Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Read the easy-to-follow assembly instructions
Batteries not included
Send before midnight tomorrow, terms available
Step right up, step right up, step right up

You got it buddy:
The large print giveth and the small print taketh away
Step right up, you can step right up, you can step right up
C'mon, step right up
[Get away from me kid, you bother me...]


To refer to “THE WILD BUNCH” as one of the greatest Western movies ever made is to do it a great injustice; no qualifying allowed. It is one of the finest films ever created in ANY genre!

Evaluating THE WILD BUNCH objectively in terms of narrative force, characterization, direction, scope, suspense, and pure excitement, it is unsurpassed in the pantheon of Western films – the “Citizen Kane” of Westerns.

Directed by SAM PECKINPAH in 1969, the story takes place primarily in Mexico during the revolution of 1913.

Foreshadowing: Scorpion Symbolism . . .

"If they move, kill them!" . . .

Adultery and lost love . . .

"You egg-sucking, chicken-stealing gutter trash!
We're after MEN, and I wish to God I was with them" . . .

"Let's go." . . .

Four crazy gringos comin' to kick butt and raise hell! . . .

To: Germany - From: America, baby! . . .

To read my full-length, politically incorrect review of ‘The Wild Bunch’, click on the McLink at the bottom of this Blog Bit.


Uhm . . . no, wait. I wanna “Do-Over”.
I don’t wanna write about Warthog Womens.

W IS FOR . . .

Whoa! I can’t write about this. Who am I kidding? I ain’t never been wasted on whiskey; I’ve never touched the stuffs. As the young woman said: “I would not put a thief in my mouth to steal my brain.” Now wasted on Worcestershire Sauce – that’s a different story. But I don’t wanna talk about it. And don’t mention it to Mama; she’s trying to forget about it. So, can I have a second mulligan?


Ahh, now THIS porridge is just right!
Singer/songwriter Tom Waits was born in Southern California in 1949. In my opinion (which, of course, reigns supreme on this Blog), Waits established himself as the greatest lyricist of all time from the years 1973 through 1982.

Those early years saw Waits develop the stage persona of a Bluesy, Jazzy, gin-soaked Beat poet – a sort of “poor man’s Jack Kerouac” (now that’s kinda funny if you know what a poor man Jack Kerouac was!)

Tom Waits over Bob Dylan in the Lyrics department? Is that really what I’m saying? Yeah. It is. Why? Well, it’s probably a safe assumption that had Dylan not come before to light the path, there would have been no Tom Waits as we knew him. In 1965, with the release of ‘Bringing It All Back Home’, Bob Dylan reinvented songwriting. He heightened the potential for social awareness in music while at the same time introducing a refreshing, abstract poetic flare to lyrics. In a way, he kind of creatively exploded with a display of linguisitc gymnastics never seen before and rarely if ever seen since. And some of his lyric lines were adopted as slogans which spoke for his generation. We can’t say the same about Tom Waits.

However, Waits had an incredible way with words, an ability to turn a phrase that really “Wows!” the listener. And there was a certain pathos in some of Tom’s songs that Dylan couldn’t match. I can’t imagine Dylan ever writing something as tender as ‘San Diego Serenade’, ‘Kentucky Avenue’ or ‘On The Nickel’. The only time Dylan ever came even remotely within range of that sort of personal genuineness and evoked a sense of empathy was with his great breakup album ‘Blood On The Tracks’. Even then, it was all about HIM, but we just happen to be able to relate to those feelings; we've all loved and lost.

Had Tom Waits never written anything but ‘Emotional Weather Report’ I would still be calling him a genius! What a brilliant, imaginative idea: a “Lost Love” song seen from a TV weatherman’s viewpoint! Ha! Here are just three verses with my own clarifying remarks in brackets. His woman has left him and here’s the forecast:

When the thunder storms start increasing over the Southeast
And South Central portions of my apartment, I get upset
. . .
With tornado watches issued shortly before noon Sunday
For the areas including the Western region of my mental health
. . .
Well, the extended outlook for an indefinite period of time
Until you come back to me, baby, is:
High tonight
Low tomorrow [*blue*]
And precipitation [*crying*] is expected.

Another super-clever idea Waits came up with was to build a song around overused advertising cliches. All of the strange, out-of-place sayings in red that I opened up each of my April A To Z Blog Bits with came from the Waits song ‘Step Right Up.’

Let me share with ya a small selection of some other favorite Tom Waits lyrics from a variety of 1973 to '82 songs:

‘Cause every time I hear that melody
Something breaks inside

You know the bartenders
They all know my name
And they catch me when I’m pullin’ up lame

I admit that I ain’t no angel, I admit that I ain’t no saint
I’m selfish and I’m cruel but you’re blind
If I exorcise my devils, well, my angels may leave too
And when they leave they’re so hard to find

I’m across town from ‘Easy Street’
. . .
Used car salesmen dressed up in Purina checkerboard slacks

It’s fast women, slower horses, I’m “reliable sources”

She’s a moving violation from her conk down to her shoes
But it’s just an invitation to the blues

Well, I got a bad liver and a broken heart
Yeah, I drunk me a river since you tore me apart
And I don’t have a drinking problem
‘Cept when I can’t get a drink
. . .
She was sharp as a razor
And soft as a prayer

Well, I’ve lost my equilibrium
And my car keys and my pride

She took out her barrettes
And her hair spilled out like root beer

I’m disheveled and I’m disdainful
And I’m distracted and it’s painful

He… caught the cruel and unusual punishment of her smile

I was born in a taxi cab
I’m never goin’ home
. . .
What you think is the sunshine is just a twinkle in my eye

Broken bicycles, old busted chains
With rusted handlebars out in the rain
Somebody must have an orphanage for
All these things that nobody wants anymore
September’s reminding July
It’s time to be saying goodbye
Summer is gone, but our love will remain
Like old broken bicycles out in the rain

That’s just getting warmed up; there are so many other great song lyrics that Tom Waits composed from 1973 through ’82 that I could go on here for quite awhile. If I had to select just one Waits tune as a favorite lyricwise, I’d have to go with ‘San Diego Serenade’, but that one needs to be read in its entirety. Here’s a link if you want to do that: Tom’s Best? (Heck, you can even hear the song played if you have computer speakers hooked up.)

OK, so now you must be asking yourself: If Stephen thinks Tom Waits is the best, most quotable songwriter in history, why has he placed him under the “Bad Stuffs” category?

Good question. And here’s your answer: Beginning with his third album release, the live recording ‘Nighthawks At The Diner’ in 1975, Tom Waits began wearing this fake voice. Prior to that he had a masculine baritone, but suddenly from out of nowhere everything he “sang” was with a gravel pit guttural bass that was obviously a put-on. I think he was just trying to intensify that skid row character he was pretending to be. Even so, I still own and play four of his albums from that period because some of the songs were so good and the lyrics were so great that Im willing to overlook “the voice”.

But then, after composing and recording the terrific soundtrack for the movie ‘One From The Heart’ in 1982, Tom Waits remolded himself again. This time he dropped the Bluesy, Jazzy, gin-soaked Beat poet persona and became Marvelous Mervo the circus clown. Still wearing the phony voice, he now focused on writing songs about, not loveable losers but rather, freakish characters. Gone was the fun personality, the warmth and most of the humor, replaced by weird, atonal melodies and cat-bones-on-tin-cans percusssion. The “music” was as hard to listen to as the album covers were hard to look at. ‘Swordfishtrombones’, ‘Rain Dogs’, ‘Frank’s Wild Years’? I can’t even look at them without feeling like maybe I should see a doctor and have him check the health of my manhood!

With apologies to my dear friend The Flying Aardvark, whom I know is a big fan of Tom’s ‘The Bone Machine’, I gotta say that with a rare exception here and there, post-’82 Waits I find to be unlistenable. For instance, other than the song ‘Hang On, Saint Christopher’, which I kinda-sorta like, the album ‘Frank’s Wild Years’ is nothing but racket! I don’t think I could “sing” that bad if I tried (and I ain’t no singer).

Waits still has a notable cult following amongst the college crowd but what the hell do college kids know? If they knew stuffs they wouldn’t still be in school! I suspect that people who claim to listen to ‘Frank’s Wild Years’ for pleasure are just fooling themselves. (Look, collegeboy, it ain’t “cool” to torture your ears!)

My friend The Great L.C. and I both think that Tom Waits represents the biggest waste of God-given talent ever! EVER! This guy had an outrageous, jealousy-inducing, over-the-top musical gift that I would have begged, borrowed and stole for, and he went and pee’d it all away to become a cheap carnival sideshow character with a fake voice writing about mad hatters in Singapore. Sheesh! Well, it was HIS gift to do with as he chose, but when I think of the number of classic songs he could have written over the last three decades, but didn’t, it makes me ill.

Most of Tom’s stuffs after ‘One From The Heart’ deserves ‘Sixteen Shells From A Thirty-Ought-Six’. However, the stuffs that came before makes me ‘Clap Hands’.

‘Clap Hands’, incidentally, is one of those few post-’82 Tom Tunes that I do happen to like. Some days Marvelous Mervo still gets lucky.


Le McQuotes Du Jour:
I would permit no man, no matter what his color might be, to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.
~ Booker T. Washington

Good intention will always be pleaded for every assumption of power. ... It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions.
~ Daniel Webster

~ Stephen T. McCarthy
Doggtor of Semiliterate, Half-Naked Blogological Studies
Stream O’Consciousness University in Whoville, Wississippi

Letter Links:

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t Amazon.com, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.



I used to go to the cinema lots at one time and saw many westerns, but what I enjoyed about your post most was Tom Waites, Music is and was the love of my life, I've always got some tune on in the background hence that's why I play music on my poetry blog,I think the two go hand in glove.Your knowledge of lyrics is amazing, thought I suspect you are knowledgable in many subjects.
Thanks for such an interesting post and thanks for submitting to the A toZ challenge, lovely to hear from you again,


Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Thanks so much for the kind, kind words! Really glad to learn that you enjoyed it.

Well, similar to most other folks, I know about what I like. And yes, music is way up there on my list. In fact, if I had my life to live over, I would definitely become a songwriter/musician - not guitar; Hammond B-3 organ.

And I love a well-turned phrase in lyrics, but they are generally few and far between. Waits tossed this stuff off like it was nothin'. I mean, he was so consistently good that it amazes me.

When it comes to lyrics, I think there is only a small handful of really stellar writers: Bob Dylan (obviously), Warren Zevon, Todd Snider, Van Morrison, and Rickie Lee Jones very early on. But none of them could have topped Waits during that '73-'82 time period. I'd say Dylan comes closest.

Thanks again for the nice comment, Yvonne! It's much appreciated.

"As a dog returns to his own vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly."
~ Proverbs 26:11

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

I feel you, Stephen. There are a few bands that I was in love with as a teen that lost their spark when they lost their independence (i.e. got a record deal). A couple redeemed themselves, but others I listen to and wanna vomit.

When my parents finally decided to sign a record deal after 15 years of going independent, their careers crashed. Mushroom signed them on, then purposely neglected to promote them in order to get rid of their competition for another band they had recently signed.

Maybe Tom should be cut a little slack ... I say this not becasue I'm a fan, I don't like his stuff much, but maybe he was forced to follow a road he was told to follow in order to 'keep up' so to speak with the industry. Yep, I would've lost respect for him too, I mean, I did with my fav bands when they took the pop star route, but I guess we sorta gotta understand why.

Marjorie said...

This was a very educational post. Not being a fan of westerns I hardly ever watch them. If you say its the best I believe you.

arlee bird said...

Agreed that The Wild Bunch is a great film, but I probably need to see it a few more times to really get the fullness of it. You'll probably disagree, but my favorite western is probably The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly much for the same reasons I like Apocalypse Now -- they are rather similarly constructed films.

I'm going to have to relisten to the Waits albums I own--I think they are all from what you designate the "Bad" era. Waits is an acquired taste I think. It seems like I liked the albums I own, but I rarely listen to them, which I guess is some testimony to how much I like them-- occasional doses are okay. But maybe yuo're being hard on Waits for his not wanting to be stuck in a rut. I don't really listen to him enough to have a strong opinion. I wish I could ask my friend who was a Waits fanatic about this, but unfortunately he died after getting his legs amputated. That's not why he died, it was just the progression of events. He got his legs amputated, then lay in his bed for several years and underwent dialysis, and then eventually died. How's that for a digression.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

AlliAllo ~
--> I feel you, Stephen.

[*Using superhuman will power to resist the temptation of going after the cheap joke here!]

--> Maybe Tom should be cut a little slack ... I say this not becasue I'm a fan, I don't like his stuff much,

Neither the old or the new? Because they are two completely different animals, ya know.

--> but maybe he was forced to follow a road he was told to follow in order to 'keep up' so to speak with the industry.

Nah, I don't think that was the case. Waits was never "mainstream" and never sold a boatload of albums anyway. It's not like he had a significant audience to lose if he didn't "keep up with the times." He has always followed his own path, I'll give him credit for that much at least. (Unless his post-'82 direction was influenced by his wife, as it seems to coincide with the time when he met her. Yeah, what the hell, I'll blame it on his wife!;o)

--> Yep, I would've lost respect for him too, I mean, I did with my fav bands when they took the pop star route

Well, I don't really mind the "pop star route" as long as the pop is good. I believe that what happened to Waits is what also happened to The Beatles: he decided to be an "artiste" and do something different just because it was different. "Look at me, everyone! Look at me! Ain't I DIFFERENT?!" I think he started taking himself too seriously as an "artiste".

Thanks for taking my word for it. Your confidence in my viewpoint is appreciated.

rLEE-b ~
Well, I agree that "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly" is an entertaining movie (primarily due to Eli Wallach's performance), but no, you're right, I wouldn't be putting it anywhere near the top on a "Best Westerns" List.

Actually, I wouldn't even call it the best "Spaghetti Western". That honor goes to Sergio Leone's (same director) "Once Upon A Time In The West", which should indeed be mentioned in any discussion of the Classic Westerns.

--> Waits is an acquired taste I think.

I agree with you. I think his first two albums (1973 & '74) could be enjoyed by anybody, and right out of the chute. But everything afterwards is an "acquired taste". And everything he did after the '82 movie soundtrack (which is great!), I never acquired a taste for.

--> But maybe yuo're being hard on Waits for his not wanting to be stuck in a rut.

And then again, maybe I'm not. In fact, I would say Waits HAS been in a rut for a long time now. My friend The Great L.C. says he keeps buying Waits' albums in the hope that one day he will revert to the good old days when he actually wrote real music.

Let us not defend the indefensible. I honestly believe that the vast majority of the college kids who say they are major fans of Tom Waits claim to like him primarily because what he does is really weird and they just think it makes them seem cool to like weird stuffs.

In a sense, I think it's similar to Chicago Cubs fans. I am convinced that at least half of all Cubs fans would be secretly disappointed if the team ever won a World Series. They think it's cool to root for a perennial loser and pretend that they're carrying all of this pain as a result. (I see through those people.)

~ Stephen
"As a dog returns to his own vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly."
~ Proverbs 26:11

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

hahaha! "Errr!" is right. What was I bloody thinking ... ???

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

--> hahaha! "Errr!" is right. What was I bloody thinking ... ???

Well... I don't think it was so much a "thinking" thang as a "feeling" thang.

But thanks, I needed that.
(Uhm... the laugh, I mean.)

~ "Lonesome Dogg" McMmmmmm...e

Anonymous said...

What about all of us "old people", who have followed his career for more than three decades and still continue to love the albums he puts out. I can honestly say, i love an album like Small Change just as much as Orphans for example. Are we all just pretenting too?

Lisa said...

"I would permit no man, no matter what his color might be, to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him."
~ Booker T. Washington
I got my butt tore up for putting that quote on my Facebook wall. I don't do Facebook anymore. :)

Your comment on my blog:
"YOUR BODY'S MANY CRIES FOR WATER" by F. Batmanghelidj, M.D. (Another one of those excellent health books I'm always touting.) Until I read that book I had NO IDEA about all of the things that water does in the human body. It definitely upped my water consumption!"

ME: Are you filtering your water somehow? Water is wonderful, but if your water source is like mine (nasty, city water), then it needs to be filtered before you consume it.

As for sharing the information re: the granular Lecithin. All credit goes to you. Those were your words. I'm just grateful that you shared it!

Have a great evening!

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

--> Are we all just pretending too?

Hmmm... Well, I don't know.
It all depends:

How old is "old" and are you a
Chicago Cubs fan, too?

~ "Lonesome Dogg" McMe

POSTSCRIPT: By the way, I thought that if "Orphans" had been edited down to a single disc, it could have made one pretty good, interesting album. So, I don't hate EVERYTHING he's done since '82 (just the majority of it).

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

--> I got my butt tore up for putting that quote on my Facebook wall. I don't do Facebook anymore.

What did you mean by that? Who objected and why?!

Yes, the vast majority of the water I drink is filtered. Usually the one cup that I drink in the morning with my Lecithin is tap water, otherwise, everything else I consume throughout the day is filtered. The water here in Phoenix is the nastiest tasting and smelling city tap water I've ever found. Well... EVERYTHING about Phoenix is the WORST!

lECITHIN: You're the one who posted my words openly on your Blog. You elevated them from the comment section for the world to see, so I'm willing to share the "credit" with yaz. (Whatchu gonna buy with yer "credit"? Me, I think I'm-a get me a red Corvette. ;o)

~ "Lonesome Dogg" McLecithinboy

Lisa said...

The FB situation wasn't really that big a deal. You know how someone's always got an opinion directly opposite of yours and they're not hesitant to express it? Add a bit of over-piousness to the mix and there you have it.

It's a deal - well share the cred. Let's call it "skreet cred".


DiscConnected said...

Well, Stephen, you summed up Mr. Waits SPOT ON!

For my money, he dropped off after "Heartattack And Vine" (although I do want to go back and give "One From The Heart" a listen based on your praise).

I lost track of who commented that TW is an acquired taste. To any of your vast legion of followers who've never listened to the first two TW cd's (that would be "Closing Time" and "Heart Of Saturday Night," slip on your new pair of Skechers Shape Ups and get yourself to your local indie record store and don't leave their premises without these two classic discs in your mitts!

They are that good!

For the record, Todd Snider's "Songs From The Daily Planet" is also that good.

Sadly, Waits became the caricature that he now is, and while occasional flashes of brilliance shine through (that Spring song on Orphans disc two), much of his last two decade's worth of output is simply unlistenable to me.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

I'm glad to know you agree with my assessment (although I knew you would - we've discussed it enough times).

Yes, the "ONE FROM THE HEART" soundtrack ranks high on my list of Tom Waits recordings. His lyrics to "Broken Bicycles" is on a par with the best stuffs he ever wrote, and fabulous lines and great melodies can be found all throughout that disc. You just gotta get into the Jazz Lounge mind-set, rather than the Blues, Rock, or Folk mind-set. That's all, and you will dig it big time - ah guaraaanteee!

I once had the good fortune to see Jack Sheldon, who played trumpet for Waits on the "ONE FROM THE HEART" soundtrack, perform live at the Four Queens Hotel And Casino in downtown Las Vegas. He put on one of the most memorable shows I ever saw. Like Waylon Jennings, he told a lot of funny jokes and stories between songs. (But that moment when he removed the mouth piece from his trumpet and poured a lot of his saliva into a bucket, really creeped-out my girlfriend! Ha!)

And, as far as Todd Snider's debut album is concerned: you know I agree with you FULLY! You da one what turned me on to it, and you was entirely right to do so. (I still thanks you!)

See ya at work, buddy!

~ "Lonesome Dogg" McMeboy