“Tom Waits The Early Years With Bones Howe”
On December 7, 1949, Tom Waits was born. In 2011, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. And one year after “Rain Dogs” was released, Waits co-starred in Jim Jarmusch’s film “Down By Law” in 1986.
Waits was and still is a big fan of Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski & Howlin Wolf. You can hear these influences in his writing and performances. In his real early years, in the early 70’s, Waits lived near Echo Park also popular with fellow Asylum records pals like: Glenn Frey, J.D. Souther & Jackson Browne.
In 1973, after signing with Asylum, He released his first album “Closing Time”…Produced by: Jerry Yester. This was to be the only Waits album from the 70’s not produced by Bones Howe. And when you listen to the album, you can hear a very young artist still trying to find his way.
In 1974, The Eagles very kindly covered Waits’s “Ol 55” (Thanks to David Geffen) and did a very good job of polishing the song up. I can remember looking at the credits of “On The Border” when I was a teenager and wondering, “Who is this T. Waits guy…I sure like this song?”
In August of 1980, Waits married Kathleen Brennan after meeting her on “One From The Heart” a film he did the soundtrack for with Crystal Gayle. Kathleen is a screenplay writer and has since had quite an influence on Waits.
But before Waits met Kathleen, there was Bones Howe…a very talented producer as shown on “Used Songs” a kind of greatest hits collection for waits Asylum years in the 1970’s.
I wanted to point out just a couple of examples of songs off this album that I really like. In truth the whole thing is fabulous! First, if you haven’t heard “Step Right Up” off of “Small Change” you must check this song out. Waits compacts every advertising cliche ever used into one song in a way that would make any other songwriter envious. It’s hilarious! Also here are: “Jersey Girl” (covered by The Boss) & “Looking For The Heart Of A Saturday Night.”
Second, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out: “Tom Traubert’s Blues (Four Sheets To The Wind In Copenhagen)” which I just refer to as: “Waltzing Matilda.” This one you might have heard off a film soundtrack or other source. It’s one of Tom’s most famous songs and I love it! If I’m not mistaken, it was used on the Soundtrack for “Basquiat.”
To summarize, Bones Howe was a very sympathetic producer for Tom Waits and knew how to let Tom be himself. He also knew when to get out when Tom decided to take his music elsewhere in the 1980’s. Thank you Bones Howe for all your fine work with Tom Waits in th 1970’s.