Sunday, January 27, 2013

Master Storyteller: 5 Stories from Tom Waits - 'Swordfishtrombones'

'Well, he came home from the war with a party in his head, and a modified Brougham DeVille, and a pair of legs that opened up like butterfly wings, and a mad dog that wouldn't sit still..he went and took up with a Salvation Army Band girl, who played dirty water on a swordfishtrombone, he went to sleep on the bottom of Tenkiller Lake, and he said, Gee, but it's great to be back home..Well, he came home from the war with a party in his head, and an idea for a fireworks display, and he knew that he'd be ready with a stainless steel machete and a half a pint of Ballantine's each day..and holed up in a room above a hardware store, crying nothing there but Hollywood tears, and he put a spell on some poor little Crutchfield girl, and stayed like that for 27 years..Well, he packed up all his expectations he lit out for California, with a flyswatter banjo on his knee, with lucky tiger in his angel hair and benzendrine for getting there, they found him in a eucalyptus tree..lietenant got him a canary bird, and Chesterfield moonbeams in a song, and he got 20 years for lovin her from some Oklahoma governor, said everything this doughboy does is wrong..Now some say he's doing the obituary mambo, and some say he's hanging on the wall, perhaps this yarn's the only thing that holds this man together, some say he was never here at all, some say they saw him down in Birmingham, sleeping in a boxcar going by, and if you think that you can tell a bigger tale, I swear to God you'd have to tell a lie.' - 'Swordfishtrombone'

'Davenports and kettle drums and swallow-tail coats, table cloths and patent leather shoes, bathing suits and bowling balls, and clarinets and rings, and all this radio really needs is a fuse, a tinker, a tailor, a soldier's things, his rife, his boots full of rocks, and his one is for bravery, and this one is for me, and everything's a dollar in this box..Cuff links and hub caps, trophies and paperbacks, it's good transportation, but the brakes aren't so hot, necktie and bozing gloves, this jackknife is rusted, and you can pound that dent out on the hood..A tinker, a tailor, a solider's things, his rife, his boots full of rocks, oh, and this one is for bravery, and this one is for me, and everything's a dollar in this box.' - 'Soldier's Things'

'Well, with buck shot eyes and a purple heart, I rolled down the national stroll, and with a big fat paycheck strapped to my hip-sack, and a shore leave wristwatch underneath my sleeve, in a Hong Kong drizzle on Cuban heels, I rowed down the gutter to the Blood Bank, and I'd left all my papers on the Ticonderoga, and I was in bad need of a shave, and so I slopped at the corner on a cold chow mein, and shot billiards with a midget until the rain stopped, and I bought a long sleeved shirt with horses on the front, and some gum and a lighter and a knife, and a new deck of cards, with girls on the back, and I sat down and wrote a letter to my wife, and I said..Baby, I'm so far away from home, and I miss my baby so, I can't make it by myself, I love you so..Well I was pacing myself, trying to make it all last, squeezing all the life out of a lousy two day pass, and I had a cold one at the Dragon with some Filipino floor show, and talked baseball with a lieutenant over a Singapore sling, and I wondered how the same moon outside over this Chinatown fair could look down on Illinois and find you there, and you know I love you baby..and I'm so far away from home, and I miss my baby so, I can't make it by myself, I love you so..shore leave, shore leave.' - 'Shore Leave'

'I got a belly full of you, and that Leavenworth stuff, now I'm gonna get out, and I'm gonna get tough, you been lying to me, how could you crawl so low, with some gin-soaked boy that you don't know..I come home last night, full a fifth Old Crow, you said you goin to your Ma's, but where the hell did you go, you went and slipped out nights, you didn't think that I'd know, with some gin-soaked boy that you don't know..Well, I would bet you as far as Oklahoma by now, the dogs are barking out back, and you're knittin your brow, well, I'm on your tail, I sussed your MO, from some gin-soaked boy that you don't know.' - 'Gin Soaked Boy'

'Well, Frank settled down in the Valley, and he hung his wild years on a nail that he drove through his wife's forehead, he sold used office furniture out there on San Fernando Road, and assumed a thirty thousand dollar loan at 15 percent and put a down payment on a little two bedroom place, his wife was a spent piece of used jet trash, made good bloody marys, kept her mouth shut most of the time, had a little Chihuahua named Carlos that had some kind of skin disease and was totally blind, they had a thoroughly modern kitchen, self-cleaning oven, the whole bit, Frank drove a little sedan, they were so happy..One night Frank was on his way home from work, stopped at the liquor store, picked up a couple Mickey's Big Mouths, drank em in the car on his way to the Shell station, he got a gallon of gas in a can, drove home, doused everything in the house, torched it, parked across the street, laughing, watching it burn, all Halloween orange and chimney red, then Frank put on a top forty station, got on the Hollywood Freeway, headed North..never could stand that dog.' - 'Frank's Wild Years'


All songs written and performed by Tom Waits, from 'Swordfishtrombones', 1983.

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