Title: Tom Waits: The Slime Who Came In From The Cold
Source: Creem magazine (The Beat Goes On) by Clark Peterson. Volume 9, Issue 10. Photography by Mitchell Rose. Short version of "Sleazy Rider - A man who works at being a derelict" (Relix magazine. May - June, 1978. Vol. 5 No. 2). Thanks to Kevin Molony for donating scans. Also transcribed by Gary Tausch as published on the Tom Waits Miscellania
Date: March, 1978
Key words: Blue Oyster Cult, Tropicana

Magazine front cover: Creem Magazine. March 1978. Volume 9, Issue 10

Accompanying pictures
Page lay-out (entire article). Thanks to Kevin Molony for donating this scan
"And you can't come out of your room until you CLEAN IT UP!". Tropicana Motel, Los Angeles, 1976 or earlier. Photography by Neil Zlowzower. Thanks to Kevin Molony for donating this scan
"Tom poses with his maiden aunt from Cleveland". Early 1978. Photography by Mitchell Rose. Thanks to Kevin Molony for donating this scan


Tom Waits: The Slime Who Came In From The Cold


SAN FRANCISCO - A pointy, black shoe kicks the motel door open, and in lurches something even the cat would refuse to drag in. It's Tom Waits, looking like a stubble-chinned stumble bum who just traded a pint of blood for a pint of muscatel down at the plasma center. His attire - Frederick's of Goodwill - is appropriately seedy on his meager frame.

"I've got an eagle tattooed on my chest," he growls. "Only on this body it looks more like a robin."

Now that he's made Time magazine(1) and has five albums out on Asylum (Foreign Affairs is the newest), Tom Waits is the cat's meow (or is it the cat's barf?). When he made his TV debut on Fernwood 2 Night(2), singing "The Piano Has Been Drinking" and then bantered with friend/host Martin Mull, Mull apologized for having only a Diet Pepsi to offer. Waits whipped out a flask from his coat and Mull made a comment about him "sitting here with a bottle in front of him."

"I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy," Waits shot back. Later he offered: "People who can't face drugs turn to reality."

Waits' act is hardly an act at all. He sometimes sleeps in his flea market duds, keeps hours better left to street sweepers, and smokes more than the grill at Joe's Bar-B-Q. He travels in a bus and stays in fleabag joints while his three-piece band chooses classy hotels.

"Blue Oyster Cult and Black Oak Arkansas stayed in the same hotel with me in Phoenix," Waits mumbled, scratching his furry skin and trying to sound sincere. "It was a real thrill for me, ya know, being only three doors away from your heroes." (He once said he enjoyed the Cult about as much as listening to trains in a tunnel.) "I like them," he continued, "Of course, I also like boogers and snot and vomit on my clothes."

While he's in hometown L.A., Waits lives at the Tropicana Motor Hotel(3), once a favorite of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, and where Andy Warhol's Trash was partially filmed. His neighbors are strippers, pimps, Mexicans, "a maniac misfit unemployed actor and a guy named Sparky." Some punks live behind him. Though his music is a melange of jazz, heart-throbbing ballads and beat poetry, ironically enough, he has an affinity for punk rock.

"It may be revolting to a lot of people, but at least it's an alternative to the garbage that's been around for ten years," he said. "I've had it up to here with Crosby Steals The Cash. I need another group like that like I need another dick. I'd rather listen to some young kid in a leather jacket singing a song like 'I want to eat out my mother' than to hear some of these insipid guys with their cowboy boots and embroidered shirts doing 'Six Days On The Road.' I like Mink DeVille.

"I was on the Bowery in New York and stood out in front of CBGB's(4) one night. There were all these cats in small lapels and pointed shoes smokin' Pall Malls and bullshitting with the winos. It was good." When he's among outcasts, he's in his own element.

Waits is going to play a piano player in a bar in Sylvester Stallone's next film, Paradise Alley(5), singing three of his own songs. He may have a song in Dustin Hoffman's movie, Straight Time, but he won't be on Starsky and Hutch.

"I was actually insulted when they asked me," Waits grumbled. "They wanted me to play a satanic figure in a cult group - I said CANCEL. They'd probably put me in a peasant shirt with a bunch of beads and spray paint as devil eyes."

Until he makes the silver screen, watch for tipsy Tom in the sleazy part of town. You won't have any trouble remembering his scruffy, whiskered face.

"I'm usually recognized when I'm talking to some pretty girl in a bar," he sighed, running a few nicotine-stained fingers through his Pennzoil hair. "Some sophomore comes over and drools on my shoulder."

Clark Peterson


(1) Now that he's made Time magazine: "Tom Waits: Barroom Balladeer" Time magazine (USA). Vol. 110, no. 22. November 28, 1977

(2) When he made his TV debut on Fernwood 2 Nightfurther reading: Fernwood 2Night

(3) Waits lives at the Tropicana Motor Hotel: Further reading: Tropicana Motel.

(4) CBGB's: New York club located at 315 Bowery in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. For further reading try the official CBGB site

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