Loooking Hard For The Heart Of Saturday Night
Alfred Johnson | boston, ma | 05/18/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This comments posted here are also being used to comment on other Tom Waits albums.
The inner lives of the denizens of that late night diner in the famous painting by the American realist artist Edward Hopper, "Nighthawks" (1942). The scorching literary sketches of the rich and famous and the skid row bums provided by the late "Gonzo" journalist Doctor Hunter Thompson, accompanied by the renderings of the artist Ralph Steadman. The jingle-jangle high side lyrics of the legendary folk musician Bob Dylan of the "Blood On The Tracks" period. The reach into the far side of the part of the psyche exhibited by those down at the base of American society in an earlier period by the novelist Nelson Algren in "Walk On The Wild Side". And that same reach later by the man of the "mean" Los Angeles streets, Charles Bukowski. Wrap them all up in a whiskey-soaked, cigarette-scarred, gravelly, rasping voice and you have the idiosyncratic musician Tom Waits. Placed in that same company as above? Yes, by all means. Not a bad place to be, right?
Although I have been listening to the music of one Tom Waits for decades, every since I heard Jerry Jeff Walker do a cover of his classic song of loneliness, longing and reaching for the elusive promise of Saturday night dreams in "Looking For The Heart Of Saturday Night", I am not familiar with his biography. All I know is that aside from his own far-reaching musical endeavors, as expressed in numerous albums over the years, he has acted in some motion pictures, most notably as a skid row philosopher of sorts in the movie version of William Kennedy's "Ironweed" (a natural, right?) and has provided the soundtrack music to many movies, most notably the Al Pacino-starring "Sea Of Love". That Waits soundtrack version of the late 1950's, early 1960's classic teenage anthem to longing and love is just the right example of what Brother Waits means musically to this reviewer. Taking that simple song of teenage longing, Waits' husky-voiced rendition reaches back and turns it into something almost primordial, something that goes back beyond time to our first understandings that we are `alone' in the universe. Enough said.
But so much for all of that because what I really want to mention is the "Waits effect". Every once in a while I `need' to listen to words and sounds that express the dark, misbegotten side of the human experience. You know, sagas of Gun Street girls, guys talking "Spanish in the halls', people lost out there on the edge of society and the like. Is there anyone today who can musically put it better? If you need to hear about hope, dope, the rope. Wine, women and song or no wine, no women or no song. About whiskey-caked barroom floors, floozies, boozies, flotsam, jetsam, stale motel rooms, cigarette-infested hotels, wrong gees, jokers, smokers and ten-cent croakers. Drifters, grifters, no good midnight sifters. Life on the fast lane, nowhere lane, some back street alley, perhaps, out in the valley. This, my friends is you address. Listen up. Professor Waits is at the lectern.
The Heart Of Saturday Night, Tom Waits, Electra/ Asylum Records, 1974
This is early Waits and a place where I caught up with his song of longing, searching and just plain "screwing around". Jerry Jeff Walker's cover of his classic song of longing, "The Heart Of Saturday Night" got me onto Brother Waits back in the days. Back that up with "The Ghosts of Saturday Night" here and you have the beginnings of a "beautiful" friendship.