🎵 How Good Are They Really 🎵 Tom Waits

Bonus point for literally being the Joker too. So actually it’s a 6. Close the thread.

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Easiest 5 I will ever give, but really difficult to choose the best album. I went for Rain Dogs in the end as there is so much variety on there and for me it’s the perfect link between his singer-songwriter past to his experimental future.

My favourite of his early records is Heart of Saturday night. Really great jazzy songwriter stuff with some heartbreaking ballads.

You could make a good case for Small Change being his best record. A bit more strangeness entering the mix amongst the beat poetry and schmaltz.

Franks Wild Years pushes Rain Dogs close for me. Cold cold ground and train song at the end of that record are devastating.

If I’m in the mood for something darker then Bone Machine is where I go. I don’t wanna grow up and that feel towards the end of the record are quite fun in Waits type way.

In terms of his later records, I love Alice and Bad as Me. Bad as me is kind of similar to Rain dogs in that it covers a lot of ground in Waits’ discography.

Love this man. I’ll post some links to songs later.


This world be true were he not actually good. But he’s is good. So it’s not true.


Watched the documentary about him on the iPlayer recently. Found young Tom Waits kind of irritating. Don’t like his “beatnik crooner” years stuff much. However I love everything from about Swordfishtrombones onwards when he went all Captain Beefheart

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Love the Black Rider.

Saw it performed at the Barbican with Marianne Faithful - was fantastic.

Also love how Tom Waits turns up in loads of random films

A definite five for me. That trilogy of Swordfishtrombones, Rain Dogs and Frank’s Wild Years is almost peerless in my view. Swordfishtrombones is one of those rare records I can still vividly remember hearing for the first time. I knew almost nothing about it before I put it on (apart from it being highly placed in an NME ‘greatest albums ever’ list, back when that meant something) and it sounded absolutely nothing like anything else I’d ever heard before but completely blew me away. Objectively Rain Dogs is probably even better but I voted SFT because of that impact -one of the great music listening moments of my life.

Those three albums sit at the pivot point of his career - before them things are generally a bit more easy listening (although that is a relative term - there are some MOR moments in those albums but also some wildness), afterwards there is some wild experimentation. I love those ‘before and after’ records too, but for me they don’t quite match the near perfection of the FWY trilogy. Bad As Me is right up there though. He’s so good that the collection of unreleased stuff he put out is better than most artist’s best albums.

He’s a rare artists that genuinely frighten you, make you laugh and make you cry - often all in the space of two or three songs. Legend.


Voting 5 despite not really knowing him in depth, as have always hugely enjoyed what little I’ve heard, and today’s as good a day as any to rectify that. Halfway through Rain Dogs and it’s just brilliant.

What’s the story with the music on his records, does he play instruments himself, does he have a regular band or just session musicians?

I’ve been working on getting a good Small Change impression going for years now. Trying to get that gravely still makes me cough though.

He plays a lot of the keyboards himself, generally produces his albums and surrounds himself with good musicians. Marc Ribot is important on Rain Dogs. Keith Richards plays in three tracks too. He’s worked with lots of different people over the years though.

Can somebody post a primer please?
I’ve bounced off him every time I’ve tried to get into him.

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The theme to a Tom Waits sitcom

You won’t go far wrong if you just put Rain Dogs or Swordfishtrombones on.


Putting a playlist together to accompany a day of PhD revision - will post for you when done.


I mean he’s obviously a 5, just don’t make me listen to it.

(I like smatterings of his 70s work, but I never found a whole album that I actually like)

Tom has to be a 5, absolutely legendary and his output is so consistent. For people who find him a bit grating, he’s basically just created a character to perform music through which really opens him up to create a whole universe through his music. Almost better to view him as a writer and artist than an earnest musician.

Just has so many bangers, some traditional, some really beautiful piano ballads, some mad genre-bending shit

also in one of the greatest films of all time


I did have a 10 track introduction I’ve forced on many a friend over the years but it looks like I deleted it. I think it went like this:


Think the first Tom Waits song I knowingly heard was this military stomp from his last album, it’s brilliant.


probably my favourite musician ever. Top 5 at least. Gets into all the nooks and cracks of life in both songwriting and sound. Has a load of different styles but always sounds like only himself. Went for Mule Variations for best album as it left an indelible mark on my brain one summer when I was an odd jobs labourer. But could have easily gone for Heart of Saturday Night, Blue Valentine, Swordfishtrombones, Alice, Bad As Me.

Many times I’ve growled my way to a sore throat along with him. This makes me real emotional when I’ve had a few cans with old friends.


Love this song so much