Classic Albums: Blue Valentine by Tom Waits

So here’s Tom Waits for my Classic Albums tag, after like now 33 posts of these things, finally he’s being included here. I guess thirtythree isn’t much because I’m only really getting going right now but Tom been an all-time fave for a very long time so it’s surprising to me it’s taken this long for him to pop up. Anyway there a few others like that now I’m thinking about it. It’s also mostly likely just the first Waits album to make my list, at least one more should be thrown before I finish this, maybe even two?

1978’s Blue Valentine has got to be the very first but it wasn’t the first I got because I got a whole pile of his albums in one big hit, like almost his whole back catalog in the early 90’s some albums were missing but it was something like 80% of it. Anyway this album quickly became my fave as soon as I did get them. What happened then was I live in a small country town as a teenager and I dragged them back to that small town I lived in after a visited to city on a bus which was six hours, I did this a lot back then but it was the only way I could buy music then. Anyway I’ll see if I can named the reasons why and say kind of why I’m highlight this one album?

Just to get it out of the way but it does seem like the right album to write about today with only couple of days until Xmas because it does have the great epic track called Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis. I’ve found a performs live on Aussie TV show at the time which BTW this was the last time Waits toured Australia, yes it was the late 70’s. I would have been something like two/three years old, pity I couldn’t somehow tell my folks I will really love Tom Waits later in life can you take your baby to the show please. The last time I wrote about Waits on this blog was a little about that tour and what he pick-up then. The below clip he does Silent Night intro/outro with his track.

I do have a look at what else is out there before writing all these posts and it seems almost everyone concerned this album a bit obscure that his more well known albums. It’s Mojo magazine who’s the only well known press that gives it 5/5 stars, Rolling Stone magazine etc. is like 3 or 3 and half stars. I don’t know why so little love for this album? To me it’s not just one of Tom’s best but it’s one of the best from the 70’s and now follows Nina SimoneLeonard Cohen and David Bowie onto my list here.

Even if it’s called Blue Valentine it’s very romantic album well, for Tom’s stands. I guess it’s has got that saddest in the love songs, which I do love and have talked about before here on my blog pages. Girl always leaves in these song but does she always do that? On this album, at the time of writing and recording the women in Waits’ life was the singer-songwriter Rickie Lee Jones who can be seen on the back of the album. Their relationship wouldn’t last much longer after the release of this album. Somehow also this album reminds me of a few of my ex-gfs in one way or another, I guess I much put it on even if it all smooth sail at the time, unconsciously to remind me it’s all going to over. Those few ex-gf’s have also been Tom Waits fans themselves so maybe it was them playing it too.

Tom and Rickie having a hug in the late 70’s

Opening the album with West Side Story‘s track Somewhere written by Leonard Bernstein & Stephen Sondheim, a dream of a song for better times and prefect way to start. It does seem I love a great cover on some of my fave albums too. Nine more follow after and you really could take your pick from any or every tracks for some of the greatest Tom lyrics ever, they’re so beautiful written on Blue Valentines. I was going to pick out some out and highlight his words but it’s truly impossible to do so. Waits maybe could have a little bit of influence over Hollywood, that’s off course is the indie movies with one film named after it from this album. Gary Oldman‘s 1993 Romeo Is Bleeding plus even Tom is in the credits with “special thanks” for the use of it. Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis was covered by Neko Case and Whistlin’ Past the Graveyard by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins in 2000 who died the same year so must have been one of the last songs he recorded. All three was the best from tribute album called New Coat Of Paint, well I liked them the best off course.

If I really had to pick just one song off the whole album it would Kentucky Avenue which to me is just unbelievable track. It’s somewhat auto-bio because it tell the story of growing up on that street which he did live on Kentucky Avenue in Whittier, California. Also he had a childhood friend who used a wheelchair because he suffered from polio. You could say it’s his most strongest autobiographical track ever. It’s amazing piano ballad about childhood. I did somewhere read Waits talking about it in an interview and him saying he didn’t understand what was really happening to his friend at the time because he was just a kid.

The recording was done pretty quick in a California studio, then called Wally Heider Studios. Recorded over only six days spread over the months July and August. Musically it’s got jazz swing to almost all the songs. To me on this more that all his other 70’s albums, you can really hear him set himself up for the more avant-garde album of the 80’s. Can anyone else hear it? He did one more studio album and then a soundtrack before the full-on breakout of those 80’s albums but it wasn’t so shocking/whatever to me because of this album because love it and seem natural more that anything. Does that make sense or not?

Right at the beginning of this week with the post about Swans album did say I want to do four or maybe even five of these pages but it seems I’ve only done three again. With Xmas eve tomorrow it’s not going to happen this time because of that so maybe next week we will see if I can do a few more before the end of this year but anyone looking here before or even on Sunday have a happy Xmas!

Blue Valentines track listing and times:

1. Somewhere (From West Side Story)  – 3:53
2. Red Shoes by the Drugstore – 3:14
3. Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis – 4:33
4. Romeo Is Bleeding – 4:52
5. $29.00 – 8:15
6. Wrong Side of the Road – 5:14
7. Whistlin’ Past the Graveyard – 3:17
8. Kentucky Avenue – 4:49
9. A Sweet Little Bullet from a Pretty Blue Gun – 5:36
10. Blue Valentines – 5:49


All my Classic Albums posts are linked below, it’s a work in progress!

Tales From The Australian Underground – Volume 1 & 2 by Various Artists

Station To Station by David Bowie

Unplugged In New York by Nirvana

Rust In Peace by Megadeth

Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs by Marty Robbins

Henry’s Dream by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Whatever You Love, You Are by Dirty Three

Gala Mill by The Drones

Black Monk Time by The Monks

Ex Tropical by Lost Animal

Work (Work, Work) by HTRK

In The Wee Small Hours by Frank Sinatra

The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn by Pink Floyd

Songs Of Love And Hate by Leonard Cohen

Warm Leatherette by Grace Jones

The White House by The Dead C

Silence Is Sexy by Einstürzende Neubauten

Lulu by Lou Reed & Metallica

Kaira by Toumani Diabaté

Kings Of The Wild Frontier by Adam And The Ants

Drowning In The Fountain Of Youth by Dan Kelly And The Alpha Males

Aerial by Kate Bush

The Future by Leonard Cohen

Rock For Light by Bad Brains

Last Splash by The Breeders

Sex by The Necks

Emergency Ward by Nina Simone

Paradise by My Disco

Batman by Prince

Sings Christmas Carols by Mark Kozelek

What Are Rock Stars Doing Today by Magic Dirt

Love Of Life by Swans

Big Name, No Blankets by Warumpi Band

Blue Valentine by Tom Waits

So, this was the reason I started this blog. The idea is simply to write post about one of my fave album each that I consider a classic album. Please leave your own comments below about each album because I would love to hear what everyone think and has to say about them? Cheers!

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