Title: Decade Of Prowling The Wild Side, Hasn't Changed Singer Tom Waits
Source: The Houston Post (USA). November 24, 1980 by Jack Lloyd. Thanks to Ken Langford for donating scans
Date: published November 24, 1980 (taken from "Heartattack And Vine promo interview" Hollywood. September 4, 1980
Keywords: Heartattack and Vine


Decade Of Prowling The Wild Side, Hasn't Changed Singer Tom Waits


By Jack Lloyd
Knight-Ridder Newspapers

The voice is a deep growl - the result, no doubt, of his legendary consumption of strong drink and an insatiable appetite for unfiltered cigarettes. He has the appearance of one who long ago established permanent residency on Skid Row, favouring rumpled suits and pointy-toed shoes, otherwise known as roach-impalers. There is always what appears to be a four-day growth of beard that is somehow maintained at just that point. Never a three-day growth or a five-day growth. Four.

This is Tom Waits, one of pop music's first street poets, specializing in the back streets and alleys. Success has not spoiled Tom Waits. After a full decade of prowling about on the wild side, he is still partial to the misfits, the outcasts, the down-and-outers. This is once again evident on Waits' latest album for Asylum records, Heartattack and Vine. The new album leans more to the rock side than most of Waits' previous releases, and Waits feels that he was in better voice for the latest session in a recording studio.

"I QUIT SMOKING DURING the recording of the new one," he said. "Maybe that had something to do with it. I tried to arrive at some level of personal hygiene. I thought the record deserved that. I just tried to clean myself up a little. I think it helped." Waits pointed out that he has also modified his drinking habits. "I just drink wine now," he said. Nothing high-tone, of course. He named a rather modest brand of chablis as his favorite, adding, "It's a remarkable beverage."

Waits said during an interview some time ago that he had reached a crossroads as a writer. Expanding on this subject, he said: "You go through seasons as a writer. At this point I'm trying to learn how to write faster. I just used to brood over songs for months and months. The writing for Heartattack and Vine was more spontaneous. "And I let a drummer use sticks for the first time, instead of brushes. I mean, I used to hear everything with upright bass, muted trumpet or tenor sax. I just had a sort of limited musical scope, so I wanted to try to stretch out a little on the new one. I think I've accomplished that to a degree. It's all part of an ongoing process."

THE TITLE SONG IN WAITS' new LP was inspired by a real-life incident. "I was in a bar one night on Hollywood Boulevard near Vine, and this lady came in with a dead animal over her arm, looking like she'd obviously been sleeping outdoors. She walked up to the bartender and said, 'I'm gonna have a heart attack.' And he says, 'Yeah, right, you can have it outside.' I thought that was pretty chilly, so I renamed Hollywood Boulevard 'Heartattack."

Waits is back living on the West Coast after a fling in New York. "Being there was more like a prison sentence," he said of New York. "Hard time. When I moved there I stayed at the Chelsea and then got an apartment nearby and joined the McBurney Y.M.C.A....Well, actually, I went to New York to have a drink. It was a very expensive drink... Yeah, it was a tall one. I'm now living in the Greater Los Angeles area."

And Waits keeps that vigil over the seamy side of life, where he occasionally finds a certain beauty amid the rubble and the losers. Losers who sometimes win a skirmish here and there. The hookers, the drinkers, the wheeler-dealers - these are Tom Waits' people. And his fans hope he never goes uptown.


(1) All Tom Waits quotes taken from "Heartattack and Vine Us promo pack": Stephen Peeples. September 4, 1980