God's Away On Business

(Woyzeck theatre version, 2000)(1)

There's a one-eyed man(7) in the poker pit
They're digging up the dead with a shovel and a pick
The sun went down; the moon wept blood
A bloody jack of Diamonds, a plague and a flood(6)

There's a leak, there's a leak
In the boiler room(3), the poor, the lame, the blind(5)
Who are the ones left in charge?
Killers, thieves and whores

There's a leak, there's a leak
In the boiler room, the poor, the lame, the blind
Who are the ones left in charge?
Killers, thieves and whores

God's Away, God's Away, God's Away on Business ...
Bacteria, bacteria(8) ...

As published in the Woyzeck songbook (Betty Nansen Teatret, 2000)
Written by: Tom Waits/ Kathleen Waits-Brennan
Published by: Jalma Publishing (ASCAP), © 2000
Further reading: Woyzeck Full Story



God's Away On Business

(Blood Money studio version, 2002)

I'd sell your heart to the junkman baby(2)
For a buck, for a buck
If you're looking for someone to pull you out of that ditch
You're out of luck, you're out of luck.

The ship is sinking
The ship is sinking
The ship is sinking

There's a leak, there's a leak in the boiler room(3)
The poor, the lame, the blind(4)
Who are the ones that we kept in charge?
Killers, thieves, and lawyers!(5)

God's Away, God's Away
God's away on Business.
Business.
God's Away, God's Away
God's away on Business.
Business.

Digging up the dead with a shovel and a pick
It's a job, it's a job
Bloody moon rising with a plague and a flood(6)
Join the mob, join the mob
It's all over, it's all over.
It's all over.

There's a leak, there's a leak in the boiler room
The poor, the lame, the blind
Who are the ones that we kept in charge?
Killers, thieves, and lawyers!

God's Away, God's Away
God's away on Business.
Business.
God's Away, God's Away
God's away on Business.
Business.

Goddamn there's always such a big temptation
To be good, To be good
There's always free Cheddar in a mousetrap, baby
It's a deal, it's a deal
God's away, God's away, God's away On Business.
Business.

I narrow my eyes like a coin slot baby,
Let her ring, let her ring

God's Away, God's Away
God's away on Business.
Business...

Written by: Tom Waits and Kathleen Waits-Brennan
Published by: Jalma Music (ASCAP), © 2000
Official release: Blood Money, Epitaph/ Anti Inc., 2002
Arrangements and lyrics published in "Tom Waits Blood Money" (Amsco Publications, 2002)
Further reading: Woyzeck Full Story

Known covers:
Kazik Staszewski "Piosenki Toma Waitsa". Kazik Staszewski. March, 2003. VIP Production / Luna Music: LUNCD 093-2 (in Polish)
Unplugged. Anne Bärenz & Frank Wolff. 2003. Büchergilde (Germany)
Greetings From Hell - The Tom Waits Songbook, Hell Blues Choir. September, 2003. Tylden & Co (Norway)


Listen to audio excerpt of God's Away On Business as performed in the theatre play Woyzeck.
Sung by Morten Eisner and Hanne Uldal (as Doctors).
Betty Nansen theatre. Copenhagen/ Denmark. November 20, 2000.

Music video promoting "God's Away On Business" directed by Jesse Dylan (ANTI, 2002).

Notes:

(1) God's Away On Business (Early theatre version): Sung by The Doctor in act 1, scene 4
- Q (2002): "You've been singing a song about God being away on business. Why is he away? Tom Waits: I don't know, it's hard to say. It's song-logic, you know. I don't know. Perhaps he's away indefinitely. Perhaps he was never here. You know, there are two different schools of thought on that I guess. Q: And you called his office and got a message? TW: (laughs) Yeah, well no. It's just eh, one of those things you say in order to explain the way that you feel in metaphor. I guess eh. It feels sometimes in the world that God is away on business and he's not coming back". (Source: Anti Electronic Press Kit - "We're All Mad Here - A Conversation With Tom Waits": Music industry promo. (P) & © 2002 Epitaph/ Anti Inc)

(2) I'd sell your heart to the junkman baby
- Might refer to the song "I Sold My Heart to The Junkman" (by Leon Rene and Otis Rene Jr.). Made famous by Patti Labelle & The Bluebelles (actually sung by the Starlets) in 1962 :"I gave my heart to you, the one that I trusted. You brought it back to me all broken and busted so I sold my heart to the junkman and I'll never fall in love again." Also covered by Bette Midler and Bruce Springsteen.

(3) There's a leak in the boiler room: In 1984/ 1985 Waits actually spend some time in a genuine boilerroom:
- Tom Waits (1986): "You see, I think the place that you write stuff usually ends up in the song. I wrote most of Raindogs down on Washington St. It's a kind of rough area, Lower Manhattan between Canal and 14th St., just about a block in from the river. I started sharing a rehearsal space with the Lounge Lizards. I had nights there in this boiler room and a Siamese cat would go by sounding like a crying baby, every night. And there was a drummer down the hall. It was a good place for me to work. Very quiet, except for the water coming through the pipes every now and then. Sort of like being in a vault" (Source: "Waits Happening" Beat magazine 1986, by Pete Silverton).
- During the 1987 tour promoting Frank's Wild Years, Waits would often use this phrase as a nonsense song, asking the crowd to sing along.

(4) The poor, the lame, the blind: Biblical reference: (Luke 4:16-21 & Luke 14:12-14 and 21): "Then great multitudes came to Him, having with them the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus' feet, and He healed them. So the multitude marveled when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.", "Then He also said to him who invited Him, "When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. "But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. "And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just." (Quoted from The New King James Bible, © 1984 Thomas Nelson Company)

(5) Killers, thieves, and lawyers!: Note Waits has changed "Killers, thieves and whores" into "Killers, thieves and lawyers" :-)

(6) Bloody moon rising with a plague and a flood: Biblical reference: could be some endtime bible prophecy with: Noah and the Great Flood/ The Plague of Locusts and "bloody moon" references: "I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places." (North American Standard Bible, Revelation 6:12-14). "Before them the earth quakes, The heavens tremble, The sun and the moon grow dark, And the stars lose their brightness. And I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, Blood, fire, and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes." (Source: North American Standard Bible, Joel 2:10, 30-31)

(7) One eyed man/ one eyed Jack: 1. adj. [1960s+] (US) in poker, used of a king or jack, esp. as wild cards. [the design of the face depicted in profile on cards] (Source: "Cassell's Dictionary Of Slang". Jonathon Green. Cassel & Co., 1998. ISBN: 0-304-35167-9)

(8) Bacteria, bacteria
- The "Bacteria story" is originally from 1985. It was later also referred to in Frank's Wild Years the play (1986).
- Tom Waits (1985): 'Rather than tell you what kind of stories I like, I'll tell you a story.' Waits says in his friendly growl. 'These two guys come out of a bar one night. They're not drunk, it goes without saying, and it's not much later than three in the morning. From down the street they hear someone singing. Opera. Now they're both opera fans - naturally - and one says to the other, "That's good. That's Puccini." And the other says, "No, it's better, it's Rossini." So they go closer and the singer's still going at it. It's a guy, and he's wearing a Stetson, and he's big, but not much bigger than a garbage truck, and he's singing at the top of his voice, like Maria Callas in "Figaro" or something "BACT-ER-I-A, BACT-EEEER-IA, BACT-EER-IA."' 'That is what I call a New York story," says Waits. (Source: "Dog Day Afternoon" Time Out magazine (UK), by Richard Rayner. New York, October 3-9, 1985)