Midnight Album Feature: Tom Waits - The Heart of Saturday Night

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Hi, I’m Michele Myers. Every Friday night at 9pm I spin a show on KEXP called Nite Life. I hope you can swing by for some danceable sets while you’re getting ready to go out (or are hanging at home just wanting to FEEL like you’re going out). And every week at 12 o’clock I do a Midnight Album Feature. This Friday night, I’ll bring you tracks and stories from the second album by Tom Waits, The Heart of Saturday Night.

The album opens with “New Coat of Paint,” a bluesy piano jazz song that shows Tom is at the top of his singing game. I love the lyrics. They show Tom Wait’s talent for painting visuals with words. Check it out.

Let’s put a new coat of paint on this lonesome old town
Set ‘em up, we’ll be knockin’ em down.
You wear a dress, baby, and I’ll wear a tie.
We’ll laugh at that old bloodshot moon in that burgundy sky

All your scribbled lovedreams, are lost or thrown away,
Here amidst the shuffle of an overflowing day
Our love needs a transfusion so let’s shoot it full of wine
Fishin’ for a good time starts with throwin’ in your line.


“New Coat of Paint”@ Rockpalast, WDR Studio L, Köln, April 18, 1977

Not only is this 1974 record considered by many to be Tom’s best work (Rolling Stone Magazine voted it #339 in the most important 500 albums of all time), but this release is a great record to initiate new listeners to the dark, jazzy, twisted, literary world that Tom inhabits. (Insert evil laugh here.) It’s songs are a bit more melodically smooth throughout, and his voice is wonderfully ragged and (I think) undeniably beautiful.

Right now I’m reading the book Innocent When You Dream, a collection of articles and stories on Tom Waits. In the book, Tom cites the word/jazz poet Ken Nordine as one of his main influences for his spoken word songs. Tom also says that the collaboration between poet Jack Kerouac and jazz piano player Steve Allen, Poetry for the Beat Generation is his favorite album. Friday night during this feature I’ll play you a song from both Ken Nordine and Kerouac/Allen!

The talking song on this record, “Diamonds On My Windshield,” is one of the finest rainy day songs ever... For a DJ in Seattle, having a range of rainy day songs in your set list is pretty much a requirement. My other favorite rain songs are Morphine’s (live version of) “You Look Like Rain,” Jimi Hendrix’s “Rainy Day, Dream Away,” and Beta Band’s “Dry The Rain.”

When you tune into my show, you’ll hear Tom Waits a lot. He has a calibrating effect on me. He just feels right. Rain or no rain.

Join DJ Michele Myers for Nite Life every Friday night at 9pm on KEXP.

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One Comment

  1. Posted January 31, 2008 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Hey Michele - excellent choice! Man, I love living in a city where I can actually hear Tom Waits on the radio. I’m a long-time listener of everything he’s ever released (and some things he hasn’t), and I agree that Heart of Saturday Night is a wonderful album. It was the second Waits album I ever bought, after Closing Time. Both have the old-school Waits sound, a bit more of a traditional jazz/blues sound compared with what came out in the ’80s and after. It’s all incredible though. Cheers.

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