The Tom Waits Listening Club - The Heart of Saturday Night from post 123

Ol’ '55

  • Can’t be too many song titles that feature two apostrophes, one after another.
  • Great opening line “I went lickety-splitly”
  • The “ahs” backing the chorus are just great.

I Hope That I Don’t Fall In Love With You

  • Really like the tone of the guitar on this track.
  • A little smaltzy but I am happy for early Tom to lean into that at times and I definitely have a soft spot for this song because of that.

Virginia Avenue

  • Late night, jazzy Tom has arrived. Love the bass and muted trumpet on this.
  • Feels like I am in a late night smokey club in the early hours of the morning somewhere in New York sipping a whiskey.

Old Shoes (& Picture Postcards)

  • Pleasant enough but a pretty standard arrangement leaves this being the first forgettable song for me on the album.

Midnight Lullaby

  • Another track in a similar style to Virginia Av. that I love the vibe and atmosphere of the song and the mood it creates even if the track itself is a little bit forgettable in the end.


  • Heartbreaking. I love the storytelling aspect of this track, the language used is so evocative whilst still feeling so conversational.
  • It’s Tom’s first classic.


  • I have listened to this album many time but still cannot remember this song…weakest track on the album for me.


  • The slightly off kilter nature of this track keeps it interesting for me, dark and a little unsettling.

Ice Cream Man

  • …and Tom decides to swing it a little with this track.
  • Fun song and a welcome tempo change after the previous two songs.

Little Trip to Heaven

  • Another track that feels like an old standard.
  • Nothing bad precisely with the song for me but definitely feels like an album filler.

Grapefruit Moon

  • This is more like it Tom. Back to that heartbreaking sound with interesting visuals in the lyrics.
  • Love the strings on this.

Closing Time

  • That muted trumpet intro is so devastating.
  • The instrumentation on this is beautiful, the soft use of strings backing up that piano and double bass with the trumpet dancing in and out of the backing musicians is just heartbreaking at times.
  • Fantastic way to end the album.

In the grand scheme of Tom Waits’ back catalogue this album is never going to beat some of his truly great albums but the high points in closing time do hit the same highs for me. Yes there are a few filler tracks particularly on the opening to side 2 but the whole album has such a great mood and atmosphere that I never feel the need to skip them.
Martha is truly great and I love both the opening and closing tracks as they operate so perfectly to welcome you into the album like an old friend with a drink ready for you as you arrive before sending you off at the end of the album and into the cold and murky small hours of the morning as you leave the bar and start to make your way home.


I enjoyed this, but like a lot of other people I think it’s not really what I want from Tom Waits. Really liked the closing pairing of Grapefruit Moon and Closing Time but in general it all blurred into one for me, and that kind of sax tone always puts me in mind of the sort of scenes you get in late 80s/early 90s romcoms where the couple are looking out of separate windows into the rain. Interesting as a curio and as an insight into some of his influences but not one I can see myself coming back to very often.


Ol’ 55 - A great start to one of the best careers. One of the few that I remembered from the scattered listens I’d given to the album previously. Been humming this one off and on all week. Convinced he’s singing “lickedy-splikley” though, which for some reason gives me the sick.

I Hope I Don’t Fall In Love With You - Another one that was familiar to me, but a fairly standard ballad really, not much else to say about it.

Virginia Avenue - Nice woozy swing to this, helped on by the fuzzy trumpet. The guitar lick at the start sounds like it would add a lot to the song but it barely features in the rest, wish there was a bit more of it. Sort of forgettable this one, paints a nice barfly picture but that’s about it.

Martha - Immediately there’s something different about this one. He’s got that trademark rasp in his voice that I don’t think was particularly noticeable in any of the other tracks, he somehow sounds like an older man with more experience in his voice. The lyrics are fantastic and the waltzy feel along with the main piano motif gives it a timeless quality. This feels like the door opening on the characters and world of Waits. Could have done without the choral backing.

Ice Cream Man - Great swing on this one and a welcome change of pace, love the guitar on it. Surprised I didn’t really know it beforehand, one that I’ll be coming back to in the future. Can picture a prohibition gin joint going wild with jiving.

Little Trip To Heaven - Pleasant little love song, evocative of more booze but this time a dimmly lit, smoky jazz bar.

Grapefruit Moon - There’s a bit of that rasp in his voice again. There’s a few very silimar sounding songs to this on the album but this has something else to make it a bit more interesting. Maybe it’s the strings?

Overall, a promising start. The happy-drunk barfly persona is there from the get-go and there are little hints scattered here and there of things to come, but in amongst that are probably too many 70s AOR tracks that anybody could have written. I also think it’s too long, take out maybe Old Shoes and Rosie and you’re down to around 35 minutes. Hadn’t realised Heart of Saturday Night was his second album. It’s easily in my top 5 of his work so looking forward to getting stuck into it next week.


tell you what lads, what a listening club we have ahead of us. been listening to him for the last coupla hours, he’s fuckin unreal. :heart_eyes:


spoilers ffs!


Massively looking forward to this Listening Club, the few blasts of Closing Time I’ve sampled are ripe for the season. Expecting great things in the weeks to come from someone I’ve never really known where to start with.


For some reason I checked out of reading this about 2/3rds of the way through as well. Half the reason In started this thing was to start over again.

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It’d been a while since I gave Closing Time a full listen before firing it up for this listening club. When I did I was surprised how much I liked it. I got into Tom via Small Change (one thing I’m excited for in this thing is finding out how everyone got into Tom and which version it was that hooked them, seeing as he doesn’t really have any big singles everyone knows) and the early stuff really didn’t do much for me at first. On this listen I really loved it though and wondered why I’d never really dived all that deep into it.

That was a background listen while I was dicking about with spreadsheets at work. I gave it a closer listen and remembered I’ve done this dance a dozen times already - from a distance I love the vibe of this album but when paying close attention, where all the awkward lyrics stick out and the sentimentality gets a bit too syrupy and all the borrowed poses become obvious, I like it a lot less. Old Shoes for instance sounds lovely in the background but as soon as I hear Tom singing, “your tears cannot bind me” I can’t help but cringe.

There is some undeniably great stuff here though. Martha is his first bona fide classic, showing a deftness of lyrical touch the rest of the album doesn’t come near. Ol’ '55, which thanks to @marwood I now realise I’ve never typed with both apostrophe’s until now, is a bit smoother than I like my Waits but still just a corker of a song imo. And stuff like I Hope I Don’t Fall In Love With You, Grapefruit Moon and the beautifully melancholic title track capture that down and out, whisky soaked, silhouetted-in-the-barroom-doorway Waits vibe that I just can’t get enough of. But a lot of the rest of it is either nice-enough or entirely forgettable. Rosie simply doesn’t exist. I’ve heard it dozens of times but no matter how many times it enters my ears not a lick of it sticks. It’s a non-song.

All in all it’s probably the album you would expect a 23 year old singer-songwriter who has never been in a touring band, or indeed toured solo, just slowly honed an act at open mic nights, to make. Waits tries on several different hats and not all of them suit him. It’s not top tier Waits but it’s interesting to hear the genesis of his sound, and to hear him sounding much more awkward than he ever would again. Check out this demo of Old Shoes featuring Tom doing a bit of whistling - it bares so little resemblance to the artist he’d become it’s almost eerie.

If I listen to it at a distance that dive bar version of Wee Small Hours Sinatra is a nice solid 4. If I pay any kind of attention it’s a 2. So yeah, a solid 3 for me.


Not sure where I heard of him but the first song I heard was The Piano Has Been Drinking. I thought it was really strange and stilted but absolutely fascinating because of that. I think I probably downloaded it off Audiogalaxy at the time. That and Chocolate Jesus really had me interested. There was a record store near my school called The Gramophone Shop which sold most of its stock at £6.99 and I got tons of stuff from there skipping lunch and saving my lunch money. I was flipping through the racks one time and found Rain Dogs. I bought it and it’s been a love affair ever since.


“Rosie” is great you madmen


Incidentally, has anyone seen him live? I “saw” him in 2008, in Dublin, in a big circus tent aptly enough.

Tickets were something like £140 each so no one would go with me. They also sold out really quickly and I ended up in the very back row of the tent, directly behind one of the big stantion pillars, so not only was he a small dot miles away, I also had to constantly shift in my chair to crane my neck enough to see the dot.

The security were tight about people moving around too much but for the encore I said “fuck it” and managed to stand in the aisle about ten rows from the front for the last two songs, “Eyeball Kid” and “Time.” I was shitting myself that I was going to be challenged or thrown out too much to fully soak it in but it was great to be so close if only for a brief ten minutes


The Piano Has Been Drinking was my first introduction too! Well, I’d heard What’s He Building In There? as a late night MTV2 staple and Big in Japan as a bizarre incongruous selection on Epitaph’s Punk-o-Rama 3 but I can’t pretend I liked either at the time. It was a very late night Soulseek download of Piano for one of my dad’s very drunk friends who kept insisting I put on some, “Tom Wake” (took me hours to work out what the hell he was babbling about) that eventually sent me down this road.

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bought “Rain Dogs” for a fiver in Fopp on a whim

For me it was a trip to the cinema to see Mystery Men where Tom played Doc Heller, supplier of none lethal arms to superheroes and general rascal. I watched it in total ignorance of the fact he was 30 years deep into an amazing career I’d soon treasure, didn’t twig til I picked up Alice (still one of my faves) years later, think that was my first album. He’s been in more films than I realised.

I enjoyed Mystery Men at the time, not sure how it will have aged. Remember really laughing when William H Macy’s shoveller (superpower = hitting things with a shovel) was disarmed of his main tool and pulls out a trowel to get up close and personal. Written down doesn’t seem like much does it but young me sure loved it.


My first Tom Waits records was The Black Rider. Really can’t remember why I bought it, at that time I was pretty much exclusively listening to US bands from Louisville or Chicago, so must have read a review or something and just taken a punt. Don’t think I’d have necessarily been hugely aware of him before or not. I listened to The Black Rider heaps, it’s an exciting record and loved being drawn into the Waits world. I then discovered a friend was actually a big Waits fan, so he lent me Swordfish Trombones and Rain dogs I think. Since then I kind of kept up, checking out LPs as they came out.

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Sadly not. I really regret missing him on his last tour but there’s no way I could have afforded it without selling some organs.

£140 in 2008! Holy moly. Looking at setlist fm though those Dublin run of gigs were the last time he performed outside the US, I’d have loved to have seen him. I’m optimistic he’ll do another record but hard to imagine him touring again isn’t it.

Plus petrol money from Belfast to Dublin and back! I was a couple of years out of uni, living at home with my parents…. When I think about all the money I spent on absolute shite back then

This is exactly where I first heard him. I think I saw Downtown Train on MTV2 as well around the sane time and had trouble connecting the two, so utterly poles apart the two tracks seemed.

In fact Mule Variations was the first album of his I heard when a mate played it when we were getting stoned at a house party a couple of years later, not the most gentle introduction! I initially thought it was too weird for me, but I got hold of the Beautiful Maladies compilation which was a far better primer so when I eventually went back to MV it made far more “sense”.

Thinking about it, the first time I saw him was in the Matt Dillon film Rumble Fish and had no idea he was a singer!


My first Waits album was Real Gone. It was the one he’d released nearest to the Atmosphere album he featured on (he’d done beatbox and played guitar on The Waitress after Slug had sent him the song to sing the chorus on. Tom had other ideas) and I wasn’t really sure what I was listening to. Some of it was interesting, but it wasn’t until hearing Way Down In The Hole a bunch on my first watch of The Wire season 2 that he started to click.

That song is probably why Franks Wild Years is one of my favourites of his tbh. Despite it not being favoured that much by a lot of people.

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