Title: Late Night With David Letterman
Source: Late Night With David Letterman (NBC/ USA TV show). Transcription from tape by "Pieter from Holland" as published on the Tom Waits Library
Date: New York. February, 1986 (also lists as: 'December, 1985' and 'November 20, 1985' and 'November 21, 1985')
Key words: Rain Dogs, New York, Frank's Wild Years (play)

Accompanying pictures

Source: Screenshot from "The Late Show with David Letterman" (US TV show). Date: Ed Sullivan Theater, New York/ USA. November/ December, 1985 or February, 1986. Credits: CBS TV show/ �CBS Broadcasting Inc.
Source: Screenshot from "The Late Show with David Letterman" (US TV show). Date: Ed Sullivan Theater, New York/ USA. November/ December, 1985 or February, 1986. Credits: CBS TV show/ �CBS Broadcasting Inc.
Source: Screenshot from "The Late Show with David Letterman" (US TV show). Date: Ed Sullivan Theater, New York/ USA. November/ December, 1985 or February, 1986. Credits: CBS TV show/ �CBS Broadcasting Inc.
Source: Screenshot from "The Late Show with David Letterman" (US TV show). Date: Ed Sullivan Theater, New York/ USA. November/ December, 1985 or February, 1986. Credits: CBS TV show/ �CBS Broadcasting Inc.


Late Night With David Letterman (NBC)


DL: My next guest is probably the only person we've had on this program, who was born in the backseat of a taxi. He is, without a doubt, one of the most original musical performers making records today, and this is his latest right here. It's called 'Rain Dogs'. Here's singing tonight, a selection from this album, 'Tango Till they're Sore'... Tom Waits. Tooom!

TW: Thank you uh. This is about a guy that uh fell out of a window on New Year's Eve. And uh, the only thing that broke his fall, was the fact that he had a little uh confetti in his hair. Needless to say he doesn't go anywhere without a little... confetti in his hair.

[Performs: 'Tango Till They're Sore', with Bill Schimmel (accordion) and Michael Blair (percussion)]

DL: Tom, come on over! Nice to see you again! We'll do a commercial, we'll come back! Have a seat Tom! Very nice!


DL: Tom Waits is here. Nice to have you back.
TW: Thanks.
DL: Thank you for being here. You're living in New York now?
TW: Yeah, I live in here.
DL: You lived in Los Angeles for a long time didn't you?
TW: Yeah, I was there for a long time, yeah.
DL: You lived in a hotel?
TW: I lived in a lot of different uh... places.
DL: Did you ever live in a car in L.A.?
TW: Well for a brief time, I think everybody has lived in a car for a uh...
DL: Huh, huh, huh. Yeah I think the Census Bureau has statistics now, that back that up. That uh, more and more people are living in their car. Now, which do you uh... this is the silly question that they ask you again all the time on shows, but which do you prefer L.A. or New York?
TW: Uh, well I don't know. I think New York is much more confrontational. It's a great city, you know uh... [applause].
DL: Yeah. You feel more like you're a part of the city then in L.A.?
TW: Well, let's see uh... pfff... Oh, I lived on 14th Street, that made me feel part of the city [laughter].
DL: Yeah.
TW: Right over there by the Armory, across the Salvation Army there.
DL: How would you describe the city?
TW: Well, it's like a big ship uhmm... you know, and the water's on fire [huge laughter].
DL: Huh, huh, huh, yeah. Ehhh... how uhhh... now did we mention that you were born in a cab, now did we establish that for a fact or is that just myth?
TW: I have the registration here uh...
DL: So you were born in a cab? Now you have kids of your own?
TW: I do, they're heavily ensured [laughter] and uh... they're both in military school now.
DL: Aha. How old are they?
TW: [with disbelief] Eh... my boy is older then me! [laughter]
DL: Huh, huh, huh, how would a thing like that happen?! That's a mix up!
TW: I don't know how that happened. I just swear. We're looking into it now!
DL: Ha, ha, hah, uh.. and the other, your other child is a daughter?
TW: [affectionately] She is uh a little girl, yeah.
DL: Yeah, and what were your parents like? Tom?
TW: My father was an exhaust manifold and my mother uh... was a tree. [laughter]. No, uh my folks are uh teachers.
DL: Aha. Yeah, and you still see your folks from time to time?
TW: Eh... on all the big holidays and we talk on the phone in between times.
DL: Yeah, uh. Now you're doing acting. You're in 'Cottonclub', you're in uh ... uhm... [snaps fingers] can't think, the one with uh, uh, uhm...
TW: Ben Hur!
DL: Ben Hur, yeah right. Huh, huh, huh...
TW: Eh 'Rumblefish' I had a small part in that. Eh...
DL: Yeah, you must have enjoyed that huh?
TW: I like it, I'm getting better at it. I've done a few others since then. A picture in New Orleans with Jim Jarmusch and uh John Lurie and Roberto Benigni. Eh it's called 'Down By Law'. It's uh about a pimp, a disc jockey and an Italian tourist that end up in the same prison cell together and ... [laughter].
DL: And, I'm guessing you're the tourist?
TW: Actually I play the disc jockey. You know, I got to wear a hair net and I was really...
DL: You enjoyed that. And uh, now you're taking one of your songs and turning it into uh, is it a play or a musical?
TW: It's a play, well it's a musical. It's uh... it's kind of a cross between uh 'The Love Machine' and the New Testament. It's kind of uh... it's a uh... it's a musical play [laughter].
DL: Aha. And uh what is it uh based on, which song of yours is it based on?
TW: Eh 'Frank's Wild Years'. And I'm doing it in Chicago uhm...
DL: When do you start there?
TW: April 22nd we're going to rehearsal. Terry Kinney is the director. It's a Steppenwolf uh... (this sounds like an advertisement) it's uh Steppenwolf is the uh theatre company.
DL: Aha, and uh what can you tell us about it? What is the story? What's the premise? What are we talking about?
TW: Eh pfff... Well it's uh about an American psychopath who uh goes off, who plays the accordion and goes off to Las Vegas and ends up in blood stained Texas. And uh other places, New York and... It's about uh an American dreamer. You know?
DL: Yeah, so it sounds like the perfect show for out-of-towners? When it comes to Broadway?
TW: A lotta girls, lotta music, lotta action, you're gonna love it.

DL: Huh, huh, huh, okay and uh. Let me ask you a question about the cover of your album here. Right away. Is the album doing well for you?
TW: It's doing very well. I toured in Europe for two months. I played in New York at the Beacon(1) and did real good here. The record's doing good...
DL: Who are these people on the front?
TW: Eh, well it's from Hamburg. It's uh... his name, I believe, is Rose Crutia [?] and her name is Lilly. And it's from a place in Hamburg, a bar in Hamburg.
DL: Just folks who hang out in Hamburg?
TW: Just plain folks.

DL: Eh we're gonna do a commercial and then you're gonna play us off the air. Is that alright with you Tom?
TW: I'll play you out of town!
DL: Alright, great to see you again.


DL: Okay, that's it for us tonight. Tom is gonna play us off the air. I wanna thank everybody who was here tonight. Of course our wonderful studio audience, Mary Tyler Moore, uh Bill and uh Paul(3) and the band of course. Sid McGinnis(4), Will Lee(5), Charlie Drayton and uh David Sanborn again. Thank you gentlemen. Eh Tom, let me ask you a question, Tom!
TW: [busy tuning his guitar] Yeah?
DL: [plays some electronic Christmas tune from one of those Christmas gimmicks] Can you hear this?
TW: Yeah I hear it.
DL: Does that put you in the mind of fairies?
TW: Yeah uh, yeah it has a kind of a Disney uh...
DL: Yeah, okay... And now folks, playing from the album uh... 'Tom Waits Rain Dogs" we're gonna hear 'Time'. Right Tom?
TW: [still busy tuning his guitar] Okay, we'll try that one [laughter].
DL: Okay, have a nice weekend! Goodnight!
TW: Oh we'll just uh, we'll shorten this a little bit uh [something seems to be going wrong with his guitar] Oh there goes a few... uh..

[Performs: 'Time' with a very out of tune guitar]


(1) I played in New York at the Beacon: November 20/21, 1985. Beacon Theatre New York. Further reading: Performances

(2) Photography by Anders Petersen. Further reading: Rain Dogs.

(3) Paul Shaffer, known as TV's most unlikely hipster, has been David Letterman's music director and sidekick since the debut of Late Night with David Letterman in 1982. As music director for The CBS Orchestra - consisting of Paul, Sid McGinnis, Will Lee, Anton Fig, Felicia Michele Collins, Tom "Bones" Malone, and Bruce Kapler, Paul is responsible for all the music performances and accompaniment on Late Night.(Source: CBS Official Late Show Site)

(4) Sid McGinnis joined Late Night with David Letterman back in 1984 as "guest guitarist of the week," and has remained as a permanent guitarist ever since. Previously, he toured with Barry Manilow, Peter Gabriel, Carly Simon, and Laurie Anderson, and has recorded with artists such as Dire Straits, Ashford ... Simpson, David Lee Roth, Bob Dylan, and David Bowie. Sid was born on October 6 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He lives and rebuilds his guitars north of New York City. (Source: CBS Official Late Show Site)

(5) Will Lee holds the distinction of playing with Paul Shaffer on both Late Night with David Letterman and the Late Show longer than any other member of the CBS Orchestra. Although Will is proficient in several instruments and often provides backup vocals, his primary role is bass. Will was born in San Antonio, Texas on September 8, 1952. He lives in New York. (Source: CBS Official Late Show Site)

Further reading: CBS official Late Show siteDDY's Late Show Fan PageAnother Bad David Letterman Web PageUnofficial David Letterman HomepageBrilliant Careers at Salon.comAnders Petersen Site

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