|Title: Loose Talk
Source: Loose Talk. Channel-4 TV show hosted by Steve Taylor. Transcription from tape by "Pieter from Holland" as published on the Tom Waits Library
Date: Newcastle/ UK, aired October 18, 1983.
Keywords: Swordfishtrombones, Tropicana, influences
Picture: Loose Talk. October 18, 1983
ST: What exactly is a Swordfish Trombone? (laughs)
TW: Well I guess uh it's more of a conversation piece like anything else. It's either a uh... a uh musical instrument that smells bad or it's a fish that makes a lot of noise.
ST: Right, okay... Whatever you like yeah? Now you're over here putting forward what is quite an unusual strand of American music...
["He sucks!" from the audience]
ST: Now where... in your own musical background, what traditions have fed into the kind of music that you make?
TW: Well, I guess it's more of a discombobulated uh... uhm... chemical uh combination of uh... uhm different influences. Uh, I mean the whole creative process, in terms of the darker regions of your imagination, usually is somewhere between uh Moms Mabley and Rod Sterling and I listen to Dock Bogs uh Johnny Mercer, uhh...
ST: (laughs) You've got me completely lost, you have me utterly lost! Now what kind of music are we talking about here?
ST: Are we talking about Jazz or... what?
TW: Uhm... ... No. (laughter)
ST: You tell 'em.
TW: I guess it all just depends on how you look at it. I mean uh...
ST: What kind of music were you brought up with?
TW: Uh, well I had a uncle Robert who was...
["Speak up Tom!" from the audience]
TW: ... uh, excuse me sir!
["..?.." from the audience]
TW: Yeah up yours! (laughter and applause). Well I guess my earliest musical influence would be uh, is that better?, my uncle Robert. He was a blind organist at a Pentacostal church. Uh and uh, all his clothes were on the floor. Uhh an unmade bed, and uh made remarkable mistakes at the keyboard. And I'd say that's probably one of the earliest uhm important musical moments in my life.
ST: Okay, what's happened to those roots, in your own songs. I mean what work has been done on them to get them in the kind of shape that you...
TW: I think we're getting to know each other better now. (laughter)
ST: Yeah, yeah, it's eh... Do you think we're speaking the same language?
TW: Eh practically... Eh, well I don't know. A little marinaded haring in wine sauce. And uh you have 'em boned and skinned. It's uh, it's the long way around usually.
ST: Right. What part does this infamous image that we have of you here play, the sort of low life and American uh...
TW: I beg your pardon!?
ST: Well I think you know what I'm getting at. I mean for instance uh, I've read somewhere that you once lived in a brothel, is that true?
TW: I don't know, you must have me mixed up with somebody else.
ST: (laughs) Okay, well you've lived in some "dives" have you not?
TW: I don't know if that translates in my language. Uh do you mean like a place with a pool?
ST: No not really. I'm thinking more of the other end of the housing scale really, something you know, pretty rough... Low rent? Is that an American expression?
TW: Low rent. You mean like Rangoon? Or Iowa?
ST: (laughs) I'm thinking of the seedier parts of Los Angeles probably.
TW: You mean like a farming community? (laughter)
ST: No, not that kind of seed uh... ... Have a go, have a guess. Try and guess what I'm getting at, yeah?
TW: I think what you're trying to ask me is, uhhh, have I ever lived in a cheap hotel? (laughter)
ST: Yeah, that could be it! Yeah!
TW: I have a lot of close personal friends of mine that have lived in that type of place, but uh... and I've heard all the stories.
ST: And have those stories informed your lyrics, your songs?
TW: Mmm yeah. I'd say. Yeah uh, the type of thing that you deal with usually comes from uh you know, nightmares and experience and eavesdropping and uh your own demented uh little place.
ST: What sort of experiences are you talking about?
TW: Uh... uhm... What sort of experiences?
TW: Uhm... well uh... Now you're putting me on the spot.
ST: That's my job.
ST: (laughs) I'm sorry.
TW: Okay, uh well let's see. Uhm I'm working on a couple of things right now. Uh something called "Bad Directions". Uh another thing called "Martini Plans". Uh, you know, I'm usually working on a couple of different things at the same time.
ST: Right. So where did the ideas for those spring up from?
TW: It's from keeping my eyes open. And uh, it's not so much chronicling things, as it is establishing some sort of an impressionistic version of your daily events.
ST: Mmm and that impressionism, is that why you have used such a weird variety of instruments on Swordfishtrombones?
TW: Well I got used to upright bass and tenor sax and brushes and guitar and I couldn't hear anything without it for a while. Uh I think some of the stuff on the new record is a little more adventurous, uh in terms of instrumentation and subject matter. Uh, you know? Some of the other stuff, it's familiar territory for me.
ST: Right. Well just as we're getting to know each other, I got to wind the interview up and ask you to go over and sing your first song. We'll talk about your movie career a little later in the show. But for now Tom Waits thank you very much.
TW: (at the piano) Uh, this is a musical apology, entitled "I Beg Your Pardon".
[Performs "I Beg Your Pardon" and "I Wish I Was In New Orleans"]
(1) Loose Talk:
- Brian Case (1983): "Now firmly established as television's most sheerly embarrassing chat show since they last allowed Eamonn Andrews to confuse a motley selection of guests on the air, Channel 4's "Loose Talk" clambered towards new peaks of unintentional hilarity last week when croaking old wordsman Tom Waits ran rings around sloth-witted presented Steve "Shakespeare" Taylor. Taylor had heard that Tom liked living in dives. "Ya mean places where they got swimmin' pools?" Waits groaned. Steve squirmed; no, he meant, well, you know, places that were, like, low-rent. "Low-rent? Ya mean somewhere like Rangoon or Iowa?" Poor old Shakespeare: this series alone he's been wound up more times than a shiftworker's alarm clock. In a later confrontation with Steve's co-presenter (some oily oik drafted in from Private Eye), Tom came perilously close to losing what little remained of his patience. Admitting that he was in Blighty just to promote his new LP, Waits was told by the PE lardpot that he should be promoting it more volubly. "I'll promote it my own damn way," snarled Waits." (Source: "Tom Waits For No Man". Melody Maker magazine, by Brian Case. Date: October 29, 1983).
- Edwin Pouncey (1983): "Tom's storytelling technique suits the image many people have of him down to the ground. Mention him to many people and they will probably shoot back the image of a down-heeled alcoholic scraping for a bottle of cheap wine behind the keyboard of some smoke filled, dock-side bar. It was certainly the image chat host Steve Taylor was expecting when Tom turned up to promote his brilliant Swordfishtrombones album on Channel 4's ghastly, but masochistically watchable Loose Talk show recently. Taylor's "research" (ie: skimming through Face and NME interviews) went horribly awry as Tom proceeded to turn the gabbling cuckoo's beat-speak into the nonsense it ultimately was. For those of you who missed this conversation at cross purposes it went something as follows; Steve: "What part does this infamous image that we have of you over here play? This sort of low life, American..." Tom: "I beg your pardon?" Steve: "You've lived in some dives have you not?" Tom: "I don't know if I translate in my language. Do you mean a place with a pool?" Steve: "No not really. I'm thinking of more of the other side of the housing scale really, something pretty rough. Low rent? Is that an American expression?" Tom: "Low rent. You mean like Rangoon?" Steve: "I'm thinking of the seedier parts of LA probably." Tom: "You mean like a farming community?" Steve: (getting impatient now): "No, not that kind of seed. Have a go, have a guess. Try and guess what I'm getting at, yeah? Tom: "I think what you're trying to ask me is, uhhh, have I ever lived in a cheap hotel?" His cool thus blown, Steve's brain is far too fuddled to conduct a sensible, patient interview where much of Tom's true personality would have eventually trickled out. I suppose Tom Waits makes for a lousy young people's chat show guest. He is an artist and television moves too fast, before Tom had time to get his head out of his shell his slot was over and Steve's bandwagon had rolled on to its next fashionable guest." (Source: "Swordfish Out of Water: Tom Waits". Sounds magazine by Edwin Pouncey. November 15, 1983)