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I present to you an account of…. Thomas Alan Waits Written and created by: Leiah J. Woodruff. The Early Years. On December 7 th , 1949, Thomas Alan Waits was born in a Tijuana taxi cab parked outside the Murphy Hospital in Whittier, California.

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i present to you an account of

I present to you an account of…

Thomas Alan Waits

Written and created by: Leiah J. Woodruff

the early years
The Early Years
  • On December 7th, 1949, Thomas Alan Waits was born in a Tijuana taxi cab parked outside the Murphy Hospital in Whittier, California.
  • Waits’ parents, Frank and Alma, were both schoolteachers. He had two older sisters.
  • In his early teen years, Tom taught himself to play the piano.
the significance of family influences
The significance of family influences
  • Tom Waits was musically influenced by his father and two uncles, Vernon and Robert.
  • His uncle Vernon had throat surgery causing him to have a tough, gravelly voice which Tom loved to imitate.
  • His uncle Robert played the pipe organ for the local church; eventually getting fired because the reverent hymns began sounding like “The Rite Of Spring” or “Lady Of Spain.”
  • In his musical career, the manipulation of voice and instrument, learned from his uncles and father, would play a key role in the success of his career.
more from the early years
More from the Early Years
  • At age fourteen, young Tom Waits began his first job at Napoleon's Pizza Parlor.
  • Tom Waits eventually dropped out of high school.
  • He hacked his way through countless dead-end jobs.
  • Conclusively, he got himself a decent job at the Heritage as the club bouncer.
  • He formed an R&B band called “The Systems.”
straight to the top
Straight To The Top
  • Tom Waits left the San Diego area and settled in Los Angeles. There he pursued his musical interest in singing and songwriting.
  • Tom encountered the writings of Jack Kerouac, and other beat poets; this influenced Tom’s musical persona.
  • At this point, Tom began working on his original material, tweaking his lyrics to make them sound more like what he was feeling.
  • He did some gigs here and there, usually not being paid much, but did gain experience.
  • He shortly began playing at a local circuit where he felt underappreciated and could not grow artistically.
the troubadour stage

Tom Waits pushed himself towards the Troubadour stage.

  • Tom felt as though this was his only chance to prove himself.
  • A rock manager was there that evening and caught Waits’ set. His name was Herb Cohen .
  • The very next day Tom signed a songwriting contract with Herb Cohen.
  • Waits later produced his first CD at the age of twenty-one.
The Troubadour Stage

“At the Troubadour, it’s like a last resort. You see old vaudeville cats, bands that have hocked everything to come out here from the East Coast just to play the Troub. one night.” -Tom Waits

closing time
Closing Time
  • Tom Waits was twenty-one when he produced his first album.
  • “Closing Time,” was released in March of 1973.
  • The album was recorded under, “Asylum” records.

Some well-known tracks include:

        • Closing Time
        • I Hope That I Don’t Fall In Love With you
        • Lonely
        • Ice Cream Man
        • Little Trip to Heaven
small change
Small Change
  • “Small Change,” was released in September of 1976.
  • Waits third album, “Small Change” was not exactly a small change. This album earned him a spot at Billboard’s top 100 Albums.
  • This album gained Waits a great fan base.

Some songs include:

        • Tom Traubert’s Blues
        • Step Right up
        • The Piano Has Drinking, Not Me
        • Pasties And A G-String
whistlin past the graveyard
Whistlin’ Past The Graveyard
  • Whistlin’ Past the Graveyard is the seventh song on the Blue Valentine album which was released in 1978.
  • Tom Waits uses a lot of terminology and some personal experiences in the lyrics used to paint a musical scheme about the life as a transient wanderer.

There are two noteworthy phrases in the song Whistlin’ Past the Graveyard.:

  • “I was born in a taxi cab, I’m never going home”
  • “I’ve never told the truth, so I can never tell a lie.”
whistlin past the graveyard listening guide
Whistlin’ Past The Graveyard- Listening Guide
  • 0:00 Introduction The song starts out in an immediate 4/4 beat with a tenor saxophone and electric guitar.
  • 0:13 Verse 1 At this time there is a tenor sax, electric guitar, bass drum and piano being played. The piano, bass drum, tenor sax and his voice are each on beat, each a tone higher than the other.
  • 0:28 Chorus In this song the chorus is very short, which only lasts for four measures. Tom Waits uses slang words while singing some of his lyrics. Each slang term is one syllable and the last two measures of the chorus end with a one syllable word.
  • 0:35 Verse 2 The use of slang is again identified at the end of the first measure.
whistlin past the graveyard listening guide continued
Whistlin’ Past The Graveyard- Listening Guide Continued…
  • 0:51 Chorus The chorus, just as the one before, and is being played in a quadruple meter.
  • 0:58 Verse 3 It sounds as though the tenor saxophone is playing a 2/4 beat. This is also the verse where you will hear, “ I was born in a Taxi cab, I’m never going home.”
  • 1:14 Chorus The chorusis just as the one before.
  • 1:21 Verse 4 On the first of four beats, whatever word he is singing at the time is emphasized. The drum is playing sixteenth notes and brings on the chorus after striking the cymbal.
  • 1:36 Chorus The chorus, just as the one before, and is being played in a quadruple meter.
whistlin past the graveyard listening guide continued1
Whistlin’ Past The Graveyard- Listening Guide Continued…
  • 1:43 Verse 5 The music at the end of the verse is DIFFERENT than the others. The piano, not the drums are being emphasized.
  • 1:59 Chorus The chorus and music are the same.
  • 2:07 Verse 6 A rather popular lyric line is revealed in this verse, which is: “I never told the truth so I can never tell a lie.”
  • 2:22 Chorus The chorus ends with the common melody, pulse and instruments.
  • 2:29 Fadeout Tom Waits ends the song with his usual raspy wails. The tenor sax sounds as though it is wailing with Waits in a 4/4 measure.
  • 3:14 End
kathleen brennan
Kathleen Brennan
  • In the summer of love, 1980, Tom Waits married the love of his life, his beautiful companion, Kathleen Brennan.
  • Kathleen was fascinated with a more industrial sound and encouraged Tom to seek new ways of expressing himself through music.
  • Kathleen brought COLOR to his life.
  • A very different Tom Waits emerged when he signed with Island Records in 1983.
the island years
The Island Years
  • Waits’ voice became alarmingly unusual and his music was much more innovative and experimental.
  • Tom Waits became comparable to the popular Captain Beefheart and Harry Partch.
  • Tom Waits experimented with not only his instruments, but also created musical fusion with household utilities.
  • “Swordfishtrombones,” was the first album produced from island records.
  • It was released in September of 1983.
  • Critics and fans alike were amazed and fell in love with this album.

Some songs include:

      • Underground
      • Johnsburg, Illinois
      • Frank’s Wild Years
      • Swordfishtrombones
rain dogs
Rain Dogs
  • “Rain Dogs,” was released in September of 1985.
  • This album proved to be a hit in the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Albums Of The 1980’s.
  • “Rain Dogs,” was unique by its upbeat tempos which was nothing like the pop and rock of the eighties.
  • He established an even larger fan base.

Some songs include:

      • Cemetery Polka
      • 9th And Hennepin
      • Downtown Train
bone machine
Bone Machine
  • “Bone Machine,” was the third to the last album produced from Island Records.
  • It was released in August of 1992.
  • This album was awarded in The Best Alternative Album category.

Some songs include:

      • Earth Died Screaming
      • All Stripped Down
      • Jesus Gonna Be Here
      • Goin’ Out West
mule variations
Mule Variations
  • Tom Waits withdrew from his contract with Island Records and signed with Epitaph Records.
  • His first album produced from Epitaph is" Mule Variations,” which was released in 1999.
  • In the Album title the “Mule” is Tom Waits himself.
  • Tom Waits was continuously changing or “varying” his musical connotations at the time the album was being created.
  • The title of the album, Mule Variations, when depicted literally means “Tom’s Changes.”
  • The album,MuleVariations won a Grammy in the year 2000.
low side of the road
Low Side Of The Road
  • The song Low Side Of The Road is a song on the Mule Variations album.
  • Tom Waits played with several fellow musicians during the making of Low Side Of The Road.
  • You can identify a few unusual instruments being played in this song like the chumbus, dousengoni and the optigon.
low side of the road listening guide
Low Side Of The Road - Listening Guide
  • 0:00 Introduction The song begins in an eighth note duple meter, where every other beat is being accentuated.
  • 0:16 Verse 1 Tom Waits begins to sing in almost a childish voice. When he sings the word “down”, the musical notes and his voice hold the decreasing note. Once the phrase is sung the trumpet very depressingly plays a prolonged note; it sounds almost as if the trumpet has caught a cold.
  • 0:46 Verse 2 You can interchangeably hear the dousengoni and trumpet being played. There is also an optigon being played throughout the music.
low side of the road listening guide continued
Low Side Of The Road-Listening Guide continued…
  • 1:18 Verse 3 As Waits begins to sing the guitar’s beat picks up with every syllable he sings. The guitar and the Chumbus are now playing quarter notes. This is also the only verse that doesn’t end in the phrase “the low side of the road.”
  • 1:42 Verse 4 The music’s time signature is the same through this verse as it is in the majority of the song.
  • 2:11 Verse 5 All lyrical phrases end in an exact rhyming word.
  • 2:49 Fadeout Immediately after the lyrics have stopped, all instruments but the guitar has stopped. There is a shake of a rattle, and the guitar ends the song in a 4/4 beat.
  • 2:59 End
eyeball kid
Eyeball Kid
  • Eyeball Kid was also released in the album Mule Variations, in 1999.
  • Again he had several fellow musicians help him play music for this particular song.
  • Eyeball Kid is in fact an Australian comic book.
  • Nicholas Cage and Waits are close acquaintances.
  • Tom Waits was inspired to write a song about the Eyeball Kid because he wanted to relate to the childhood relationship that Nicolas Cage has with comic books.
more on the eyeball kid

There are a few similarities between Tom Waits and the Eyeball Kid…

  • In the lyrics, the Eyeball Kid was born the same day as Tom Waits.
  • The Eyeball Kid meets up with a man who tells him that he needs a manager.
  • The young Tom Waits signed up with musical manager Herb Cohen in 1969.
More on the Eyeball Kid

Well, the first time I saw him was a Saigon jailCost me twenty-seven dollars just to go his bailI said your name will be in lights, and there's no doubtBut you got to have a manager, that's what it's all about!

-Tom Waits (Eyeball Kid)

eyeball kid listening guide
Eyeball Kid- Listening Guide
  • 0:00 Introduction The tonality of this song is very fun and very carnival-like. A choir chants in unison the words, “Hey you,” three times before the first verse begins.
  • 0:15 Verse 1 Tom Waits begins to sing in his usual wailing voice.

In every two meters or so you can hear “Hey,” a few seconds later, after another measure has passed they sing the word “you.” A bass clarinet can also be heard.

  • 0:46 This is a strophic song, so there is no chorus and the verses are very long. . The verses are broken up with Tom Waits singing “Hail, Hail, the Eyeball Kid,” or something exceptionally similar to that.
eyeball kid listening guide continued
Eyeball Kid- Listening Guide continued…
  • 0:53 Verse 2 The rhythmic pulse continues to be played by the percussion instruments. At 1:10 Waits sings a interval of pitches to separate a part in the verse.
  • 1:29 At this point the verse is ending and Tom Waits sings “Hail, Hail, the Eyeball Kid” which brings on the third verse of the song.
  • 1:36 Verse 3 Tthe Eyeball Kid actually speaks, and Tom Waits is sure to distinct the difference between voices.
  • 1:56 Verse 4 The percussion instruments begin to become somewhat irregular .The electric guitar is then introduced to mix up the order of things.
eyeball kid listening guide continued1
Eyeball Kid- Listening Guide continued…
  • 2:30 Verse 5 The electric guitar can now be heard, but only playing one or two rifts. After Tom Waits sings “everybody wants to see the Eyeball Kid,” there is a disarrangement of voices that impacts the audience to believe it is auction noise.
  • 2:56 Verse 6 Tom Waits sings “We are lost in the wilderness, we’re blind as can be/ He came down to teach us how to really see.”
  • 3:15 Verse 7 Waits sings “give it up,” two different times. At the end of the second time, the electric guitar plays an ascending contour scale that follows his voice. The verse subsequently ends at 3:49 with Waits singing “Eyeball Kid” three times.
eyeball kid listening guide continued2
Eyeball Kid- Listening Guide continued…
  • 3:50 Fadeout The music then continues for a while with Tom Waits singing “Eyeball Kid” in a megaphone, and the choir chanting “Hey you;” the two intermingle for a while as you hear the electric guitar being played in a minor scale.
  • 4:26 End
2002 2004
2002 & 2004

On May 4, 2002 Tom Waits released two albums:

His fifth album from the Epitaph/Anti Record Label is:

orphans brawlers bawlers bastards
Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards
  • “Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards” was released in November of 2006.
  • The album is a 3-disc compilation.
  • This Album included never before released songs, which were written a long ago .
  • There are several re-released songs on the compilation from the early 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.

Some songs include:

      • Ain’t Going Down To The Well
      • Fannin Street
      • Walk Away
      • Come On Up To The House
      • Long Way Home
long way home
Long Way Home
  • The song was written by Tom Waits and his wife, Kathleen Brennan.
  • Long Way Home was recorded and mixed in 2001 at Prairie Sun recording studio in California
  • Arliss Howard, a director asked Tom Waits and his wife to write a song for the motion picture Big Bad Love .
  • Tom Waits sent musician, Norah Jones a copy of this song and suggested that she covers it.
  • Jones included this song on her 2004 album Feels Like Home.
  • This landed Tom Waits’ work a whole new musical audience.
long way home listening guide
Long Way Home- Listening Guide
  • 0:00 Introduction This beautiful lullaby begins with a French horn and upright bass playing quarter notes. The consonance of this song is very appealing and it warms the hearts of the listening audience. It is another strophic song, so there will be no chorus.
  • 0:13 Verse 1 The French horn is being played to help express the honesty in Tom Waits’ voice. The song is being played in a simple division beat, which makes this song very easy to listen to and feel.
  • 0:45 Verse 2 The French horn is what makes the musical theme a love story. Tom Waits’ voice also stays in close range throughout the song.
long way home listening guide continued
Long Way Home- Listening Guide continued…
  • 1:17 Verse 3 If you look to this song as a story you can follow in each verse expressed affirmations for someone divine. The musical theme continues to be the same but when Waits sings the lyrics “But I’d trade it all tomorrow for the highway instead” the word “highway” is indefinitely longer and more annunciated than any other word in this verse.
  • 1:49 Break There is a significant break between the third and fourth verse of the song.
  • 2:03 Verse 4 The simple division and quarter notes being played by the upright bass and guitar are also extremely enjoyable to hear in this verse.
long way home listening guide continued1
Long Way Home- Listening Guide continued…
  • 2:36 Waits sings the final lyrics of the song he hums gently before singing “together, we can take the long way home.”As he sings the word “home” he carries it on tenderly for a full meter.
  • 2:51 Fadeout The upright bass is being plucked and the guitar playing its memorable quarter note beat, until the French horn comes in to play a pentatonic scale. The three instruments decrease in volume and eventually the darling lullaby ends.
  • 3:10 End

Click to listen to Low Way Home

glitter and doom tour
Glitter And Doom Tour
  • Tom Waits later looked to the night sky to determine where he would be touring across the nation.
  • He followed the path of the night constellation, "Hydro.”
  • This path began in the great southwest starting in Phoenix, Arizona and ending in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • He has since released a live compilation album from the Glitter And Doom Tour, which was released in 2009.

Right click here

to watch the Press Conference

being the e in pehdtsckjmba
Being the “E” in “PEHDTSCKJMBA”
  • I was a part of the Glitter And Doom Tour.
  • My husband and I met Tom Waits in El Paso, Texas on June 25th, 2008.
  • It was one of the most spectacular events in my entire life.
  • He played brilliantly at the Plaza Theatre and was awarded the key to the city.

Some songs that he sang that night were:

  • Chocolate Jesus
  • God’s Away On Business
  • Dirt In The Ground
  • Lucinda-Ain’tGoin’ Down
it s over
It’s Over

“In an astonishing career Waits’ managed to outlast and outperform his contemporaries. Remaining relevant in the face of superficial trends and grounded in the face of critical acclaim and an ever growing fan base.”

- Tony Pomfret (regarding Tom Waits’ musical career)


* Waits, Tom. Concert, 16 Apr. 1976. Princeton University, Princeton, NJ.

* Humphries, Patrick 2007. The Many Lives Of Tom Waits. New York, New York. USA. Omnibus Press.

* Jacobs, Jay S. 2000. Wild Years: The Music And Myth of Tom Waits. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. ECW Press.

*LaLonde, Dorene. Jan. 1999. Tom Waits Library. Tom Waits. 29. May 2008 http://www.tomwaitslibrary.com/index.html

*McGee, David. 27 Jan. 1977. Smelling Like A Brewery, Lookin’ Like A Tramp. Rolling Stones.

* Waits, Tom. May 2008. Tom Waits Press Conference. Tom Waits & ANTI Records. 2009 http://www. anti.com

*Cleland, Andy & Johnstone, Rob. Tom Waits Under Review 1983-2006. Nar. Tony Pomfret. 2007. DVD. Sexy Intellectual, 2008.

bibliography continued
Bibliography Continued…

* Rense, Rip. Apr. 1999. Tom Waits Q&A about Mule Variations. California, USA. Epitaph Promo. Interview.

* Hoskyns, Barney. Apr. 1999. Mojo Interview With Tom Waits. Mojo Magazine. London, England.

All photos came from:

Tom Waits Library

*LaLonde, Dorene. Jan. 1999. Tom Waits Library. Tom Waits. 29. May 2008 http://www.tomwaitslibrary.com/index.html


Woodruff, Leiah J. June 2008. Glitter And Doom Tour. June 2008.