His voice sounds like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months and then taken outside and run over with a car. My favorite drinking companion. Tom-Waits-with-a-hangover voice on his it’s-either-poetry-or-suicide lyrics. Pretty stellar, especially when compared to “Boom boom pow”.
When his caramel voice gets all low and raspy, your blood still runs cold. You can hear in that caramel voice his whole love of blues, jazz, vaudeville, pre-rock and experimental tendencies verging on industrial music. His lyrics were so so deep–stuff like “The animals I’ve trapped have now become my pets”. And that’s just one of the reasons why his music is nuclear, why his music is splitting the atom, why his music is raising the temperature; manufactured synth-pop never looked so cold as when that heat was around. Truth be told, the moment his first song was out, he made everyone and everything else look shitty. Even after two decades, he’s making everyone and everything else look shitty.
Writers (especially), as you all know, are in this (most) interesting, crazy, toxic relationship ever with Tom’s voice. Who uses phrases like “Tom’s voice sounds like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon” anyway? Writers, that’s who. ‘Cause, you see, writers are tremendously funny fellows. Stand-up comedians are real grumpy bastards, compared to writers. Just consider Brendan Behan’s “I am a drinker with writing problems”. Funny, ha?
Writing is a joke, too. Just look at this. Look at what I’m doing right now! I could literally tap the ever-loving shit out of these keys all day and never break a sweat. But carving a career as a writer is fucking hard (as opposed to the actual act of writing itself). It’s not always Tom Waits, movie adaptations and autographing books by blowing a hole through fans’ treasured, dog-eared copy with a massive handgun. What, don’t you know the story? It goes pretty much like this: Douglas Brinkley once described taking a group of students to meet Mr. Gonzo (aka Hunter S. Thompson) at Owl Creek. Though some of the students voiced their concern that Mr. Gonzo might spike their drinks with LSD (possible, though that was probably more of a Ken Kesey move), Thompson had other plans. He had the students line up one by one, propping the copies of his books they’d brought for autographs up against a tree, then using his .44 Magnum to blast a hole through each book. The ritual was completed in near-silence: Thompson’s only utterances were “Next!” and “the occasional primal scream to keep everybody on high alert.” Pretty awesome, huh? But, hey, HST was a firearm enthusiast AND an avid book lover, so he was almost duty-bound to combine the two at some point in his life.
Now grab a vodka martini (you should really chill that martini glass before and wash the ice in dirty vermouth, just sayin’), put your bony arm back around that lingerie model you just met and let me go into some detail with the whole “carving a career as a writer is hard”-part. No, it really IS. The stress and the piled up years of torment and rejection after rejection is bound to play an evil role in it all. Call it their muse. Call it medicinal or therapeutic or a deep-routed desire to kill onself slowly. However you choose to disguise it some writers just need that morning vodka before continuing with that paragraph.
Or maybe was it whiskey?
Vodka, whiskey, whatever. The main idea prevails: many great writers have screwed up some vital organs in pursuit of alcohol and artistc outlet but managed to achieve a hell of a lot more by doing so than if they’d have been quaffing apple juice and having yoga classes. Wrong? Maybe. Effective? Hell yeah! Stephen King, Hunter S. Thompson, Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charles Bukowski, just to name a few. It’s hard finding a picture of some of these fellows NOT drinking. Now let’s take them one by one.
Grrrr, I really must go to sleep now. Please remind me to continue it! 🙂