Title: Don Lane Show (TV show)
Source: video tape, audio tape. Transcription by Luke Martin as sent to Raindogs Listserv Discussionlist on May 8, 2000
Date: Australia. late April, 1979
Key words: Australia, Musical influences, Achievement

Picture: Done Lane and Tom Waits, late April, 1979

Accompanying pictures
Source: Don Lane TV show (Australia). Date: April, 1979. Credits: video screenshot
Source: Don Lane TV show (Australia). Date: April, 1979. Credits: video screenshot
Source: Don Lane TV show (Australia). Date: April, 1979. Credits: video screenshot
Source: Don Lane TV show (Australia). Date: April, 1979. Credits: video screenshot
Source: Don Lane TV show (Australia). Date: April, 1979. Credits: video screenshot
Source: Don Lane TV show (Australia). Date: April, 1979. Credits: video screenshot


Don Lane Show


D: Don Lane (Wearing a wonderful coffee-coloured three-piece)
T: Tom Waits (Tom's wearing a black suit, black shirt with white trim, and pork-pie hat. Pointy shoes - possibly boots (can't see them that much, really) with black socks. He's smoking like a chimney, and looks pissed. He also has that under-lip goatee going on.

The set: normal talk-show set, two chairs with a table between, and a mic between the chairs. Don's sitting down, Tom's not here yet.

D: One of the newest singing phenomena's overseas is a 29-year-old, gravelly-voiced singer/poet who worked on jobs like a firefighter on the Mexican border and dishwasher just so he could keep working on his music. His name is Tom Waits, and he doesn't work at, or try to be different or unusual - it comes to him naturally.

FILM: Tom at a piano, singing Silent Night. (Presumably a snippet from the "Christmas Card..." - looks like a large place.)

D: Heh, ah, that was an unfortunate selection of a piece to show you, right there. I thought I should say that now so I wouldn't have to say it later. He's a mixture of "Satchmo" Armstrong and Humphrey Bogart when he sings - it's an incredible style.. he sings like no-one else does or ever did. He's going to be doing a number for us later tonight, so I think you're really gonna like him gonna understand the great sensitivity in his work. So would you welcome the very curious and the very talented Tom Waits!

(Tom enters from the right, kinda stumbling. He sits in the chair, proceeding to smoke.)

D: How are you, Tom?

T: Oh, better 'n nothing. Ashtray here?

D: Oh, ashtray, ashtray. We don't have one here...I tell ya what.. use... you can use this glass, all right? Just get it in there. How are you? You all right?

T: Yes, yes, I'm fine, thank you.

D: Just wanna check, to make sure you're OK. (Tom's looking pretty unsteady at this point.

T: I'm-a gonna get comfortable here.

D: How long.. *Tom ashes, missing the cup* Ah, nice shot. It's OK. We all miss once in a while. How long have you been in Australia?

T: I got here last night. I got a plane out from Paris(1) for about 22 hours. A fascinating flight.

D: What do you do for 22 hours on a flight? Do you have ways of entertaining yourself?

T: Well, they show movies that are not a big success anywhere else, they put them on the planes. (Lights another cigarette.)

D: I would do that for you, it's the part of the host that's supposed to light the guest's cigarette, but you look like a man who can handle that all by yourself. We got an ashtray yet?

T: S'alright. (Tom keeps looking down between the chairs from now on.)

D: Did you put the butt in there? *laughs* How long have you been singing?

T: Pardon me?

D: I said how long have you been singing? (They shift in chairs, hunker down closer. Tom appears to not be able to hear too well.) Now I'm right here with you, I'm gonna do this interview. I'm not goin' nowhere. (stagehand gives Don an ashtray.) There ya go.

T: Oh, ya got people workin' for ya an' everything.

D: That's right - It never fails, Tom, you can ask for anything you want on this show, and we'll have someone go out and get it for you.

T: Christ!

D: I...er, we tried to get him, but there wasn't enough money. We didn't know who to call for the booking. I got the wrong agent. (Tom's looking down between the chairs again.) Is there something down here I don't know about?

T: (Tom gestures. It sounds like he says "keep it quiet" or something like that.)

D: Let's move ahead. They tell me you have some kind of a cult following. Do you... do you agree with that expression?

T: I have a growing level of popularity throughout the intercontinental United States, Japan, and...er...I travel extensively in Europe, as well. I don't do half bad...

D: They tell me now you have a new market there in Ireland. Is that true?

T: I've performed in Dublin, I did very well there as well.

D: You look like a leprechaun; you should do well there!

T: Well, I'm also big in Philadelphia. (Grins. Ashes cig, some gets on Don.) Excuse me. I feel like I'm at my grandmothers. (He's talking into a mic between them - he's been progressively slumping closer towards it.)

D: I won't clean anything off. What would you call your singing, your singing style? What kinda music is it that you really like? Is it all your own stuff, or do you do other people's things as well?

T: Occasionally, I'll do a cover version of somebody else's number, but primarily, I like to deal with my own travelogues.

D: And to what kinda of an audience do you work? Is there an age bracket to your audience? Or is it a mixture of all?

T: You're starting to sweat, Don (Don wipes his forehead)

D: Yeah, yeah.. If you were in my position, you would be too! I'd like to have a show next week. Question FIVE. (looks at script - applause - Tom smokes) I'd... (coughs, waves away Tom's smoke) If I stay here with you another ten minutes, there's gonna be an Indian raid!

T: You're big here in Australia?

D: (Nods) Now you know why! At 29...

T: Thank you!

D: Are you 29?

T: Yes, as a matter of fact.

D: Well, at 29, (as Don leans in, Tom sits back in his chair) My god! It's the first time I've seen you up straight! Pardon me, I didn't mean to say straight. (mimes ventriloquy (?) with Tom) Well, how are you tom? (In funny voice:) good, thank you, everything's fine! (Back to normal voice:) At 29, you write about all these things that have happened to you, sorta like these lowlife things that have happened to you...

T: You read that right off the page!

D: No I didn't!

T: Ah, you did. It says lowlife, right there

D: Ah, yeah, well I won't mention that. You don't want that question used? You got a pen? Can I borrow a pen? (Stagehand gives Don a pen.) Well, I'll go through the list, Tom, and you can tell me what you'd like to answer and I'll do it. How long have you been singing? You answered that, though, didn't you?

T: I've been on the road for about seven years.

D: Seven years. We got that. (writes) Seven years. How does a guy with a voice like that decide to be a singer and succeed?

T: Well, it was a choice between entertainment or a career in air conditioning and refrigeration.

D: Ah - what about some of your early influences? Early influences on you and your music?

T: I enjoy Rod Steiger.

D: Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Rod Steiger? OK...

T: Rod Steiger(2).

D: I have all of their albums.

T: I...er... I enjoy Lord Buckley. Lenny Bruce...

D: Lord Buckley! You lost the world! Nobody knows who Lord...

T: You know who Lord Buckley is!

D: Yes. But we ain't gonna talk about him here. Now we come to the good part. Your acting career.

T: Ah.

D: You remember that? Your acting career? (Waves at Tom) Yes? We have a clip here with Sylvester Stallone. You know Sylvester Stallone? Big feller. (Makes boxing movements)

T: I'll try and remember. (Boxes back.)

D: Sylvester Stallone did this movie called Paradise Alley in which you had a part.

T: Yes.

D: Did you enjoy doing that movie?

T: Yes. It was like five weeks of work for three lines of dialogue. It was interesting to see the bowels of the film industry.

D: I'm certainly glad you finished the sentence.

T: But it was a totally new challenge for me. (Lights new cigarette.)

D: Let me ask you something. Do you worry about achievement? Does it worry you, or do you just do your own thing and say 'here it is, you either accept it or not'?

T: Er, Do I worry about achievement?

D: Yep.

T: I worry about a lot of things, but I don't worry about achievement.

D: We'll scratch achievement off there. (writes)

T: I worry primarily about whether there are nightclubs in heaven.

D: You wouldn't get a booking there - they'd be overbooked, wouldn't they? Aren't all the greats up there? Where's this heaven you're talking about?

T: Ah, search me.

D: Depends what you've got on ya. OK. We'll take a look at.. here's Tom in.. no wait. We do a lot of fooling around here, and believe it or not, somebody at home's gonna say look, gee, they're having a hard time, but we're not! I spoke with him this afternoon and we had a great time, and he's just.. mad! But he's lovely, he's a great creative man. Look creative! *tom smiles* Lovely, tom. Here's Tom in Paradise Alley(3) with Sylvester Stallone, who will be a guest of our show via satellite. Here, have a look at this...

FILM: A piano's strings, moving up to show Tom playing. He's singing. The clip cuts, in dialogue, between Tom and Sylvester, finally ending with Sly walking out of the bar.

Tom sings: ...wake at night again, now that Annie's back in town..
Sly: Mumbles!
T: Yeah? Whaddayawant??
S: When was the last time you were with a woman?
T: Probably the Depression.
S: What you saving it for?
T: I dunno man, maybe A big finish.
S: Now you better get out a bit more, your're starting to look grey...I'm off
to visit the best lookin' tomato in the neighbourhood. 'night mumbles.
T: (singing) ...all the cornerboys still lollygag, the sailors shoot the
breeze.. well, some things around here never change...

CUTS back to studio. Tom and Don are at a piano, Don seated on the stool, closest. There's a large orange (vodka and?) on the piano, with an chunky ashtray alongside. Tom starts playing some intro chords...

D: OK. Have a seat. Where do you get the inspiration for most of your stuff?

T: Well, you know.. most of my songs are kinda travelogues. It's difficult to say exactly where they come from . You gotta sleep with one eye open. This song here is entitled "On the nickel" In downtown Los Angeles, there's a place called fifth street, it's a place where all the hoboes are, and they call it "on the nickel". There was a motion picture called "On the nickel" that was written by Ralph Waite(4) and this is a story, kinda a wino's lullaby.

*Ashes his cigarette and proceeds to play "On The Nickel" - it's a great rendition. His voice is *very* deep and...phlegmy, I guess. It's a fantastic version, ending with "Waltzing Matilda" that brings the house down.*

Don walks in, says something to Tom, but it's drowned out by the sound of the crowd's applause.

D: TOM WAITS! Ha! That was great. listen - we have been warning you and warning you for the past three shows that this was not an ordinary man, and I have not had a good time interviewing as I have with this man, because he's the ultimate send-up. Lemme tell you where the dates are gonna be. Melbourne, he's at the Palais theatre on May the 1st and the 7th(5) , and you...I can't stress enough that you have to see him. if you can, find a friend who's got a Tom Waits album and have a listen to the kinda stuff this guy creates. The 1st and the 7th - Don't blush on me now, by God! (Tom's laughing and blushing) Sydney, state theatre, on the May 2nd and the 14th. Canberra - I want you to come back on the show so everyone sees that this is the way you always are! - Sydney state theatre May 2nd and the 14th. Canberra Theatre May 4th, Brisbane Mayne Hall on May the 5th, Adelaide Festival Theatre on the 8th, out at Perth at the Concert Hall - man, you'll love it out there mate, they'll adore you - May the 11th, and if between that, if you can find out a way to come back here and sit down and talk to me, you can come on the show whenever you want. Because I think you're a gas. Thank you for coming out. Tom waits! And when we come back, Chubby Checker, the big twister that'll knock your brains out...


(1) I got a plane out from Paris: Concert appearance at the Palace Theatre, Paris/ France, 27 April 1979. Further reading: Performances 1976 - 1980

(2) Rod Steiger: Rodney Steiger. Oscar winning actor born on April 14, 1925. Steiger played a leading role in Sidney Lumet's 1965 "The Pawnbroker" as Sol Nazerman a Jewish pawnbroker in New York's Spanish Harlem. Waits often referred to this movie claiming it was one of the first movies he saw on the same bill with 101 Dalmatians.

(3) 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." (Source: Wild Years, The Music and Myth of Tom Waits. Jay S. Jacobs, 2000)

(4) On The Nickel: Released 1980: documentary: "On The Nickel" by Ralph Waite. The sensitive story of two down-and-out alcoholics living in the skid-row area of downtown Los Angeles. Made for television. Title song "On The Nickel"

(5) Palais theatre on May the 1st and the 7th, Sydney, state theatre, on the May 2nd and the 14th, Canberra Theatre May 4th, Brisbane Main Hall on May the 5th, Adelaide Festival Theatre on the 8th, out at Perth at the Concert Hall, May the 11th: Further reading: Performances 1976 - 1980