Saturday, March 16, 2013

closing time

Tom Waits opened up his idiosyncratic career with the sad and lonely barroom nostalgia of a vulnerable artist sifting through blues, country, and jazz neon reflections searching for his own distinct sound.  Waits had recorded for Herb Cohen's Bizarre/Straight label before signing with Asylum Records.  Waits would reflect at the time:    "I'm very glad I'm a departure for Asylum. I'm getting pretty sick of the country music thing. I went through it, wrote a lot of country songs and thought it was the answer to everything. But the way you say something in a song is really just that. A lot of great country songs say a lot of great things, but the format is so limited. Anyway, so much of it is really Los Angeles country music, which just isn't country, it's Laurel Canyon...It's very difficult to live a country frame of mind when you're living in L.A., so I just identify more with the sounds of the city. I'm really leaning towards jazz now, though I'm not a jazz musician by any stretch of the imagination."

'Closing Time' was recorded at Sunset Sound Recorders and United Western Recorders in Hollywood, California with the Lovin' Spoonful's Jerry Yester on production, engineering, and arrangements. The sessions featured Tom Waits on vocals, piano, celeste, and guitar; Delbert Bennett on trumpet; Shep Cooke on guitar and backing vocals; Peter Klimes on guitar; Bill Plummer on bass guitar; John Seiter on drums and backing vocals; with Arni Egilsson on bass guitar; Jesse Ehrlich on cello; and Tony Terran on trumpet.  Jerry Yester remembers:    "Tom's real easy to work with, we had a real good relationship. I really wasn't interested in telling him what to do. I just wanted to get the music out of him. That was the important thing. So, we talked about how he wanted to do it and I would make suggestions. There was a very good relationship between all of the band members. That album was absolutely the easiest one I've ever done in my life. It was done in, like, a week and a half ... in the studio at Sunset Sound. One reason it was good, I think, was we couldn't get the nighttime hours that I was looking for. We had to come in from ten to five every day. It took two days to get used to it, but once we did it was great. We were even awake when we got there, and it was like a job. Everybody was real alert and into it. We took our lunch breaks, came back and worked again. And we had the evening to do something with. It was like being human, you know?...We used to go play pool a lot. We used to go drinking a lot - when drinking was fun instead of suicidal. There was a place in Burbank that was fifty cents an hour for a nine-foot table covered with cigarette burns. And cheap beer, cheap Coors. Tom really loved those kinds of places. It had that kind of funkin' atmosphere... We'd start working on the tunes and he didn't like to hang around. He didn't want to hear it that many times. He was out just soaking up the atmosphere of Coyne and the Boulevard, which was hookers and all the strange population down in Hollywood at that time - God, it's a hundred times weirder now! It was very colorful. One day, Tom was gone for an hour, and he came back in and he was like ... white. And just shaking a little. I said, 'Jesus, Tom, what's the matter?' And he's, like, 'I just came on to a guy.' He's like, 'This guy was one of the most beautiful women I ever saw in my life! We were going to go up to her place, and right before she said, 'You know I'm a man?' That really shook his foundation." 

'Closing Time' did not chart; but the smokey gravel of his distinctive voice was established.  The songs garnished more attention when performed by other artists, such as Tim Buckley's version of 'Martha' and Asylum label-mates the Eagles version of 'Ol' 55'.  Waits looks back on his world-weary persona:    "It's the usual story. When I was younger I wanted to be older; now I am older I am not quite so sure...Probably because I knew I was going to have to be my own father.  There was a need for maturity and guidance from somewhere and I was going to have to provide it for myself – even if it meant putting on an overcoat and a hat and looking in a mirror and squinting a bit. It's pretty usual for a kid from a broken home."

'Closing Time'

full album:

All songs written and composed by Tom Waits.

Side one
1. "Ol' '55" 3:58
2. "I Hope That I Don't Fall in Love with You" 3:54
3. "Virginia Avenue" 3:10
4. "Old Shoes (& Picture Postcards)" 3:40
5. "Midnight Lullaby" 3:26
6. "Martha" 4:30
Side two
7. "Rosie" 4:03
8. "Lonely" 3:12
9. "Ice Cream Man" 3:05
10. "Little Trip to Heaven (On the Wings of Your Love)" 3:38
11. "Grapefruit Moon" 4:50
12. "Closing Time" (instrumental) 4:20

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