|Title: Tom Waits: Saturday Night Seeker
Source: Colorado Daily. Kenny Weissberg. February 1974. Thanks to Ken Langford for donating scans
Date: Ebbet's Field. Denver/ USA. February 1974
Keywords: Heritage, Troubadour, Closing Time, The Heart Of Saturday Night, Ebbets Field
|Ebbets Field. Denver/ USA. February, 1974. Colorado Daily. Thanks to Ken Langford for donating can|
Tom Waits: Saturday Night Seeker
By Kenny Weissberg
Four years ago, Tom Waits was a pizza utility man for Joe's in Ocean City, California(1). For five years he served as a cook, janitor, plumber and maintenance man. "We made the best pizza in town, so it was worthwhile, but after awhile it got to be more than just a job. It was a second home which got to be a bit too much."
There was always a guitar and a ukelele at Tom's house and he grew up playing a combination of Spanish romantica and surfing music. He transcended his Safari's stage and began playing folk music at the Heritage in San Diego(2). He's currently at Ebbets Field in Denver (through Sunday) where he's been opening shows for Roger McGuinn and Jerry Jeff Walker.
"At this point, to open a show is ideal for me. I don't feel that much pressure because no one's paid $4 to see me. I do feel a responsibility to make contact with the audience and I'm working hard on that. Being here is a lot easier than it was when I toured with Frank Zappa."
Tom was discovered by Frank's manager Herb Cohen, while performing at a Monday night hoot at L.A.'s Troubadour.(3) He would take the 6 o'clock bus from San Diego, make a couple of transfers and try and get a good spot in line. Once on stage he'd only have an opportunity to do three or four songs before having to sprint to the station to catch an early morning bus back to San Diego.
"The Troubadour hoot was like a slave market. People sell their souls to get up and play. A lot of times it pays off. People come from Georgia, Texas, New York City... if they don't make it..."
Tom only had to risk a 300 mile roundtrip and he played nearly every Monday for more than a year. "I'd hear stories like there were all these guys with cigars there to sign you up. You know McGuinn's tune 'So You Want To Be A Rock 'n Roll Star?' Well the Troubadour is where it all starts."
His first album, out about a year now, is called Closing Time and the only description that comes to finger is intuitive barroom nostalgia. "Virginia Avenue" tells of walking the main strip after the clubs have closed for the morning, finally opting for the security of a Greyhound escape. "I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You" relates the frustrations of barroom fantasies. "Martha" is about a guy who laments 40 years later that the immature teenage lust he had written off has been the ultimate in life for him. He still loves Martha but they're both married with kids, though even that hasn't dulled his vivid memories.
"Ole 55" is, predictably, about man's love for his car, especially at 6 a.m. after a warm night with his lover. It was also Tom's first single and even snails beat it up the charts. That seems to be the only snag in the satisfying pace of Tom's career. Because the album did not produce a successful single Asylum won't let Tom continue his professional association with producer Jerry Yester.
"As far as I'm concerned, Jerry Yester's a great man and a great producer. I was expecting to record my second album with him but Asylum wants to find someone that can take my songs and make hits out of them. I've been ready for about four months but they haven't found anyone yet."
"The album is going to be called Looking for the Heart of Saturday Night, and is going to follow a thread all the way through as oposed to a random selection of songs."
In the meantime Tom does club dates, his first album having endeared many club owners like Chuck Morris who are happy to call Tom to open shows. "A first album is like a diploma... like a B.A. No matter how good you are, you can't play a club like Ebbets unless you have an album. I'd just like to do my second album because the first one's old already."
Tom's songs will never grow old and I'd tell you more about him if I had the space. If you can't get to Ebbets by Sunday, Closing Time is worth the inflated price of the vinyl you're paying for. It's a masterpiece.
(1) Joe's in Ocean City, California: further reading: Napoleone Pizza House
(2) The Heritage in San Diego: further reading: The Heritage
(3) L.A.'s Troubadour: further reading: The Troubadour