The Tom Waits Listening Club - Mule Variations polls on post 582

Heartattack and Vine Polls

How Good Is Heartattack and Vine Really?
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0 voters

Best tracks on Heartattack and Vine:
  • Heartattack and Vine
  • In Shades
  • Saving All My Love For You
  • Downtown
  • Jersey Girl
  • 'Til The Money Runs OUt
  • On The Nickel
  • Mr Siegal
  • Ruby’s Arms

0 voters

loved this


One From The Heart (Columbia Records, 1982)


“I think it’s important to to separate yourself as a writer and performer from who you actually are. A guy who writes murder mysteries doesn’t have to be a murderer.”

When Francis Ford Coppola saved Tom Waits from his failed New York experiment he was coming off the back of the wild success of Apocalypse Now, not to mention the baffling ordeal of making Apocalypse Now (as he put it in the interview at the start of the brilliant making-of documentary Hearts of Darkness: “We were in the jungle, there were too many of us, we had access to too much money, too much equipment, and little by little we went insane.”) The madness of it all paid off at the box office and Coppola had license to do pretty much whatever he wanted… And so, as was the style at the time, he decided to say fuck you to the studio system and attempt to build a filmmakers’ utopia. He had a big, wild idea for pure artistic freedom and the blending of any and all artistic disciplines in a big ol’ melting pot: Zoetrope Studios. He bought himself a studio lot and decided to make movies outside the Hollywood system with the director as god-king at the heart of it. The first picture Zoetrope would make would be One From The Heart, an ode to Las Vegas, “a city in love with itself.” Originally envisioned as a romantic comedy Coppola’s wild ambition was to make it a musical, a theatrical production and a Greek tragedy, with male and female singers acting as Zeus and Hera singing about the foolish mortals below. Originally Van Morrison was tapped up to do the music but as it turned out he couldn’t stand Las Vegas and wanted no part of it. One day someone played Coppola a bit of Waits and after hearing I Never Talk to Strangers he wanted both Waits and Midler to fill the roles. Midler wasn’t available; Waits, of course, was. Musically it represented a step backward but it was too big a deal to turn down.

Waits was given his own office right next to Bones Howe’s, which helped ease him into the chaos of Zoetrope studios. Coppola changed his mind constantly on what he wanted One From The Heart To Be, leaving Waits to write for a moving target. Pre-production took so long he had time to saunter off and do Heartattack and Vine. And before he returned to the picture he had a loose end he wanted to tie up: he married Kathleen Brennan on August 10th 1980. The wedding sounds straight out of one of his songs: they married at the 24 hour, “Always Forever Yours Wedding Chapel” and as a souvenir the couple received a gift bag containing a copy of a novel (“The Vanishing Bride”), a Tampax, two prophylactics and some bleach, “to wash out so you start clean as a couple.” They threw a big party the week after (at which Waits’ bassist Greg Cohen got chatting to his future wife, Kathleen’s sister Marguerite) then headed to Ireland for the honeymoon.

Waits was very happy not to have to go straight out on tour for Heartattack but instead returned to a picture in chaos. Coppola decided to capture the ersatz feeling of Las Vegas he should build every set on the Zoetrope lot - the budget was originally meant to be $12 million, the sets (including part of an airport for the final scene) cost $10 million. There were extensive dance scenes that Gene Kelly himself had been brought in to oversea (interestingly Kelly appeared on a track set for the soundtrack that didn’t make the cut). Waits reacted to the insanity by going pro, putting on a suit and tie every morning and working it like a 9-5. He brought in a Heartattack style R&B band for one song, 'Little Boy Blue", but mostly stuck to a jazz band made up of a mix of Waits regulars and legendary jazz session musicians. Kathleen suggested Crystal Gayle as the female voice for the record, a move Waits resisted as he thought the country pop star was, “a little too vanilla” for the job but Bones Howe liked the idea and talked him round.

The picture demanded he looked backwards but he couldn’t help look forwards, writing his first Bertholt Brecht waltz in ‘Circus Girl’ and banging a lot of tire irons as percussion on the demos for “You Can’t Unring a Bell.” However the shoot was taking so long Asylum eventually pushed him into promoting Heartattack with a tour that forced Waits to keep looking backwards and resurrect his old drunk stage persona one last time. People who saw it witnessed someone running through an act they clearly now despised. It was the catalyst for completing the transformation for the next act of his life and career as he cast aside just about everything from his old life - friends, musicians, labels, managers, personas. But first he’d have to finish the damn soundtrack.

When he got back Waits was upset to find Bob Alvicar had done a lot of work on the music without him. He didn’t like losing grip on the project and would end up fighting Bones Howe over release of the soundtrack, convinced it didn’t represent his vision and wanting to was his hands of it. Given how the film itself turned out you can’t blame him. When Coppola eventually finished it - after having to be financially rescued by a Canadian Oil Tycoon - Paramount, who planned to distribute it, got word they had a massive turkey on their hands and wanted to can the whole thing. Coppola, in a spectacular display of hubris, booked New York’s Radio City Music Hall for a screening to, ‘let the public decide.’ And, well, the public decided. And it wasn’t pretty. Columbia ended up distributing it when Paramount bailed and the film was eventually pulled from screenings after making less that $700k back from the $23 million it cost. The Zoetrope Studio lot would be sold within 2 years.

So much for failed experiments. But for Waits the experience had given him clarity on what he wanted to do next, primarily through his new wife. Kathleen’s dad, as it turns out, was an accountant who did a few sums on Herb Cohen’s dealings with Waits and discovered he’d been embezzling his royalties since day one. Cohen was like a surrogate dad to Waits so this came as a blow, though perhaps not a surprise since Zappa had already taken him to court over the same issues in 1976. So Cohen was out. Waits cut ties with Chuck E Weiss and the Troubador, got himself released from Asylum Records and stopped calling most of his regular musicians (bar Greg Cohen, what with him soon to be his brother in law and all). Most painful was the decision to end the partnership with Bones Howe who had guided him through “He called me up and said ‘Can we have a drink?’ He told me he realised one night that as he was writing a song, he found himself asking ‘If I write this, will Bones like it?’ I said to him that we were getting to be kind of like an old married couple. I said I don’t want to be the reason that an artist can’t create. It was time for him to find another producer. We shook hands and that was it. It was a great ride.”

So with the slate wiped clean Waits moved on to a new phase. The One From The Heart soundtrack is a strange place to end the first part - the story of how it all came together and how this period set Waits up for the success to come is perhaps more interesting than the record itself. Waits biographer Barney Hoskins reckons it, “enjoys a special place in the heart of Waits fans.” I’ll let you be the judge of that.


Haven’t heard it before. Sounds like it might be shite. Is it shite?

I liked it a bit more this time tbf, possibly enough to give it a 2. And while Broken Bicycles is Waits at his most mawkish I still have a big soft spot for it.

Worth a listen, but almost certainly just the one.


I’m 3 minutes in. Not sure I’m getting through this.

Yeah I feel like this one is nailed on for bottom place. Still like bits and bobs from it though.

Thank you so much Mr Horse for yet another quality write up! Despite loving Tom Waits (and Apocalypse Now) I have never heard of this record or this film. Looking forward (ish) to finding out what I’ve been missing out on…

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Worse than Nighthawks? Uh-oh.


The transition to Swordfishtrombones Waits is really fascinating to me - so much of it seems to be random chance. Random chance that just happens to involve an incredibly successful eccentric filmmaker making the biggest, wildest mistake of his life. I’m not sure if it’s just because I’m a fanboy but I do quite like the album but it’s mainly the tracks Crystal Gayle isn’t on that I enjoy. Which feels harsh as by all accounts she was lovely, incredibly talented and came in and nailed exactly what she was asked to do. Ol’ Bones just got this one wrong though imo.


I’m slightly apprehensive about this as my Dad like Crystal Gayle and he’s my exact opposite as far as taste in music goes…

Did used to really love watching Chris Gayle, WI opening batsman though mind you.

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Just found out Crystal Gayle’s sister is Loretta Lynn!

This sure is smooth, and on the whole relatively bland but when Tom’s singing I don’t mind it at all. Can’t say I care for Crystal’s vocals much though, not sure exactly what it is that turns me off about them. Feels wrong to say they are too clean, maybe I just don’t think they are the best match for the material? Songs like Old Boyfriends and Take Me Home I can imagine really liking if sung by someone else. It’s not just Crystal though, something like Little Boy Blue is Waits sung and quite reminiscent of other things in his canon but to me sounds quite bloodless.

I like Broken Bicycles a lot, I could imagine it crackling out of a wireless, someone like Nat King Cole singing it. Love the recurring sad tinkly piano and the way it fades out to crickets and a forlorn toot from a passing train. I Beg Your Pardon works for me, has a nice airy feel, The Tango/Circus Girl is a crudely fashioned signpost pointing to Swordfishtrombones and there may not be too much to You Can’t Unring a Bell but it brings some needed oddness and a pinch of grit.

The Tom sung extra tracks Candy Apple Red and Once Upon A Town/Empty Pockets are perfectly nice too, the latter maybe a bit more than that. I don’t find the album embarrassing at all but would probably rank it relatively lowly. I think Nighthawks was much more successful at what it tried to do but if I had to put that or this on I’d pick this.

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Just had a skim and I’m pretty sure I’ll be giving this one a miss. Doesn’t seem like something I’ll ever listen to.

Am currently amusing myself thinking about a hypothetical someone who was a massive Tom Waits fan after One From The Heart getting excited when they saw Swordfishtrombones had been released, buying a copy, then hearing the opening to Underground for the first time.

Can’t imagine anyone being a massive fan of this record though. A bloodless nothing. Managed three tracks then realised I had better things to do with my time. Easily the worst in his collection.

Listening to “One From the Heart” for the first time ever, and surprised by how much I’m enjoying it!

It probably doesn’t work at all as a film soundtrack, because there’s no way you can get anything with his voice to work as incidental background music. And Crystal Gayle sounds like she’s being beamed in from another universe entirely, as nice as her voice is.

But it’s nice and atmospheric, with hints of the weirdness to come - I can hear a definite throughline from this to “Alice”, for example. The run of “Broken Bicycles” > “I Beg Your Pardon” > “Little Boy Blue” is fantastic. And the whole “doomed Hollywood picture” narrative makes it all seem a little stranger and more endearing than it may have seemed at the time.


I’m a big sucker for this sort of thing. I even tried idly to search for the film on popular streaming platforms last night but couldn’t find one that has it. Is it that bad that it’s been deliberately removed from the public gaze, even for rubber-neckers like me? Does anyone know where it might (legitimately) be available?

Well someone has uploaded the full movie to Youtube, just search for " One from the Heart full movie"

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D’oh! Ok I’ll give that a go :slight_smile:

Ok so I listened to “One From the Heart” on the way into work this morning. My first, and probably last, go round this LP. Thoughts:

  • yeah it’s not great is it? Hard to reconcile with the story of him putting on a suit and tie and working 9-5 to really put the hours in on this one cos it felt very slapdash and smashed together from bits of other better things. E.g. ‘broken bicycles’ is a clear highlight but it’s also just a first-draft or sketch of what he’d achieve next with ‘Soldier Things’. There’s a line on one of the songs about being hoist by your petard by the month of August which is just awful: a lot of the lyrics feel half-baked.

  • Crystal Gale. Really not a fan of her voice: it’s that smoothness and… frictionlessness that I really don’t like in a vocalist. I thought it might actually make a good pairing cos he’s got enough friction in his voice for two at this stage and they might complement each other but no… She’s…fine on the tracks she sings solo but the two of them just don’t gel at all. Bring back that terrible Bette Middler duet!

  • Her voice is nowhere near as annoying as the ‘skoobabyboobop - YEAH’ jazz trumpet that comes out of nowhere and tootles all over the end of a bunch of tracks. No. Thank. You.

  • It’s probably a 1/5 if I’m being honest but I’m tempted to go for a generous 2/5 because it is clearly and obviously WAY better than ‘Nighthawks’ and does not deserve to be bottom of this leaderboard. ‘One From the Heart’ has actual songs on it; with ‘Nighthawks’ I couldn’t tell half the time where the mid-song wiffling ended and the ‘actual song’ began. I suspect it’s cos there weren’t any actual songs: just a guy in a fake diner doing his schtik over and over again. The ‘horny Tom’ persona hasn’t aged well either.

So yeah, a slightly grudging 2/5 for ‘One From the Heart’. Tell you what, we better be moving onto SFT next week; if it turns out there’s a long-lost record of TW doing jazz standards in a beat cafe we have to go through instead then I’m flipping tables.


I regret to inform you Nighthawks II: The Diners Revenge has been slotted in for next week. This will be followed by Nighthawk III: Son of Nighthawk and then the controversial reboot Nighthawk: Origins.