|Title: 90 Minutes Live
Source: Interview for "90 Minutes Live", 1978 by Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (aka Flo and Eddie). Re-broadcast on September 20, 2002 in "This Hour Has 5 Decades" (CBC, Canada), Transcription from tape as published on the Tom Waits Library
Date: broadcast April 6, 1978. Tropicana Motel. Los Angeles/ USA
Keywords: Tropicana, Japan tour, Paradise Alley, Bette Midler
Picture: Video screenshot from "90 Minutes Live", 1978.
90 Minutes Live
F&E (outside): Hello, I'm Flo. And I'm Eddie(1). And we're here again in Hollywood and we want to say 'hello' to you all, from the Tropicana Hotel(2), some would say one of the sleaziest places in Hollywood. To live or stay at for even one night. It's $12 a night, the pool has little things swimming in it. I can smell the onions at Duke's Caf� next door. However what we have waiting for us is one of the most interesting and unusual interviewees I think you'll find anywhere. An eccentric pop singer who I think you'll get a rare insight into in this very privileged interview. He earns millions of dollars and yet chooses to live in this uh... Well why don't we show him. Why don't we just show you. We're going in to interview Tom Waits now, and now we're going to take you and SHOW you Tom Waits! He's gotta be here. His car's here, that's not going anywhere (music in the background). He's home (Jazz music heard in the back). Sounds like he's home. He is listening to something hip! ... His car's certainly there, he's here (knocking on the door). Bill collectors!
TW: ... (?)...
TW: Hi, I'm Flo and Eddie.
F&E: He must have thought we were the Beegees. (Waits searching Flo and Eddie). We're okay. I'm clean Joey.
F&E: Okay. Alright. Hey, nice place! I see you let your servants go for the weekend!
TW: I just live this way cause... I'm just basically cheap.
F&E: Do you hate leaving this place when you go on a tour. I mean do you feel like 'I'm leaving home' and...
TW: I enjoy returning. I just got back from Japan(3) a couple of days ago. So uh...
F&E: How does it go over there for you?
TW: Well frankly they went berserk. I mean uh, I was there a year ago. It's kinda like playing in Iowa, you know they don't speak English and it takes a while... and uh... But I found it was good work for me as an entertainer because I would do more pantomime on stage. Anything to get them to laugh or... you have to meet them more then half way because of the language problem. So I come on stage where I got a broken umbrella... anything to help them uh understand what I'm trying to tell them you know?
F&E: And they do get it? I mean they get it..
TW: They get it here, right..
F&E: You're a swinging bachelor type right? You hit the road as a strange...
TW: Well look around you!
F&E: I see this atmosphere! Now, in Japan certainly you must meet these gorgeous oriental ladies that are willing to spend an evening with this mysterious visitor from the West? Or do they all want to sit in your room and watch television?
TW: Right, it would be the latter.
F&E: Really? They don't make the first move?
TW: They're shy and very gentle people.
F&E: What's a girl in Hollywood then, I mean what's she like?
TW: Oh you know, they cross their sevens and say 'Ciao'. They drive Porsches with tennis rackets in the backseat, you know?
F&E: Whether they play or not..
TW: They peroxide their moustaches and uh...
F&E: You can't handle that?
TW: I don't know...
F&E: You live in that! You come here to live in the midst of this glamour!
TW: Well I feel more like an inmate here actually.
F&E: Hey you're doing a film score right? For uh...
TW: I scored a couple of songs.
F&E: A couple of songs for Paradise Alley(4). What is that exactly?
TW: It's a story about three Italian brothers in Hell's Kitchen in New York in the late forties. It's a beautiful story. It's kind of uh Stallone's fantasy about what could have happened. And uh it's about three brothers who're struggling to get out of Hell's Kitchen and then move to Miami. I play a drunk piano player.
F&E: How did they ever figure that one out?
TW: Oh, nothing to it.
F&E: So you're writing a couple of songs and you're actually gonna act in the film?
TW: Yeah I was like walking on egg shells. I'm already done.
F&E: Oh, it's in the can?
TW: A whole new world for me. I think I did alright.
F&E: I could see you in films. Yeah. Can you see yourself going into that sort of direction? I don't know, 'leading man' I don't know. I can see that. There's a little Richard Dreyfus in there (laughter). There could be!
TW: I don't really know if I'm what the woman of today wants and needs.
F&E: What if that's true though. I mean think about that. What if we've created a world where you're the guy the woman of today wants? (laughter)
TW: Well I don't see that happening, no.
F&E: No, honestly?
TW: I just ... (?) ... at night.
F&E: You really find out who your friends are, don't you?
TW: Oh yeah, I do alright.
[Plays: "Annie's Back In Town" at the piano](5)
F&E: Beautiful! Thanks! Can we cut it, that sound's it! The hit we've been looking for!
TW: I don't know.
F&E: You do most of your composing here?
TW (behind the piano): Yeah. Right here, you see. When I'm on the road I'm never around a piano, and so...
F&E: So do you just start playing a chord? I mean it's old trite how-do-you-write stuff, I really hate it, but you are at the piano! I feel so much like I'm in with Hoagy Carmichael. Yeah. I mean how DO you write?
TW: (plays a little trumpet solo). You see there's really nothing to it! (laughter)
F&E: This is without words!
TW: It's called success without college! It was either this or a career in air-conditioning and refrigeration.
F&E: Him too! Him too! In fact I was in the Union but spent a lot of time in the bathroom.
TW: I was looking into motel management, but I finally...
F&E: You found it! (laughter) I know you worked with Bette Midler(6). Are you going to do anything with her in the future, recording wise? She's great, you guys look great together.
TW: I'd like to. We were on stage once at the Troubadour we did a thing on stage, and I wrote that tune called 'I Never Talk To Strangers'. And what we did is a duet, with a kind of a 'Baby It's Cold Outside' sort of flavour that I really like.
F&E: Yeah, that was great! That was a great piece you do.
TW: And we may do something in the future. She's doing a film right now, so...
F&E: You are one of the few artists in the commercial field that I've ever heard of, that went two-track directly to the tape or the disc right? Right to disc? Without any of that...
TW: Well not directly to disc, but we cut the whole thing like two-track in the studio. It's like uh, so there was no multitracking or overdubbing done, so I get a performance in the studio.
F&E: With an orchestra and the whole thing?
TW: Yeah I stood in the studio, with the last album, in the middle of the studio were like 52 uh musicians. It was very exciting.
F&E: How wonderful, it's like Sinatra! I mean you... (laughter) Here it is. You are 'concert' Waits. "He did it his way'! Oh that's great!
[Plays: "Burma Shave" at the piano]
(1) Flo and Eddie:
- Flo (Mark Volman) and Eddie (Howard Kaylan) had worked with CBC for almost a year. At the same time they worked in broadcasting and they were also touring as "Flo & Eddie" They did many interviews for the show (David Bowie, The Runaways, David Cassidy and many others). Flo and Eddie got aquainted with Waits as they were also managed by Herb Cohen. Further reading: The Turtles official site.
- Mark Volman (2006): "Tom used to hang around our office when he would come see Herb. We had an office at the Bizzarre/ Straight Record Complex. Tom would just come in to our office sit down smoke cigarettes and we would just crack him up. I know we all would just sit and laugh for hours... That interview went on before it was edited about 1 hour. They only showed about 10 minutes. Tom sang other songs and we took a tour of the house." (Source: email conversations Mark Volman/ Tom Waits Library. May, 2006)
(2) Tropicana Hotel: further reading: The Tropicana
(3) I just got back from Japan: No Japan tour known from 1978. Closest known and verified dates are January 7-22, 1977. Further reading: Performances
(4) Paradise Alley: Released September 7, 1978: movie and soundtrack album "Paradise Alley"
Jay S. Jacobs (2000): "Bones Howe remembers that Sly and Tom "got to be friends somehow or other. Maybe Sly saw him at the Troubadour or met him through somebody. I have no idea. He was suddenly there. But it wasn't unusual, because Tom had a way of accumulating people. Chuck E. Weiss. Rickie Lee Jones. People just sort of appeared all of a sudden." Stallone offered Waits the small role of Mumbles and asked him to record some songs for the Paradise Alley sound track album. Tom jumped at the chance to act, and the part was perfect for testing his wings. Mumbles, a piano player at a neighborhood saloon, wasn't exactly a stretch for him. Howe recalls that in the end he and Tom only contributed a couple of songs to the film's sound track - "Bill Conti was really upset because he wanted to do all the source music himself. He and Sly were very close, but Sly wanted Waits in that movie." Conti, a jazz musician, had scored Rocky, and he was thrilled when the movie's rousing, horn-based theme rose to the top of the pop charts. Of the five tracks that Waits and Howe recorded for Paradise Alley, only two made it into the sound track: "(Meet Me In) Paradise Alley," a pretty piano ballad in which one of Waits's barfly lovers wards off desperation in the local taproom; and "Annie's Back in Town," a sad love tune with just a touch of West Side Story grit. The other tracks that Waits and Howe had laid down for Stallone were a new version of the Small Change song "Bad Liver and a Broken Heart" (which incorporated the old standard "As Time Goes By" into its intro and outro) and two different versions of a song called "With a Suitcase." Neither version of the latter song was ever released. One was done with a rhythm section. The other - the "street" band version in which, says Howe, "we were banging on bass drums and all that kind of stuff " - reflected Waits's growing interest in experimental tones and instrumentation. Paradise Alley was released to scathing reviews, and it flopped at the box office. Tom, however, didn't experience the acute disappointment that Stallone must have felt. After all, the project had allowed him to become an actor, and he'd thoroughly enjoyed himself." (Wild Years, The Music and Myth of Tom Waits. Jay S. Jacobs, 2000)
(5) Annie's Back In Town: Earliest recorded version known of this song as written for Paradise Alley soundtrack. Official version recorded September 7, 1978. Read Lyrics: Annie's Back In Town.
(6) Bette Midler: Midler covered Ol' '55 on "Songs For The New Depression" (Atlantic, 1976). Duet I Never Talk To Strangers of the album "Foreign Affairs" (Elektra Entertainment/ WEA International Inc., 1977). Read lyrics: I Never Talk To Strangers. Troubadour show, details unknown.