|Title: Folkscene 1975, With Howard And Roz Larman (KPFK-FM 90.7)
Source: audio tape. Transcription by Gary Tausch as sent to Rain Dogs Listserv Discussionlist, June 6, 2001
Date: Los Angeles/ USA. January 12 (February 13?), 1975
Key words: Buffalo Bob, Martha and the Vandellas, Billy Preston, Songwriting, The Heritage, Musical influences, Nighthawk Postcards, Cars, James Brown, On A Foggy Night, Little Feat, Drunk On The Moon, Denver, Terminal Bar
Folkscene 1975, With Howard And Roz Larman
... I'm bowling for Anita Frank's Ice Cream now. We just got our new shirts today. I've got a 172 average and a brand new Brunswick ball, so things are pretty good. I think we're gonna have a good season.
Interviewer: You were on the road for 3 months?
Uh, huh, I got back around Christmas and I started in Denver and just did that club circuit and ended up in Pittsburgh and it was a pretty good tour. I toured for 3 months.
Interviewer: Was it all clubs?
One concert in Philadelphia(1), the rest was all clubs. Played the Troubadour(2) here - a lot of them. It was okay.
Interviewer: Better than opening for Zappa and the Mothers?
Yeah, it just beat the hell out of those.
Interviewer: Who were you booked with?
Buffalo Bob and the Howdy Doody Review, I did real well on that bill. I was at a club in East Lansing, Michigan called the Stables. What they did was take an old horse stable and converted it into a night club. If you listen at night after they close you can hear the thoroughbreds in the back row. It's a huge joint - about as intimate as a bullring. It's hard to pull off. I was on a bill with Martha and the Vandellas. There was a small little postage stamp of a stage and they said they provide a piano so they put it way in the back, in the back row. They didn't say anything about putting it on stage. I've been on some strange bills and some good ones. I opened a show for Billy Preston once, that was the pits. I've had some good bills. Occasionally you get involved with an experiment in bad booking but I get some good ones now and then. I like to go out and open the show for whoever happens to be top bill at the club that I'm at - so I don't tour with a group. I travel alone.
Interviewer: Last album(3) got good reviews, are you starting on another one yet?
Uh, huh, yeah, I haven't been in the studio but I'm writing stuff for one. Maybe called Easy Street(4), I don't know. I'm toying with some ideas for some songs so I'm working on some material right now.
Interviewer: Did you get any writing done on the road?
It's difficult to do because it's hard to be able to get the opportunity to sit down at the keyboard except to perform. I was mostly doing 2, sometimes 3 shows a night, 6 nights and then leaving on the 7th night to open like on Monday. Some were Monday through Saturday, some were Monday through Sunday so it's hard to get a chance to sit down and concentrate and think in notes. So I wrote a lot of verse but it is a problem, the road, I don't know, everybody has to have a different climate in order to create so I managed okay. I'll probably go in the studio sometime in maybe May, I got a quite a while to be at home now, so plenty of time to write songs, but it's hard to write out there.
Interviewer: You originally started out writing country songs, didn't you?
Yeah, I used to write a few. I just got sick and tired of country music. My musical education began at a small folk club - the Heritage, I'm sure some people here are familiar with the Heritage which is now just nothing but a memory, a small club in San Diego which had a lot of traditional music, a lot of country artists, bluegrass, that sort of thing. I soaked it in like a sponge. I sat on the door and I listened to as much as I possibly could and I don't know, right now, the songwriters that I admire - I admire Johnny Mercer, Oscar Hammerstein and George Gershwin - Cole Porter, Randy Newman - I don't know, I just don't listen to that much country music anymore. I don't write much of it anymore. I've been writing some talking things, though, this is kind of a thing I'm gonna do here called Easy Street and it's a little spoken word piece of Metropolitan Doubletalk - it started in Denver, started right in Denver, finished it up in New York City - so I'm going to try and throw some extra stuff in here, the new and improved Easy Street, we're having a Red Tag Sale - so this is called Easy Street and I'll talk it to you.
Plays early version of Nighthawk Postcards with piano accompaniment:
Interviewer: You keep developing - even Diamonds on My Windshield is different now than on the record, right?
Yeah, it is. Everybody that writes has got spare parts and it's just a matter of tearing down and rebuilding. It's like a carburetor. I just blew a head gasket on this '54 Cadillac. I bought it - first car I ever bought on a car lot cause I don't know, they're all con artists, real professional grifters and I was down in Burbank on Victory and I went to this place called Jerry Lee's Used Cars. I saw this black '54 Caddy, big sucker, it's late '54 - it's the limo model and I swear it runs like a sewing machine. I had this old Oldsmobile, Chevrolet rattletraps, you take 'em around the block and they just cough up once you get to the lights. I paid $400.00 for this damn Cadillac and I just took it into Nogalis and it ran, it just hummed. It 's got one of the most musical transmissions.
Interviewer: What happened to the Thunderbird you used to talk about?
I just parked it. I'm gonna use it for an office. It doesn't run much. It's kind of monkey shit brown and in terrible condition - I got in a 4 car pileup before I left town in Vermont in the rain. I was responsible. My first accident, I was out doing about 25 - the traffic - you know how the lights come down, they say they're all stacked up - but it looks like everybody's moving smoothly cause of the lights and the whole rainbow blur effect on the street and James Brown's Papa's Got A Brand New Bag(5) just came on the radio and I was going crazy out of my mind. So it was worth getting in an accident over. First time I heard that song.
Interviewer: You'll probably write a song about it...
No, I want my identity to - I have to remain nameless for about the next 6 months - I got lawyers and things - we shouldn't even be talking about this on the air - but it was just one of those things so my T Bird is temporarily out of service, not in service at this time. So I just parked it and I'm going to sell it to this cat up the street for $25.00. Right now I got this Cadillac and it's just wonderful. That was the hydramatic Dynaflow transmission and it's just lalalalaala - a wonderful automobile. I've never really compromised on comfort for economy but it loves oil, crazy about Super Shell, can't get enough of it.
Intro to On A Foggy Night:
There's a stretch of highway from Blythe to San Diego - I drove all night from Nogalis and I got to Blythe and I hadn't washed my windshield. Driving through Blythe at about 3 o'clock in the morning I sort of imagined all these Eucalyptus trees hanging over the highway and these big radio towers which weren't really there. I was just driving a long time. And I've talked to truck drivers that say that same stretch of highway they imagined being in a forest - if you've been driving for a long time but there's something about coming into town on highway 8 that's exciting. But when we were going out there was a fog bank up around Hecumba(?) and - God, a mysterious wet fog was hanging over the highway and so we're coming down and this is about driving on a foggy night on an abandoned road late at night ...
Plays On A Foggy Night:
Interviewer: You even changed those lyrics, didn't you?
Yeah, I usually write something and keep one end open so you can keep stuffing stuff in when it comes to you.
On The Heart Of Saturday Night:
It's getting some play on some FM stations, they didn't release it as a single, we recorded it with just a bass and guitar was all we used - came off real nice, I like it, but it didn't get much play.
On San Diego Serenade as a single:
It didn't get any play either.
Interviewer: Do you write with anyone else in mind to do your songs?
Couple of times I did. Not usually. It's very difficult to write when you've got to think about finances and residuals and dividends and appointments and shag carpets and polyester fabrics in the 15th floor of the Cahuenga office building Formica coffee tables and stuff like that. I usually try to - like I said before, you need a different climate to create something. That thing called Easy Street, I was kind of in the bowels of the metropolitan region at the time and writing from that point of view rather than, I don't know, you get too much Pekinese shit on your Bazanti boots off those shag carpets you can't write anything.
Interviewer: Do you do anything to force the songs at all?
I have a vice out in the garage, I used to put my head in it, screw it tight. Yeah, I don't force them but if you don't jump on your back a little bit now and then you won't write jack so I usually try to - I got a chance to write a couple of songs for Barbara Streisand now and it's hard to put yourself in - I mean it's hard to write for somebody else for me. I'm working on a couple that she might do. I'm sure she'd get thousands of 'em but I just at least get to ante in too. I don't know. Coffee and beer usually helps for a writing climate for me. Mrs. Olsen has been on my back for several years. I got a Maxwell House jones(6) - and that usually helps to write. You never know when something's gonna hit you.
Interviewer: At the Troubadour you looked sort of awkward with all of Little Feat's equipment up there...
They had a lot of furniture up there. I almost had an artificial vasectomy on those little cymbals hanging out there. A lot of electronic accoutrement I had to dodge and duck under but I pulled it off okay I think. Just used a spotlight to not light up all that chrome up there. It was okay, on the bill with Little Feat. It was okay. Opening night I was pretty inebriated, there was a lot of press there and everything and it just has the tendency to make you a little neurotic I guess. It went okay, just 3 nights too. Then I went to Minneapolis and then I went to Pittsburgh and then I came home. It was okay. It was a real nervous gig. On top of everything else I had never played there before. I had hooted there several times so playing there, having a formal engagement there was a little difficult somehow - but it went off okay.
On Drunk On The Moon:
This is about Denver, Colorado. I always stayed at a place called the Oxford Hotel which is down on 17th & Wazee about a block away from Laramer Street. Laramer being just full of a lot of ghosts down there on Laramer Street shopping for images in the trash cans - boy, that's old Kerouac and Cassady stomping grounds. It's really changed quite a bit. They put up what's called Laramer Square now which is kind of like a contemporary little boutique sort of shopping centre. It looks awful ridiculous cause right across the street is some real bona fide serious winos - right out in front of a place called the Gin Mill, another place called the Terminal Bar. Terminal Bar is a block away from the Santa Fe train depot so they called it the Terminal Bar but they had no idea that like 20 years later the place'd be filling up with terminal cases. This is called Drunk On The Moon, there's all different kinds of moons - silver slipper moons and there's cue ball moons and there's buttery cue ball moons and moons that are all melted off to one side and this is about a muscatel moon...
(1) One concert in Philadelphia: Quiet Knight. Chicago/ USA (opening for Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee). November 27 - December 1, 1974. Further reading: Performances
(2) Played the Troubadour: Monday's "hootnights" at Doug Weston's Troubadour (located at: 9081 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood) where Mr. Waits got his break into show business during the summer of 1971. Further reading: The Troubadour
(3) Last album: That would be 'The Heart Of Saturday Night' (released: October, 1974)
(4) Easy Street: This turned out as 'Nighthawks At The Diner' (released October, 1975)
(5) Papa's Got A Brand New Bag: Waits actually covered this song several times during his 1987 tour promoting 'Frank's Wild Years' (Massey Hall, Toronto Canada. October 7-8, 1987; Theatre Outremont, Montreal, Canada. October 10, 1987, Eugene O'Neal Theatre. October 14, 1987; Orpheum Theatre, Minneapolis New York. November 1, 1987; Warfield Theatre, San Francisco, USA, November 6, 1987). Read lyrics: Papa's Got A Brand New Bag
(6) Maxwell House Jones: Maxwell House being a US coffee brand, and a Jones being a slang expression meaning "an addiction", one might assume Waits meant to say he likes coffee.