Monday, February 20, 2012

Spoken Word: The One That Got Away

Tom Waits: The One That Got Away


Billed primarily as a piano player, Tom Waits is also a poet who - in my opinion - rivals the likes of Dylan. Now, I don't know that you can call some of his work "song lyrics", but the definition of the word lyric is "having the form and musical quality of a song, and especially the character of a songlike outpouring of the poet's own thoughts and feelings" ( That fits the man and his work, for, in addition to his musical skills, a poet he is for sure.

Raspy and gritty, Waits' voice conveys the atmosphere of the smoky bar whence his music comes and where it best belongs. In the best tradition of the barroom piano player, Waits provides us with a glimpse of the seamier side of life that is a deep down part of all of us, but which most of us shy away from out of fear of the dark side.

His 1976 album Small Change is one of my favorite albums of all time. There are a number of pieces on this album where Waits talks us through this story, as opposed to singing a song. A number of the songs from the album have been included here before on StarMaker, by Darius and Boyhowdy: among others I Can't Wait To Get Off Work (Aug 31, 2008), Tom Traubert's Blues (Sept 15, 2010), and Step Right Up (Mar 27, 2011)

The One That Got Away and Pasties and a G-String both fit the bill for this week's theme. Line after line of the words should give pause: just what on earth does he mean? (for me, there are so many lines that carry some connotation, worthy of an extra minute's pondering):

half past the unlucky, the hawk's a front row seat

I've lost my car key, my equilibrium and my pride

Herewithin, one of them. I strongly recommend that you go out and purchase the whole album so that you can get the full sense of this, his best work.

Guest post by KKafa

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