Tom Waits, Paris 1992.

Thursday, 9 June 2011


This photograph looks for all the world like I came across Tom Waits lounging about the jazz quarter of Marseilles or New Orleans. In fact it was taken among the cloisters in the grounds of a rather upscale hotel in Paris.

Tom Waits is quite obviously a very sharp and perceptive bloke, but his manner and boho demeanour might, if you didn’t know his work, lead you to think the opposite.  I always smile when I think of the time a very young Ian Hislop made the mistake of trying to make fun of him on British TV.  Ian Hislop certainly got what he deserved that day because Tom Waits gave him a terrible verbal going over. Now that Ian Hislop is a big TV star himself, I’m rather surprised they don’t show that clip more in the before-they-were-famous shows. Maybe Ian Hislop's had it destroyed?

Apparently Charles Bukowski once said of Tom Waits that "the guy doesn't have an original bone in his body."  Coming from someone who owed quite a bit to John Fante, I don't think this is entirely fair.  Plus it’s not quite the point.  Tom Waits may never have really lived the life quite like Bukowski did but they both wrote equally brilliantly about a certain milieu.  One that I suspect is far better to hear or read about than actually live within.