Alice: Press Articles
ALICE'S VERY IMPORTANT DATE
(Los Angeles Times. December 26, 1992. Transcription by Dalsh 327 as sent to Raindogs Listserv discussionlist June 22, 2000)
Robert Wilson, Tom Waits Put a New Spin on Carroll's Tale By Vickie Houben
HAMBURG - Germany's largest port city is best known for its cold and rainy weather and refined atmosphere. It seems to present an irresistible challenge to Robert Wilson and Tom Waits. Why else would they return here for a second time to stage a world premiere in such a chilly environment?
In 1990's "Black Rider," Wilson and Waits updated the Freischutz folk legend into a modern-day hero. "Alice," their new endeavor, is a stage musical based upon what amounts to a British national shrine--Lewis Carroll's wonderfully wacky wisdom-and-nonsense books "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass."
They were the brainchildren of an Oxford mathematician whose real name was Charles L. Dodgson (1832-98). He was inspired by his intense attraction to 11-year-old vicar's daughter Alice Liddell, a passion that may not have expended itself in chaste photography of her budding womanhood. "I wish I could dare free her of all her clothes," he wrote in his diary.
This is not the material for a Christmas pantomime. (The show premiered last week and performances continue through January.) And Wilson is not faithful to Alice's original adventures. She is his heroine, Dodgson his hero. The show begins with many Dodgsons on stage, but only one voice (Stefan Kurt) sings "There's Only Alice" to the strains of a saxophone as if he were standing in a bar at 3 a.m. The sound is quintessential Waits, who wrote the music and lyrics along with his wife, Kathleen Brennan.
Alice (Annette Paulmann) falls down the rabbit hole and partakes from a bottle that says, "Drink me." She meets talking flowers, mice, cats, deer and Humpty Dumpty in a Wonderland in which there are no rules known to her. The Wicked Queen, Black and White Knights, Mad Hatter, March Hare and Dormouse are not paradise lost, but only a hallucination. Yet after the scene in which a slightly intoxicated Alice, dressed in a blood-red velvet gown and imprisoned by blood-red walls bitterly recalls her (imagined?) defloration, the audience cannot help but wonder if Dodgson violated the rules of Victorian and modern society.
This is the scene in which the superb costumes by Frida Parmeggiani first show their suggestive power. All characters with the exception of Alice have chalk-white faces that bring to mind the undead in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Their hairdos look as if they had been created in a wind tunnel. The White Sheep (Angelika Thomas) knits her own fleece, and the Caterpillar (Joer Holm) blows himself up to gigantic proportions during his preachings to Alice.
In "Alice," the set consists solely of mirrors and doors. When Alice shrinks, the effect is achieved by enlarging a door; when she reaches gigantic proportions, the door is shrunk. A huge telescopic camera lens is used by Wilson to illustrate Dodgson's sexual desires.
A collection of bizarre musical instruments evokes memories of the gramophone era of the Roaring '20s (and of recent Waits recordings), but the percussion section is thoroughly contemporary. Every creaking door and ripple of water has its own instrument. Slow waltzes alternate with ballads. The rousing song "Tabletop Joe" has its roots in vaudeville. "Somewhere" from "West Side Story" (and from an early Waits album) is amply quoted, as is Bing Crosby's "My Blue Heaven." The simple dialogues, written by New Yorker Paul Schmidt, untangle Carroll's abstruse puzzles.
Critics almost unanimously bemoaned the fact that the magic of "Alice" wears thin after the intermission: Klare Warnecke of Die Welt in Bonn wrote: "The wonderfully poetic and absurd first hour does not automatically guarantee enchantment for the whole evening." Werner Burkhardt of Suddeutsche Zeitung in Munich: "Unfortunately, the evening does not always remain on the same high level of conviction. The surplus of images and intermezzos buries the plot. The suspense peters out. The lyrical becomes empty. Nothing really makes any progress, and after the intermission, even the stage drop changes into gray on gray."
Armgard Seegers of the Hamburger Abendblatt: "Captivatingly beautiful emptiness." Gregor Edelmann of the national Bild gives "Alice" only three stars outof six: "Once, Wilson's images had depth, knew what darkness is:secrets, death. Today they are flat and accommodating. More commercial than cultural. 'Alice' is a fairy tale for adults. In other words, the avant-garde ends in kindergarten. Oh, we have lost one of the great! We weep for Robert Wilson!"
The audience seemed to think otherwise. Amid a small scattering of boos, it gave "Alice" a 30-minute standing ovation on opening night. The high point of the evening came when Waits jumped on stage, grabbed a microphone and as an encore gave a raspy rendition of the song "Reeperbahn," a tribute to Hamburg's red-light district. This drove the audience into a frenzy. Waits knew what he was doing. When the people of Hamburg get warmed up, they can be just as temperamental as anyone.
TOM WAITS & ROBERT WILSON'S ALICE
(The Late Show. BBC TV documentary. Presented by Beatrix Campbell. Aired March 4, 1993. Camera, Robert Payton. Sound, Bruce Wills. Production Assistant, Maggi Gibson. Editors, Mike Duly, Tamra Ferguson. Director, Mark Cooper. Transcription from tape by "Pieter from Holland" as published on the Tom Waits Library)
Beatrix Campbell: [in the studio] Robert Wilson is one of America's foremost theatre directors. (..?..) his native country and in Europe but on the scene in Britain, where a naturalistic stage tradition remains mistrustful of his vision of theatre and spectacle. Wilson thrives on collaboration, especially with composers and musicians. Among them Philip Glass, David Byrne and Jessye Norman. His latest pairing is with singer songwriter Tom Waits. And it's his most surprising. While Wilson's theatre is minimalist and formal and indebted to expressionism, Waits' music is shot through with dirt, noise and good old romanticism. Their first musical collaboration in 1990, The Black Rider, was a huge hit all over Europe. A few months ago Waits and Wilson reconvened at Hamburg state funded Thalia theatre to create Alice, based loosely on Lewis Carroll's Victorian classic. Alice is a surreal musical exploration of the relationship between the author and the real child who inspired him. The Late Show's Mark Cooper went to Hamburg to see what these American visionaries had made of an English literary heirloom.
[Waits at the Piano: performs "There's Only Alice"]
[Footage of December, 1992 theatre preview at the Thalia Theatre: actors performing "There's Only Alice"]
Mark Cooper: Moving between the fantasy world of "Alice In Wonderland" and the real life relationship between its author Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell, the child from whom he drew his heroin, Alice is a collaboration between director Robert Wilson, songwriter Tom Waits and writer Paul Schmidt.
Robert Wilson: I don't know, maybe it's because we're both from the Mid-West or... I don't know, we're very different men, different lifestyles, different esthetics, we dress differently. Even our ideas about art are quit different. I'm a little more formal and cooler and he's a little freer. But somehow it works together. I think that our work's, that our work is stronger together then it is separate. Because we are different, we are counterpoints.
Tom Waits (at the piano): I think the best collaboration is really the uh, is the uh, the blind crippled midget on the shoulders of the sighted giant. So, I guess Wilson's the uh sighted giant and that I'm uh the crippled midget.
Paul Schmidt: They both got their extremes, I mean when they got this collaboration I sat in the middle between America's greatest minimalist and America's greatest maximalist, (laughs) between Wilson and Waits and that's the tension that I think works.
[Footage of Waits performing "Tom Traubert's Blues": from The Old Grey Whistle Test, BBC-2, 1977]
Mark Cooper: Tom Waits released his first album Closing Time in 1973. He quickly distinguished himself from other singer-songwriters of the period, with his beat, jazz and Tin Pan Alley influences, the romantic richness of his lyrics and his gravel voice delivery. During the last decade Waits' music has grown steadily dirtier, his arrangements and instrumentation ever wilder.
[Footage of Waits in the studio, and video clip for "I Don't Wanna Grow Up", 1993]
Mark Cooper: Robert Wilson emerged from the avant-garde theatre of New York in the late sixties.
[Footage from: A Letter From Queen Victoria, 1974]
John Rockwell (European Arts correspondent, New York Times): Robert Wilson's theatre consists of images, rhythm, spirituality, and collaboration. I think he derives enormous emotional import from pictures and light, stage pictures and light. He is without question the leading master and inspirer of what one might call imagistic theatre or, what has been called in a book about Wilson, the theatre of visions.
[Footage from: Einstein On The Beach, 1976]
Mark Cooper: Wilson achieved international fame with a collaboration with Philip Glass, Einstein On The Beach. This 4-hour production was revived last year and toured the world to renewed acclaim. In 1990 Wilson teamed up with fellow Americans Tom Waits and William Burroughs for The Black Rider, a musical extravaganza based on an old German folktale. The Black Rider was mounted with the repertory company of Hamburg's Thalia Theatre.
[Footage from The Black Rider at the Thalia Theatre: Hamburg, 1990]
Mark Cooper: The Victorian cleric Charles Dodgson, penname Lewis Carroll, was also a mathematician, poet and photographer. He frequently photographed Alice Liddell, the inspiration for the Alice books. These photographs and his diaries reveal a man obsessed.
Paul Schmidt: One of the things that we started with, was the notion of Dodgson as a photographer. We know he took pictures of little girls, that's what he liked to do. And when you think of the image of what a camera was in those days. Those enormous boxes with the long snouts sticking out in front of them, the lens and the great black cloth from the photographers head. And the braces that people had to sit in, to hold the pose. It must have been a terrifying experience. It might have been a terrifying experience for a young child.
[Footage of December, 1992 Alice theatre preview at the Thalia Theatre: Alice in front of the camera]
Paul Schmidt: One of the things we were trying to do was to balance to take the character of Dodgson and portray him first as the photographer as this slightly uninnocent figure, and then the second part is the White Knight, from the second Alice book, from "The Looking Glass", which is clearly, which Dodgson means as a portrait of himself, and is one of the most wonderfully gentle old people in literature. So it was trying to show that relationship of how a world of grown ups can scare children and threaten children, and at the same time that it's love and it means to be love.
[Footage of December, 1992 Alice theatre preview at the Thalia Theatre: "Fish And Bird"]
Robert Wilson: There are various levels of the narrative. There's the text by Paul Schmidt, which is one thing, and you have the lyrics of Tom which are another. And they're sort of counterpoints and sometimes it's like a grid or something, that can be lined out so that the visual imagery or this visual story is lined up with Paul's text and Tom's music. And sometimes they're like grids that are going out of phase, and sometimes they line up. But often they're sort of counterpoints to one another.
[Footage of Alice rehearsals]
Tom Waits: That's the great thing about the workshop, you can go and get inspired and watch what Bob does up stage, watch what the actors do, and I come every day with maybe a few new songs and find out how they work. The theatre is uh... you realize why they call it "the fabulous invalid". You have to get it to stand up. Bob wants everybody to do it: "Do it, do it right now. Whadda ya got?"
[Waits at the piano: performing "Jabberwocky"]
John Rockwell: Waits', if you will, American music, serves as a kind of... , the moment in which the pretences and the denials and the self-deceptions drop away and true emotional, this is true for the ballads, as far as the carnival bumptiousness and the rockiness is concerned, uh I don't know. You could argue that there's a circus element to Alice herself, to the stories to the very nature of these fantastical characters that is mirrored in that kind of music.
Tom Waits: We were trying to make the song text a different, some different things one would normally associate with "Alice In Wonderland". So, oh we did some things... We had a song called "Poor Edward" which is a true story actually. I took the same melody of "Alice" and... There's a true story about it [takes out a book]... a circus freak that was uh born with a woman's face on the back of his head [tries to find the article in the book]. Uh, sorry girls.. ooh... oooh!
Paul Schmidt: A lot of fun fairs that I know of in America are called Wonderland. You get that all the time. It seemed to me it was kind of a natural connection. And the other interesting thing that Tom really found, was sort of the underside of Victorian life, I mean we think of proper Victorian England, but you look at some of the freak shows and things that grew up in the nineteenth century, it was sort of a darker underside of it. And that's where a lot of Tom's images plug in beautifully. I think they really reflect terrifically, there was a tension between some of those images and the surface innocence of the Alice story.
Tom Waits: [still trying to find the article on Poor Edward] Anyway I'll just tell it. Uhm, poor Edward. He came from a very wealthy family and he was, you know, heir to a big fortune and, but he had this curse and he said that the face on the back of his head was his devil twin, and it spoke to him at night. And ultimately he couldn't take it anymore and he went and checked into a hotel and hung himself. So... I used that as an idea for a song for the play because I feel in any kind of obsession you feel like you are attached to somebody. And that to separate you, would kill you both. And so uh, that's what the song is about. [plays "Poor Edward" at the piano]
Mark Cooper: Wilson has been called a theatre-artist. And he begins all his productions by drawing and sketching and even sculpting. The staging of Alice is based on these preliminary artworks. The shape, structure and look of each scene begins for Wilson with a precise visual image.
[Shots of Alice curtains and actors performing: "Everything You Can Think Of Is True"]
Robert Wilson: Well I don't try to analyze it. I don't think about it psychologically. Usually it rings a bell to me and then I say: "Okay, that's enough." And I trust my intuition. It usually seems right, I think it's right. Martha Graham said once, the American choreographer, she said: "The body doesn't lie." So I think that sometimes if you're insecure about what to do, if you just sort of close your eyes and take a breath and say: "Shall I do this, or shall I do that? Mmm this seems right." It's usually the right thing.
Annette Paulmann: Bob doesn't talk a lot about his work. He can't explain why he said: "Well you have to enter left and use the stage on right and two minutes and fifty seconds." And if you ask him "Why?" he said: "Do it." So...
Stefan Kurt: Yeah and it's not only formal you know. Most of them say: "Okay you are some sort of robots doing that, and that must be awful to work in that way and... " But it's okay. It's very formal and it gives you a structure where you can work with, but you have to fill it by your own and that's... Uh I like it very much.
[Footage of December, 1992 Alice theatre preview at the Thalia Theatre]
John Rockwell: You're dealing with a story which in its outer form is very familiar to Anglo-Americans to what the "Alice In Wonderland" story is. Yet by bringing in the element of the relationship between Dodgson/ Carroll and the historical Alice, exploring it for its kind of psycho-sexual child molestation implications, yet without being censorious about that, and with seeing it as something complex and moving and beautiful if troubled, you add an element which is very moving and emotionally affective. And then by having the final scene being the old Alice in her seventies or eighties reflecting back on this eternal partnership and essentially marriage, uh it adds yet another element.
Tom Waits [at the piano] This is kinda Lewis Carroll... You know he fell on the ice of a pond and he broke his watch one day and he never got it fixed. And he said, that's what happened to him. He said, as long as his watch was broken he could always stay in this world you know, that he invented for him and for her, so...
[Footage of December, 1992 Alice theatre preview at the Thalia Theatre: "You Haven't Looked At Me"]
[Waits at the piano performing "You Haven't Looked At Me"]
INTERVIEW WITH PAUL SCHMIDT
(Theater Magazine V.26 n. 3, 1996 (Yale School Of Drama). Transcription by Erik Goldhammer as sent to Raindogs Listserv discussionlist November 12, 1999)
By Mac Wellman, 1996
WELLMAN: You do a lot of different kinds of writing, your own writing and translation. Was the idea for the Alice adaptation yours or Robert Wilson's?
SCHMIDT: It was neither, actually. He and Tom Waits and Burroughs had done The Black Rider with the Thalia Theater in Hamburg, and it had been a great success. They wanted to do another one with the same basic team, and Burroughs has been very sick, so Bob asked me to do it. That's how I came on board. They had already decided to do Alice because some of the actors at the Thalia wanted to do it.
WELLMAN: How do you begin an adaptation of a classic of Victorian nonsense? I mean, it's one of the most well-known books in the language, and everyone has a certain set of assumptions about what is great about it. Is that a little daunting?
SCHMIDT: No, I don't think so. I mean I think you have to say, fine, the book is what it is, but I'm going to make something else out of it. I don't think you can get daunted if you're trying to write for the theater. The genres are completely fluid. Also, two things in particular about this project were freeing. First, it was for a German theater, to be played in German. even though I wrote most of it in English. And the German audience doesn't know Alice the way we do. So in a way you're off the hook. And second, Wilson works very visually. So when we sat down to talk about this, before we put anything to paper, he said 'here's the way I see it' and sketched it out very symmetrically: seven sections in the first act and seven in the second. And the middle section in each half should be somehow different from the rest, whether it's different colors or different costumes, or set in a different period, whatever. And then he said, I like that idea of a photographer with a black cloth over his head and I did, too. So that's where I started, using Lewis Carroll himself, as a photographer of the girls as well as the author of these books.
WELLMAN: So the idea of conflating his biography with the Alice books actually came from an image, a visual image, that you both had.
SCHMIDT: That was what sparked it, I think. What I thought would be interesting for an adult approach to the work was the situation that generated the Alice books - the infatuation of a young cleric at Oxford for his dean's daughter. By now it's a commonplace of Lewis Carroll studies that he was fixated on little girls, and that photographing them was a constant obsession throughout his life. Nineteenth century views of the relations between grown-ups and children were highly idealized, but even so. Dodgson's relationship with Alice provoked his eventual split with her family. When Alice was eleven, Mrs. Liddell stopped him from coming to see her, and made Alice destroy all Dodgson's letters. There is absolutely no evidence that anything physical ever occurred between Dodgson and Alice, and my Alice in no way suggests that. What I was concerned to make clear was that the phenomenon we so easily describe as child "molestation" is a complicated matter. Doesn't all affection have an erotic component? At what point does love and care for a child become harmful? At what point does a grown-up's affection for a child become obsessional? At what point does obsession become dangerous? What must it have been like for a child to be constantly photographed, in an era when the process entailed long periods of holding still, stared at by the camera's eye? What kind of memories would it engender?
WELLMAN: How did you work this in with the scenes from the book?
SCHMIDT: As I recall, my idea was that we would use characters and incidents from both Alice books, but not necessarily in the original order. And then that scenes four and eleven would be monologues by Alice Liddell and Charles Dodgson, presumably spoken later in life, recalling their relationship. I thought it would be interesting to have each of them remember the period quite differently: Dodgson with a sense of wonder and fulfillment, Alice with an element of fear and regret. For the other scenes, I wanted to show Alice as determined, sassy even, not merely the passive onlooker she is in the books. And I decided to have Stefan Kurt play two parts - the White Rabbit in Act One, a threatening character, and the White Knight in Act Two, a protective character, who saves Alice at the trial and leads her gently through the dark forest. That seemed to me an interesting comment on the ambiguities involved. I wanted to reveal what I take to be some of the scary parts of the Alice books, and ponder what they might imply.
WELLMAN: How is it to work with such a visual director as Wilson, for somebody who cares so much about language?
SCHMIDT: To me, it was no problem at all. I mean, I really admire his stuff a lot, I think he's quite extraordinary, and the visual stuff is always very beautiful and very poetic, and I mean that in a wider sense; it's metaphoric. His images resonate with all kinds of memories and things, so they're very metaphoric in that sense. On my end it means finding a kind of language that isn't narrative and sequential, that is also poetic, that'll fit into this thing, rather than parallel it or supersede it. I mean, it's not like you write a play, and the designer comes along and designs it. It's the opposite almost. The designer comes along and designs it, and you fill in the words, but I don't find that constraining at all.
WELLMAN: No. I've heard many people say that Wilson doesn't care about language, and I never believed that. I think he's extraordinarily sensitive to new writing, in fact. It's simply that his concerns have 'nothing to do with mainstream playwriting.
SCHMIDT: That's right, he's very sensitive to language. He's not concerned with it in ordinary ways. I mean, he's interested in the edges of language, the way crazy people talk and the way deaf people talk, the way people who can't master language talk. A lot of the language in his early plays. I mean at first there were these long silences in his pieces, and then you'd just get fragments, or there'd be screaming or sounds. But sound patterns are the beginning of poetry. It's not what the words say, it's what they sound like. In that sense he's always been a poet. So I'm able to fit right into the way he sees it.
WELLMAN: You've worked with Wilson a long time. You've known him a long time. Has he been a big influence on your aesthetic?
SCHMIDT: Probably. The kind of theater that I think is interesting, frankly, is not sort of well-made plays, or naturalistic or realistic narrative plays. What I like are episodic plays, and Wilson works the same way, you know, little episodes tied together somehow. I find that not only a challenge, but it stimulates me in the right way.
WELLMAN: The challenge focuses you.
SCHMIDT: I think most creative people need that. That's very important.
ANTI RECORDS PRESS RELEASE, 2002
(From ANTI records site (April, 2002) at http://www.anti.com/)
"But I must be insane To go skating on your name And by tracing it twice I fell through the ice Of Alice There's only Alice" (Alice)
Alice is one of the most distinctive of all Waits' creations, occupying its own corner in the odd-angled room that is Tom Waits' body of work. While there are the familiar parts--the redoubtable ragged voice, jazz ballads and poignant musings on death and longing--the whole is strange and exotic.
A devastatingly beautiful atmosphere made of sorrow and reverie, insanity and resignation, rises like a mist in Alice. It's a lyrical melancholia, a feeling that creeps in on the arms of Stroh violins and unabashed poetry. These are songs to fall into, and sometimes, to keep falling. There are fragile, haunted musings, and laments, mad ruminations, and tales of unrequited love and anthems from beyond the grave.
"Alice," said Waits, "is adult songs for children, or children's songs for adults. It's a maelstrom or fever-dream, a tone poem, with torch songs and waltzes...an odyssey in dream logic and nonsense."
"The ground is drinking a slow faucet leak Your house is so soft and fading As it soaks the black summer heat a light goes On and a door opens And a yellow cat runs out on the stream of hall light and into the yard A wooden cherry scent is faintly breathing the air" (Watch Her Disappear)
It's an odyssey he and Kathleen Brennan created together, in what is becoming one of the epic collaborations in music, going on over twenty years now.
"Kathleen is my Alice," said Waits. "We met on New Year's Eve, 1980. We used to play a game called 'Let's Go Get Lost.' She'd say 'turn here, turn here...until we were lost. It's kind of like writing songs together. In the studio, Kathleen will submerge herself in seven newspapers and a novel, and then at just the right time she'll raise her head and make a remark that will become the eyes and ears of the song. Will and Ariel Durant said, 'A book is like a quarrel. One word leads to another and may erupt irrevocably in blood or ink.' That's kind of like me and Kathleen writing. When we're totally lost, we know we have something."
Alice, once dubbed "the lost Tom Waits masterpiece" by the press, was originally done as an avant-garde opera directed by Robert Wilson for Hamburg's Thalia Theater in the winter of 1992. "Alice" was based loosely on Lewis Carroll's obsession with young Alice Liddell, the girl who inspired his Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass.
Working with Brennan, they wrote fifteen songs for the Wilson opera in the summer of 1992. The Thalia performed "Alice" for eighteen months, with an eclectic orchestra of Waits' design, but the composers did not record the songs until last summer (along with his forthcoming simultaneous new release, Blood Money).
"Songs are joining the dream of the listener, and completing a circuit that is really entirely your own," said Waits. These songs are unsure footsteps, in a strange house, in the dark.
"And you'll die with the rose still on your lips And in time the heart-shaped bone That was your hips And all the worms they will climb The rugged ladder of your spine We're all mad here" (We're All Mad Here)
Alice uses fantasy, exotic characters and images to evoke a man's inner world of loss and longing. The album opens with a haunting, smoky ode to "Alice" ("And so a secret kiss/Brings madness with the bliss...") then departs on a tour of the unlikely and seldom seen. The titles are like signposts to half-remembered dreams: "No One Knows I'm Gone," "Everything You Can Think," "Lost in the Harbour," "We're All Mad Here." Lyrics arrest, amuse, and transport. With "Barcarole" the album ends where it began: longing for what can never be. The song is a waltzing reverie with a musical fugue in its instrumental break that sounds like a cat walking on a piano.
"And I belong only to you The water is filling my shoes In the wine of my heart there's a stone In a well made of bone I will bring to the pond And she's here in your pocket And curled up in a dollar And the chain from your watch Around her neck And I'll stay right here till it's time" (Barcarole)
Bass saxophones, vibes, pump organ, French horns and a string trio of bass, violin and cello are arranged and played in ways uncommon to other Waits' recordings.
"The rain makes such a lovely sound To those who are six feet under ground" (No One Knows I'm Gone)
The musicians include: Dawn Harms, playing the Stroh, a violin affixed with a brass horn first devised so as to enable entire orchestra string sections to hold their own against brass: Matt Brubeck on cello; Larry Taylor on upright bass; Bebe Risenfors also on Stroh violin, plus viola, bass clarinet, marimba and clarinet; Carla Kihlstedt on violin, Colin Stetson on alto, tenor and baritone saxophone and clarinet; Ara Anderson on trumpet and baritone horn; Nic Phelps on French horn and trumpet; and Waits on piano, pump organ, Mellotron and Chamberlain vibes. "Table Top Joe" features a guest appearance by Stewart Copeland on drums with a piano solo by Bent Clausen.
When asked about the uncharacteristic arrangements, Waits said, "During the '70's, too many of my songs were drowning in strings. I didn't want to hear another blasted violin. So, we found string players who felt the same way about their instrument, formed an odd, skeletal chamber orchestra and tried to avoid all the old familiar phrases where strings love to play."
Lyrically and musically, the songs are part of a cycle where each song relates to what comes before and what will follow, as you listen, Alice is a puzzle that reveals as it unravels and makes a bold step forward for Waits.