Tom Waits – Orphans and other Grails

I consider myself a very lucky man.  It is a great fortune to discover something you truly enjoy, (in my case the music of Tom Waits), but it is a winning lotto ticket to be able to amass an absurd collection of his finest works for your own library.

An enormous box arrived in the post today containing most of the titles missing from my Tom Waits collection, most notably one of my elusive grails – a mint, unplayed copy of the massive Orphans – Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards 7LP set.  This monumental box set contains 62 “orphaned” selections which never made it on to his major album releases.  The six tracks on the final disc are exclusive to the vinyl release, and I can’t wait to drink them in.

Tom Waits - Orphans 7LP set, RSD 7in, Lowside of the Road, Under Review DVD

Tom Waits – Orphans 7LP set, the Record Store Day 7 inch, Lowside of the Road: A Life of Tom Waits, and the Under Review DVD

Don’t think for a second that these are merely disused cutting-room-floor tracks which were omitted with good reason – every song from this incredible collection is just as fantastic as any of his best-loved hits, from the gritty gospel blues Tom delivers on “Lord I’ve Been Changed” to the back-porch foot stomper, “Buzz Fledderjohn” to the relentless rhythms of “2:19.”  This is one of the proudest additions to my library in my entire history as a record collector.

The set is accompanied by an oversize book, and each 180g disc is housed in a newsprint sleeve jam-packed with antique-typewritten factoids a la “News of the Weird.”

It’s sets like this which remind me why I haven’t given up on physical media in exchange for the incredible convenience and portability of digital.  As a man with nearly 13,000 albums I wholly embrace high-bitrate lossless audio for its many accolades, but damn, nothing comes close to the experience of dropping the needle on one of these LPs and spending hours poring over the liner notes and companion book.

My outstanding fortune relating to Tom Waits began when I walked into The Bop Shop in Rochester, NY and learned that the owner had just purchased a nearly-complete Tom Waits collection.  Each disc had been purchased upon release, played once to rip digitally, and carefully shelved by its owner.  I didn’t hesitate for a single second and bought the whole lot on the spot.

Tom Waits Collection - Albums

And to make my evening ever BETTER – I’ve now added Blood Money, Alice, and Mule Variations to my Tom collection.

Thanks, Tom for all your wonderfully weird music.  You are indeed one of a kind.

Fumblin’ With the Blues

I had the day to myself today, so I got up at the crack of noon, poured myself a massive bowl of Corn Pops, and put together a map of all record shops in the area.

I didn’t expect to find anything special and was mostly visiting stores to inquire about special ordering rare items from my want-list.

One shop had a staggering number of Zappa-related albums – at least thirty, including the very first three (Freak Out, Absolutely Free, and We’re Only In It For The Money.)  But I wasn’t there to drop $200 on shiny black discs, so I moved on.

Surprisingly, just before I left the last store I found a gem in a pile of LPs of the floor leaning against a shelf.   It was Tom Waits’ second major release – The Heart of Saturday Night (1974).  A copy in VG+ condition will run you around $20 on Discogs, plus shipping.  I snatched it up for a quarter of what it would have cost for me had I ordered it online.  (And buying from local shops is always more fun!)

The Heart of Saturday Night

On The Heart Tom performs as his usual troubadour self.  He hadn’t yet developed the gravel-throated trademark sound, but the songs are instantly recognizable as Waits’, with lyrics like, “that ol’ bloodshot moon in that burgundy sky.”

Including this new find I’ve got sixty Tom Waits albums between LPs, CDs, digital albums, and DVDs.  The most recent acquisition before The Heart was the Live 7″ single from National Record Store Day 2009.   (Special thanks to Chuck for that single!)

Tom Waits Live

Tom once said, “The record store is the livery stable where I can tie up, feed and groom my ears.”

Tom Waits Fun Fact #2015: The topless go-go dancer that appears on the cover of the Small Change LP is Cassandra Peterson, better known as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark!

Before driving back home I stopped at the downtown library, dug through the card catalog in their archives department, and had the librarian go into the basement and get me their copy of Captain Beefheart’s Safe as Milk album.

Safe as Milk

Unfortunately it wasn’t the original 1967 pressing, which I was hoping would include the legendary and highly sought-after bumper sticker.  It was the 1970 repress with the quote from Rolling Stone magazine printed across the top of the cover.  Still, it’ll still be a blast to hear “Abba Zaba” on my turntable!

When I got back to the apartment I found that a very generous fellow Underworld fan had contacted me and uploaded some EXCELLENT live material.  Waiting for me was the Brixton Academy show [31.10.2008] and a link to a professional looking fan-made DVD of Underworld – Live at Bucharest [2009].  He also let me have an MK1 demo tape from 1990 that I hadn’t seen before.  It included “Window Pane,” “Seven Hellos, and “Theme From the Underworld” – songs I had never even heard of.  If you have any information about this demo please drop me a line!