Saturday, September 26, 2020

Tom Waits unleashes his fury on Heartattack And Vine

Tom Waits : Jersey Girl

In September of 1980 Tom Waits released the US#96 Heartattack And Vine, an album full of vitriol for Hollywood bashed out in about a month. It's a transitional album for Waits, as Spin's Alternative Guide's Bill Wyman put it, "out of his jazz-cat's rut and (into) something closer to rock'n'roll." On the title track Waits unleashes his fury, yelling over the backing track like a madman. 

And mad he was.

Waits has just moved to New York when Francis Ford Coppola hired him to write the soundtrack to One From The Heart on the Zoetrope lot. But Coppola's second guessing and indecision took its toll on Waits. He used Heartattack and Vine as an outlet for his frustration

The album is also home to "Jersey Girl", later covered by Bruce Springsteen. Waits had met a Jersey Girl , Kathleen Brennan, at a New Year's party in Los Angeles just days before his move to New York. Little did he know she worked for Zoetrope as a story analyst. So four months later, as Waits recalls:

Somebody told her to go down and knock on my door and she did and I opened the door and there she was and that was it. That was it for me. Love at first sight. Love at second sight.

Rolling Stone's Stephen Holden wrote of the album:

In a time when hipness is often equated with selfishness, Waits’ woozy, far-out optimism has never seemed fresher. While he can be faulted on many counts — the godawful condition of his voice, his perverse love for dime-store kitsch imagery — the purity of his intentions is never in question: Tom Waits finds more beauty in the gutter than most people would find in the Garden of Eden. If his lack of objectivity has kept him from developing into a major artist, Waits’ indivisibility from his self-created persona makes him a unique and lovable minor talent.

Minor talent? Waits would become one of the major artists of the 80's. His 1985 album Rain Dogs is one I have always treasured. But Waits would never have made Rain Dogs if he hadn't taken that ride across the river to the Jersey side. 


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