Johnsburg, Illinois

(Swordfishtrombones studio version, 1983)

She's my only true love
She's all that I think of
Look here: in my wallet that's her

She grew up on a farm there
There's a place on my arm
where I've written her name next to mine

You see: I just can't live without her
and I'm her only boy
And she grew up outside McHenry
in Johnsburg, Illinois

Written by: Tom Waits
Published by: Jalma Music (ASCAP), 1983-1998
Official release: "Swordfishtrombones", Island Records Inc., 1983 &
"Beautiful Maladies", Island Records Inc., 1998
Arrangement and lyrics published in "Tom Waits - Beautiful Maladies" (Amsco Publications, 1997)



Johnsburg, Illinois

(Big Time live version, 1988)

She's my only true love
She's all that I think of
Look here: in my wallet that's her

She grew up on a farm there
There's a place on my arm
where I've written her name next to mine

You see: I just can't live without her
and I'm her only boy
And she grew up outside McHenry
in Johnsburg, Illinois

Written by: Tom Waits
Published by: Jalma Music, Admin. by Ackee Music, Inc. (ASCAP), 1983-1988
Official release: "Big Time", Island Visual Arts Inc. (P) Island Records Inc., 1988
Arrangement and lyrics published in "Tom Waits - Beautiful Maladies" (Amsco Publications, 1997)
Further reading: Big Time full story

Known covers:
Fat Cats. Johnny Hooper. December, 1992. Self-released CDJRH2
Overdressed Late Guy. Park Stickney. 1995. Self-released (instrumental)
The Sweetheart Break-in. The Supreme Music Program/ Megan Mullally. 2000. Unknown label
Everyone Says It's On. Jason Falkner. 2001. Air Mail Recordings
5000 Days. The Bad Examples. January, 2002. Waterdog Music
Pornoshow - Laura Fedele Interpreta Tom Waits. Laura Fedele. May, 2003. Auditorium, AUD 00902 (in Italian)
Sometime Ago. Anke Jochmaring. January 15, 2006. Phonector
Still Time. Matthias Bergmann. February 1, 2008. Jazz4ever Records (instrumental)
Wies Merge. Ton Engels. December 12, 2007. Vulcano Records PlatCD7210
Stomp Glide Wobble. The Northside Southpaws. January 25, 2008. Self-released
Jenny Scheinman, Jenny Scheinman. May 27, 2008 Koch Records
Grapefruit Moon: Songs of Tom Waits. Southside Johnny & La Bamba's Bigband. September 19, 2008. Evangeline (Soulfood Music)
Flutter And Wow. Charlie Wood. May 18, 2009. Archer Records
American Dream. Taylor Haskins. June 8, 2010. Sunnyside Records


Waits performing "Johnsburg Illinois" taken from the Big Time concert video
Recorded live at the Warfield Theatre. San Francisco/ USA November 5, 1987.
PolyGram Video (Island Visual Arts)/ Fries Home Video (Fries Entertainment Inc.), 1988.
With: Michael Blair, Ralph Carney, Greg Cohen, Marc Ribot and Willy Schwarz.
Stage show concept: Kathleen Brennan & Tom Waits. Directed by Chris Blum.

May not be visible everywhere (MPRCS).

Notes:

(1) Tom Waits (1983): "My wife is from Johnsburg, Illinois. It's right outside McHenry and up by the ching-a-lings. She grew up on a farm up there. So it's dedicated to her. It's real short. Somehow I wanted just to get it all said in one verse. There are times when you work on a song and end up repeating in the second verse what you already said in the first. So I thought I would be more appropriate if it's just like a feeling of a sailor somewhere in a cafe, who opens his wallet and turns to the guy next to him and shows him the picture while he's talking a bout something else and says: "Oh, here. That's her." and then closes his wallet and puts it back in his pants. It relates in some way to "Shore Leave" in the sense that it talks about Illinois. So thematically I was trying to tie it into "Shore Leave" (Source: "Tom Waits - Swordfishtrombones". Island Promo interview, 1983)
- Live from Stockholm 1987: "She's my only true love She's all that I think of. Look here in my wallet, that's her. She grew up on a farm there. There's a place on my arm. Where I've written her name next to mine. You see, I just... [tries the high note but fails, talks]... This is where it all falls apart for me! It's kind of an unfinished thing, we're still working on it. I'm just checking to see if you're still with me! You see, the best songs are the ones that aren't finished yet. Cause there's still places in them where you can put things, you know. We just got to a little shelf and there was nothing on it. We're gonna have to come up with something to put in there. So you're part of this little process now. Oh yeah, there's this thing: [sings] You see, I just can't live without her. And I'm her only boy. And she grew up outside McHenry. In Johnsburg, Illinois. You see, I just can't live without her. And I'm her only boy. And she grew up outside McHenry. In Johnsburg, Illinois" (Transcribed by Ulf Berggren. Listserv Raindogs discussionlist. March, 2000)
- Some 40 miles west of Johnsburg, Illinois is the city of Waukegan (as mentioned in Gun Street Girl, 1985: "He left Waukegan at the slammin' of the door."