Saturday Afternoon Artist: Tom Waits

photo by Michael O'Brien

photo by Michael O'Brien

Greetings, I’m DJ Michele Myers and I host the Saturday Afternoon Show (from 3-6pm) on KEXP. This is a new shift for me, and I’m ready to start a brand new feature. Each week I’ll pick a Saturday Afternoon Artist, tell you a (short) story about them and play the legal limit of 3 tracks in a row.

I’m gonna start off with one of my favorite musicians, Tom Waits. Tom has a huge catalogue of records, some of them have a melodic, easy feel and some are more edgy and harder to listen to.

Tom is unusual, he’s got a huge following and almost everyone knows who he is (in my circle, at least), but he doesn’t get play on any commercial stations. A talented songwriter, Tom takes the elements of a hook and a melody and adds his unique, heartfelt poetry. He sings it all in a gravelly almost-slur. Sometimes just singing, other times tearing it up on a guitar or piano.

Here’s the album I give first to people who don’t know Tom Waits. It’s his most melodic. When you put this record Heart of a Saturday Night on, you hear this song first. The whole album is really beautiful, vulnerable, funny and real...

The first time I heard Tom I was riding in a car with my boyfriend at U.C. Berkeley. Steve had a cassette tape (I’m showing my age here) with Howlin’ Wolf on one side and Tom Waits Swordfishtrombones on the other. This spoken word song “Frank’s Wild Years” is still one of my favorite songs of all time.

I think on Saturday when I air this feature, I’ll play “It’s Over”, the best version of that song is on the Liberty Heights soundtrack, but there’s no vid for it. So here’s an incredible version of “Shore Leave” from his concert movie Big Time.

Michele Myers hosts KEXP’s Saturday Afternoon Show 3-6pm every weekend. Her full-time job is producer of KEXP Documentaries. She also hosts “Wake Up” Thursday mornings on WNYE in NYC 6-9am. She likes sailing, sushi and men who aren’t afraid to cry.

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