Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Tom Waits Covers #5: Bette Midler

Most Tom Waits fans are familiar with I Never Talk to Strangers, his bar-room duet with Bette Midler from the 1977 album Foreign Affairs. Fewer people know that the incongruous pair also enjoyed a lengthy on-off relationship in the late 70s.

MP3: Tom Waits & Bette Midler - I Never Talk To Strangers

Buy: Amazon | 7digital

This was during Waits' down-at-heal years when he called the infamous Tropicana Motel in Los Angeles his home.

According to Barney Hoskyns' new biography Lowside of the Road Waits' digs were such a tip that he didn't want his new gal seeing the place. Hoskyns quotes Midler, "Tom lives... sort of knee-deep in grunge so he was kind of reluctant to invite me over. I grew up in lots of clutter myself and delicate I ain't, so I kept after him till he finally invited me over".

Bette Midler first encountered Waits when he played a gig at the Bottom Line in New York in 1974 and was bowled over by songs from his brand new album The Heart of Saturday Night. Presumably Shiver Me Timbers was on the set list.

MP3: Tom Waits - Shiver Me Timbers

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I'd not actually heard Midler's version until my friend Pete Marsh suggested it after my post on Sara Watkins' new Tom Waits cover. It's from Bette's third album, the brilliantly titled Songs for the New Depression (1976), which is notable also for her duet with Bob Dylan on Buckets of Rain. Pete warned that, "It may well be a bit Streisand-ish for you". I heard a live version recorded later which did sound a little Vegas lounge but this original I quite like.

MP3: Bette Midler - Shiver Me Timbers/Samedi et Venredi

Buy: Amazon | 7digital

It's dawned on me that the majority of Tom Waits covers I've posted so far have been by women. What is about songs of sailors, midgets and hard-luck cases that the ladies love so much? If you have any insights I'd like to hear them. Suggestions of other great Tom Waits covers are also most welcome.

Previous Tom Waits Covers
Solomon Burke - Diamond in Your Mind
Bruce Springsteen - Jersey Girl
Tori Amos & Heidi Talbot - Time
Sara Watkins - Pony

Other Related Posts
Songs from the Lowside of the Road - obscure tracks featured in the new biog

Related Links
Tom Waits - official site
The Eyeball Kid - essential Waits news blog
Bette Midler - official site

Monday, 15 June 2009

State Songs #17: Kansas

I think Kansas might have more famous fictional residents than real ones: Clark Kent, Dorothy Gale, and US marshal Matt Dillon from Gunsmoke call the state on the Great Plains their home.

I'm embarrassed to admit it but I had to be reminded that Kansas City wasn't actually in Kansas so you'll have to wait until we get to Missouri to hear those tracks. Still, I hope you enjoy these, and do let me know your favourite Kansas songs that I've not included.

MP3: The Jayhawks - Wichita

As evidenced from their contribution to my Iowa post the Minnesota-based Jayhawks can always be relied on for songs about the Midwest. Wichita is an "evil land" according this favourite from their 1992 classic Hollywood Town Hall.
More Jayhawks: Fansite | Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Donna Fargo - Manhattan, Kansas

I must confess that while Fargo was evidently a big country star in the 70s I'd never heard of her until now. This tale of a single mother escaping reproachful eyes could be a companion song to Dolly Parton's Down From Dover (see my Delaware post for that one).
More Donna Fargo: Wikipedia | Amazon | 7digital

MP3: The Wedding Present - Kansas (live)

A bit of a cheat this - David Gedge is referencing The Wizard of Oz rather than paying tribute to the "sunflower state" but I never thought the Wedding Present would get a look-in on my musical tour of the states so please let me off. This live version is from the mammoth Complete Peel Sessions box set.
More Wedding Present: official site | Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Glen Campbell — Wichita Lineman

This is possibly another cheat. Apologies. Jimmy Webb was inspired to write the song after seeing a solitiary railway worker in rural Oklahoma. Which Wichita he transposed the story to is up for debate: Withita Falls and Witichita County, both in Texas, are apparently also contenders.
More Glen Campbell: official site |Amazon | 7digital

We return to South next time with a visit to the land of bourbon and bluegrass - Kentucky. See you there!

Neighbouring States
State Songs #6: Colorado - John Denver, Johnny Paycheck, Willie Nelson, Jim & Jesse, Neil Young, Bob Dylan

The Journey So Far
State Songs - links to every post on this musical road trip

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Tom Waits Covers #4: Sara Watkins

Fiddle player Sara Watkins formed the bluegrass band Nickel Creek in 1989 with her older bother Sean and mandolin ace Chris Thile. She was just eight years old. Five albums and thousands of column inches of praise later the trio put the band on indefinite hiatus in 2007.

Her solo album came out last month. Produced by John Paul Jones and featuring guest appearances from Gillian Welch, Tim O'Brien as well as her former bandmates, it's a great mix of original songs and covers. I was naturally delighted to hear that one of those covers was a Tom Waits track.

Pony is a highlight from Tom's 1999 album Mule Variations. It's a sparse and evocative narrative told by a typically down-on-his-luck Waitsian character. It's also probably the only song ever written to name check the town of Hushpuckena, Mississippi.

Compare the two versions and let me know what you think.

MP3: Sara Watkins - Pony

More Sara Watkins: official site | Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Tom Waits - Pony

More Tom Waits: official site | Amazon | 7digital

Previous Tom Waits Covers
Solomon Burke - Diamond in Your Mind
Bruce Springsteen - Jersey Girl
Tori Amos & Heidi Talbot - Time
Related Posts with Thumbnails



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