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Book 1 - Wasted and Wounded
Book 2 - Innocent When You Dream
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Tom Waits' Music to Stories Series

Wasted and Wounded: Volume One

This collection unearths the stories that run parallel to those of Tom Waits' early songs. They do not retell as much as push the envelope wider, strain the meaning of a few lines, and stretch the place the song occupies so that the river rats and abandoned dogs, crying children on the street and shifty-eyed suits, salesmen with their patter and hobos with their rags, can shoulder out a space. Searching for the American dream and distracted by a promise, a woman tosses pennies into liquor bottles in a half moon bar, a fast car leaves the parking lot with the radio on full, even while a knife fight wounds the street and an old man pumps quarters into a one-armed bandit.

The songs tell the story of a man who carries the Midwest on him like a ring he can't get off, who rattles on the wide streets of the American west like a tin can tied to a junkyard dog and crowds in the eastern cities where the brownstones spill out onto the broad steps of long afternoons. Refusing to be caught by the despair of the endless nights, he jockeys for dollars with the sell-outs, fishes for the glisten of silver among the litter in the alleys, and sleeps under the bridge on a rainy night.

Innocent When You Dream: Volume Two

This second volume of my Narrative in Tom Waits' Songs series follows the shifts in his music as Reagan's eighties tumbled into the nineties. The narrative voice shifts with his music as the stories drift outside the personal to examine the world around him just as much as it does his reactions to it.

Tom Waits' middle period is much more experimental than his early work. The piano-playing hard-drinking and smoking Waits of The Heart of Saturday Night and Nighthawks at the Diner settled down into the much stranger magician and carnival roustabout of the eighties. Drawing upon three-penny opera, vaudeville, classic blues and industrial music, Waits began to experiment with non-traditional instruments, bagpipes, marimba, pump organs, and odd percussive "instruments" such as brake drums, a damaged Chamberlin, and a Stroh violin.

His lyrics shifted with his music, and the characters of his ballads from Closing Time were less recognizable as he shifted Swordfishtrombones to Island Records in 1983. Then his music became more experimental than the songs of his earlier albums. Rain Dogs continued that experimentation two years later, and he began to tell the stories of people trapped on the outside of society. In another two years, he followed the story of Frank, a kind of alter ego if Waits had lived a different life, as if Frank from "Frank's Wild Years" hadn't doused the house in kerosene and driven away. It was about this time that Asylum released some older versions of some of the early work, capitalizing on Waits' growing popularity and taking advantage of their contract with him. This proved to be a kind of unconscious elegy to Waits' early work as he went even further afield, and showed the shift to the experimentation in Swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs and how that became extended into Bone Machine.

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