Hold On


They hung a sign up in our town
"If you live it up, you won't live it down"(2)
So she left Monte Rio(3), son
Just like a bullet leaves a gun
With her charcoal eyes and Monroe(4) hips
She went and took that California trip
Oh, the moon was gold, her hair like wind
Said, 'Don't look back, just come on, Jim'

Oh, you got to hold on, hold on
You gotta hold on
Take my hand, I'm standing right here
You gotta hold on

Well, he gave her a dimestore watch
And a ring made from a spoon
Everyone's looking for someone to blame

When you share my bed, you share my name
Well, go ahead and call the cops
You don't meet nice girls in coffee shops
She said, 'Baby, I still love you'
Sometimes there's nothin' left to do

Oh, but you got to hold on, hold on
Babe, you gotta hold on
And take my hand, I'm standing right here
You gotta hold on

Well, God bless your crooked little heart
St. Louis(5) got the best of me
I miss your broken China voice
How I wish you were still here with me
Oh, you build it up, you wreck it down
Then you burn your mansion to the ground
Oh, there's nothing left to keep you here
But when you're falling behind in this big blue world

Oh, you've got to hold on, hold on
Babe, you gotta hold on
Take my hand, I'm standing right here
You gotta hold on

Down by the Riverside motel
It's 10 below and falling
By a 99 cent store
She closed her eyes and started swaying
But it's so hard to dance that way
When it's cold and there's no music
Oh, your old hometown's so far away
But inside your head there's a record that's playing

A song called 'Hold On', hold on
Babe, you gotta hold on
Take my hand, I'm standing right there
You gotta hold on

You gotta hold on, hold on
Babe, you gotta hold on
Take my hand, I'm standing right there
You gotta hold on

You gotta hold on, hold on
Babe, you gotta hold on
And take my hand, I'm standing right here
You gotta hold on

You gotta hold on, hold on
Babe, you gotta hold on
And take my hand, I'm standing right here
You gotta hold on

You gotta hold on
You gotta hold on
You gotta hold on
You gotta hold on
You gotta hold on, baby
You gotta hold on, girl
You gotta hold on
You gotta hold on

Written by: Tom Waits and Kathleen Waits-Brennan(6)
Published by: Jalma Music (ASCAP), © 1999
Official release: Mule Variations, Anti Inc., 1999
Arrangements and lyrics published in "Tom Waits - Mule Variations" (Amsco Publications, 2000)

Known covers:
Soul Surfing. Elliott Murphy. January, 2002. Dusty Roses (Spain), Blue Rose (Germany), Venus (Italy), Last Call (France)
Redbird. Peter Mulvey. 2003. Self-released
Songs In The Key Of D. Shawn Barry. 2003. Self-released
Good Morning Friend. Robert Krestan and Druhá Tráva. 2004. Universal 982 427-2
Oh My! Mae Moore & Lester Quitzau. February, 2004. Poetical License Inc. (Canada)
Stubnblues. Willi Resetarits + Xtra Combo. March, 2005. Sattele Records
Little Stranger. David Midgen. April 4, 2005. Dekkor Records DRCD001
Forerunner. The Cottars. January 10, 2006. Rounder
Go West. Chris Brown. 2002. Self-released
Per Versions. Vitamin String Quartet. June 2, 2009. Vitamin Records
Sweet Sacrifice. Jason Liebman. March 9, 2010. For The Artist Records

Music video promoting "Hold On" (Anti, 1999). Directed by Matt Mahurin.

Notes:

(1) Hold on: Cling fast; to persist. The idea is clinging firmly to something to prevent falling or being overset. (Source: "The First Hypertext Edition of The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable", E. Cobham Brewer. © 1997-99 Bibliomania.com Ltd)
- Tom Waits (1999): "Hold on" I thought that was a good thing to say in a song. Hold on. We're all holding onto something. None of us want to come out of the ground. Weeds are holding on. Everything's holding on. I thought that was a real positive thing to say. It was an optimistic song. Take my hand, stand right here, hold on. We wrote that together, Kathleen and I, and that felt good. Two people who are in love writing a song like that about being in love. That was good." (Source: "Holding On: A Conversation with Tom Waits". Newsweek: Karin Schoemer. March 23, 1999)
- Tom Waits (2002): "We were on a bus coming to L.A. And it was really cold outside. There was this transgender person, to be politically correct, standing on a corner wearing a short little top with a lot of midriff showing, a lot of heavy eye makeup and dyed hair and a really short skirt. And this guy, or girl, was dancing all by himself. And my little girl saw it and said, "It must be really hard to dance like that when you're so cold and there's no music.'" Waits took his daughter's exquisite observation and worked into a ballad called "Hold On"- a song of unspeakably aching hopefulness that was nominated for a Grammy and became the cornerstone of his album Mule Variations." (Source: "Play It Like Your Hair's On Fire" GQ magazine (USA) June, 2002 by Elizabeth Gilbert) 

(2) If you live it up, you won't live it down: Live it up: Slang. To engage in festive pleasures or extravagances. Live down: To overcome or reduce the shame of (a misdeed, for example) over a period of time (Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company)

(3) Monte Rio: "Monte Rio is located in beautiful Sonoma County on the Russian River. This small community is snuggled between the river and the redwood crested mountains. The ocean is only 10 miles away."(Source: Monte Rio Chamber of Commerce official site, 2003)

(4) Marilyn Monroe: Norma Jean Mortenson. Born Los Angeles /Cal. 01-06-1926. Died Brentwood /Cal. 05-08-1962. American actress and sex-symbol. Was married to Joe Dimaggio for a while. (). Also mentioned in A Sweet Little Bullet, 1978: "I'd rather die before I wake like Marilyn Monroe" and Jitterbug Boy, 1976: "Because I slept with the lions, and Marilyn Monroe."

(5) St. Louis:
- Jonathan Valania (1999): Getting back to the names of places, St. Louis seems to pop up a lot, in "Hold on" from the new record and "Time" from Rain Dogs and you've mentioned it a lot in interviews. Ever live there? Tom Waits: "No, never lived there. It's a good name to stick in a song. Every song needs to be anatomically correct: You need weather, you need the name of the town, something to eat - every song needs certain ingredients to be balanced. You're writing a song and you need a town, and you look out the window and you see "St. Louis Cardinals" on some kid's T-shirt. And you say, "Oh, we'll use that." (Source: "The Man Who Howled Wolf ". Magnet: Jonathan Valania. June/July, 1999)
- St. Louis: also mentioned in: I Beg Your Pardon, 1982: "Please don't go back to St. Louis, can't you tell that I'm sincere.". Time, 1985: "And you're East of East Saint Louis and the wind is making speeches.", Train Song, 1987: "Well I broke down in East St. Louis, on the Kansas City Line."

(6) Song could be inspired by "Hold On" (Spiritual, unknown copyright/ public domain): "When you plow, don't lose your track, Can't plow straight and keep a-lookin' back Keep your hand on that plow, Hold on, hold on, hold on Hold on, hold on, Better keep your hand right on that plow, Hold on, hold on, hold on Keep on plowin' and don't you tire, Ev'ry row goes higher and higher, Keep your hand on that plow, Hold on, hold on, hold on Hold on, hold on, Better keep your hand right on that plow, Hold on, hold on, hold on If you want to get to heaven, I'll tell you how, Keep your hand on the gospel plow, Keep your hand on that plow, Hold on, hold on, hold on Hold on, hold on, Better keep your hand right on that plow, Hold on, hold on, hold on If that plow stays in your hand, Head you straight for the promised Land, Keep your hand on that plow, Hold on, hold on, hold on Hold on, hold on, Better keep your hand right on that plow, Hold on, hold on, hold on."