Innocent When You Dream: The Tom Waits Reader
by Mac Montandon and Frank Black | Jun 15, 2005
The first collection of writings about Tom Waits–interviews, profiles, conversations, and more–spanning the artist’s thirty-year career in music, film and theater
Over the past three decades, Tom Waits has achieved the kind of top-shelf cult status most artists only dream about. In his varied career, he has acted alongside Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, and Lily Tomlin; his songs have been covered by artists as diverse as Bruce Springsteen, Sarah McLachlan, the Eagles, and the Ramones; he’s won two Grammys, a Golden Globe, and been nominated for an Oscar; he’s coined unforgettable phrases like “better a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy” and “champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends”; and he’s made anyone who’s ever listened to his music just that much cooler.
Here is Tom Waits in all his mischievous splendor. From a New Yorker “Talk of the Town” in 1976 to an interview by Terry Gilliam in 1999; from album reviews by Luc Sante and David Fricke to conversations with Elvis Costello and Roberto Benigni; from a recent profile in GQ to “20 Questions” in Playboy and poems by Charles Bukowski that perfectly captures the Waitsian world, this is the must-have book for every fan of the artist Beck has described as a “luminary,” and for music fans everywhere.
From Publishers Weekly
Covering 30 years in 40 chapters, Montandon’s anthology of reviews and interviews stretches from a Waits-penned press release (1974) through an interview that the singer-cum-cult-figure did for Magnet in November 2004. In between, readers can follow Waits and Elvis Costello through some absurd leaps of logic in a conversation they recorded at a Chinese restaurant in 1989, hear Waits tell Terry Gross “I couldn’t wait to be an old man,” and peruse a 1987 Toronto Star review of a gritty, mood-shifting concert. “Waits was forever turning the show into something new,” the critic says, “revealing another nook in his low-rent pantry.” Despite the conspicuous gap between 1993 and 1999, the volume gives a vivid portrait of Waits as a person, with glimpses into the life of a composer and performer who has referred to his songs as “travelogues.” Word-for-word transcriptions of some interviews make for difficult reading, but the book will nonetheless be welcomed by Waits’s many fans.
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The first thing most people notice about Tom Waits is that voice, that raspy croak that somehow conveys a wide range of emotions. Many entries in this entertaining volume comment on Waits’ greatest musical distinction; Gene Santoro’s, for instance, aptly describes it as a “smashed foghorn.” Other pieces include the hilarious transcript of an Australian TV talk show with Waits as a mumbling, drunken guest; profiles from the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and Village Voice; interviews from the Onion and Musician magazine; rambling conversations with Elvis Costello and independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch; poems by Charles Bukowski (Waits is a longtime admirer); and a revealing interview by NPR’s Terry Gross. As Geoffrey Himes notes in an article that appeared in the Washington Post, Waits’ cast of characters in his songs includes drunks, hookers, petty thieves, and other assorted misfits who haunt all-night diners and used-car lots. “Bruce Springsteen likes to sing about these characters,” Himes says, “but Waits sings as one.” The fans surely will love this collection. June Sawyers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Paperback: 418 pages
Publisher: Da Capo Press (June 15, 2005)