
- Tom Waits on The Lounge Lizards

The above is borrowed from Hear Music's Artist's Choice Interview 1999